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The Price She Paid by David Graham Phillips

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David Graham Phillips


HENRY GOWER was dead at sixty-one--the end of
a lifelong fraud which never had been suspected, and
never would be. With the world, with his acquaintances
and neighbors, with his wife and son and
daughter, he passed as a generous, warm-hearted,
good-natured man, ready at all times to do anything
to help anybody, incapable of envy or hatred or
meanness. In fact, not once in all his days had he ever
thought or done a single thing except for his own
comfort. Like all intensely selfish people who are wise,
he was cheerful and amiable, because that was the
way to be healthy and happy and to have those around
one agreeable and in the mood to do what one wished
them to do. He told people, not the truth, not the
unpleasant thing that might help them, but what they
wished to hear. His family lived in luxurious comfort
only because he himself was fond of luxurious comfort.
His wife and his daughter dressed fashionably and
went about and entertained in the fashionable,
expensive way only because that was the sort of life
that gratified his vanity. He lived to get what he
wanted; he got it every day and every hour of a life
into which no rain ever fell; he died, honored, respected,
beloved, and lamented.

The clever trick he had played upon his fellow
beings came very near to discovery a few days after
his death. His widow and her son and daughter-in-law
and daughter were in the living-room of the charming
house at Hanging Rock, near New York, alternating
between sorrowings over the dead man and plannings
for the future. Said the widow:

``If Henry had only thought what would become of
us if he were taken away!''

``If he had saved even a small part of what he made
every year from the time he was twenty-six--for he
always made a big income,'' said his son, Frank.

``But he was so generous, so soft-hearted!''
exclaimed the widow. ``He could deny us nothing.''

``He couldn't bear seeing us with the slightest wish
ungratified,'' said Frank.

``He was the best father that ever lived!'' cried the
daughter, Mildred.

And Mrs. Gower the elder and Mrs. Gower the
younger wept; and Mildred turned away to hide the
emotion distorting her face; and Frank stared gloomily
at the carpet and sighed. The hideous secret of the
life of duplicity was safe, safe forever.

In fact, Henry Gower had often thought of the fate
of his family if he should die. In the first year of
his married life, at a time when passion for a beautiful
bride was almost sweeping him into generous thought,
he had listened for upward of an hour to the eloquence
of a life insurance agent. Then the agent, misled by
Gower's effusively generous and unselfish expressions,
had taken a false tack. He had descanted upon the
supreme satisfaction that would be felt by a dying man
as he reflected how his young widow would be left in
affluence. He made a vivid picture; Gower saw--
saw his bride happier after his death than she had been
during his life, and attracting a swarm of admirers
by her beauty, well set off in becoming black, and by
her independent income. The generous impulse then
and there shriveled to its weak and shallow roots. With
tears in his kind, clear eyes he thanked the agent and

``You have convinced me. You need say no more.
I'll send for you in a few days.''

The agent never got into his presence again.
Gower lived up to his income, secure in the knowledge
that his ability as a lawyer made him certain of plenty
of money as long as he should live. But it would show
an utter lack of comprehension of his peculiar species
of character to imagine that he let himself into the
secret of his own icy-heartedness by ceasing to think
of the problem of his wife and two children without
him to take care of them. On the contrary, he thought
of it every day, and planned what he would do about
it--to-morrow. And for his delay he had excellent
convincing excuses. Did he not take care of his
naturally robust health? Would he not certainly out-
live his wife, who was always doctoring more or less?
Frank would be able to take care of himself; anyhow,
it was not well to bring a boy up to expectations,
because every man should be self-supporting and self-
reliant. As for Mildred, why, with her beauty and her
cleverness she could not but make a brilliant marriage.
Really, there was for him no problem of an orphaned
family's future; there was no reason why he should deny
himself any comfort or luxury, or his vanity any of
the titillations that come from social display.

That one of his calculations which was the most vital
and seemed the surest proved to be worthless. It is
not the weaklings who die, after infancy and youth,
but the strong, healthy men and women. The weaklings
have to look out for themselves, receive ample
warning in the disastrous obvious effects of the
slightest imprudence. The robust, even the wariest of them,
even the Henry Gowers, overestimate and overtax their
strength. Gower's downfall was champagne. He
could not resist a bottle of it for dinner every night.
As so often happens, the collapse of the kidneys came
without any warning that a man of powerful constitution
would deem worthy of notice. By the time the
doctor began to suspect the gravity of his trouble he
was too far gone.

Frank, candidly greedy and selfish--``Such a
contrast to his father!'' everyone said--was married to
the prettiest girl in Hanging Rock and had a
satisfactory law practice in New York. His income was
about fifteen thousand a year. But his wife had tastes
as extravagant as his own; and Hanging Rock is one
of those suburbs of New York where gather well-to-do
middle-class people to live luxuriously and to delude
each other and themselves with the notion that they are
fashionable, rich New Yorkers who prefer to live in
the country ``like the English.'' Thus, Henry
Gower's widow and daughter could count on little help
from Frank--and they knew it.

``You and Milly will have to move to some less
expensive place than Hanging Rock,'' said Frank--it
was the living-room conference a few days after the

Mildred flushed and her eyes flashed. She opened
her lips to speak--closed them again with the angry
retort unuttered. After all, Frank was her mother's
and her sole dependence. They could hope for little
from him, but nothing must be said that would give
him and his mean, selfish wife a chance to break with
them and refuse to do anything whatever.

``And Mildred must get married,'' said Natalie.
In Hanging Rock most of the girls and many of the
boys had given names taken from Burke's Peerage, the
Almanac de Gotha, and fashionable novels.

Again Mildred flushed; but her eyes did not flash,
neither did she open her lips to speak. The little
remark of her sister-in-law, apparently so harmless and
sensible, was in fact a poisoned arrow. For Mildred
was twenty-three, had been ``out'' five years, and was
not even in the way to become engaged. She and everyone
had assumed from her lovely babyhood that she
would marry splendidly, would marry wealth and social
position. How could it be otherwise? Had she not
beauty? Had she not family and position? Had she
not style and cleverness? Yet--five years out and
not a ``serious'' proposal. An impudent poor fellow
with no prospects had asked her. An impudent rich
man from fashionable New York had hung after her
--and had presently abandoned whatever dark projects
he may have been concealing and had married in
his own set, ``as they always do, the miserable snobs,''
raved Mrs. Gower, who had been building high upon
those lavish outpourings of candy, flowers, and automobile
rides. Mildred, however, had accepted the defection
more philosophically. She had had enough vanity
to like the attentions of the rich and fashionable
New Yorker, enough good sense to suspect, perhaps
not definitely, what those attentions meant, but
certainly what they did not mean. Also, in the back of
her head had been an intention to refuse Stanley Baird,
if by chance he should ask her. Was there any
substance to this intention, sprung from her disliking
the conceited, self-assured snob as much as she liked
his wealth and station? Perhaps not. Who can
say? At any rate, may we not claim credit for our
good intentions--so long as, even through lack of
opportunity, we have not stultified them?

With every natural advantage apparently, Mildred's
failure to catch a husband seemed to be somehow her
own fault. Other girls, less endowed than she, were
marrying, were marrying fairly well. Why, then, was
Mildred lagging in the market?

There may have been other reasons, reasons of
accident--for, in the higher class matrimonial market,
few are called and fewer chosen. There was one reason
not accidental; Hanging Rock was no place for a girl
so superior as was Mildred Gower to find a fitting
husband. As has been hinted, Hanging Rock was one
of those upper-middle-class colonies where splurge and
social ambition dominate the community life. In such
colonies the young men are of two classes--those beneath
such a girl as Mildred, and those who had the
looks, the manners, the intelligence, and the prospects
to justify them in looking higher socially--in looking
among the very rich and really fashionable. In the
Hanging Rock sort of community, having all the
snobbishness of Fifth Avenue, Back Bay, and Rittenhouse
Square, with the added torment of the snobbishness
being perpetually ungratified--in such communities,
beneath a surface reeking culture and idealistic folderol,
there is a coarse and brutal materialism, a passion for
money, for luxury, for display, that equals aristocratic
societies at their worst. No one can live for a winter,
much less grow up, in such a place without becoming
saturated with sycophantry. Thus, only by some
impossible combination of chances could there have been
at Hanging Rock a young man who would have
appreciated Mildred and have had the courage of
his appreciation. This combination did not happen.
In Mildred's generation and set there were only the
two classes of men noted above. The men of the one
of them which could not have attracted her accepted
their fate of mating with second-choice females to whom
they were themselves second choice. The men of the
other class rarely appeared at Hanging Rock functions,
hung about the rich people in New York, Newport,
and on Long Island, and would as soon have thought
of taking a Hanging Rock society girl to wife as of
exchanging hundred-dollar bills for twenty-five-cent
pieces. Having attractions acceptable in the best
markets, they took them there. Hanging Rock
denounced them as snobs, for Hanging Rock was
virtuously eloquent on the subject of snobbishness--we
human creatures being never so effective as when
assailing in others the vice or weakness we know from
lifelong, intimate, internal association with it. But
secretly the successfully ambitious spurners of that
suburban society were approved, were envied. And
Hanging Rock was most gracious to them whenever
it got the chance.

