Part 1 out of 7
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THE SECOND GENERATION
BY DAVID GRAHAM PHILLIPS
AUTHOR OF "THE COST," "THE PLUM TREE," "THE SOCIAL SECRETARY," "THE
I.--"PUT YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER!"
II.--OF SOMEBODIES AND NOBODIES
III.--MRS. WHITNEY INTERVENES
IV.--THE SHATTERED COLOSSUS
VI.--MRS. WHITNEY NEGOTIATES
VIII.--A FRIEND IN NEED
IX.--THE LONG FAREWELL
X.--"THROUGH LOVE FOR MY CHILDREN"
XII.--ARTHUR FALLS AMONG LAWYERS
XIII.--BUT IS RESCUED
XV.--EARLY ADVENTURES OF A 'PRENTICE
XVI.--A CAST-OFF SLIPPER
XVII.--POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE
XVIII.--LOVE, THE BLUNDERER
XXIII.--A STROLL IN A BYPATH
XXIV.--DR. MADELENE PRESCRIBES
XXV.--MAN AND GENTLEMAN
XXVI.--CHARLES WHITNEY'S HEIRS
XXVII.--THE DOOR AJAR
XXVIII.--THE DEAD THAT LIVE
THE SECOND GENERATION
"PUT YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER!"
In six minutes the noon whistle would blow. But the workmen--the seven
hundred in the Ranger-Whitney flour mills, the two hundred and fifty in
the Ranger-Whitney cooperage adjoining--were, every man and boy of them,
as hard at it as if the dinner rest were hours away. On the threshold of
the long room where several scores of filled barrels were being headed
and stamped there suddenly appeared a huge figure, tall and broad and
solid, clad in a working suit originally gray but now white with the
flour dust that saturated the air, and coated walls and windows both
within and without. At once each of the ninety-seven men and boys was
aware of that presence and unconsciously showed it by putting on extra
"steam." With swinging step the big figure crossed the packing room. The
gray-white face held straight ahead, but the keen blue eyes paused upon
each worker and each task. And every "hand" in those two great factories
knew how all-seeing that glance was--critical, but just; exacting, but
encouraging. All-seeing, in this instance, did not mean merely
Hiram Ranger, manufacturing partner and controlling owner of the
Ranger-Whitney Company of St. Christopher and Chicago, went on into the
cooperage, leaving energy behind him, rousing it before him. Many times,
each working day, between seven in the morning and six at night, he made
the tour of those two establishments. A miller by inheritance and
training, he had learned the cooper's trade like any journeyman, when he
decided that the company should manufacture its own barrels. He was not a
rich man who was a manufacturer; he was a manufacturer who was
incidentally rich--one who made of his business a vocation. He had no
theories on the dignity of labor; he simply exemplified it, and would
have been amazed, and amused or angered according to his mood, had it
been suggested to him that useful labor is not as necessary and
continuous a part of life as breathing. He did not speculate and talk
about ideals; he lived them, incessantly and unconsciously. The talker of
ideals and the liver of ideals get echo and response, each after his
kind--the talker, in the empty noise of applause; the liver, in the
silent spread of the area of achievement.
A moment after Hiram roused the packing room of the flour mill with the
master's eye, he was in the cooperage, the center of a group round one of
the hooping machines. It had got out of gear, and the workman had bungled
in shutting off power; the result was chaos that threatened to stop the
whole department for the rest of the day. Ranger brushed away the
wrangling tinkerers and examined the machine. After grasping the problem
in all its details, he threw himself flat upon his face, crawled under
the machine, and called for a light. A moment later his voice issued
again, in a call for a hammer. Several minutes of sharp hammering; then
the mass of iron began to heave. It rose at the upward pressure of
Ranger's powerful arms and legs, shoulders and back; it crashed over on
its side; he stood up and, without pause or outward sign of his exertion
of enormous strength, set about adjusting the gearing to action, with the
broken machinery cut out. "And he past sixty!" muttered one workman to
another, as a murmur of applause ran round the admiring circle. Clearly
Hiram Ranger was master there not by reason of money but because he was
first in brain and in brawn; not because he could hire but because he
could direct and do.
In the front rank of the ring of on-looking workmen stood a young man,
tall as himself and like him in the outline of his strong features,
especially like him in the fine curve of the prominent nose. But in
dress and manner this young man was the opposite of the master workman
now facing him in the dust and sweat of toil. He wore a fashionable suit
of light gray tweed, a water-woven Panama with a wine-colored ribbon, a
wine-colored scarf; several inches of wine-colored socks showed below his
high-rolled, carefully creased trousers. There was a seal ring on the
little finger of the left of a pair of large hands strong with the
symmetrical strength which is got only at "polite" or useless exercise.
Resting lightly between his lips was a big, expensive-looking Egyptian
cigarette; the mingled odor of that and a delicate cologne scented the
air. With a breeziness which a careful observer of the niceties of manner
might have recognized as a disguise of nervousness, the young man
advanced, extending his right hand.
"Hello, father!" said he, "I came to bring you home to lunch."
The master workman did not take the offered hand. After a quick glance of
pride and pleasure which no father could have denied so manly and
handsome a son, he eyed the young man with a look that bit into every one
of his fashionable details. Presently he lifted his arm and pointed. The
son followed the direction of that long, strong, useful-looking
forefinger, until his gaze rested upon a sign: "No Smoking"--big, black
letters on a white background.
"Beg pardon," he stammered, flushing and throwing away the cigarette.
The father went to the smoking butt and set his foot upon it. The son's
face became crimson; he had flung the cigarette among the shavings which
littered the floor. "The scientists say a fire can't be lighted from
burning tobacco," he said, with a vigorous effort to repair the rent in
his surface of easy assurance.
The old man--if that adjective can be justly applied to one who had such
strength and energy as his--made no reply. He strode toward the door, the
son following, acute to the grins and winks the workmen were exchanging
behind his back. The father opened the shut street door of the cooperage,
and, when the son came up, pointed to the big, white letters: "No
Admittance. Apply at the Office."
"How did you get in here?" he asked.
"I called in at the window and ordered one of the men to open the door,"
explained the son.
"Ordered." The father merely repeated the word.
"Requested, then," said the son, feeling that he was displaying
praiseworthy patience with "the governor's" eccentricities.
The son indicated a man who was taking a dinner pail from under a
bench at the nearest window. The father called to him: "Jerry!" Jerry
"Why did you let this young--young _gentleman_ in among us?"
"I saw it was Mr. Arthur," began Jerry.
"Then you saw it was not anyone who has any business here. Who gave you
authority to suspend the rules of this factory?"
"Don't, father!" protested Arthur. "You certainly can't blame him. He
knew I'd make trouble if he didn't obey."
"He knew nothing of the sort," replied Hiram Ranger. "I haven't been
dealing with men for fifty years--However, next time you'll know what to
"He warned me it was against the rules," interjected Arthur.
A triumphant smile gleamed in the father's eyes at this vindication of
the discipline of the mills. "Then he knew he was doing wrong. He must be
fined. You can pay the fine, young _gentleman_--if you wish."
"Certainly," murmured Arthur. "And now, let's go to lunch."
"To dinner," corrected the father; "your mother and I have dinner in the
middle of the day, not lunch."
"To dinner, then. Anything you please, pa, only let's go."
When they were at the office and the father was about to enter the inner
room to change his clothes, he wheeled and said: "Why ain't you at
Harvard, passing your examinations?"
Arthur's hands contracted and his eyes shifted; in a tone to which
repression gave a seeming lightness, he announced: "The exams, are over.
I've been plucked."
The slang was new to Hiram Ranger, but he understood. In important
matters his fixed habit was never to speak until he had thought well;
without a word he turned and, with a heaviness that was new in his
movements, went into the dressing room. The young man drew a cautious but
profound breath of relief--the confession he had been dreading was over;
his father knew the worst. "If the governor only knew the world better,"
he said to himself, "he'd know that at every college the best fellows
always skate along the edge of the thin ice. But he doesn't, and so he
thinks he's disgraced." He lit another cigarette by way of consolation
When the father reappeared, dressed for the street, he was apparently
unconscious of the cigarette. They walked home in silence--a
striking-looking pair, with their great similar forms and their handsome
similar faces, typical impersonations of the first generation that is
sowing in labor, and the second generation that is reaping in idleness.
"Oh!" exclaimed Arthur, as they entered the Ranger place and began to
ascend the stone walk through the lawns sloping down from the big,
substantial-looking, creeper-clad house. "I stopped at Cleveland half a
day, on the way West, and brought Adelaide along." He said this with
elaborate carelessness; in fact, he had begged her to come that she might
once more take her familiar and highly successful part of buffer between
him and his father's displeasure.
The father's head lifted, and the cloud over his face also. "How is she?"
he asked. "Bang up!" answered Arthur. "She's the sort of a sister a man's
proud of--looks and style, and the gait of a thoroughbred." He
interrupted himself with a laugh. "There she is, now!" he exclaimed.
This was caused by the appearance, in the open front doors, of a strange
creature with a bright pink ribbon arranged as a sort of cockade around
and above its left ear--a brown, hairy, unclean-looking thing that gazed
with human inquisitiveness at the approaching figures. As the elder
Ranger drew down his eyebrows the creature gave a squeak of alarm and,
dropping from a sitting position to all fours, wheeled and shambled
swiftly along the wide hall, walking human fashion with its hind feet,
dog fashion with its fore feet or arms.
At first sight of this apparition Ranger halted. He stared with an
expression so astounded that Arthur laughed outright.
"What was that?" he now demanded.
"Simeon," replied Arthur. "Del has taken on a monk. It's the latest fad."
"Oh!" ejaculated Ranger. "Simeon."
"She named it after grandfather--and there _is_ a--" Arthur stopped
short. He remembered that "Simeon" was his father's father; perhaps his
father might not see the joke. "That is," he explained, "she was looking
for a name, and I thought of 'simian,' naturally, and that, of course,
"That'll do," said Hiram, in a tone of ominous calm which his family
knew was the signal that a subject must be dropped.
Now there was a quick _froufrou_ of skirts, and from the sitting room to
the left darted a handsome, fair girl of nineteen, beautifully dressed in
a gray summer silk with simple but effectively placed bands of pink
embroidery on blouse and skirt. As she bounded down the steps and into
her father's arms her flying skirts revealed a pair of long, narrow feet
in stylish gray shoes and gray silk stockings exactly matching the rest
of her costume. "Daddy! Daddy!" she cried.
