Part 2 out of 7
Arthur did not hesitate to speak thus frankly to Mrs. Whitney. She seemed
a member of the family, like a sister of his mother or father who had
lived with them always; also he accepted her at the valuation she and all
her friends set upon her--he, like herself and them, thought her generous
and unselfish because she was lavish with sympathetic words and with
alms--the familiar means by which the heartless cheat themselves into a
reputation for heart. She always left the objects of her benevolence the
poorer for her ministrations, though they did not realize it. She adopted
as the guiding principle of her life the cynical philosophy--"Give people
what they want, never what they need." By sympathizing effusively with
those in trouble, she encouraged them in low-spiritedness; by lavishing
alms, she weakened struggling poverty into pauperism. But she took away
and left behind enthusiasm for her own moral superiority and humanity.
Also she deceived herself and others with such fluid outpourings of fine
phrases about "higher life" and "spiritual thinking" as so exasperated
Now, instead of showing Arthur what her substratum of shrewd sense
enabled her to see, she ministered soothingly unto his vanity. His father
was altogether wrong, tyrannical, cruel; he himself was altogether right,
a victim of his father's ignorance of the world.
"I decided not to submit," said Arthur, as if the decision were one which
had come to him the instant his father had shown the teeth and claws of
tyranny, instead of being an impulse of just that moment, inspired by
Mrs. Whitney's encouragement to the weakest and worst in his nature.
"I shouldn't be too hasty about that," she cautioned. "He is old and
sick. You ought to be more than considerate. And, also, you should
be careful not to make him do anything that would cut you out of
It was the first time the thought of his "rights"--of the share of his
father's estate that would be his when his father was no more--had
definitely entered his head. That he would some day be a rich man he had
accepted just as he accepted the other conditions of his environment--all
to which he was born and in which consisted his title to be regarded as
of the "upper classes," like his associates at Harvard. Thinking now on
the insinuated proposition that his father might disinherit him, he
promptly rejected it. "No danger of his doing that," he assured her, with
the utmost confidence. "Father is an honest man, and he wouldn't think of
anything so dishonest, so dishonorable."
This view of a child's rights in the estate of its parents amused Mrs.
Whitney. She knew how quickly she would herself cut off a child of hers
who was obstinately disobedient, and, while she felt that it would be an
outrage for Hiram Ranger to cut off his son for making what she regarded
as the beginning of the highest career, the career of "gentleman," still
she could not dispute his right to do so. "Your father may not see your
rights in the same light that you do, Arthur," said she mildly. "If I
were you, I'd be careful."
Arthur reflected. "I don't think it's possible," said he, "but I guess
you're right. I must not forget that I've got others to think of
This patently meant Janet; Mrs. Whitney held her discreet tongue.
"It will do no harm to go to the office," she presently continued. "You
ought to get some knowledge of business, anyhow. You will be a man of
property some day, and you will need to know enough about business to be
able to supervise the managers of your estate. You know, I had Janet take
a course at a business college, last winter, and Ross is in with his
father and will be active for several years."
* * * * *
Thus it came about that on Monday morning at nine Arthur sauntered into
the offices of the mills. He was in much such a tumult of anger,
curiosity, stubbornness, and nervousness as agitates a child on its
first appearance at school; but in his struggle not to show his feelings
he exaggerated his pose into a seeming of bored indifference. The door of
his father's private room was open; there sat Hiram, absorbed in
dictating to a stenographer. When his son appeared in the doorway, he
apparently did not realize it, though in fact the agitation the young man
was concealing under that unfortunate manner was calmness itself in
comparison with the state of mind behind Hiram's mask of somber
"He's trying to humiliate me to the depths," thought the son, as he stood
and waited, not daring either to advance or to retreat. How could he know
that his father was shrinking as a criminal from the branding iron, that
every nerve in that huge, powerful, seemingly impassive body was in
torture from this ordeal of accepting the hatred of his son in order that
he might do what he considered to be his duty? At length the young man
said: "I'm here, father."
"Be seated--just a minute," said the father, turning his face toward his
boy but unable to look even in that direction.
The letter was finished, and the stenographer gathered up her notes and
withdrew. Hiram sat nerving himself, his distress accentuating the stern
strength of his features. Presently he said: "I see you haven't come
dressed for work."
"Oh, I think these clothes will do for the office," said Arthur, with
"But this business isn't run from the office," replied Hiram, with a
gentle smile that to the young man looked like the sneer of a tyrant.