In her five years of social life Mildred had gone
only with the various classes of fashionable people,
had therefore known only the men who are full of the
poison of snobbishness. She had been born and bred
in an environment as impregnated with that poison
as the air of a kitchen-garden with onions. She knew
nothing else. The secret intention to refuse Stanley
Baird, should he propose, was therefore the more
astonishing--and the more significant. From time to
time in any given environment you will find some
isolated person, some personality, with a trait wholly
foreign and out of place there. Now it is a soft voice
and courteous manners in a slum; again it is a longing
for a life of freedom and equality in a member of a
royal family that has known nothing but sordid slavery
for centuries. Or, in the petty conventionality of a
prosperous middle- or upper-class community you
come upon one who dreams--perhaps vaguely but
still longingly--of an existence where love and ideas
shall elevate and glorify life. In spite of her training,
in spite of the teaching and example of all about her
from the moment of her opening her eyes upon the
world, Mildred Gower at twenty-three still retained
something of these dream flowers sown in the soil of
her naturally good mind by some book or play or perhaps
by some casually read and soon forgotten article
in magazine or newspaper. We have the habit of
thinking only weeds produce seeds that penetrate and
prosper everywhere and anywhere. The truth is that
fine plants of all kinds, vegetable, fruit, and flower of
rarest color and perfume, have this same hardiness and
fecundity. Pull away at the weeds in your garden
for a while, and see if this is not so. Though you may
plant nothing, you will be amazed at the results if you
but clear a little space of its weeds--which you have
been planting and cultivating.

Mildred--woman fashion--regarded it as a
reproach upon her that she had not yet succeeded in
making the marriage everyone, including herself, predicted
for her and expected of her. On the contrary, it was
the most savage indictment possible of the marriageable
and marrying men who had met her--of their
stupidity, of their short-sighted and mean-souled
calculation, of their lack of courage--the courage to
take what they, as men of flesh and blood wanted,
instead of what their snobbishness ordered. And if
Stanley Baird, the nearest to a flesh-and-blood man of
any who had known her, had not been so profoundly
afraid of his fashionable mother and of his sister, the
Countess of Waring-- But he was profoundly afraid
of them; so, it is idle to speculate about him.

What did men see when they looked at Mildred
Gower? Usually, when men look at a woman, they
have a hazy, either pleasant or unpleasant, sense of
something feminine. That, and nothing more. Afterward,
through some whim or some thrust from chance
they may see in her, or fancy they see in her, the thing
feminine that their souls--it is always ``soul''--most
yearns after. But just at first glance, so colorless or
conventionally colored is the usual human being, the
average woman--indeed every woman but she who is
exceptional--creates upon man the mere impression of
pleasant or unpleasant petticoats. In the exceptional
woman something obtrudes. She has astonishing hair,
or extraordinary eyes, or a mouth that seems to draw a
man like a magnet; or it is the allure of a peculiar
smile or of a figure whose sinuosities as she moves
seem to cause a corresponding wave-disturbance in
masculine nerves. Further, the possession of one of
these signal charms usually causes all her charms to
have more than ordinary potency. The sight of the
man is so bewitched by the one potent charm that he
sees the whole woman under a spell.

Mildred Gower, of the medium height and of a
slender and well-formed figure, had a face of the kind
that is called lovely; and her smile, sweet, dreamy,
revealing white and even teeth, gave her loveliness
delicate animation. She had an abundance of hair, neither
light nor dark; she had a fine clear skin. Her eyes,
gray and rather serious and well set under long straight
brows, gave her a look of honesty and intelligence.
But the charm that won men, her charm of charms,
was her mouth--mobile, slightly pouted, not too narrow,
of a wonderful, vividly healthy and vital red. She
had beauty, she had intelligence. But it was impossible
for a man to think of either, once his glance had
been caught by those expressive, inviting lips of hers,
so young, so fresh, with their ever-changing, ever-
fascinating line expressing in a thousand ways the
passion and poetry of the kiss.

Of all the men who had admired her and had edged
away because they feared she would bewitch them into
forgetting what the world calls ``good common sense''
--of all those men only one had suspected the real
reason for her physical power over men. All but Stanley
Baird had thought themselves attracted because she
was so pretty or so stylish or so clever and amusing to
talk with. Baird had lived intelligently enough to
learn that feminine charm is never general, is always
specific. He knew it was Mildred Gower's lips that
haunted, that frightened ambitious men away, that
sent men who knew they hadn't a ghost of a chance
with her discontentedly back to the second-choice
women who alone were available for them. Fortunately
for Mildred, Stanley Baird, too wise to flatter
a woman discriminatingly, did not tell her the secret
of her fascination. If he had told her, she would no
doubt have tried to train and to use it--and so would
inevitably have lost it.

To go on with that important conference in the
sitting-room in the handsome, roomy house of the Gowers
at Hanging Rock, Frank Gower eagerly seized upon his
wife's subtly nasty remark. ``I don't see why in
thunder you haven't married, Milly,'' said he. ``You've
had every chance, these last four or five years.''

``And it'll be harder now,'' moaned her mother.
``For it looks as though we were going to be wretchedly
poor. And poverty is so repulsive.''

``Do you think,'' said Mildred, ``that giving me the
idea that I must marry right away will make it easier
for me to marry? Everyone who knows us knows our
circumstances.'' She looked significantly at Frank's
wife, who had been wailing through Hanging Rock
the woeful plight of her dead father-in-law's family.
The young Mrs. Gower blushed and glanced away.
``And,'' Mildred went on, ``everyone is saying that I
must marry at once--that there's nothing else for me
to do.'' She smiled bitterly. ``When I go into the
street again I shall see nothing but flying men. And
no man would come to call unless he brought a chaperon
and a witness with him.''

``How can you be so frivolous?'' reproached her

Mildred was used to being misunderstood by her
mother, who had long since been made hopelessly dull
by the suffocating life she led and by pain from her
feet, which never left her at ease for a moment except
when she had them soaking in cold water. Mrs. Gower
had been born with ordinary feet, neither ugly nor
pretty and entirely fit for the uses for which nature
intended feet. She had spoiled them by wearing shoes
to make them look smaller and slimmer than they were.
In steady weather she was plaintive; in changeable
weather she varied between irritable and violent.

Said Mildred to her brother: ``How much--JUST how much
is there?''

``I can't say exactly,'' replied her brother, who had
not yet solved to his satisfaction the moral problem of
how much of the estate he ought to allow his mother
and sister and how much he ought to claim for himself
--in such a way that the claim could not be disputed.

Mildred looked fixedly at him. He showed his uneasiness
not by glancing away, but by the appearance of
a certain hard defiance in his eyes. Said she:

``What is the very most we can hope for?''

A silence. Her mother broke it. ``Mildred, how
CAN you talk of those things--already?''

``I don't know,'' replied Mildred. ``Perhaps
because it's got to be done.''

This seemed to them all--and to herself--a lame
excuse for such apparent hardness of heart. Her
father had always been SENDER-HEARTED--HAD NEVER


``YOU'RE SURE, Frank, there's NO insurance?''

``Father always said that you disliked the idea,''
replied her son; ``that you thought insurance looked
like your calculating on his death.''

Under her husband's adroit prompting Mrs. Gower
had discovered such a view of insurance in her brain.
She now recalled expressing it--and regretted. But
she was silenced. She tried to take her mind of the sub-
ject of money. But, like Mildred, she could not. The
thought of imminent poverty was nagging at them like
toothache. ``There'll be enough for a year or so?''
she said, timidly interrogative.

``I hope so,'' said Frank.

Mildred was eying him fixedly again. Said she:
``Have you found anything at all?''

``He had about eight thousand dollars in bank,''
said Frank. ``But most of it will go for the pressing

``But how did HE expect to live?'' urged Mildred.

``Yes, there must have been SOMETHING,'' said her

``Of course, there's his share of the unsettled and
unfinished business of the firm,'' admitted Frank.

``How much will that be?'' persisted Mildred.

``I can't tell, offhand,'' said Frank, with virtuous
reproach. ``My mind's been on--other things.''

Henry Gower's widow was not without her share of
instinctive shrewdness. Neither had she, unobservant
though she was, been within sight of her son's
character for twenty-eight years without having
unconfessed, unformed misgivings concerning it.
``You mustn't bother about these things now, Frank
dear,'' said she. ``I'll get my brother to look into

``That won't be necessary,'' hastily said Frank. ``I
don't want any rival lawyer peeping into our firm's affairs.''