His arms were trembling as they clasped her--were trembling with the
emotion that surged into her eyes in the more obvious but less
significant form of tears. "Glad to see you, Delia," was all he said.
She put her slim white forefinger on his lips.
He smiled. "Oh! I forgot. You're Adelaide, of course, since you've
"Why call me out of my name?" she demanded, gayly. "You should have
christened me Delia if you had wanted me named that."
"I'll try to remember, next time," he said, meekly. His gray eyes were
dancing and twinkling like sunbeams pouring from breaches in a spent
storm-cloud; there was an eloquence of pleasure far beyond laughter's in
the rare, infrequent eye smiles from his sober, strong face.
Now there was a squeaking and chattering behind them. Adelaide whirled
free of her father's arms and caught up the monkey. "Put out your hand,
sir," said she, and she kissed him. Her father shuddered, so awful was
the contrast between the wizened, dirty-brown face and her roselike
skin and fresh fairness. "Put out your hand and bow, sir," she went on.
"This is Mr. Hiram Ranger, Mr. Simeon. Mr. Simeon, Mr. Ranger; Mr.
Ranger, Mr. Simeon."
Hiram, wondering at his own weakness, awkwardly took the paw so uncannily
like a mummied hand. "What did you do this for, Adelaide?" said he, in a
tone of mild remonstrance where he had intended to be firm.
"He's so fascinating, I couldn't resist. He's so wonderfully human--"
"That's it," said her father; "so--so--"
"Loathsomely human," interjected Arthur.
"Loathsome," said the father.
"That impression soon wears off," assured Adelaide, "and he's just like a
human being as company. I'd be bored to death if I didn't have him. He
gives me an occupation."
At this the cloud settled on Ranger's face again--a cloud of sadness. An
Simeon hid his face in Adelaide's shoulder and began to whimper. She
patted him softly. "How can you be so cruel?" she reproached her father.
"He has feelings almost like a human being."
Ranger winced. Had the daughter not been so busy consoling her unhappy
pet, the father's expression might have suggested to her that there was,
not distant from her, a being who had feelings, not almost, but quite
human, and who might afford an occupation for an occupation-hunting young
woman which might make love and care for a monkey superfluous. But he
said nothing. He noted that the monkey's ribbon exactly matched the
embroidery on Adelaide's dress.
"If he were a dog or a cat, you wouldn't mind," she went on.
True enough! Clearly, he was unreasonable with her.
"Do you want me to send him away?"
"I'll get used to him, I reckon," replied Hiram, adding, with a faint
gleam of sarcasm, "I've got used to a great many things these last
They went silently into the house, Adelaide and Arthur feeling that their
father had quite unreasonably put a damper upon their spirits--a feeling
which he himself had. He felt that he was right, and he was puzzled to
find himself, even in his own mind, in the wrong.
"He's hopelessly old-fashioned!" murmured Arthur to his sister.
"Yes, but _such_ a dear," murmured Adelaide.
"No wonder _you_ say that!" was his retort. "You wind him round
In the sitting room--the "back parlor"--Mrs. Ranger descended upon them
from the direction of the kitchen. Ellen was dressed for work; her old
gingham, for all its neatness, was in as sharp contrast to her daughter's
garb of the lady of leisure as were Hiram's mill clothes to his son's
"London latest." "It's almost half-past twelve," she said. "Dinner's been
ready more than half an hour. Mary's furious, and it's hard enough to
keep servants in this town since the canning factories started."
Adelaide and Arthur laughed; Hiram smiled. They were all thoroughly
familiar with that canning-factory theme. It constituted the chief
feature of the servant problem in Saint X, as everybody called St.
Christopher; and the servant problem there, as everywhere else, was the
chief feature of domestic economy. As Mrs. Ranger's mind was concentrated
upon her household, the canning factories were under fire from her early
and late, in season and out of season.
"And she's got to wait on the table, too," continued Ellen, too
interested in reviewing her troubles to mind the amusement of the rest of
"Why, where's the new girl Jarvis brought you?" asked Hiram.
"She came from way back in the country, and, when she set the table, she
fixed five places. 'There's only four of us, Barbara,' said I. 'Yes,
Mrs. Ranger,' says she, 'four and me.' 'But how're you going to wait on
the table and sit with us?' says I, very kindly, for I step mighty soft
with those people. 'Oh, I don't mind bouncin' up and down,' says she; 'I
can chew as I walk round.' When I explained, she up and left in a huff.
'I'm as good as you are, Mrs. Ranger, I'd have you know,' she said, as
she was going, just to set Mary afire; 'my father's an independent
farmer, and I don't have to live out. I just thought I'd like to visit
in town, and I'd heard your folks well spoke of. I'll get a place in the
canning factory!' I wasn't sorry to have her go. You ought to have seen
the way she set the table!"
"We'll have to get servants from the East," said Arthur. "They know their
place a little better there. We can get some English that have just come
over. They're the best--thoroughly respectful."
He did not see the glance his father shot at him from under his heavy
eyebrows. But Adelaide did--she was expecting it. "Don't talk like a cad,
Artie!" she said. "You know you don't think that way."
"Oh, of course, I don't admire that spirit--or lack of it," he replied.
"But--what are you going to do? It's the flunkies or the Barbaras and
Marys--or doing our own work."
To Hiram Ranger that seemed unanswerable, and his resentment against his
son for expressing ideas for which he had utter contempt seemed
unreasonable. Again reason put him in the wrong, though instinct was
insisting that he was in the right.
"It's a pity people aren't contented in 'the station to which God has
called them,' as the English prayer book says," continued Arthur, not
catching sensitive Adelaide's warning frown.
"If your mother and I had been content," said Hiram, "you and Delia would
be looking for places in the canning factory." The remark was doubly
startling--for the repressed energy of its sarcasm, and because, as a
rule, Hiram never joined in the discussions in the family circle.
They were at the table, all except Mrs. Ranger. She had disappeared in
the direction of the kitchen and presently reappeared bearing a soup
tureen, which she set down before her husband. "I don't dare ask Mary to
wait on the table," said she. "If I did, she's just in the humor to up
and light out, too; and your mother's got no hankering for hanging over a
hot stove in this weather."
She transferred the pile of soup plates from the sideboard and seated
herself. Her husband poured the soup, and the plates were passed from
hand to hand until all were served. "If the Sandyses could see us now,
Del," said Arthur.
"Or the Whitneys," suggested Adelaide, and both laughed as people laugh
when they think the joke, or the best part of it, is a secret between
Nothing more was said until the soup was finished and Mrs. Ranger rose
and began to remove the dishes. Adelaide, gazing at the table, her
thoughts far away, became uneasy, stirred, looked up; she saw that the
cause of her uneasiness was the eyes of her father fixed steadily upon
her in a look which she could not immediately interpret. When he saw that
he had her attention, he glanced significantly toward her mother, waiting
upon them. "If the Sandyses or the Whitneys could see us _now_!" he said.
She reddened, pushed back her chair, and sprang up. "Oh, I never
thought!" she exclaimed. "Sit down, mother, and let _me_ do that. You
and father have got us into awful bad ways, always indulging us and
waiting on us."
"You let me alone," replied her mother. "I'm used to it. I did my own
work for fifteen years after we were married, and I'd have been doing it
yet if your father hadn't just gone out and got a girl and brought her
in and set her to work. No; sit down, Del. You don't know anything about
work. I didn't bring you up to be a household drudge."
But Del was on her way to the kitchen, whence she presently reappeared
with a platter and a vegetable dish. Down the front of her skirt was a
streak of grease. "There!" exclaimed Mrs. Ranger, coloring high with
exasperation, "your dress is spoiled! I don't believe I can take it out
of that kind of goods without leaving a spot. Hiram, I do wish you
wouldn't meddle with the children! It seems to me you've got enough to do
to 'tend your own affairs at the mill."
This was unanswerable, or so it seemed to her husband. Once more he felt
in the wrong, when he knew that, somehow, he was in the right.
But Adelaide was laughing and going forward gracefully with her duties as
waitress. "It's nothing," she said; "the stain will come out; and, if it
doesn't, there's no harm done. The dress is an old thing. I've worn it
until everybody's sick of the sight of it."
Mrs. Ranger now took her turn at looking disapproval. She exclaimed:
"Why, the dress is as good as new; much too good to travel in. You ought
to have worn a linen duster over it on the train."
At this even Hiram showed keen amusement, and Mrs. Ranger herself joined
in the laugh. "Well, it was a good, sensible fashion, anyhow," said she.
Instead of hurrying through dinner to get back to his work with the one
o'clock whistle, Hiram Ranger lingered on, much to the astonishment of
his family. When the faint sound of the whistles of the distant factories
was borne to them through the open windows, Mrs. Ranger cried, "You'll be
"I'm in no hurry to-day," said Ranger, rousing from the seeming
abstraction in which he passed most of his time with his assembled
family. After dinner he seated himself on the front porch. Adelaide
came up behind and put her arm round his neck. "You're not feeling
"Not extra," he answered. "But it's nothing to bother about. I thought
I'd rest a few minutes." He patted her in shy expression of gratitude for
her little attention. It is not strange that Del overvalued the merit of
these trivial attentions of hers when they were valued thus high by her
father, who longed for proofs of affection and, because of his shyness
and silence, got few.
"Hey, Del! Hurry up! Get into your hat and dust-coat!" was now heard, in
Arthur's voice, from the drive to the left of the lawns.
Hiram's glance shifted to the direction of the sound. Arthur was perched
high in a dogcart to which were attached two horses, one before the
other. Adelaide did not like to leave her father with that expression on
his face, but after a brief hesitation she went into the house. Hiram
advanced slowly across the lawn toward the tandem. When he had inspected
it in detail, at close range, he said: "Where'd you get it, young
gentleman?" Again there was stress on the "gentleman."
"Oh, I've had it at Harvard several months," he replied carelessly. "I
shipped it on. I sold the horses--got a smashing good price for 'em.
Yours ain't used to tandem, but I guess I can manage 'em."
"That style of hitching's new to these parts," continued Hiram.
Arthur felt the queerness of his father's tone. "Two, side by side, or
two, one in front of the other--where's the difference?"
True, reflected Hiram. He was wrong again--yet again unconvinced.