"It's run from the mill. It prospers--it always has prospered--because
I work with the men. I know what they ought to do and what they are
doing. We all work together here. There ain't a Sunday clothes job
about the place."
Arthur's fingers were trembling as he pulled at his small mustache. What
did this tyrant expect of him? He had assumed that a place was to be made
for him in the office, a dignified place. There he would master the
business, would gather such knowledge as might be necessary successfully
to direct it, and would bestow that knowledge in the humble,
out-of-the-way corner of his mind befitting matters of that kind. And
here was his father, believing that the same coarse and toilsome methods
which had been necessary for himself were necessary for a trained and
"What do you want me to do?" asked Arthur.
Hiram drew a breath of relief. The boy was going to show good sense and
willingness after all. "I guess you'd better learn barrel-making first,"
said he. He rose. "I'll take you to the foreman of the cooperage, and
to-morrow you can go to work in the stave department. The first thing is
to learn to make a first-class barrel."
Arthur slowly rose to follow. He was weak with helpless rage. If his
father had taken him into the office and had invited him to help in
directing the intellectual part of that great enterprise, the part that
in a way was not without appeal to the imagination, he felt that he might
gradually have accustomed himself to it; but to be put into the mindless
routine of the workingman, to be set about menial tasks which a mere
muscular machine could perform better than he--what waste, what
degradation, what insult!
He followed his father to the cooperage, the uproar of its machinery
jarring fiercely upon him, but not so fiercely as did the common-looking
men slaving in torn and patched and stained clothing. He did not look at
the foreman as his father was introducing them and ignored his proffered
hand. "Begin him at the bottom, Patrick," explained Hiram, "and show him
no favors. We must give him a good education."
"That's right, Mr. Ranger," said Patrick, eying his new pupil dubiously.
He was not skilled in analysis of manner and character, so Arthur's
superciliousness missed him entirely and he was attributing the cold and
vacant stare to stupidity. "A regular damn dude," he was saying to
himself. "As soon as the old man's gone, some fellow with brains'll do
him out of the business. If the old man's wise, he'll buy him an annuity,
something safe and sure. Why do so many rich people have sons like that?
If I had one of his breed I'd shake his brains up with a stave."
Arthur mechanically followed his father back to the office. At the door
Hiram, eager to be rid of him, said: "I reckon that's about all we can do
to-day. You'd better go to Black and Peters's and get you some clothes.
Then you can show up at the cooperage at seven to-morrow morning, ready
to put in a good day's work."
He laid his hand on his son's shoulder, and that gesture and the
accompanying look, such as a surgeon might give his own child upon whom
he was performing a cruelly painful operation, must have caused some part
of what he felt to penetrate to the young man; for, instead of bursting
out at his father, he said appealingly: "Would it be a very great
disappointment to you if I were to go into--into some--some other line?"
"What line?" asked Hiram.
"I haven't settled--definitely. But I'm sure I'm not fitted for this." He
checked himself from going on to explain that he thought it would mean a
waste of all the refinements and elegancies he had been at so much pains
"Who's to look after the business when I'm gone?" asked Hiram. "Most of
what we've got is invested here. Who's to look after your mother's and
sister's interests, not to speak of your own?"
"I'd be willing to devote enough time to it to learn the management,"
said Arthur, "but I don't care to know all the details."
It was proof of Hiram's great love for the boy that he had no impulse of
anger at this display of what seemed to him the most priggish ignorance.
"There's only one way to learn," said he quietly. "That's the way I've
marked out for you. Don't forget--we start up at seven. You can breakfast
with me at a quarter past six, and we'll come down together."
As Arthur walked homeward he pictured himself in jumper and overalls on
his way from work of an evening--meeting the Whitneys--meeting Janet
Whitney! Like all Americans, who become inoculated with "grand ideas,"
he had the super-sensitiveness to appearances that makes foreigners call
us the most snobbishly conventional people on earth. What would it avail
to be in character _the_ refined person in the community and in position
_the_ admired person, if he spent his days at menial toil and wore the
livery of labor? He knew Janet Whitney would blush as she bowed to him,
and that she wouldn't bow to him unless she were compelled to do so
because she had not seen him in time to escape; and he felt that she
would be justified. The whole business seemed to him a hideous dream, a
sardonic practical joke upon him. Surely, surely, he would presently wake
from this nightmare to find himself once more an unimperiled gentleman.