``My brother Wharton is the soul of honor,'' said
Mrs. Gower, the elder, with dignity. ``You are too
young to take all the responsibility of settling the
estate. Yes, I'll send for Wharton to-morrow.''

``It'll look as though you didn't trust me,'' said
Frank sourly.

``We mustn't do anything to start the gossips in
this town,'' said his wife, assisting.

``Then send for him yourself, Frank,'' said Mildred,
``and give him charge of the whole matter.''

Frank eyed her furiously. ``How ashamed father
would be!'' exclaimed he.

But this solemn invoking of the dead man's spirit
was uneffectual. The specter of poverty was too
insistent, too terrible. Said the widow:

``I'm sure, in the circumstances, my dear dead
husband would want me to get help from someone older
and more experienced.''

And Frank, guilty of conscience and an expert in
the ways of conventional and highly moral rascality,
ceased to resist. His wife, scenting danger to their
getting the share that ``rightfully belongs to the son,
especially when he has been the brains of the firm for
several years,'' made angry and indiscreet battle for no
outside interference. The longer she talked the firmer
the widow and the daughter became, not only because
she clarified suspicions that had been too hazy to
take form, but also because they disliked her intensely.
The following day Wharton Conover became unofficial
administrator. He had no difficulty in baffling
Frank Gower's half-hearted and clumsy efforts to
hide two large fees due the dead man's estate. He
discovered clear assets amounting in all to sixty-
three thousand dollars, most of it available within a few

``As you have the good-will of the firm and as your
mother and sister have only what can be realized in
cash,'' said he to Frank, ``no doubt you won't insist
on your third.''

``I've got to consider my wife,'' said Frank. ``I
can't do as I'd like.''

``You are going to insist on your third?'' said
Conover, with an accent that made Frank quiver.

``I can't do otherwise,'' said he in a dogged, shamed

``Um,'' said Conover. ``Then, on behalf of my
sister and her daughter I'll have to insist on a more
detailed accounting than you have been willing to give
--and on the production of that small book bound in
red leather which disappeared from my brother-in-law's
desk the afternoon of his death.''

A wave of rage and fear surged up within Frank
Gower and crashed against the seat of his life. For
days thereafter he was from time to time seized with
violent spasms of trembling; years afterward he was
attributing premature weaknesses of old age to the
effects of that moment of horror. His uncle's words
came as a sudden, high shot climax to weeks of
exasperating peeping and prying and questioning, of
sneer and insinuation. Conover had been only moderately
successful at the law, had lost clients to Frank's
father, had been beaten when they were on opposite
sides. He hated the father with the secret, hypocritical
hatred of the highly moral and religious man. He de-
spised the son. It is not often that a Christian gentleman
has such an opportunity to combine justice and
revenge, to feed to bursting an ancient grudge, the
while conscious that he is but doing his duty.

Said Frank, when he was able to speak: ``You have
been listening to the lies of some treacherous clerk

``Don't destroy that little book,'' proceeded Conover
tranquilly. ``We can prove that you took it.''

Young Gower rose. ``I must decline to have anything
further to say to you, sir,'' said he. ``You will
leave this office, and you will not be admitted here again
unless you come with proper papers as administrator.''

Conover smiled with cold satisfaction and departed.
There followed a series of quarrels--between Frank
and his sister, between Frank and his mother, between
Frank's wife and his mother, between Mildred and her
mother, between the mother and Conover. Mrs. Gower
was suspicious of her son; but she knew her brother
for a pinchpenny, exacting the last drop of what he
regarded as his own. And she discovered that, if she
authorized him to act as administrator for her, he could
--and beyond question would--take a large share of
the estate. The upshot was that Frank paid over to
his mother and sister forty-seven thousand dollars, and
his mother and her brother stopped speaking to each

``I see that you have turned over all your money to
mother,'' said Frank to Mildred a few days after the

``Of course,'' said Mildred. She was in a mood of
high scorn for sordidness--a mood induced by the
spectacle of the shameful manners of Conover, Frank,
and his wife.

``Do you think that's wise?'' suggested Frank.

``I think it's decent,'' said Mildred.

``Well, I hope you'll not live to regret it,'' said her

Neither Mrs. Gower nor her daughter had ever had
any experience in the care of money. To both forty-
seven thousand dollars seemed a fortune--forty-seven
thousand dollars in cash in the bank, ready to issue
forth and do their bidding at the mere writing of a
few figures and a signature on a piece of paper. In
a sense they knew that for many years the family's
annual expenses had ranged between forty and fifty
thousand, but in the sense of actuality they knew
nothing about it--a state of affairs common enough
in families where the man is in absolute control and
spends all he makes. Money always had been forthcomcoming;{sic}
therefore money always would be forthcoming.

The mourning and the loss of the person who had
filled and employed their lives caused the widow and
the daughter to live very quietly during the succeeding
year. They spent only half of their capital. For
reasons of selfish and far-sighted prudence which need
no detailing Frank moved away to New York within
six months of his father's death and reduced communication
between himself and wife and his mother and
sister to a frigid and rapidly congealing minimum.
He calculated that by the time their capital was con-
sumed they would have left no feeling of claim upon
him or he feeling of duty toward them.

It was not until eighteen months after her father's
death, when the total capital was sunk to less than
fifteen thousand dollars, that Mildred awakened to the
truth of their plight. A few months at most, and
they would have to give up that beautiful house which
had been her home all her life. She tried to grasp
the meaning of the facts as her intelligence presented
them to her, but she could not. She had no practical
training whatever. She had been brought up as a rich
man's child, to be married to a rich man, and never to
know anything of the material details of life beyond
what was necessary in managing servants after the
indifferent fashion of the usual American woman of the
comfortable classes. She had always had a maid; she
could not even dress herself properly without the maid's
assistance. Life without a maid was inconceivable;
life without servants was impossible.

She wandered through the house, through the
grounds. She said to herself again and again: ``We
have got to give up all this, and be miserably poor--
with not a servant, with less than the tenement people
have.'' But the words conveyed no meaning to her.
She said to herself again and again: ``I must rouse
myself. I must do something. I must--must--
must!'' But she did not rouse, because there was nothing
to rouse. So far as practical life was concerned
she was as devoid of ideas as a new-born baby.

There was but the one hope--marriage, a rich
marriage. It is the habit of men who can take care of
themselves and of women who are securely well taken
care of to scorn the woman or the helpless-bred man
who marries for money or even entertains that idea.
How little imagination these scorners have! To marry
for a mere living, hardly better than one could make
for oneself, assuredly does show a pitiful lack of self-
reliance, a melancholy lack of self-respect. But for
men or women all their lives used to luxury and with
no ability whatever at earning money--for such persons
to marry money in order to save themselves from
the misery and shame that poverty means to them is the
most natural, the most human action conceivable. The
man or the woman who says he or she would not do it,
either is a hypocrite or is talking without thinking.
You may in honesty criticize and condemn a social system
that suffers men and women to be so crudely and
criminally miseducated by being given luxury they did
not earn. But to condemn the victims of that system
for acting as its logic compels is sheer folly or sheer

Would Mildred Gower have married for money? As
the weeks fled, as the bank account dwindled, she would
have grasped eagerly at any rich man who might have
offered himself--no matter how repellent he might
have been. She did not want a bare living; she did not
want what passes with the mass of middle-class people
for comfort. She wanted what she had--the beautiful
and spacious house, the costly and fashionable clothing,
the servants, the carriages and motors, the thousand
and one comforts, luxuries, and vanities to which she
had always been used. In the brain of a young woman
of poor or only comfortably off family the thoughts
that seethed in Mildred Gower's brain would have been
so many indications of depravity. In Mildred Gower's
brain they were the natural, the inevitable, thoughts.
They indicated everything as to her training, nothing
as to her character. So, when she, thinking only of a
rich marriage with no matter whom, and contrasting
herself with the fine women portrayed in the novels and
plays, condemned herself as shameless and degraded,
she did herself grave injustice.

But no rich man, whether attractive or repulsive,
offered. Indeed, no man of any kind offered. Instead,
it was her mother who married.

A widower named James Presbury, elderly, with an
income of five to six thousand a year from inherited
wealth, stumbled into Hanging Rock to live, was
impressed by the style the widow Gower maintained,
believed the rumor that her husband had left her better
off than was generally thought, proposed, and was
accepted. And two years and a month after Henry
Gower's death his widow became Mrs. James Presbury
--and ceased to veil from her new husband the truth
as to her affairs.

Mildred had thought that, than the family quarrels
incident to settling her father's estate, human nature
could no lower descend. She was now to be disillusioned.
When a young man or a young woman blunders
into a poor marriage in trying to make a rich
one, he or she is usually withheld from immediate and
frank expression by the timidity of youth. Not so
the elderly man or woman. As we grow older, no mat-
ter how timidly conventional we are by nature, we
become, through selfishness or through indifference to the
opinion of others or through impatience of petty
restraint, more and more outspoken. Old Presbury
discovered how he had tricked himself four days after the
wedding. He and his bride were at the Waldorf in
New York, a-honeymooning.