Certainly the handsome son, so smartly gotten up, seated in this smart
trap, did look attractive--but somehow not as he would have had _his_
son look. Adelaide came; he helped her to the lower seat. As he watched
them dash away, as fine-looking a pair of young people as ever
gladdened a father's eye, this father's heart lifted with pride--but
sank again. Everything _seemed_ all right; why, then, did everything
_feel_ all wrong?
"I'm not well to-day," he muttered. He returned to the porch, walking
heavily. In body and in mind he felt listless. There seemed to be
something or some one inside him--a newcomer--aloof from all that he had
regarded as himself--aloof from his family, from his work, from his own
personality--an outsider, studying the whole perplexedly and gloomily.
As he was leaving the gate a truck entered the drive. It was loaded with
trunks--his son's and his daughter's baggage on the way from the station.
Hiram paused and counted the boxes--five huge trunks--Adelaide's beyond
doubt; four smaller ones, six of steamer size and thereabouts--profuse
and elegant Arthur's profuse and elegant array of canvas and leather.
This mass of superfluity seemed to add itself to his burden. He recalled
what his wife had once said when he hesitated over some new extravagance
of the children's: "What'd we toil and save for, unless to give them a
better time than we had? What's the use of our having money if they can't
enjoy it?" A "better time," "enjoy"--they sounded all right, but were
they _really_ all right? Was this really a "better time"?--really
enjoyment? Were his and his wife's life all wrong, except as they had
contributed to this new life of thoughtless spending and useless activity
and vanity and splurge?
Instead of going toward the factories, he turned east and presently out
of Jefferson Street into Elm. He paused at a two-story brick house
painted brown, with a small but brilliant and tasteful garden in front
and down either side. To the right of the door was an unobtrusive
black-and-gold sign bearing the words "Ferdinand Schulze, M.D." He rang,
was admitted by a pretty, plump, Saxon-blond young woman--the doctor's
younger daughter and housekeeper. She looked freshly clean and
wholesome--and so useful! Hiram's eyes rested upon her approvingly; and
often afterwards his thoughts returned to her, lingering upon her and his
own daughter in that sort of vague comparisons which we would not
entertain were we aware of them.
Dr. Schulze was the most distinguished--indeed, the only
distinguished--physician in Saint X. He was a short, stout, grizzled,
spectacled man, with a nose like a scarlet button and a mouth like a
buttonhole; in speech he was abrupt, and, on the slightest pretext or no
pretext at all, sharp; he hid a warm sympathy for human nature,
especially for its weaknesses, behind an uncompromising candor which he
regarded as the duty of the man of science toward a vain and deluded race
that knew little and learned reluctantly. A man is either better or worse
than the manner he chooses for purposes of conciliating or defying the
world. Dr. Schulze was better, as much better as his mind was superior to
his body. He and his motherless daughters were "not in it" socially.
Saint X was not quite certain whether it shunned them or they it. His
services were sought only in extremities, partly because he would lie to
his patients neither when he knew what ailed them nor when he did not,
and partly because he was a militant infidel. He lost no opportunity to
attack religion in all its forms; and his two daughters let no
opportunity escape to show that they stood with their father, whom
they adored, and who had brought them up with his heart. It was Dr.
Schulze's furious unbelief, investing him with a certain suggestion of
Satan-got intelligence, that attracted Saint X to him in serious
illnesses--somewhat as the Christian princes of mediaeval Europe
tolerated and believed in the Jew physicians. Saint X was only just
reaching the stage at which it could listen to "higher criticism" without
dread lest the talk should be interrupted by a bolt from "special
Providence"; the fact that Schulze lived on, believing and talking as he
did, could be explained only as miraculous and mysterious forbearance in
which Satan must somehow have direct part.
"I didn't expect to see _you_ for many a year yet," said Schulze, as
Hiram, standing, faced him sitting at his desk.
The master workman grew still more pallid as he heard the thought that
weighted him in secret thus put into words. "I have never had a doctor
before in my life," said he. "My prescription has been, when you feel
badly stop eating and work harder."
"Starve and sweat--none better," said Schulze. "Well, why do you come
"This morning I lifted a rather heavy weight. I've felt a kind of
tiredness ever since, and a pain in the lower part of my back--pretty
bad. I can't understand it."
"But I can--that's my business. Take off your clothes and stretch
yourself on this chair. Call me when you're ready."
Schulze withdrew into what smelled like a laboratory. Hiram could hear
him rattling glass against glass and metal, could smell the fumes of
uncorked bottles of acids. When he called, Schulze reappeared, disposed
instruments and tubes upon a table. "I never ask my patients questions,"
he said, as he began to examine Hiram's chest. "I lay 'em out here and go
over 'em inch by inch. I find all the weak spots, both those that are
crying out and those worse ones that don't. I never ask a man what's the
matter; I tell him. And my patients, and all the fools in this town,
think I'm in league with the devil. A doctor who finds out what's the
matter with a man Providence is trying to lay in the grave--what can it
be but the devil?"
He had reached his subject; as he worked he talked it--religion, its
folly, its silliness, its cruelty, its ignorance, its viciousness. Hiram
listened without hearing; he was absorbed in observing the diagnosis. He
knew nothing of medicine, but he did know good workmanship. As the
physician worked, his admiration and confidence grew. He began to feel
better--not physically better, but that mental relief which a courageous
man feels when the peril he is facing is stripped of the mystery that
made it a terror. After perhaps three quarters of an hour, Schulze
withdrew to the laboratory, saying: "That's all. You may dress."
Hiram dressed, seated himself. By chance he was opposite a huge image
from the Orient, a hideous, twisted thing with a countenance of sardonic
sagacity. As he looked he began to see perverse, insidious resemblances
to the physician himself. When Schulze reappeared and busied himself
writing, he looked from the stone face to the face of flesh with
fascinated repulsion--the man and the "familiar" were so ghastly alike.
Then he suddenly understood that this was a quaint double jest of the
eccentric physician's--his grim fling at his lack of physical charm, his
ironic jeer at the superstitions of Saint X.
"There!" said Schulze, looking up. "That's the best I can do for you."
"What's the matter with me?"
"You wouldn't know if I told you."
"Is it serious?"
"In this world everything is serious--and nothing."
"Will I die?"
Schulze slowly surveyed all Hiram's outward signs of majesty that had
been denied his own majestic intellect, noted the tremendous figure, the
shoulders, the forehead, the massive brow and nose and chin--an
_ensemble_ of unabused power, the handiwork of Nature at her best, a
creation worth while, worth preserving intact and immortal.
"Yes," he answered, with satiric bitterness; "you will have to die, and
rot, just like the rest of us."
"Tell me!" Hiram commanded. "Will I die soon?"
Schulze reflected, rubbing his red-button nose with his stubby fingers.
When he spoke, his voice had a sad gentleness. "You can bear hearing it.
You have the right to know." He leaned back, paused, said in a low tone:
"Put your house in order, Mr. Ranger."
Hiram's steadfast gray eyes met bravely the eyes of the man who had just
read him his death warrant. A long pause; then Hiram said "Thank you," in
his quiet, calm way.
He took the prescriptions, went out into the street. It looked strange to
him; he felt like a stranger in that town where he had spent half a
century--felt like a temporary tenant of that vast, strong body of his
which until now had seemed himself. And he--or was it the stranger within
him?--kept repeating: "Put your house in order. Put your house in order."
OF SOMEBODIES AND NOBODIES
At the second turning Arthur rounded the tandem out of Jefferson Street
into Willow with a skill that delighted both him and his sister. "But why
go that way?" said she. "Why not through Monroe street? I'm sure the
horses would behave."
"Better not risk it," replied Arthur, showing that he, too, had had, but
had rejected, the temptation to parade the crowded part of town. "Even if
the horses didn't act up, the people might, they're such jays."
Adelaide's estimate of what she and her brother had acquired in the East
was as high as was his, and she had the same unflattering opinion of
those who lacked it. But it ruffled her to hear him call the home folks
jays--just as it would have ruffled him had she been the one to make the
slighting remark. "If you invite people's opinion," said she, "you've no
right to sneer at them because they don't say what you wanted."
"But _I_'m not driving for show if _you_ are," he retorted, with a
testiness that was confession.
"Don't be silly," was her answer. "You know you wouldn't take all this
trouble on a desert island."
"Of course not," he admitted, "but I don't care for the opinion of any
but those capable of appreciating."
"And those capable of appreciating are only those who approve," teased
Adelaide. "Why drive tandem among these 'jays?'"
"To keep my hand in," replied he; and his adroit escape restored his
"I wish I were as free from vanity as you are, Arthur, dear," said she.
"You're just as fond of making a sensation as I am," replied he. "And,
my eye, Del! but you _do_ know how." This with an admiring glance at
her most becoming hat with its great, gracefully draped _chiffon_ veil,
and at her dazzling white dust-coat with its deep blue facings that
matched her eyes.
She laughed. "Just wait till you see my new dresses--and hats."
"Another shock for your poor father."
"Shock of joy."
"Yes," assented Arthur, rather glumly; "he'll take anything off you.
But when I--"
"It's no compliment to me," she cut in, the prompter to admit the truth
because it would make him feel better. "He thinks I'm 'only a woman,'
fit for nothing but to look pretty as long as I'm a girl, and then to
devote myself to a husband and children, without any life or even ideas
of my own."
"Mother always seems cheerful enough," said Arthur. His content with the
changed conditions which the prosperity and easy-going generosity of the
elder generation were making for the younger generation ended at his own
sex. The new woman--idle and frivolous, ignorant of all useful things,
fit only for the show side of life and caring only for it, discontented
with everybody but her own selfish self--Arthur had a reputation among
his friends for his gloomy view of the American woman and for his courage
in expressing it.
"You are _so_ narrow-minded, Artie!" his sister exclaimed impatiently.
"Mother was brought up very differently from the way she and father have
brought me up--"
"Have let you bring yourself up."
"No matter; I _am_ different."
"But what would you do? What can a woman do?"
"I don't know," she admitted. "But I _do_ know I hate a humdrum life."
There was the glint of the Ranger will in her eyes as she added:
"Furthermore, I shan't stand for it."
He looked at her enviously. "You'll be free in another year," he said.
"You and Ross Whitney will marry, and you'll have a big house in Chicago
and can do what you please and go where you please."
"Not if Ross should turn out to be the sort of man you are."
He laughed. "I can see Ross--or any man--trying to manage _you_! You've
got too much of father in you."
"But I'll be dependent until--" Adelaide paused, then added a
satisfactorily vague, "for a long time. Father won't give me anything.