In the back parlor at home he found Adelaide about to set out for the
Whitneys. As she expected to walk with Mrs. Whitney for an hour before
lunch she was in walking costume--hat, dress, gloves, shoes, stockings,
sunshade, all the simplest, most expensive-looking, most
unpractical-looking white. From hat to heels she was the embodiment of
luxurious, "ladylike" idleness, the kind that not only is idle itself,
but also, being beautiful, attractive, and compelling, is the cause of
idleness in others. She breathed upon Arthur the delicious perfume of the
elegant life from which he was being thrust by the coarse hand of his
father--and Arthur felt as if he were already in sweaty overalls.
"Well?" she asked.
"He's going to make a common workman of me," said Arthur, sullen,
mentally contrasting his lot with hers. "And he's got me on the hip. I
don't dare treat him as he deserves. If I did, he's got just devil enough
in him to cheat me out of my share of the property. A sweet revenge he
could take on me in his will."
Adelaide drew back--was rudely thrust back by the barrier between her and
her brother which had sprung up as if by magic. Across it she studied him
with a pain in her heart that showed in her face. "O Arthur, how can you
think such a thing!" she exclaimed.
"Isn't it so?" he demanded.
"He has a right to do what he pleases with his own." Then she softened
this by adding, "But he'd never do anything unjust."
"It isn't his own," retorted her brother. "It belongs to us all."
"We didn't make it," she insisted. "We haven't any right to it, except to
what he gives us."
"Then you think we're living on his charity?"
"No--not just that," she answered hesitatingly. "I've never thought it
out--never have thought about it at all."
"He brought us into the world," Arthur pursued. "He has accustomed us to
a certain station--to a certain way of living. It's his duty in honesty
and in honor to do everything in his power to keep us there."
Del admitted to herself that this was plausible, but she somehow felt
that it was not true. "It seems to me that if parents bring their
children up to be the right sort--useful and decent and a credit," said
she, "they've done the biggest part of their duty. The money isn't so
important, is it? At least, it oughtn't to be."
Arthur looked at her with angry suspicion. "Suppose he made a will giving
it all to you, Del," he said, affecting the manner of impartial,
disinterested argument, "what would _you_ do?"
"Share with you, of course," she answered, hurt that he should raise the
question at a time when raising it seemed an accusation of her, or at
least a doubt of her.
He laughed satirically. "That's what you think now," said he. "But, when
the time came, you'd be married to Ross Whitney, and he'd show you how
just father's judgment of me was, how wicked it would be to break his
last solemn wish and will, and how unfit I was to take care of money. And
you'd see it; and the will would stand. Oh, you'd see it! I know human
nature. If it was a small estate--in those cases brothers and sisters
always act generously--no, not always. Some of 'em, lots of 'em, quarrel
and fight over a few pieces of furniture and crockery. But in a case of
a big estate, who ever heard of the one that was favored giving up his
advantage unless he was afraid of a scandal, or his lawyers advised him
he might as well play the generous, because he'd surely lose the suit?"
"Of course, Arthur, I can't be sure what I'd do," she replied gently;
"but I hope I'd not be made altogether contemptible by inheriting a
"But it wouldn't seem contemptible," he retorted. "It'd be legal and
sensible, and it'd seem just. You'd only be obeying a dead father's last
wishes and guarding the interests of your husband and your children. They
come before brothers."
"But not before self-respect," she said very quietly. She put her arm
around his neck and pressed her cheek against his. "Arthur--dear--dear--"
she murmured, "please don't talk or think about this any more.
It--it--hurts." And there were hot tears in her eyes, and at her heart a
sense of sickness and of fright; for his presentation of the other side
of the case made her afraid of what she might do, or be tempted to do, in
the circumstances he pictured. She knew she wouldn't--at least, not so
long as she remained the person she then was. But how long would that be?
How many years of association with her new sort of friends--with the sort
Ross had long been--with the sort she was becoming more and more
like--how many, or, rather, how few years would it take to complete the
process of making her over into a person who would do precisely what
Arthur had pictured?
Arthur had said a great deal more than he intended--more, even, than he
believed true. For a moment he felt ashamed of himself; then he reminded
himself that he wasn't really to blame; that, but for his father's
harshness toward him, he would never have had such sinister thoughts
about him or Adelaide. Thus his apology took the form of an outburst
against Hiram. "Father has brought out the worst there is in me!" he
exclaimed. "He is goading me on to--"
He looked up; Hiram was in the doorway. He sprang to his feet. "Yes, I
mean it!" he cried, his brain confused, his blood on fire. "I don't care
what you do. Cut me off! Make me go to work like any common laborer!