The bride had never professed to be rich. She had
simply continued in her lifelong way, had simply acted
rich. She well knew the gaudy delusions her admirer
was entertaining, and she saw to it that nothing was
said or done to disturb him. She inquired into his affairs,
made sure of the substantiality of the comparatively
small income he possessed, decided to accept him
as her best available chance to escape becoming a
charge upon her anything but eager and generous
relatives. She awaited the explosion with serenity.
She cared not a flip for Presbury, who was a soft and
silly old fool, full of antiquated compliments and so
drearily the inferior of Henry Gower, physically and
mentally, that even she could appreciate the difference,
the descent. She rather enjoyed the prospect of a
combat with him, of the end of dissimulating her
contempt. She had thought out and had put in
arsenal ready for use a variety of sneers, jeers, and
insults that suggested themselves to her as she
listened and simpered and responded while he was

Had the opportunity offered earlier than the fourth
day she would have seized it, but not until that fourth
morning was she in just the right mood. She had
eaten too much dinner the night before, and had
followed it after two hours in a stuffy theater with an
indigestible supper. He liked the bedroom windows
open at night; she liked them closed. After she fell
into a heavy sleep, he slipped out of bed and opened
the windows wide--to teach her by the night's happy
experience that she was entirely mistaken as to the
harmfulness of fresh winter air. The result was that
she awakened with a frightful cold and a splitting
headache. And as the weather was about to change
she had shooting pains like toothache through her
toes the instant she thrust them into her shoes.
The elderly groom, believing he had a rich bride,
was all solicitude and infuriating attention. She
waited until he had wrought her to the proper pitch of
fury. Then she said--in reply to some remark of

``Yes, I shall rely upon you entirely. I want you
to take absolute charge of my affairs.''

The tears sprang to his eyes. His weak old mouth,
rapidly falling to pieces, twisted and twitched with
emotion. ``I'll try to deserve your confidence,
darling,'' said he. ``I've had large business experience--
in the way of investing carefully, I mean. I don't
think your affairs will suffer in my hands.''

``Oh, I'm sure they'll not trouble you,'' said she in
a sweet, sure tone as the pains shot through her feet
and her head. ``You'll hardly notice my little mite in
your property.'' She pretended to reflect. ``Let me
see--there's seven thousand left, but of course half
of that is Millie's.''

``It must be very well invested,'' said he. ``Those
seven thousand shares must be of the very best.''

``Shares?'' said she, with a gentle little laugh. ``I
mean dollars.''

Presbury was about to lift a cup of cafe au lait to
his lips. Instead, he turned it over into the platter of
eggs and bacon.

``We--Mildred and I,'' pursued his bride, ``were
left with only forty-odd thousand between us. Of
course, we had to live. So, naturally, there's very
little left.''

Presbury was shaking so violently that his head and
arms waggled like a jumping-jack's. He wrapped his
elegant white fingers about the arms of his chair to
steady himself. In a suffocated voice he said: ``Do
you mean to say that you have only seven thousand
dollars in the world?''

``Only half that,'' corrected she. ``Oh, dear, how
my head aches! Less than half that, for there are some

She was impatient for the explosion; the agony of
her feet and head needed outlet and relief. But he
disappointed her. That was one of the situations in which
one appeals in vain to the resources of language. He
shrank and sank back in his chair, his jaw dropped,
and he vented a strange, imbecile cackling laugh. It
was not an expression of philosophic mirth, of sense
of the grotesqueness of an anti-climax. It was not an
expression of any emotion whatever. It was simply a
signal from a mind temporarily dethroned.

``What are you laughing at?'' she said sharply.

His answer was a repetition of the idiotic sound.

``What's the matter with you?'' demanded she.
``Please close your mouth.''

It was a timely piece of advice; for his upper and
false teeth had become partially dislodged and
threatened to drop upon the shirt-bosom gayly showing
between the lapels of his dark-blue silk house-coat. He
slowly closed his mouth, moving his teeth back into
place with his tongue--a gesture that made her face
twitch with rage and disgust.

``Seven thousand dollars,'' he mumbled dazedly.

``I said less than half that,'' retorted she sharply.

``And I--thought you were--rich.''

A peculiar rolling of the eyes and twisting of the
lips gave her the idea that he was about to vent that
repulsive sound again. ``Don't you laugh!'' she cried.
``I can't bear your laugh--even at its best.''

Suddenly he galvanized into fury. ``This is an
outrage!'' he cried, waving his useless-looking white fists.
``You have swindled me--SWINDLED me!''

Her head stopped aching. The pains in her feet
either ceased or she forgot them. In a suspiciously
calm voice she said: ``What do you mean?''

``I mean that you are a swindler!'' he shouted,
banging one fist on the table and waving the other.

She acted as though his meaning were just dawning
upon her. ``Do you mean,'' said she tranquilly, ``that
you married me for money?''

``I mean that I thought you a substantial woman, and
that I find you are an adventuress.''

``Did you think,'' inquired she, ``that any woman
who had money would marry YOU?'' She laughed
very quietly. ``You ARE a fool!''

He sat back to look at her. This mode of combat in
such circumstances puzzled him.

``I knew that you were rich,'' she went on, ``or you
would not have dared offer yourself to me. All my
friends were amazed at my stooping to accept you.
Your father was an Irish Tammany contractor, wasn't
he?--a sort of criminal? But I simply had to marry.
So I gave you my family and position and name in
exchange for your wealth--a good bargain for you,
but a poor one for me.''

These references to HIS wealth were most disconcerting,
especially as they were accompanied by remarks about
his origin, of which he was so ashamed that he had
changed the spelling of his name in the effort to clear
himself of it. However, some retort was imperative.
He looked at her and said:

``Swindler and adventuress!''

``Don't repeat that lie,'' said she. ``You are
the adventurer--despite the fact that you are very

``Don't say that again,'' cried he. ``I never said or
pretended I was rich. I have about five thousand a
year--and you'll not get a cent of it, madam!''

She knew his income, but no one would have suspected
it from her expression of horror. ``What!'' she
gasped. ``You dared to marry ME when you were a--
beggar! Me--the widow of Henry Gower! You
impudent old wreck! Why, you haven't enough to pay
my servants. What are we to live on, pray?''

``I don't know what YOU'LL live on,'' replied he.
``_I_ shall live as I always have.''

``A beggar!'' she exclaimed. ``I--married to a
beggar.'' She burst into tears. ``How men take
advantage of a woman alone! If my son had been near
me! But there's surely some law to protect me. Yes,
I'm sure there is. Oh, I'll punish you for having
deceived me.'' Her eyes dried as she looked at him.
``How dare you sit there? How dare you face me, you
miserable fraud!''

Early in her acquaintance with him she had discovered
that determining factors in his character were
sensitiveness about his origin and sensitiveness about his
social position. On this knowledge of his weaknesses was
securely based her confidence that she could act as she
pleased toward him. To ease her pains she proceeded
to pour out her private opinion of him--all the
disagreeable things, all the insults she had been storing

She watched him as only a woman can watch a man.
She saw that his rage was not dangerous, that she was
forcing him into a position where fear of her revenging
herself by disgracing him would overcome anger at
the collapse of his fatuous dreams of wealth. She did
not despise him the more deeply for sitting there, for
not flying from the room or trying to kill her or somehow
compelling her to check that flow of insult. She
already despised him utterly; also, she attached small
importance to self-respect, having no knowledge of what
that quality really is.

When she grew tired, she became quiet. They sat
there a long time in silence. At last he ran up the white
flag of abject surrender by saying:

``What'll we live on--that's what I'd like to know?''

An eavesdropper upon the preceding violence of
upward of an hour would have assumed that at its end this
pair must separate, never to see each other again
voluntarily. But that idea, even as a possibility, had not
entered the mind of either. They had lived a long time;
they were practical people. They knew from the outset
that somehow they must arrange to go on together.
The alternative meant a mere pittance of alimony for
her; meant for him social ostracism and the small
income cut in half; meant for both scandal and confusion.

Said she fretfully: ``Oh, I suppose we'll get along,
somehow. I don't know anything about those things.
I've always been looked after--kept from contact with
the sordid side of life.''

``That house you live in,'' he went on, ``does it
belong to you?''

She gave him a contemptuous glance. ``Of course,''
said she. ``What low people you must have been used

``I thought perhaps you had rented it for your
bunco game,'' retorted he. ``The furniture, the horses,
the motor--all those things--do they belong to

``I shall leave the room if you insult me,'' said she.

``Did you include them in the seven thousand dollars?''

``The money is in the bank. It has nothing to do
with our house and our property.''

He reflected, presently said: ``The horses and
carriages must be sold at once--and all those servants
dismissed except perhaps two. We can live in the house.''

She grew purple with rage. ``Sell MY carriages!
Discharge MY servants! I'd like to see you try!''