How furious he'd be at the very suggestion of dowry. Parents out here
don't appreciate that conditions have changed and that it's necessary
nowadays for a woman to be independent of her husband."
Arthur compressed his lips, to help him refrain from comment. But he felt
so strongly on the subject that he couldn't let her remarks pass
unchallenged. "I don't know about that, Del," he said. "It depends on the
woman. Personally, I'd hate to be married to a woman I couldn't control
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," cried Del, indignant. "Is _that_
your idea of control--to make a woman mercenary and hypocritical? You'd
better change your way of thinking if you don't want Janet to be very
unhappy, and yourself, too."
"That sounds well," he retorted, "but you know better. Take our case, for
instance. Is it altogether love and affection that make us so cautious
about offending father?"
"Speak for yourself," said Adelaide. "_I'm_ not cautious."
"Do try to argue fair, even if you are a woman. You're as cautious in
your way as I am in mine."
Adelaide felt that he was offended, and justly. "I didn't mean quite what
I said, Artie. You _are_ cautious, in a way, and sometimes. But often
you're reckless. I'm frightened every once in a while by it, and I'm
haunted by the dread that there'll be a collision between father and you.
You're so much alike, and you understand each other less and less, all
After a silence Arthur said, thoughtfully: "I think I understand him.
There are two distinct persons inside of me. There's the one that was
made by inheritance and by my surroundings as a boy--the one that's like
him, the one that enables me to understand him. Then, there's this other
that's been made since--in the East, and going round among people that
either never knew the sort of life we had as children or have grown away
from it. The problem is how to reconcile those two persons so that
they'll stop wrangling and shaming each other. That's _my_ problem, I
mean. Father's problem--He doesn't know he has one. I must do as he
wishes or I'll not be at all, so far as he is concerned."
Another and longer silence; then Adelaide, after an uneasy, affectionate
look at his serious profile, said: "I'm often ashamed of myself,
Artie--about father; I don't _think_ I'm a hypocrite, for I do love him
dearly. Who could help it, when he is so indulgent and when even in his
anger he's kind? But you--Oh, Artie, even though you are less, much less,
uncandid with him than I am, still isn't it more--more--less manly in
you? After all, I'm a woman and helpless; and, if I seriously offend him,
what would become of me? But you're a man. The world was made for men;
they can make their own way. And it seems unworthy of you to be afraid to
be yourself before _any_body. And I'm sure it's demoralizing."
She spoke so sincerely that he could not have resented it, even had her
words raised a far feebler echo within him. "I don't honestly believe,
Del, that my caution with father is from fear of his shutting down on me,
any more than yours is," he replied. "I know he cares for me. And often I
don't let him see me as I am simply because it'd hurt him if he knew how
differently I think and feel about a lot of things."
"But are you right?--or is he?"
Arthur did not answer immediately. He had forgotten his horses; they were
jogging along, heads down and "form" gone. "What do _you_ think?" he
"I--I can't quite make up my mind."
"Do you think I ought to drudge and slave, as he has? Do you think I
ought to spend my life in making money, in dealing in flour? Isn't there
something better than that?"
"I don't think it's what a man deals in; I think it's _how_ he deals.
And I don't believe there's any sort of man finer and better than
"That's true," he assented warmly. "I used to envy the boys at
college--some of them--because their fathers and mothers had so much
culture and knowledge of the world. But when I came to know their
parents better--and them, too--I saw how really ignorant and
vulgar--yes, vulgar--they were, under their veneer of talk and manner
which they thought was everything. 'They may be fit to stand before
kings' I said to myself, 'but my father _is_ a king--and of a sort they
ain't fit to stand before.'"
The color was high in Del's cheeks and her eyes were brilliant. "You'll
come out all right, Artie," said she. "I don't know just how, but you'll
_do_ something, and do it well."
"I'd much rather do nothing--well," said he lightly, as if not sure
whether he was in earnest or not. "It's so much nicer to dream than to
do." He looked at her with good-humored satire. "And you--what's the
matter with your practising some of the things you preach? Why don't you
marry--say, Dory Hargrave, instead of Ross?"
She made a failure of a stout attempt to meet his eyes and to smile
easily. "Because I don't love Dory Hargrave," she said.
"But you wouldn't let yourself if you could--would you, now?"
"It's a poor love that lags for let," she replied. "Besides, why talk
about me? I'm 'only a woman.' I haven't any career, or any chance to
"But you might help some man," he teased.
"Then you'd like me to marry Dory--if I could?"
"I'm just showing you how vain your theorizing is," was his not
altogether frank reply. "You urge me to despise money when you
"That isn't fair, Arthur. If I didn't care for Ross I shouldn't think of
marrying him, and you know it."
"He's so like father!" mocked Arthur.
"No, but he's so like _you_," she retorted. "You know he was your ideal
for years. It was your praising him that--that first made me glad to do
as father and mother wished. You know father approves of him."
Arthur grinned, and Del colored. "A lot father knows about Ross as he
really is," said he. "Oh, he's clever about what he lets father see.
However, you do admit there's some other ideal of man than successful
"Of course!" said Adelaide. "I'm not so silly and narrow as you try to
make out. Only, I prefer a combination of the two. And I think Ross is
that, and I hope and believe he'll be more so--afterwards."
Adelaide's tone was so judicial that Arthur thought it discreet not to
discuss his friend and future brother-in-law further. "He isn't good
enough for Del," he said to himself. "But, then, who is? And he'll
help her to the sort of setting she's best fitted for. What side
they'll put on, once they get going! She'll set a new pace--and it'll
be a grand one."
At the top of the last curve in the steep road up from Deer Creek the
horses halted of themselves to rest; Arthur and his sister gazed out upon
the vast, dreamy vision--miles on miles of winding river shimmering
through its veil of silver mist, stately hills draped in gauziest blue.
It was such uplifting vistas that inspired the human imagination, in the
days of its youth, to breathe a soul into the universe and make it a
living thing, palpitant with love and hope; it was an outlook that would
have moved the narrowest, the smallest, to think in the wide and the
large. Wherever the hills were not based close to the water's edge or
rose less abruptly, there were cultivated fields; and in each field, far
or near, men were at work. These broad-hatted, blue-shirted toilers in
the ardent sun determined the turn of Adelaide's thoughts.
"It doesn't seem right, does it," said she, "that so many--almost
everybody--should have to work so hard just to get enough to eat and to
wear and a place to sleep, when there's so much of everything in the
world--and when a few like us don't have to work at all and have much
more than they need, simply because one happened to be born in such or
such conditions. I suppose it's got to be so, but it certainly looks
"I'm not sure the workers haven't the best of it," replied Arthur. "They
have the dinner; we have only the dessert; and I guess one gets tired of
only desserts, no matter how great the variety."
"It's a stupid world in lots of ways, isn't it?"
"Not so stupid as it used to be, when everybody said and thought it was
as good as possible," replied he. "You see, it's the people in the world
that make it stupid. For instance, do you suppose you and I, or anybody,
would care for idling about and doing all sorts of things our better
judgment tells us are inane, if it weren't that most of our fellow-beings
are stupid enough to admire and envy that sort of thing, and that we are
stupid enough to want to be admired and envied by stupid people?"
"Did you notice the Sandys's English butler?" asked Adelaide.
"_Did_ I? I'll bet he keeps every one in the Sandys family up to
"That's it," continued Adelaide. "He's a poor creature, dumb and
ignorant. He knows only one thing--snobbishness. Yet every one of us was
in terror of his opinion. No doubt kings feel the same way about the
people around them. Always what's expected of us--and by whom? Why, by
people who have little sense and less knowledge. They run the world,
"As Dory Hargrave says," said her brother, "the only scheme for making
things better that's worth talking about is raising the standards of the
masses because their standards are ours. We'll be fools and unjust as
long as they'll let us. And they'll let us as long as they're ignorant."
By inheritance Arthur and Adelaide had excellent minds, shrewd and with
that cast of humor which makes for justice of judgment by mocking at the
solemn frauds of interest and prejudice. But, as is often the case with
the children of the rich and the well-to-do, there had been no necessity
for either to use intellect; their parents and hirelings of various
degrees, paid with their father's generously given money, had done their
thinking for them. The whole of animate creation is as lazy as it dares
be, and man is no exception. Thus, the Ranger children, like all other
normal children of luxury, rarely made what would have been, for their
fallow minds, the arduous exertion of real thinking. When their minds
were not on pastimes or personalities they were either rattling round in
their heads or exchanging the ideas, real and reputed, that happened to
be drifting about, at the moment, in their "set." Those ideas they and
their friends received, and stored up or passed on with never a thought
as to whether they were true or false, much as they used coins or notes
they took in and paid out. Arthur and Adelaide soon wearied of their
groping about in the mystery of human society--how little direct interest
it had for them then! They drove on; the vision which had stimulated them
to think vanished; they took up again those personalities about friends,
acquaintances and social life that are to thinking somewhat as massage is
to exercise--all the motions of real activity, but none of its spirit.
They stopped for two calls and tea on the fashionable Bluffs.
When they reached home, content with tandem, drive, themselves, their
friends, and life in general, they found Hiram Ranger returned from work,
though it was only half-past five, and stretched on the sofa in the
sitting room, with his eyes shut. At this unprecedented spectacle of
inactivity they looked at each other in vague alarm; they were stealing
away, when he called: "I'm not asleep."
His expression made Adelaide impulsively kneel beside him and gaze
anxiously into his face. He smiled, roused himself to a sitting posture,
well concealing the effort the exertion cost him.
"Your father's getting old," he said, hiding his tragedy of aching body
and aching heart and impending doom in a hypocrisy of cheerfulness that
would have passed muster even had he not been above suspicion. "I'm not
up to the mark of the last generation. Your grandfather was fifty when I
was born, and he didn't die till I was fifty."
His face shadowed; Adelaide, glancing round for the cause, saw Simeon,
half-sitting, half-standing in the doorway, humble apology on his
weazened, whiskered face. He looked so like her memory-picture of her
grandfather that she burst out laughing. "Don't be hard on the poor old
gentleman, father," she cried. "How can you resist that appeal? Tell him
to come in and make himself at home."
As her father did not answer, she glanced at him. He had not heard her;
he was staring straight ahead with an expression of fathomless
melancholy. The smile faded from her face, from her heart, as the light
fades before the oncoming shadow of night. Presently he was
absent-mindedly but tenderly stroking her hair, as if he were thinking of
her so intensely that he had become unconscious of her physical presence.
The apparition of Simeon had set him to gathering in gloomy assembly a
vast number of circumstances about his two children; each circumstance
was so trivial in itself that by itself it seemed foolishly
inconsequential; yet, in the mass, they bore upon his heart, upon his
conscience, so heavily that his very shoulders stooped with the weight.
"Put your house in order," the newcomer within him was solemnly warning;
and Hiram was puzzling over his meaning, was dreading what that meaning
might presently reveal itself to be. "Put my house in order?" muttered
Hiram, an inquiring echo of that voice within.
"What did you say, father?" asked Adelaide, timidly laying her hand on
his arm. Though she knew he was simple, she felt the vastness in him that
was awe-inspiring--just as a mountain or an ocean, a mere aggregation of
simple matter, is in the total majestic and incomprehensible. Beside him,
the complex little individualities among her acquaintances seemed like
the acrostics of a children's puzzle column.
"Leave me with your brother awhile," he said.
She glanced quickly, furtively at Arthur and admired his
self-possession--for she knew his heart must be heavier than her own. She
rose from her knees, laid her hand lingeringly, appealingly upon her
father's broad shoulder, then slowly left the room. Simeon, forgotten,
looked up at her and scratched his head; he turned in behind her, caught
the edge of her skirt and bore it like a queen's page.
The son watched the father, whose powerful features were set in an
expression that seemed stern only because his eyes were hid, gazing
steadily at the floor. It was the father who broke the silence. "What do
you calculate to do--now?"
"Tutor this summer and have another go at those exams in September. I'll
have no trouble in rejoining my class. I sailed just a little too close
to the wind--that's all."
"What does that mean?" inquired the father. College was a mystery to
him, a deeply respected mystery. He had been the youngest of four sons.
Their mother's dream was the dream of all the mothers of those pioneer
and frontier days--to send her sons to college. Each son in turn had,
with her assistance, tried to get together the sum--so small, yet so
hugely large--necessary to make the start. But fate, now as sickness,
now as crop failure, now as flood, and again as war, had been too
strong for them. Hiram had come nearest, and his defeat had broken his
mother's heart and almost broken his own. It was therefore with a sense
of prying into hallowed mysteries that he began to investigate his
son's college career.
"Well, you know," Arthur proceeded to explain; "there are five
grades--A, B, C, D, and E. I aimed for C, but several things came
up--interfered--and I--just missed D."
"Is C the highest?"
Arthur smiled faintly. "Well--not in one sense. It's what's called the
gentleman's grade. All the fellows that are the right sort are in
it--or in D."
"And what did _you_ get?"
"I got E. That means I have to try again."
Hiram began to understand. So _this_ was the hallowed mystery of higher
education. He was sitting motionless, his elbows on his knees, his big
chest and shoulders inclined forward, his gaze fixed upon a wreath of red
roses in the pattern of the moquette carpet--that carpet upon which
Adelaide, backed by Arthur, had waged vain war as the worst of the many,
to cultured nerves, trying exhibitions of "primitive taste" in Ellen's
best rooms. When Hiram spoke his lips barely opened and his voice had no
expression. His next question was: "What does A mean?"
"The A men are those that keep their noses in their books. They're a
narrow set--have no ideas--think the book side is the only side of a
"Then you don't go to college to learn what's in the books?"
"Oh, of course, the books are part of it. But the real thing is
association--the friendships one makes, the knowledge of human nature and
"What does that mean?"
Arthur had been answering Hiram's questions in a flurry, though he had
been glib enough. He had had no fear that his father would appreciate
that he was getting half-truths, or, rather, truths prepared skillfully
for paternal consumption; his flurry had come from a sense that he was
himself not doing quite the manly, the courageous thing. Now, however,
something in the tone of the last question, or, perhaps, some element
that was lacking, roused in him a suspicion of depth in his simple
unworldly father; and swift upon this awakening came a realization that
he was floundering in that depth--and in grave danger of submersion. He
shifted nervously when his father, without looking up and without putting
any expression into his voice, repeated: "What do you mean by
associations--and life--and--all that?"
"I can't explain exactly," replied Arthur. "It would take a long time."
"I haven't asked you to be brief."
"I can't put it into words."
"You would misunderstand."
Arthur made no reply.
"Then you can't tell me what you go to college for?"
Again the young man looked perplexedly at his father. There was no anger
in that tone--no emotion of any kind. But what was the meaning of the
_look_, the look of a sorrow that was tragic?
"I know you think I've disgraced you, father, and myself," said Arthur.
"But it isn't so--really, it isn't. No one, not even the faculty, thinks
the less of me. This sort of thing often occurs in our set."
"Among the fellows I travel with. They're the nicest men in Harvard.
They're in all the best clubs--and lead in supporting the athletics
and--and--their fathers are among the richest, the most distinguished men
in the country. There are only about twenty or thirty of us, and we make
the pace for the whole show--the whole university, I mean. Everybody
admires and envies us--wants to be in our set. Even the grinds look up to
us, and imitate us as far as they can. We give the tone to the
"What is 'the tone'?"
Again Arthur shifted uneasily. "It's hard to explain that sort of
thing. It's a sort of--of manner. It's knowing how to do the--the right
sort of thing."
"What is the right sort of thing?"
"I can't put it into words. It's what makes you look at one man and say,
'He's a gentleman'; and look at another and see that he isn't."
"What is a 'gentleman'--at Harvard?"
"Just what it is anywhere."
"What is it anywhere?"
Again Arthur was silent.
"Then there are only twenty or thirty gentlemen at Harvard? And the
catalogue says there are three thousand or more students."
"Oh--of course," began Arthur. But he stopped short.
How could he make his father, ignorant of "the world" and dominated by
primitive ideas, understand the Harvard ideal? So subtle and evanescent,
so much a matter of the most delicate shadings was this ideal that he
himself often found the distinction quite hazy between it and that which
looked disquietingly like "tommy rot."
"And these gentlemen--these here friends of yours--your 'set,' as you
call 'em--what are they aiming for?"
Arthur did not answer. It would be hopeless to try to make Hiram Ranger
understand, still less tolerate, an ideal of life that was elegant
leisure, the patronage of literature and art, music, the drama, the turf,
and the pursuit of culture and polite extravagance, wholly aloof from the
frenzied and vulgar jostling of the market place.
With a mighty heave of the shoulders which, if it had found outward
relief, would have been a sigh, Hiram Ranger advanced to the hard part of
the first task which the mandate, "Put your house in order," had set for
him. He took from the inside pocket of his coat a small bundle of papers,
the records of Arthur's college expenses. The idea of accounts with his
children had been abhorrent to him. The absolute necessity of business
method had forced him to make some records, and these he had expected to
destroy without anyone but himself knowing of their existence. But in the
new circumstances he felt he must not let his own false shame push the
young man still farther from the right course. Arthur watched him open
each paper in the bundle slowly, spread it out and, to put off the
hateful moment for speech, pretend to peruse it deliberately before
laying it on his knee; and, dim though the boy's conception of his father
was, he did not misjudge the feelings behind that painful reluctance.
Hiram held the last paper in a hand that trembled. He coughed, made
several attempts to speak, finally began: "Your first year at Harvard,
you spent seventeen hundred dollars. Your second year, you spent
fifty-three hundred. Last year--Are all your bills in?"
"There are a few--" murmured Arthur.
He flushed hotly.
"Don't you know?" With this question his father lifted his eyes without
lifting his shaggy eyebrows.
"About four or five thousand--in all--including the tailors and other
A pink spot appeared in the left cheek of the old man--very bright
against the gray-white of his skin. Somehow, he did not like that word
"tradespeople," though it seemed harmless enough. "This last year, the
total was," said he, still monotonously, "ninety-eight hundred odd--if
the bills I haven't got yet ain't more than five thousand."
"A dozen men spend several times that much," protested Arthur.
"What for?" inquired Hiram.
"Not for dissipation, father," replied the young man, eagerly.
"Dissipation is considered bad form in our set."
"What do you mean by dissipation?"
"Drinking--and--all that sort of thing," Arthur replied. "It's considered
ungentlemanly, nowadays--drinking to excess, I mean."
"What do you spend the money for?"
"For good quarters and pictures, and patronizing the sports, and
club dues, and entertainments, and things to drive in--for living as
a man should."
"You've spent a thousand, three hundred dollars for tutoring since you've
"Everybody has to do tutoring--more or less."
"What did you do with the money you made?"
"What money, father?"
"The money you made tutoring. You said everybody had to do tutoring. I
suppose you did your share."
Arthur did not smile at this "ignorance of the world"; he grew red, and
stammered: "Oh, I meant everybody in our set employs tutors."
"Then who does the tutoring? Who're the nobodies that tutor the
Arthur grew cold, then hot. He was cornered, therefore roused. He stood,
leaned against the table, faced his father defiantly. "I see what you're
driving at, father," he said. "You feel I've wasted time and money at
college, because I haven't lived like a dog and grubbed in books day in
and day out, and filled my head with musty stuff; because I've tried to
get what I believe to be the broadest knowledge and experience; because
I've associated with the best men, the fellows that come from the good
families. You accept the bluff the faculty puts up of pretending the A
fellows are really the A fellows, when, in fact, everybody there and all
the graduates and everyone everywhere who knows the world knows that the
fellows in our set are the ones the university is proud of--the fellows
with manners and appearance and--"
"The gentlemen," interjected the father, who had not changed either his
position or his expression.
"Yes--the gentlemen!" exclaimed Arthur. "There are other ideals of life
besides buying and selling."
"And working?" suggested Hiram.
"Yes--and what you call working," retorted Arthur, angry through and
through. "You sent me East to college to get the education of a man in my
"What is your position?" inquired Hiram--simply an inquiry.
"Your son," replied the young man; "trying to make the best use of the
opportunities you've worked so hard to get for me. I'm not you, father.
You'd despise me if I didn't have a character, an individuality, of my
own. Yet, because I can't see life as you see it, you are angry with me."
For answer Hiram only heaved his great shoulders in another suppressed
sigh. He _knew_ profoundly that he was right, yet his son's
plausibilities--they could only be plausibilities--put him clearly in the
wrong. "We'll see," he said; "we'll see. You're wrong in thinking I'm
angry, boy." He was looking at his son now, and his eyes made his son's
passion vanish. He got up and went to the young man and laid his hand on
his shoulder in a gesture of affection that moved the son the more
profoundly because it was unprecedented. "If there's been any wrong
done," said the old man--and he looked very, very old now--"I've done it.