``Who's to pay for keeping up that establishment?''
demanded he.

She was silent. She saw what he had in mind.

``If you want to keep that house and live comfortably,''
he went on, ``you've got to cut expenses to the
bone. You see that, don't you?''

``I can't live any way but the way I've been used to
all my life,'' wailed she.

He eyed her disgustedly. Was there anything equal
to a woman for folly?

``We've got to make the most of what little we
have,'' said he.

``I tell you I don't know anything about those
things,'' repeated she. ``You'll have to look after them.
Mildred and I aren't like the women you've been used to.
We are ladies.''

Presbury's rage boiled over again at the mention of
Mildred. ``That daughter of yours!'' he cried.
``What's to be done about her? I've got no money to
waste on her.''

``You miserable Tammany THING!'' exclaimed she.
``Don't you dare SPEAK of my daughter except in the
most respectful way.''

And once more she opened out upon him, wreaking
upon him all her wrath against fate, all the pent-up
fury of two years--fury which had been denied such
fury's usual and natural expression in denunciations of
the dead bread-winner. The generous and ever-kind
Henry Gower could not be to blame for her wretched
plight; and, of course, she herself could not be to blame
for it. So, until now there had been no scapegoat.
Presbury therefore received the whole burden. He,
alarmed lest a creature apparently so irrational, should
in wild rage drive him away, ruin him socially, perhaps
induce a sympathetic court to award her a large part of
his income as alimony, said not a word in reply. He
bade his wrath wait. Later on, when the peril was over,
when he had a firm grip upon the situation--then he
would take his revenge.

They gave up the expensive suite at the Waldorf that
very day and returned to Hanging Rock. They alternated
between silence and the coarsest, crudest quarrelings,
for neither had the intelligence to quarrel wittily or the
refinement to quarrel artistically. As soon as they
arrived at the Gower house, Mildred was dragged into the

``I married this terrible man for your sake,'' was the
burden of her mother's wail. ``And he is a beggar--
wants to sell off everything and dismiss the servants.''

``You are a pair of paupers,'' cried the old man.
``You are shameless tricksters. Be careful how you
goad me!''

Mildred had anticipated an unhappy ending to her
mother's marriage, but she had not knowledge enough
of life or of human nature to anticipate any such
horrors as now began. Every day, all day long the vulgar
fight raged. Her mother and her stepfather withdrew
from each other's presence only to think up fresh insults
to fling at each other. As soon as they were armed
they hastened to give battle again. She avoided
Presbury. Her mother she could not avoid; and when her
mother was not in combat with him, she was weeping
or wailing or railing to Mildred.

It was at Mildred's urging that her mother
acquiesced in Presbury's plans for reducing expenses
within income. At first the girl, even more ignorant
than her mother of practical affairs, did not appreciate
the wisdom, not to say the necessity, of what he
wished to do, but soon she saw that he was right, that
the servants must go, that the horses and carriages and
the motors must be sold. When she was convinced
and had convinced her mother, she still did not realize
what the thing really meant. Not until she no longer
had a maid did she comprehend. To a woman who has
never had a maid, or who has taken on a maid as a
luxury, it will seem an exaggeration to say that Mildred
felt as helpless as a baby lying alone in a crib before it
has learned to crawl. Yet that is rather an understatement
of her plight. The maid left in the afternoon.
Mildred, not without inconveniences that had in the
novelty their amusing side, contrived to dress that
evening for dinner and to get to bed; but when she awakened
in the morning and was ready to dress, the loss of
Therese became a tragedy. It took the girl nearly four
hours to get herself together presentably--and then,
never had she looked so unkempt. With her hair, thick
and soft, she could do nothing.

``What a wonderful person Therese was!'' thought
she. ``And I always regarded her as rather stupid.''
Her mother, who had not had a maid until she was
about thirty and had never become completely dependent,
fared somewhat better, though, hearing her moans,
you would have thought she was faring worse.

Mildred's unhappiness increased from day to day, as
her wardrobe fell into confusion and disrepair. She
felt that she must rise to the situation, must teach
herself, must save herself from impending dowdiness and
slovenliness. But her brain seemed to be paralyzed.
She did not know how or where to begin to learn. She
often in secret gave way to the futility of tears.

There were now only a cook and one housemaid and
a man of all work--all three newcomers, for Presbury
insisted--most wisely--that none of the servants of
the luxurious, wasteful days would be useful in the new
circumstances. He was one of those small, orderly men
who have a genius for just such situations as the one
he now proceeded to grapple with and solve. In his
pleasure at managing everything about that house, in
distributing the work among the three servants, in
marketing, and, in inspecting purchases and nosing into
the garbage-barrel, in looking for dust on picture-
frames and table-tops and for neglected weeds in the
garden walks--in this multitude of engrossing delights
he forgot his anger over the trick that had been
played upon him. He still fought with his wife and
denounced her and met insult with insult. But that,
too, was one of his pleasures. Also, he felt that on the
whole he had done well in marrying. He had been lonely
as a bachelor, had had no one to talk with, or to quarrel
with, nothing to do. The marriage was not so expensive,
as his wife had brought him a house--and it such
a one as he had always regarded as the apogee of
elegance. Living was not dear in Hanging Rock, if one
understood managing and gave time to it. And socially
he was at last established.

Soon his wife was about as contented as she had ever
been in her life. She hated and despised her husband,
but quarreling with him and railing against him gave
her occupation and aim--two valuable assets toward
happiness that she had theretofore lacked. Her living
--shelter, food, clothing enough--was now secure.
But the most important factor of all in her content was
the one apparently too trivial to be worthy of record.
From girlhood she could not recall a single day in which
she had not suffered from her feet. And she had been
ashamed to say anything about it--had never let anyone,
even her maid, see her feet, which were about the
only unsightly part of her. None had guessed the
cause of her chronic ill-temper until Presbury, that
genius for the little, said within a week of their marriage:

``You talk and act like a woman with chronic corns.''

He did not dream of the effect this chance thrust had
upon his wife. For the first time he had really
``landed.'' She concealed her fright and her shame as
best she could and went on quarreling more viciously
than ever. But he presently returned to the attack.
Said he:

``Your feet hurt you. I'm sure they do. Now that
I think of it, you walk that way.''

``I suppose I deserve my fate,'' said she. ``When a
woman marries beneath her she must expect insult and
low conversation.''

``You must cure your feet,'' said he. ``I'll not live
in the house with a person who is made fiendish by corns.
I think it's only corns. I see no signs of bunions.''

``You brute!'' cried his wife, rushing from the room.

But when they met again, he at once resumed the
subject, telling her just how she could cure herself--and
he kept on telling her, she apparently ignoring but
secretly acting on his advice. He knew what he was
about, and her feet grew better, grew well--and she
was happier than she had been since girlhood when she
began ruining her feet with tight shoes.

Six months after the marriage, Presbury and his wife
were getting on about as comfortably as it is given to
average humanity to get on in this world of incessant
struggle between uncomfortable man and his uncomfortable
environment. But Mildred had become more
and more unhappy. Her mother, sometimes angrily,
again reproachfully--and that was far harder to bear
--blamed her for ``my miserable marriage to this low,
quarrelsome brute.'' Presbury let no day pass without
telling her openly that she was a beggar living off him,
that she would better marry soon or he would take drastic
steps to release himself of the burden. When he attacked
her before her mother, there was a violent quarrel
from which Mildred fled to hide in her room or in the
remotest part of the garden. When he hunted her out
to insult her alone, she sat or stood with eyes down and
face ghastly pale, mute, quivering. She did not inter-
rupt, did not try to escape. She was like the chained
and spiritless dog that crouches and takes the shower of
blows from its cruel master.

Where could she go? Nowhere. What could she
do? Nothing. In the days of prosperity she had
regarded herself as proud and high spirited. She now
wondered at herself! What had become of the pride?
What of the spirit? She avoided looking at her image
in the glass--that thin, pallid face, those circled eyes,
the drawn, sick expression about the mouth and nose.
``I'm stunned,'' she said to herself. ``I've been stunned
ever since father's death. I've never recovered--nor
has mother.'' And she gave way to tears--for her
father, she fancied; in fact, from shame at her weakness
and helplessness. She thought--hoped--that she
would not be thus feeble and cowardly, if she were not
living at home, in the house she loved, the house where
she had spent her whole life. And such a house! Comfort
and luxury and taste; every room, every corner of
the grounds, full of the tenderest and most beautiful
associations. Also, there was her position in Hanging
Rock. Everywhere else she would be a stranger and
would have either no position at all or one worse than
that of the utter outsider. There, she was of the few
looked up to by the whole community. No one knew,
or even suspected, how she was degraded by her step-
father. Before the world he was courteous and
considerate toward her as toward everybody. Indeed,
Presbury's natural instincts were gentle and kindly. His
hatred of Mildred and his passion for humiliating her
were the result of his conviction that he had been tricked
into the marriage and his inability to gratify his resentment
upon his wife. He could not make the mother
suffer; but he could make the daughter suffer--and
he did. Besides, she was of no use to him and would
presently be an expense.

``Your money will soon be gone,'' he said to her.
``If you paid your just share of the expenses it would
be gone now. When it is gone, what will you do?''

She was silent.

``Your mother has written to your brother about

Mildred lifted her head, a gleam of her former spirit
in her eyes. Then she remembered, and bent her gaze
upon the ground.

``But he, like the cur that he is, answered through a
secretary that he wished to have nothing to do with
either of you.''

Mildred guessed that Frank had made the marriage
an excuse.

``Surely some of your relatives will do something for
you. I have my hands full, supporting your mother.
I don't propose to have two strapping, worthless women
hanging from my neck.''

She bent her head lower, and remained silent.

``I warn you to bestir yourself,'' he went on. ``I
give you four months. After the first of the year you
can't stay here unless you pay your share--your third.''

No answer.

``You hear what I say, miss?'' he demanded.

``Yes,'' replied she.

``If you had any sense you wouldn't wait until your
last cent was gone. You'd go to New York now and
get something to do.''

``What?'' she asked--all she could trust herself to

``How should _I_ know?'' retorted he furiously.
``you are a stranger to me. You've been educated, I
assume. Surely there's something you can do. You've
been out six years now, and have had no success, for
you're neither married nor engaged. You can't call it
success to be flattered and sought by people who wanted
invitations to this house when it was a social center.''

He paused for response from her. None came.

``You admit you are a failure?'' he said sharply.

``Yes,'' said she.

``You must have realized it several years ago,'' he
went on. ``Instead of allowing your mother to keep on
wasting money in entertaining lavishly here to give
you a chance to marry, you should have been preparing
yourself to earn a living.'' A pause. ``Isn't that true,

He had a way of pronouncing the word ``miss'' that
made it an epithet, a sneer at her unmarried and un-
marriageable state. She colored, paled, murmured:


``Then, better late than never. You'll do well to
follow my advice and go to New York and look about

``I'll--I'll think of it,'' stammered she.

And she did think of it. But in all her life she had
never considered the idea of money-making. That was
something for men, and for the middle and lower classes
--while Hanging Rock was regarded as most noisomely
middle class by fashionable people, it did not so regard
itself. Money-making was not for ladies. Like all her
class, she was a constant and a severe critic of the
women of the lower orders who worked for her as milliners,
dressmakers, shop-attendants, cooks, maids. But, as she
now realized, it is one thing to pass upon the work
of others; it is another thing to do work oneself.
She-- There was literally nothing that she could do.
Any occupation, even the most menial, was either
beyond her skill or beyond her strength, or beyond

Suddenly she recalled that she could sing. Her
prostrate spirit suddenly leaped erect. Yes, she could sing!
Her voice had been praised by experts. Her singing
had been in demand at charity entertainments where
amateurs had to compete with professionals. Then
down she dropped again. She sang well enough to
know how badly she sang--the long and toilsome and
expensive training that lay between her and operatic or
concert or even music-hall stage. Her voice was fine at
times. Again--most of the time--it was unreliable.
No, she could not hope to get paying employment even
as a church choir-singer. Miss Dresser who sang in the
choir of the Good Shepherd for ten dollars a Sunday,
had not nearly so good a voice as she, but it was reliable.

``There is nothing I can do--nothing!''

All at once, with no apparent bridge across the vast
chasm, her heart went out, not in pity but in human
understanding and sisterly sympathy, to the women of the
pariah class at whom, during her stops in New York,
she had sometimes gazed in wonder and horror. ``Why,
we and they are only a step apart,'' she said to herself in
amazement. ``We and they are much nearer than my
maid or the cook and they!''

And then her heart skipped a beat and her skin grew
cold and a fog swirled over her brain. If she should be
cast out--if she could find no work and no one to support
her--would she-- ``O my God!'' she moaned.
``I must be crazy, to think such thoughts. I never
could! I'd die first--DIE!'' But if anyone had pictured
to her the kind of life she was now leading--the
humiliation and degradation she was meekly enduring
with no thought of flight, with an ever stronger desire
to stay on, regardless of pride and self-respect--if
anyone had pictured this to her as what she would
endure, what would she have said? She could see herself
flashing scornful denial, saying that she would rather
kill herself. Yet she was living--and was not even
contemplating suicide as a way out!

A few days after Presbury gave her warning, her
mother took advantage of his absence for his religiously
observed daily constitutional to say to her:

``I hope you didn't think I was behind him in what
he said to you about going away?''

Mildred had not thought so, but in her mother's
guilty tone and guiltier eyes she now read that her
mother wished her to go.

``It'd be awful for me to be left here alone with him,''
wailed her mother insincerely. ``Of course we've got
no money, and beggars can't be choosers. But it'd just
about kill me to have you go.''

Mildred could not speak.

``I don't know a thing about money,'' Mrs. Presbury
went on. ``Your father always looked after everything.''
She had fallen into the way of speaking of
her first husband as part of some vague, remote past,
which, indeed, he had become for her. ``This man''--
meaning Presbury--``has only about five thousand a
year, as you know. I suppose that's as small as he says
it is. I remember our bills for one month used to be as
much or more than that.'' She waved her useless, pretty
hands helplessly. ``I don't see HOW we are to get on,

Her mother wished her to go! Her mother had fallen
under the influence of Presbury--her mother, woman-
like, or rather, ladylike, was of kin to the helpless, flabby
things that float in the sea and attach themselves to
whatever they happen to lodge against. Her mother
wished her to go!

``At the same time,'' Mrs. Presbury went on, ``I
can't live without somebody here to stand between me
and him. I'd kill him or kill myself.''

Mildred muttered some excuse and fled from the
room, to lock herself in.

But when she came forth again to descend to dinner,
she had resolved nothing, because there was nothing to
resolve. When she was a child she leaned from the
nursery window one day and saw a stable-boy drowning
a rat that was in a big, oval, wire cage with a wooden
bottom. The boy pressed the cage slowly down in the vat
of water. The rat, in the very top of the cage, watched
the floor sink, watched the water rise. And as it watched
it uttered a strange, shrill, feeble sound which she could
still remember distinctly and terribly. It seemed to her
now that if she were to utter any sound at all, it would
be that one.


ON the Monday before Thanksgiving, Presbury went
up to New York to look after one of the little
speculations in Wall Street at which he was so clever.
Throughout the civilized world nowadays, and especially
in and near the great capitals of finance, there is a class
of men and women of small capital and of a character
in which are combined iron self-restraint, rabbit-like
timidity, and great shrewdness, who make often a not
inconsiderable income by gambling in stocks. They
buy only when the market is advancing strongly; they
sell as soon as they have gained the scantest margin of
profit. They never permit themselves to be tempted by
the most absolute certainty of larger gains. They will
let weeks, months even, go by without once risking a
dollar. They wait until they simply cannot lose. Tens
of thousands every year try to join this class. All but
the few soon succumb to the hourly dazzling temptations
the big gamblers dangle before the eyes of the little
gamblers to lure them within reach of the merciless

Presbury had for many years added from one to ten
thousand a year to his income by this form of gambling,
success at which is in itself sufficient to stamp a man as
infinitely little of soul. On that Monday he, venturing
for the first time in six months, returned to Hanging
Rock on the three-thirty train the richer by two hundred
and fifty dollars--as large a ``killing'' as he had ever
made in any single day, one large enough to elevate him
to the rank of prince among the ``sure-thing snides.''
He said nothing about his luck to his family, but let
them attribute his unprecedented good humor to the
news he brought and announced at dinner.

``I met an old friend in the street this afternoon,''
said he. ``He has invited us to take Thanksgiving dinner
with him. And I think it will be a dinner worth
while--the food, I mean, and the wine. Not the
guests; for there won't be any guests but us. General
Siddall is a stranger in New York.''

``There are Siddalls in New York,'' said his wife;
``very nice, refined people--going in the best society.''

Presbury showed his false teeth in a genial smile; for
the old-fashioned or plate kind of false teeth they were
extraordinarily good--when exactly in place. ``But
not my old friend Bill Siddall,'' said he. ``He's next
door to an outlaw. I'd not have accepted his invitation
if he had been asking us to dine in public. But this
is to be at his own house--his new house--and a very
grand house it is, judging by the photos he showed me.
A regular palace! He'll not be an outlaw long, I guess.
But we must wait and see how he comes out socially
before we commit ourselves.''

``Did you accept for me, too?'' asked Mrs. Presbury.

``Certainly,'' said Presbury. ``And for your daughter,

``I can't go,'' said Mildred. ``I'm dining with the

The family no longer had a servant in constant
attendance in the dining-room. The maid of many functions
also acted as butler and as fetch-and-carry between
kitchen and butler's pantry. Before speaking,
Presbury waited until this maid had withdrawn to bring
the roast and the vegetables. Then he said:

``You are going, too, miss.'' This with the full
infusion of insult into the ``miss.''