I'm to blame--not you."
A moment after Hiram left the room, Adelaide hurried in. A glance at her
brother reassured her. They stood at the window watching their father as
he walked up and down the garden, his hands behind his back, his
shoulders stooped, his powerful head bent.
"Was he very angry?" asked Del.
"He wasn't angry at all," her brother replied. "I'd much rather he had
been." Then, after a pause, he added: "I thought the trouble between us
was that, while I understood him, he didn't understand me. Now I know
that he has understood me but that I don't understand him"--and, after a
MRS. WHITNEY INTERVENES
As Hiram had always been silent and seemingly abstracted, no one but
Ellen noted the radical change in him. She had brought up her children in
the old-fashioned way--her thoughts, and usually her eyes, upon them all
day, and one ear open all night. When she no longer had them to guard,
she turned all this energy of solicitude to her husband; thus the
passionate love of her youth was having a healthy, beautiful old age. The
years of circumventing the easily roused restiveness of her spirited boy
and girl had taught her craft; without seeming to be watching Hiram, no
detail of his appearance or actions escaped her.
"There's mighty little your pa don't see," had been one of her stock
observations to the children from their earliest days. "And you needn't
flatter yourselves he don't care because he don't speak." Now she noted
that from under his heavy brows his eyes were looking stealthily out,
more minutely observant than ever before, and that what he saw either
added to his sadness or took a color of sadness from his mood. She
guessed that the actions of Adelaide and Arthur, so utterly different
from the actions of the children of her and Hiram's young days--except
those regarded by all worth-while people as "trifling and trashy"--had
something to do with Hiram's gloom. She decided that Arthur's failure and
his lightness of manner in face of it were the chief trouble--this until
Hiram's shoulders began to stoop and hollows to appear in his cheeks and
under his ears, and a waxlike pallor to overspread his face. Then she
knew that he was not well physically; and, being a practical woman, she
dismissed the mental causes of the change. "People talk a lot about their
mental troubles," she said to herself, "but it's usually three-fourths
stomach and liver."
As Hiram and illness, real illness, could not be associated in her mind,
she gave the matter no importance until she heard him sigh heavily one
night, after they had been in bed several hours. "What is it, father?"
There was no answer, but a return to an imitation of the regular
breathing of a sleeper.
"Hiram," she insisted, "what is it?"
"Nothing, Ellen, nothing," he answered; "I must have ate something that
don't sit quite right."
"You didn't take no supper at all," said she.
This reminded him how useless it was to try to deceive her. "I ain't been
feeling well of late," he confessed, "but it'll soon be over." He did not
see the double meaning of his words until he had uttered them; he stirred
uneasily in his dread that she would suspect. "I went to the doctor."
"What did he say?--though I don't know why I should ask what such a fool
as Milbury said about anything."
"I got some medicine," replied he, evading telling her what doctor.
Instantly she sat up in bed. "I haven't seen you take no drugs!" she
exclaimed. Drugs were her especial abhorrence. She let no one in the
family take any until she had passed upon them.
"I didn't want to make a fuss," he explained.
"Where is it?" she demanded, on the edge of the bed now, ready to rise.
"I'll show it to you in the morning, mother. Lie down and go to sleep.
I've been awake long enough."
"Where is it?" she repeated, and he heard her moving across the room
toward the gas fixture.
"In my vest pocket. It's a box of pills. You can't tell nothin'
She lit the gas and went to his waistcoat, hanging where it always hung
at night--on a hook beside the closet door. He watched her fumble
through the pockets, watched her take her spectacles from the corner of
the mantel and put them on, the bridge well down toward the end of her
nose. A not at all romantic figure she made, standing beside the
sputtering gas jet, her spectacles balanced on her nose, her thin neck
and forearms exposed, and her old face studying the lid of the pill box
held in her toil- and age-worn hands. The box dropped from her fingers
and rolled along the floor. He saw an awful look slowly creep over her
features as the terrible thought crept over her mind. As she began to
turn her face toward him, with a motion of the head like that of a
machine on unoiled bearings, he closed his eyes; but he felt her
looking at him.
"Dr. Schulze!" she said, an almost soundless breathing of the name that
always meant the last resort in mortal illness.
He was trying to think of lies to tell her, but he could think of
nothing. The sense of light upon his eyelids ceased. He presently felt
her slowly getting into bed. A pall-like silence; then upon his cheek, in
long discontinued caress, a hand whose touch was as light and soft as the
fall of a rose leaf--the hand of love that toil and age cannot make
harsh, and her fingers were wet with her tears. Thus they lay in the
darkness and silence, facing together the tragedy of the eternal
"What did he say, dearest?" she asked. She had not used that word to him
since the first baby came and they began to call each other "father" and
"mother." All these years the children had been between them, and each
had held the other important chiefly as related to them. Now it was as
in their youth--just he and she, so close that only death could come
"It's a long way off," said Hiram. He would not set ringing in her ears
that knell which was clanging to him its solemn, incessant, menacing "Put
your house in order!"
"Tell me what he said," she urged gently.
"He couldn't make out exactly. The medicine'll patch me up."
She did not insist--why fret him to confess what she knew the instant
she read "Schulze" on the box? After an hour she heard him breathing as
only a sleeper can breathe; but she watched on until morning. When they
were dressing, each looked at the other furtively from time to time, a
great tenderness in his eyes, and in hers the anguish of a dread that
might not be spoken.
On the day after Mrs. Whitney's arrival for the summer, she descended in
state from the hills to call upon the Rangers.
When the front bell rang Mrs. Ranger was in the kitchen--and was dressed
for the kitchen. As the "girl" still had not been replaced she answered
the door herself. In a gingham wrapper, with her glasses thrust up into
her gray hair, she was facing a footman in livery.
"Are Mrs. Ranger and Miss Ranger at home?" asked he, mistaking her for
a servant and eying her dishevelment with an expression which was not
lost on her.
She smiled with heartiest good nature. "Yes, I'm here--I'm Mrs.
Ranger," said she; and she looked beyond him to the victoria in which
sat Mrs. Whitney. "How d'ye do, Matilda?" she called. "Come right in.
As usual when the canneries are running, I'm my own upstairs girl. I
reckon your young man here thinks I ought to discharge her and get one
"Your young man here" was stiffly touching the brim of his top hat and
saying: "Beg parding, ma'am."
"Oh, that's all right," replied Mrs. Ranger; "I am what I look to be!"
Behind her now appeared Adelaide, her cheeks burning in mortification she
was ashamed of feeling and still more ashamed of being unable to conceal.
"Go and put on something else, mother," she urged in an undertone; "I'll
look after Mrs. Whitney till you come down."
"Ain't got time," replied her mother, conscious of what was in her
daughter's mind and a little contemptuous and a little resentful of it.
"I guess Tilly Whitney will understand. If she don't, why, I guess we can
bear up under it."
Mrs. Whitney had left her carriage and was advancing up the steps. She
was a year older than Ellen Ranger; but so skillfully was she got
together that, had she confessed to forty or even thirty-eight, one who
didn't know would have accepted her statement as too cautious by hardly
more than a year or so. The indisputably artificial detail in her
elegant appearance was her hair; its tinting, which had to be made
stronger year by year as the gray grew more resolute, was reaching the
stage of hard, rough-looking red. "Another year or two," thought
Adelaide, "and it'll make her face older than she really is. Even now
she's getting a tough look."
Matilda kissed Mrs. Ranger and Adelaide affectedly on both cheeks. "I'm
so glad to find you in!" said she. "And you, poor dear"--this to Mrs.
Ranger--"are in agony over the servant question." She glanced behind her
to make sure the carriage had driven away. "I don't know what we're
coming to. I can't keep a man longer than six months. Servants don't
appreciate a good home and good wages. As soon as a man makes
acquaintances here he becomes independent and leaves. If something isn't
done, the better class of people will have to move out of the country."
"Or go back to doing their own work," said Mrs. Ranger.
Mrs. Whitney smiled vaguely--a smile which said, "I'm too polite to
answer that remark as it deserves."
"Why didn't you bring Jenny along?" inquired Mrs. Ranger, when they were
in the "front parlor," the two older women seated, Adelaide moving
"Janet and Ross haven't come yet," answered Mrs. Whitney. "They'll be on
next week, but only for a little while. They both like it better in the
East. All their friends are there and there's so much more to do." Mrs.
Whitney sighed; before her rose the fascination of all there was to "do"
in the East--the pleasures she was denying herself.
"I don't see why you don't live in New York," said Mrs. Ranger. "You're
always talking about it."
"Oh, I can't leave Charles!" was Mrs. Whitney's answer. "Or, rather
he'd not hear of my doing it. But I think he'll let us take an
apartment at Sherry's next winter--for the season, just--unless Janet
and I go abroad."
Mrs. Ranger had not been listening. She now started up. "If you'll excuse
me, Mattie, I must see what that cook's about. I'm afraid to let her out
of my sight for five minutes for fear she'll up and leave."
"What a time your poor mother has!" said Mrs. Whitney, when she and
Adelaide were alone.
Del had recovered from her attack of what she had been denouncing to
herself as snobbishness. For all the gingham wrapper and spectacles
anchored in the hair and general air of hard work and no "culture," she
was thinking, as she looked at Mrs. Whitney's artificiality and listened
to those affected accents, that she was glad her mother was Ellen Ranger
and not Matilda Whitney. "But mother doesn't believe she has a hard
time," she answered, "and everything depends on what one believes
oneself; don't you think so? I often envy her. She's always busy and
interested. And she's so useful, such a happiness-maker."
"I often feel that way, too," responded Mrs. Whitney, in her most
profusely ornate "_grande dame_" manner. "I get _so_ bored with leading
an artificial life. I often wish fate had been more kind to me. I was
reading, the other day, that the Queen of England said she had the tastes
of a dairy maid. Wasn't that charming? Many of us whom fate has condemned
to the routine of high station feel the same way."
It was by such deliverances that Mrs. Whitney posed, not without success,
as an intellectual woman who despised the frivolities of a fashionable
existence--this in face of the obvious fact that she led a fashionable
existence, or, rather, it led her, from the moment her _masseuse_
awakened her in the morning until her maid undressed her at night. But,
although Adelaide was far too young, too inexperienced to know that
judgment must always be formed from actions, never from words, she was
not, in this instance, deceived. "It takes more courage than most of us
have," said she, "to do what we'd like instead of what vanity suggests."