Mildred was silent.

``Bill Siddall is looking for a wife,'' proceeded
Presbury. ``And he has Heaven knows how many

``Do you think there's a chance for Milly?'' cried
Mrs. Presbury, who was full of alternating hopes and
fears, both wholly irrational.

``She can have him--if she wants him,'' replied
Presbury. ``But it's only fair to warn her that he's a
stiff dose.''

``Is the money--CERTAIN?'' inquired Mildred's
mother with that shrewdness whose rare occasional
displays laid her open to the unjust suspicion of feigning
her habitual stupidity.

``Yes,'' said Presbury amiably. ``It's nothing like
yours was. He's so rich he doesn't know what to do
with his income. He owns mines scattered all over the
world. And if they all failed, he's got bundles of railway
stocks and bonds, and gilt-edged trust stocks, too.
And he's a comparatively young man--hardly fifty,
I should say. He pretends to be forty.''

``It's strange I never heard of him,'' said Mrs. Presbury.

``If you went to South America or South Africa or
Alaska, you'd hear of him,'' said Presbury. He laughed.
``And I guess you'd hear some pretty dreadful things.
When I knew him twenty-five years ago he had just
been arrested for forging my father's name to a check.
But he got out of that--and it's all past and gone.
Probably he hasn't committed any worse crimes than
have most of our big rich men. Bill's handicap has
been that he hadn't much education or any swell
relatives. But he's a genius at money-making.''
Presbury looked at Mildred with a grin. ``And he's just the
husband for Mildred. She can't afford to be too
particular. Somebody's got to support her. _I_ can't and
won't, and she can't support herself.''

``You'll go--won't you, Mildred?'' said her mother.
``He may not be so bad.''

``Yes, I'll go,'' said Mildred. Her gaze was upon the
untouched food on her plate.

``Of course she'll go,'' said Presbury. ``And she'll
marry him if she can. Won't you, miss?''

He spoke in his amiably insulting way--as distinguished
from the way of savagely sneering insult he
usually took with her. He expected no reply. She
surprised him. She lifted her tragic eyes and looked
fixedly at him. She said:

``Yes, I'll go. And I'll marry him if I can.''

``I told him he could have you,'' said Presbury. ``I
explained to him that you were a rare specimen of the
perfect lady--just what he wanted--and that you,
and all your family, would be grateful to anybody who
would undertake your support.''

Mrs. Presbury flushed angrily. ``You've made it
perfectly useless for her to go!'' she cried.

``Calm yourself, my love,'' said her husband. ``I
know Bill Siddall thoroughly. I said what would help.
I want to get rid of her as much as you do--and that's
saying a great deal.''

Mrs. Presbury flamed with the wrath of those who
are justly accused. ``If Mildred left, I should go, too,''
cried she.

``Go where?'' inquired her husband. ``To the

By persistent rubbing in Presbury had succeeded in
making the truth about her poverty and dependence
clear to his wife. She continued to frown and to
look unutterable contempt, but he had silenced her.
He noted this with a sort of satisfaction and went

``If Bill Siddall takes her, you certainly won't go
there. He wouldn't have you. He feels strongly on
the subject of mothers-in-law.''

``Has he been married before?'' asked Mrs. Presbury.

``Twice,'' replied her husband. ``His first wife died.
He divorced the second for unfaithfulness.''

Mildred saw in this painstaking recital of all the
disagreeable and repellent facts about Siddall an effort
further to humiliate her by making it apparent how
desperately off she was, how she could not refuse any
offer, revolting though it might be to her pride and to
her womanly instincts. Doubtless this was in part the
explanation of Presbury's malicious candor. But an
element in that candor was a prudent preparing of the
girl's mind for worse than the reality. That he was in
earnest in his profession of a desire to bring about the
match showed when he proposed that they should take
rooms at a hotel in New York, to give her a chance to
dress properly for the dinner. True, he hastened to say
that the expense must be met altogether out of the
remnant of Mildred's share of her father's estate, but
the idea would not have occurred to him had he not
been really planning a marriage.

Never had Mildred looked more beautiful or more
attractive than when the three were ready to sally forth
from the Manhattan Hotel on that Thanksgiving evening.
At twenty-five, a soundly healthy and vigorous
twenty-five, it is impossible for mind and nerves,
however wrought upon, to make serious inroads upon
surface charms. The hope of emancipation from her hideous
slavery had been acting upon the girl like a powerful
tonic. She had gained several pounds in the three
intervening days; her face had filled out, color had come
back in all its former beauty to her lips. Perhaps
there was some slight aid from art in the extraordinary
brilliancy of her eyes.

Presbury inventoried her with a succession of grunts
of satisfaction. ``Yes, he'll want you,'' he said.
``You'll strike him as just the show piece he needs.
And he's too shrewd not to be aware that his choice is

``You can't frighten me,'' said Mildred, with a
radiant, coquettish smile--for practice. ``Nothing
could frighten me.''

``I'm not trying,'' replied Presbury. ``Nor will
Siddall frighten you. A woman who's after a bill-payer
can stomach anything.''

``Or a man,'' said Mildred.

``Oh, your mother wasn't as bad as all that,'' said
Presbury, who never lost an opportunity.

Mrs. Presbury, seated beside her daughter in the cab,
gave an exclamation of rage. ``My own daughter
insulting me!'' she said.

``Such a thought did not enter my head,'' protested
Mildred. ``I wasn't thinking of anyone in particular.''

``Let's not quarrel now,'' said Presbury, with
unprecedented amiability. ``We must give Bill a spectacle
of the happy family.''

The cab entered the porte-cochere of a huge palace
of white stone just off Fifth Avenue. The house was
even grander than they had anticipated. The wrought-
iron fence around it had cost a small fortune; the house
itself, without reference to its contents, a large fortune.
The massive outer doors were opened by two lackeys
in cherry-colored silk and velvet livery; a butler, looking
like an English gentleman, was waiting to receive
them at the top of a short flight of marble steps
between the outer and the inner entrance doors. As
Mildred ascended, she happened to note the sculpturing
over the inner entrance--a reclining nude figure of a
woman, Cupids with garlands and hymeneal torches
hovering about her.

Mildred had been in many pretentious houses in and
near New York, but this far surpassed the grandest of
them. Everything was brand new, seemed to have been
only that moment placed, and was of the costliest-
statuary, carpets, armor, carved seats of stone and
wood, marble staircase rising majestically, tapestries,
pictures, drawing-room furniture. The hall was vast,
but the drawing-room was vaster. Empty, one would
have said that it could not possibly be furnished. Yet
it was not only full, but crowded-chairs and sofas,
hassocks and tete-a-tetes, cabinets, tables, pictures,
statues, busts, palms, flowers, a mighty fireplace in
which, behind enormous and costly andirons, crackled
enormous and costly logs. There was danger in moving
about; one could not be sure of not upsetting something,
and one felt that the least damage that could be
done there would be an appallingly expensive matter.

Before that cavernous fireplace posed General
Siddall. He was a tiny mite of a man with a thin wiry
body supporting the head of a professional barber.
His black hair was glossy and most romantically
arranged. His black mustache and imperial were waxed
and brilliantined. There was no mistaking the liberal
use of dye, also. From the rather thin, very sharp
face looked a pair of small, muddy, brown-green eyes
--dull, crafty, cold, cruel. But the little man was so
insignificant and so bebarbered and betailored that one
could not take him seriously. Never had there been so
new, so carefully pressed, so perfectly fitting evening
clothes; never a shirt so expensively got together, or
jeweled studs, waistcoat buttons and links so high
priced. From every part of the room, from every part
of the little man's perfumed and groomed person, every
individual article seemed to be shrieking, ``The best is
not too good for Bill Siddall!''

Mildred was agreeably surprised--she was looking
with fierce determination for agreeable surprises--
when the costly little man spoke, in a quiet, pleasant
voice with an elusive, attractive foreign accent.

``My, but this is grand--grand, General Siddall!''
said Presbury in the voice of the noisy flatterer.
``Princely! Royal!''

Mildred glanced nervously at Siddall. She feared
that Presbury had taken the wrong tone. She saw in
the unpleasant eyes a glance of gratified vanity. Said

``Not so bad, not so bad. I saw the house in Paris,
when I was taking a walk one day. I went to the
American ambassador and asked for the best architect
in Paris. I went to him, told him about the house--
and here it is.''

``Decorations, furniture, and all!'' exclaimed Presbury.

``No, just the house. I picked up the interiors in
different parts of Europe--had everything reproduced
where I couldn't buy outright. I want to enjoy my
money while I'm still young. I didn't care what it cost
to get the proper surroundings. As I said to my architect
and to my staff of artists, I expected to be cheated,
but I wanted the goods. And I got the goods. I'll
show you through the house after dinner. It's on this
same scale throughout. And they're putting me together
a country place--same sort of thing.'' He
threw back his little shoulders and protruded his little
chest. ``And the joke of it is that the whole business
isn't costing me a cent.''

``Not a cent less than half a dozen or a dozen
millions,'' said Presbury.

``Not so much as that--not quite,'' protested the
delightedly sparkling little general. ``But what I
meant was that, as fast as these fellows spend, I go
down-town and make. Fact is, I'm a little better off
than I was when I started in to build.''

``Well, you didn't get any of MY money,'' laughed
Presbury. ``But I suppose pretty much everybody
else in the country must have contributed.''

General Siddall smiled. Mildred wondered whether
the points of his mustache and imperial would crack
and break of, if he should touch them. She noted that
his hair was roached absurdly high above the middle
of his forehead and that he was wearing the tallest heels
she had ever seen. She calculated that, with his hair
flat and his feet on the ground, he would hardly come
to her shoulder--and she was barely of woman's
medium height. She caught sight of his hands--the
square, stubby hands of a working man; the fingers
permanently slightly curved as by the handle of shovel
and pick; the skin shriveled but white with a ghastly,
sickening bleached white, the nails repulsively manicured
into long white curves. ``If he should touch
me, I'd scream,'' she thought. And then she looked at
Presbury--and around her at the evidences of enormous wealth.

The general--she wondered where he had got that
title--led her mother in to dinner, Presbury gave her
his arm. On the way he found opportunity to mutter:

``Lay it on thick! Flatter the fool. You can't
offend him. Tell him he's divinely handsome--a Louis
Fourteen, a Napoleon. Praise everything--napkins,
tablecloth, dishes, food. Rave over the wine.''

But Mildred could not adopt this obviously excellent
advice. She sat silent and cold, while Presbury and
her mother raved and drew out the general to talk of
himself--the only subject in the whole world that
seemed to him thoroughly worth while. As Mildred
listened and furtively observed, it seemed to her that
this tiny fool, so obviously pleased by these coarse and
insulting flatteries, could not possibly have had the
brains to amass the vast fortune he apparently
possessed. But presently she noted that behind the
personality that was pleased by this gross fawning and
bootlicking there lay--lay in wait and on guard--
another personality, one that despised these guests of
his, estimating them at their true value and using them
contemptuously for the gratification of his coarse
appetites. In the glimpse she caught of that deeper and
real personality, she liked it even less than she liked
the one upon the surface.

It was evidence of superior acumen that she saw even
vaguely the real Bill Siddall, the money-maker, beneath
the General William Siddall, raw and ignorant and
vulgar--more vulgar in his refinement than the most
shocking bum at home and at ease in foul-smelling stew.
Every man of achievement hides beneath his surface--
personality this second and real man, who makes the
fortune, discovers the secret of chemistry, fights the
battle, carries the election, paints the picture, commits
the frightful murder, evolves the divine sermon or poem
or symphony. Thus, when we meet a man of achievement,
we invariably have a sense of disappointment.
``Why, that's not the man!'' we exclaim. ``There
must be some mistake.'' And it is, indeed, not the man.
Him we are incapable of seeing. We have only eyes
for surfaces; and, not being doers of extraordinary
deeds, but mere plodders in the routines of existence,
we cannot believe that there is any more to another than
there is to ourselves. The pleasant or unpleasant
surface for the conventional relations of life is about all
there is to us; therefore it is all there is to human
nature. Well, there's no help for it. In measuring our
fellow beings we can use only the measurements of our
own selves; we have no others, and if others are given to
us we are as foozled as one knowing only feet and
inches who has a tape marked off in meters and centimeters.

It so happened that in her social excursions Mildred
had never been in any of the numerous homes of the
suddenly and vastly rich of humble origin. She was
used to--and regarded as proper and elegant--the
ordinary ostentations and crudities of the rich of
conventional society. No more than you or I was she
moved to ridicule or disdain by the silliness and the
tawdry vulgarity of the life of palace and liveried
lackey and empty ceremonial, by the tedious entertainments,
by the displays of costly and poisonous food.
But General Siddall's establishment presented a new
phase to her--and she thought it unique in dreadfulness
and absurdity.

The general had had a home life in his youth--in a
coal-miner's cabin near Wilkes-Barre. Ever since, he
had lived in boarding-houses or hotels. As his shrewd
and rapacious mind had gathered in more and more
wealth, he had lived more and more luxuriously--but
always at hotels. He had seen little of the private life
of the rich. Thus he had been compelled to get his
ideas of luxury and of ceremonial altogether from the
hotel-keepers and caterers who give the rich what the
more intelligent and informed of the rich are usually
shamed by people of taste from giving themselves at

She thought the tablecloth, napkins, and gaudy gold
and flowery cut glass a little overdone, but on the whole
not so bad. She had seen such almost as grand at a
few New York houses. The lace in the cloth and in
the napkins was merely a little too magnificent. It
made the table lumpy, it made the napkins unfit for use.
But the way the dinner was served! You would have
said you were in a glorified palace-hotel restaurant.
You looked about for the cashier's desk; you were certain
a bill would be presented after the last course.

The general, tinier and more grotesque than ever in
the great high-backed, richly carved armchair, surveyed
the progress of the banquet with the air of a god
performing miracles of creation and passing them in
review and giving them his divine endorsement. He was
well pleased with the enthusiastic praises Presbury and
his wife lavished upon the food and drink. He would
have been better pleased had they preceded and followed
every mouthful with a eulogy. He supplemented their
compliments with even more fulsome compliments, adding
details as to the origin and the cost.

``Darcy''--this to the butler--``tell the chef that
this fish is the best yet--really exquisite.'' To
Presbury: ``I had it brought over from France--alive,
of course. We have many excellent fish, but I like a
change now and then. So I have a standing order with
Prunier--he's the big oyster- and fish-man of Paris--
to send me over some things every two weeks by special
express. That way, an oyster costs about fifty cents
and a fish about five or six dollars.''

To Mrs. Presbury: ``I'll have Darcy make you and
Miss Presbury--excuse me, Miss Gower--bouquets
of the flowers afterward. Most of them come from
New York--and very high really first-class flowers are.
I pay two dollars apiece for my roses even at this
season. And orchids--well, I feel really extravagant
when I indulge in orchids as I have this evening. Ten
dollars apiece for those. But they're worth it.''

The dinner was interminably long--upward of
twenty kinds of food, no less than five kinds of wine;
enough served and spoiled to have fed and intoxicated a
dozen people at least. And upon every item of food
and drink the general had some remarks to make. He
impressed it upon his guests that this dinner was very
little better than the one served to him every night, that
the increase in expense and luxury was not in their
honor, but in his own--to show them what he could
do when he wished to make a holiday. Finally the
grand course was reached. Into the dining-room, to
the amazement of the guests, were rolled two great
restaurant joint wagons. Instead of being made of
silver-plated nickel or plain nickel they were of silver
embossed with gold, and the large carvers and serving-
spoons and forks had gold-mounted silver handles.
When the lackeys turned back the covers there were
disclosed several truly wonderful young turkeys, fattened
as if by painstaking and skillful hand and superbly

Up to that time the rich and costly food had been
sadly medium--like the wines. But these turkeys were
a genuine triumph. Even Mildred gave them a look of
interest and admiration. In a voice that made General
Siddall ecstatic Presbury cried:

``GOD bless my soul! WHERE did you get those
beauties, old man!''

``Paris,'' said Siddall in a voice tremulous with pride
and self-admiration. You would have thought that he
had created not merely the turkeys, but Paris, also.
``Potin sends them over to me. Potin, you know, is the
finest dealer in groceries, fruit, game, and so on in the
world. I have a standing order with him for the best of--
everything that comes in. I'd hate to tell you what my
bill with Potin is every month--he only sends it to me
once a year. Really, I think I ought to be ashamed of
myself, but I reason that, if a man can afford it, he's
a fool to put anything but the best into his stomach.''

``You're right there!'' mumbled Presbury. His
mouth was full of turkey. ``You HAVE got a chef,

``He ought to cook well. I pay him more than most
bank-presidents get. What do you think of those joint
wagons, Mrs. Presbury?''

``They're very--interesting,'' replied she, a little
nervous because she suspected they were some sort of
vulgar joke.

``I knew you'd like them,'' said the general. ``My
own idea entirely. I saw them in several restaurants
abroad--only of course those they had were just ordinary
affairs, not fit to be introduced into a gentleman's
dining-room. But I took the idea and adapted it to my
purposes--and there you are!''

``Very original, old man,'' said Presbury, who had
been drinking too much. ``I've never seen it before,
and I don't think I ever shall again. Got the idea

But Siddall in his soberest moment would have been
slow to admit a suspicion that any of the human race,
which he regarded as on its knees before him, was

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