Mrs. Whitney did not understand this beyond getting from it a vague sense
that she had somehow been thrust at. "You must be careful of that skin of
yours, Adele," she thrust back. "I've been looking at it. You can't have
been home long, yet the exposure to the sun is beginning to show. You
have one of those difficult, thin skins, and one's skin is more than half
one's beauty. You ought never to go out without a veil. The last thing
Ross said to me was, 'Do tell Adelaide to keep her color down.' You know
he admires the patrician style."
Adelaide could not conceal the effect of the shot. Her skin was a great
trial to her, it burned so easily; and she hated wrapping herself in
under broad brims and thick veils when the feeling of bareheadedness was
so delightful. "At any rate," said she sweetly, "it's easier to keep
color down than to keep it up."
Mrs. Whitney pretended not to hear. She was now at the window which gave
on the garden by way of a small balcony. "There's your father!" she
exclaimed; "let's go to him."
There, indeed, was Hiram, pacing the walk along the end of the garden
with a ponderousness in the movements of his big form that bespoke age
and effort. It irritated Mrs. Whitney to look at him, as it had irritated
her to look at Ellen; very painful were the reminders of the ravages of
time from these people of about her own age, these whom she as a child
had known as children. Crow's-feet and breaking contour and thin hair in
those we have known only as grown people, do not affect us; but the same
signs in lifelong acquaintances make it impossible to ignore Decay
holding up the mirror to us and pointing to aging mouth and throat, as he
wags his hideous head and says, "Soon--_you_, too!"
Hiram saw Matilda and his daughter the instant they appeared on the
balcony, but he gave no hint of it until they were in the path of his
monotonous march. He was nerving himself for Mrs. Whitney as one nerves
himself in a dentist's chair for the descent of the grinder upon a
sensitive tooth. Usually she got no further than her first sentence
before irritating him. To-day the very sight of her filled him with
seemingly causeless anger. There was a time when he, watching Matilda
improve away from her beginnings as the ignorant and awkward daughter of
the keeper of a small hotel, had approved of her and had wished that
Ellen would give more time to the matter of looks. But latterly he had
come to the conclusion that a woman has to choose between improving her
exterior and improving her interior, and that it is impossible or all but
impossible for her to do both; he therefore found in Ellen's very
indifference to exteriors another reason why she seemed to him so
splendidly the opposite of Charles's wife.
"You certainly look the same as ever, Hiram," Matilda said, advancing
with extended, beautifully gloved hand. The expression of his eyes as he
turned them upon her gave her a shock, but she forced the smile back into
her face and went on, "Ross says you always make him think of a tower on
top of a high hill, one that has always stood there and always will."
The gray shadow over Hiram's face grew grayer. "But you ought to rest,"
Mrs. Whitney went on. "You and Charles both ought to rest. It's
ridiculous, the way American men act. Now, Charles has never taken a real
vacation. When he does go away he has a secretary with him and works all
day. But at least he gets change of scene, while you--you rarely miss a
day at the mills."
"I haven't missed a whole day in forty-three years," replied Hiram,
"except the day I got married, and I never expect to. I'll drop in the
harness. I'd be lost without it."
"Don't you think that's a narrow view of life?" asked Mrs. Whitney.
"Don't you think we ought all to take time to cultivate our higher
"What do you mean by higher natures?"
Mrs. Whitney scented sarcasm and insult. To interrogate a glittering
generality is to slur its projector; she wished her hearers to be
dazzled, not moved to the impertinence of cross-examination. "I think you
understand me," she said loftily.
"I don't," replied Hiram. "I'm only a cooper and miller. I haven't had
the advantages of a higher education"--this last with a steady look
toward his son, approaching from the direction of the stables. The young
man was in a riding suit that was too correct at every point for good
taste, except in a college youth, and would have made upon anyone who
had been born, or initiated into, the real mysteries of "good form" an
impression similar to that of Mrs. Whitney's costume and accent and
manner. There was the note of the fashion plate, the evidence of pains,
of correctness not instinctive but studied--the marks our new-sprung
obstreperous aristocracy has made familiar to us all. It would have
struck upon a sense of humor like a trivial twitter from the oboe
trickling through a lull in the swell of brasses and strings; but Hiram
Ranger had no sense of humor in that direction, had only his instinct
for the right and the wrong. The falseness, the absence of the quality
called "the real thing," made him bitter and sad. And, when his son
joined them and walked up and down with them, he listened with heavier
droop of face and form to the affected chatter of the young "man of the
world" and the old "_grande dame_" of Chicago society. They talked the
language and the affairs of a world he had never explored and had no
wish to explore; its code and conduct, his training, his reason and his
instinct all joined in condemning as dishonorable shirking of a man's
and woman's part in a universe so ordered that, to keep alive in it,
everyone must either work or steal.
But his boy was delighted with the conversation, with Mrs. Whitney, and,
finally, with himself. A long, hard ride had scattered his depression of
many weeks into a mere haze over the natural sunshine of youth and
health; this haze now vanished. When Mrs. Whitney referred to Harvard, he
said lightly, "You know I was plucked."
"Ross told me," said she, in an amused tone; "but you'll get back all
right next fall."
"I don't know that I care to go," said Arthur. "I've been thinking it
over. I believe I've got about all the good a university can do a man. It
seems to me a year or so abroad--traveling about, seeing the world--would
be the best thing for me. I'm going to talk it over with father--as soon
as he gets through being out of humor with me."
Hiram did not look at his son, who glanced a little uneasily at him as
he unfolded this new scheme for perfecting his education as "man of
"Surely your father's not _angry_" cried Mrs. Whitney, in a tone intended
to make Hiram ashamed of taking so narrow, so rural, a view of his son's
"No," replied Hiram, and his voice sounded curt. He added, in an
undertone: "I wish I were."
"You're wrong there, Hiram," said Mrs. Whitney, catching the words not
intended for her, and misunderstanding them. "It's not a case for
Arthur smiled, and the look he gave his father was a bright indication of
the soundness of his heart. Severity! The idea was absurd in connection
with the most generous and indulgent of fathers. "You don't get his
meaning, Mrs. Whitney," said he. "I, too, wish he were angry. I'm afraid
I've made him sad. You know he's got old-fashioned views of many things,
and he can't believe I've not really disgraced him and myself."
"Do _you_ believe it?" inquired Hiram, with a look at him as sudden and
sharp as the ray of a search light.
"I _know_ it, father," replied Arthur earnestly. "Am I not right,
"Don't be such an old fogy, Hiram," said Mrs. Whitney. "You ought to be
thankful you've got a son like Arthur, who makes a splendid impression
everywhere. He's the only western man that's got into exclusive societies
at Harvard in years simply on his own merits, and he's a great favorite
in Boston and in New York."
"My children need no one to defend them to me," said Hiram, in what might
be called his quiet tone--the tone he had never in his life used without
drying up utterly the discussion that had provoked it. Many people had
noted the curious effect of that tone and had resolved to defy it at the
next opportunity, "just to see what the consequences would be." But when
the opportunity had come, their courage had always withered.
"You can't expect me to be like you, father. You wouldn't, want it," said
Arthur, after the pause. "I must be myself, must develop my own
Ranger stopped and that stopped the others. Without looking at his son,
he said slowly: "I ain't disputing that, boy. It ain't the question."
There was tremendousness in his restrained energy and intensity as he
went on: "What I'm thinking about is whether I ought to keep on _helping_
you to 'develop' yourself, as you call it. That's what won't let me
rest." And he abruptly walked away.
Mrs. Whitney and Arthur stared after him. "I don't think he's quite well,
Artie," she said reassuringly. "Don't worry. He'll come round all right.
But you ought to be a little more diplomatic."
Arthur was silent. Diplomacy meant deceit, and he hadn't yet reached the
stage of polite and comfortable compromise where deceit figures merely as
an amiable convenience for promoting smoothness in human intercourse. But
he believed that his father would "come round all right," as Mrs. Whitney
had so comfortingly said. How could it be otherwise when he had done
nothing discreditable, but, on the contrary, had been developing himself
in a way that reflected the highest credit upon his family, as it marched
up toward the lofty goal of "cultured" ambition, toward high and secure
Mrs. Whitney, however, did not believe her own statement. In large part
her reputation of being a "good, kind sort," like many such reputations,
rested on her habit of cheering on those who were going the wrong way and
were disturbed by some suspicion of the truth. She had known Hiram Ranger
long, had had many a trying experience of his character, gentle as a
trade wind--and as steady and unchangeable. Also, beneath her surface of
desperate striving after the things which common sense denounces, or
affects to denounce, as foolishness, there was a shrewd, practical
person. "He means some kind of mischief," she thought--an unreasoned,
instinctive conclusion, and, therefore, all-powerful with a woman.
That evening she wrote her daughter not to cut short her visit to get to
Saint X. "Wait until Ross is ready. Then you can join him at Chicago and
let him bring you."
Just about the hour she was setting down this first result of her
instinct's warning against the danger signal she had seen in Hiram
Ranger's manner, he was delivering a bombshell. He had led in the family
prayers as usual and had just laid the Bible on the center-table in the
back parlor after they rose from their knees. With his hands resting on
the cover of the huge volume he looked at his son. There was a
sacrificial expression in his eyes. "I have decided to withdraw Arthur's
allowance," he said, and his voice sounded hollow and distant, as
unfamiliar to his own ears as to theirs. "He must earn his own living. If
he wants a place at the mills, there's one waiting for him. If he'd
rather work at something else, I'll do what I can to get him a job."
Silence; and Hiram left the room.
Adelaide was first to recover sufficiently to speak. "O mother," cried
she, "you're not going to allow this!"
To Adelaide's and Arthur's consternation, Ellen replied quietly: "It
ain't no use to talk to him. I ain't lived all these years with your
father without finding out when he means what he says."
"It's so unjust!" exclaimed Adelaide.
There came into Ellen's face a look she had never seen there before. It
made her say: "O mother, I didn't mean that; only, it does seem hard."
Mrs. Ranger thought so, too; but she would have died rather than have
made the thought treason by uttering it. She followed her husband
upstairs, saying: "You and Arthur can close up, and put out the lights."
Adelaide, almost in tears over her brother's catastrophe, was thrilled
with admiration of his silent, courageous bearing. "What are you going to
This incautious question drew his inward ferment boiling to the surface.
"He has me down and I've got to take his medicine," said the young man,
teeth together and eyes dark with fury.
This she did not admire. Her first indignation abated, as she sat on
there thinking it out. "Maybe father is nearer right than we know," she
said to herself finally. "After all, Arthur will merely be doing as
father does. There's _something_ wrong with him, and with me, too, or we
shouldn't think that so terrible." But to Arthur she said nothing.
Encourage him in his present mood she must not; and to try to dissuade
him would simply goad him on.
THE SHATTERED COLOSSUS
That night there was sleep under Hiram Ranger's roof for Mary the cook
only. Of the four wakeful ones the most unhappy was Hiram himself, the
precipitator of it all. Arthur had the consolation of his conviction that
his calamity was unjust; Adelaide and her mother, of their conviction
that in the end it could not but be well with Arthur. For Hiram there was
no consolation. He reviewed and re-reviewed the facts, and each time he
reached again his original conclusion; the one course in repairing the
mistakes of the boy's bringing up was a sharp rightabout. "Don't waste no
time gettin' off the wrong road, once you're sure it's wrong," had been a
maxim of his father, and he had found it a rule with no exceptions. He
appreciated that there is a better way from the wrong road into the right
than a mad dash straight across the stumpy fields and rocky gullies
between. That rough, rude way, however, was the single way open to him
here. Whenever it had become necessary for him to be firm with those he
loved, it had rarely been possible for him to do right in the right way;
he had usually been forced to do right in the wrong way--to hide himself
from them behind a manner of cold and silent finality, and, so, to
prevent them from forming an alliance and a junction of forces with the
traitor softness within him. Besides, gentle, roundabout, gradual
measures would require time--delay; and he must "put his house in order"
Thus, even the consolation that he was at least doing right was denied
him. As he lay there he could see himself harshly forcing the bitter
medicine upon his son, the cure for a disease for which he was himself
responsible; he could see his son's look and could not deny its justice.
"I reckon he hates me," thought Hiram, pouring vitriol into his own
wounds, "and I reckon he's got good cause to."
But there was in the old miller a Covenanter fiber tough as ironwood.
The idea of yielding did not enter his head. He accepted his sufferings
as part of his punishment for past indulgence and weakness; he would
endure, and go forward. His wife understood him by a kind of intuition
which, like most of our insight into the true natures of those close
about us, was a gradual permeation from the one to the other rather than
clear, deliberate reasoning. But the next morning her sore and anxious
mother's heart misread the gloom of his strong face into sternness
toward her only son.
"When did you allow to put the boy to work, father?" she finally said,
and her tone unintentionally made Hiram feel more than ever as if he had
sentenced "the boy" to hard labor in the degradation and disgrace of a
As he waited some time for self-control before answering, she thought her
inquiry had deepened his resentment. "Not that I don't think you're
right, maybe," she hastened to add, "though"--this wistfully, in a
feminine and maternal subtlety of laying the first lines for sapping and
mining his position--"I often think about our life, all work and no play,
and wonder if we oughtn't to give the children the chance we never had."
"No good never came of idleness," said Hiram, uncompromisingly, "and to
be busy about foolishness is still worse. Work or rot--that's life."
"That's so; that's so," she conceded. And she was sincere; for that was
her real belief, and what she had hinted was a mere unthinking repetition
of the shallow, comfortable philosophy of most people--those "go easys"
and "do nothings" and "get nowheres" wherewith Saint X and the
surrounding country were burdened. "Still," she went on, aloud, "Arthur
hasn't got any bad habits, like most of the young men round here with
more money than's good for them."
"Drink ain't the only bad habit," replied Hiram. "It ain't the worst,
though it looks the worst. The boy's got brains. It ain't right to allow
him to choke 'em up with nonsense."
Ellen's expression was assent.
"Tell him to come down to the mill next Monday," said Hiram, after
another silence, "and tell him to get some clothes that won't look
ridiculous." He paused, then added; "A man that ain't ready to do
anything, no matter what so long as it's useful and honest, is good
The night had bred in Arthur brave and bold resolves. He would not tamely
submit; he would cast his father off, would go forth and speedily carve a
brilliant career. He would show his father that, even if the training of
a gentleman develops tastes above the coarseness of commerce, it also
develops the mental superiority that makes fleeing chaff of the obstacles
to fame and wealth. He did not go far into details; but, as his essays at
Harvard had been praised, he thought of giving literature's road to
distinction the preference over the several others that must be smooth
before him. Daylight put these imaginings into silly countenance, and he
felt silly for having lingered in their company, even in the dark. As he
dressed he had much less than his wonted content with himself. He did not
take the same satisfaction in his clothes, as evidence of his good taste,
or in his admired variations of the fashion of wearing the hair and tying
the scarf. Midway in the process of arranging his hair he put down his
military brushes; leaning against the dressing table, he fixed his mind
upon the first serious thoughts he had ever had in his whole
irresponsible, sheltered life. "Well," he said, half-aloud, "there _is_
something wrong! If there isn't, why do I feel as if my spine had
collapsed?" After a long pause, he added: "And it has! All that held it
steady was father's hand."
The whole lofty and beautiful structure of self-complacence upon which
he had lounged, preening his feathers and receiving social triumphs and
the adulation of his "less fortunate fellows" as the due of his own
personal superiority, suddenly slipped from under him. With a rueful
smile at his plight, he said: "The governor has called me down." Then,
resentfully, and with a return of his mood of dignity outraged and pride
trampled upon: "But he had no right to put me up there--or let me climb
up there." Once a wrong becomes "vested," it is a "vested right," sacred,
taboo. Arthur felt that his father was committing a crime against him.
When he saw Adelaide and his mother their anxious looks made him furious.
So! They knew how helpless he was; they were pitying him. _Pitying_ him!
Pitying _him_! He just tasted his coffee; with scowling brow he hastened
to the stables for his saddle horse and rode away alone. "Wait a few
minutes and I'll come with you," called Adelaide from the porch as he
galloped by. He pretended not to hear. When clear of the town he "took it
out" on his horse, using whip and spur until it gripped the bit and ran
away. He fought savagely with it; at a turn in the road it slipped and
fell, all but carrying him under. He was in such a frenzy that if he had
had a pistol he would have shot it. The chemical action of his crisis
precipitated in a black mass all the poison his nature had been absorbing
in those selfish, supercilious years. So long as that poison was held in
suspense it was imperceptible to himself as well as to others. But now,
there it was, unmistakably a poison. At the sight his anger vanished.
"I'm a beast!" he ejaculated, astonished. "And here I've been imagining I
was a fairly decent sort of fellow. What the devil have I been up to, to
make me like this?"
He walked along the road, leading his horse by the bridle slipped over
his arm. He resumed his reverie of the earlier morning, and began a
little less dimly to see his situation from the new viewpoint. "I deserve
what I'm getting," he said to himself. Then, at a twinge from the
resentment that had gone too deep to be ejected in an instant, he added:
"But that doesn't excuse _him_." His father was to blame for the whole
ugly business--for his plight within and without. Still, fixing the blame
was obviously unimportant beside the problem of the way out. And for that
problem he, in saner mood, began to feel that the right solution was to
do something and so become in his own person a somebody, instead of being
mere son of a somebody. "I haven't got this shock a minute too soon," he
reflected. "I must take myself in hand. I--"
"Why, it's you, Arthur, isn't it?" startled him.
He looked up, saw Mrs. Whitney coming toward him. She was in a winter
walking suit, though the day was warm. She was engaged in the pursuit
that was the chief reason for her three months' retirement to the bluffs
overlooking Saint X--the preservation of her figure. She hated exercise,
being by nature as lazy, luxurious, and self-indulgent physically as she
was alert and industrious mentally. From October to July she ate and
drank about what she pleased, never set foot upon the ground if she could
help it, and held her tendency to hips in check by daily massage. From
July to October she walked two or three hours a day, heavily dressed, and
had a woman especially to attend to her hair and complexion, in addition
to the _masseuse_ toiling to keep her cheeks and throat firm for the
fight against wrinkles and loss of contour.
Arthur frowned at the interruption, then smoothed his features into a
cordial smile; and at once that ugly mass of precipitated poison began to
redistribute itself and hide itself from him.
"You've had a fall, haven't you?"
He flushed. She, judging with the supersensitive vanity of all her
self-conscious "set," thought the flush was at the implied criticism of
his skill; but he was far too good a rider to care about his
misadventure, and it was her unconscious double meaning that stung him.
She turned; they walked together. After a brief debate as to the time for
confessing his "fall," which, at best, could remain a secret no longer
than Monday, he chose the present. "Father's begun to cut up rough," said
he, and his manner was excellent. "He's taken away my allowance, and I'm
to go to work at the mill." He was yielding to the insidious influence of
her presence, was dropping rapidly back toward the attitude as well as
the accent of "our set."
At his frank disclosure Mrs. Whitney congratulated herself on her
shrewdness so heartily that she betrayed it in her face; but Arthur did
not see. "I suppose your mother can do nothing with him." This was spoken
in a tone of conviction. She always felt that, if she had had Hiram to
deal with, she would have been fully as successful with him as she
thought she had been with Charles Whitney. She did not appreciate the
fundamental difference in the characters of the two men. Both were iron
of will; but there was in Whitney--and not in Hiram--a selfishness that
took the form of absolute indifference to anything and everything which
did not directly concern himself--his business or his physical comfort.
Thus his wife had had her way in all matters of the social career, and he
would have forced upon her the whole responsibility for the children if
she had not spared him the necessity by assuming it. He cheerfully paid
the bills, no matter what they were, because he thought his money's power
to buy him immunity from family annoyances one of its chief values. She,
and everyone else, thought she ruled him; in fact, she not only did not
rule him, but had not even influence with him in the smallest trifle of
the matters he regarded as important.
The last time he had looked carefully at her--many, many years before--he
had thought her beautiful; he assumed thenceforth that she was still
beautiful, and was therefore proud of her. In like manner he had made up
his mind favorably to his children. As the bills grew heavier and
heavier, from year to year, with the wife and two children assiduously
expanding them, he paid none the less cheerfully. "There is some
satisfaction in paying up for them," reflected he. "At least a man can
feel that he's getting his money's worth." And he contrasted his luck
with the bad luck of so many men who had to "pay up" for "homely frumps,
that look worse the more they spend."
But Arthur was replying to Mrs. Whitney's remark with a bitter "Nobody
can do anything with father; he's narrow and obstinate. If you argue with
him, he's silent. He cares for nothing but his business."