Crush out all the decency there is in me!"
The figure of the huge old man was like a storm-scarred statue. The
tragedy of his countenance filled his son and daughter with awe and
terror. Then, slowly, like a statue falling, he stiffly tilted forward,
crashed at full length face downward on the floor. He lay as he had
fallen, breathing heavily, hoarsely. And they, each tightly holding the
other's hand like two little children, stood pale and shuddering, unable
to move toward the stricken colossus.
When Hiram had so far improved that his period of isolation was obviously
within a few days of its end, Adelaide suggested to Arthur, somewhat
timidly, "Don't you think you ought to go to work at the mills?"
He frowned. It was bad enough to have the inward instinct to this, and to
fight it down anew each day as a temptation to weakness and cowardice.
That the traitor should get an ally in his sister--it was intolerable.
The frown deepened into a scowl.
But Del had been doing real thinking since she saw her father stricken
down, and she was beginning clearly to see his point of view as to
Arthur. That angry frown was discouraging, but she felt too strongly to
be quite daunted. "It might help father toward getting well," she urged,
"and make _such_ a difference--in _every_ way."
"No more hypocrisy. I was right; he was wrong," replied her brother. He
had questioned Dr. Schulze anxiously about his father's seizure; and
Schulze, who had taken a strong fancy to him and had wished to put him at
ease, declared that the attack must have begun at the mills, and would
probably have brought Hiram down before he could have reached home, had
he not been so powerful of body and of will. And Arthur, easily reassured
where he must be assured if he was to have peace of mind, now believed
that his outburst had had no part whatever in causing his father's
stroke. So he was all for firm stand against slavery. "If I yield an inch
now," he went on to Adelaide, "he'll never stop until he has made me his
slave. He has lorded it over those workingmen so long that the least
opposition puts him in a frenzy."
Adelaide gave over, for the time, the combat against a stubbornness which
was an inheritance from his father. "I've only made him more set by what
I've said," thought she. "Now, he has committed himself. I ought not to
have been so tactless."
Long after Hiram got back in part the power of speech, he spoke only when
directly addressed, and then after a wait in which he seemed to have cast
about for the fewest possible words. After a full week of this emphasized
reticence, he said, "Where is Arthur?"
Arthur had kept away because--so he told himself and believed--while he
was not in the least responsible for his father's illness, still seeing
him and being thus reminded of their difference could not but have a bad
effect. That particular day, as luck would have it, he for the first time
since his father was stricken had left the grounds. "He's out driving,"
said his mother.
"In the tandem?" asked Hiram.
"Yes," replied Ellen, knowing nothing of the last development of the
strained relations between her husband and her "boy."
"Then he hasn't gone to work?"
"He's stayed close to the house ever since you were taken sick, Hiram,"
said she, with gentle reproach. "He's been helping me nurse you."
Hiram did not need to inquire how little that meant. He knew that, when
anyone Ellen Ranger loved was ill, she would permit no help in the
nursing, neither by day nor by night. He relapsed into his brooding over
the problem which was his sad companion each conscious moment, now that
the warning "Put your house in order" had been so sternly emphasized.
The day Dr. Schulze let them bring him down to the first floor, Mrs.
Hastings--"Mrs. Fred," to distinguish her from "Mrs. Val"--happened to
call. Mrs. Ranger did not like her for two reasons--first, she had
married her favorite cousin, Alfred Hastings, and had been the
"ruination" of him; second, she had a way of running on and on to
everyone and anyone about the most intimate family affairs, and
close-mouthed Ellen Ranger thought this the quintessence of indiscretion
and vulgarity. But Hiram liked her, was amused by her always interesting
and at times witty thrusts at the various members of her family,
including herself. So, Mrs. Ranger, clutching at anything that might
lighten the gloom thick and black upon him, let her in and left them
alone together. With so much to do, she took advantage of every moment
which she could conscientiously spend out of his presence.
At sight of Henrietta, Hiram's face brightened; and well it might. In
old-fashioned Saint X it was the custom for a married woman to "settle
down" as soon as she returned from her honeymoon--to abandon all
thoughts, pretensions, efforts toward an attractive exterior, and to
become a "settled" woman, "settled" meaning purified of the last grain of
the vanity of trying to please the eye or ear of the male. And
conversation with any man, other than her husband--and even with him, if
a woman were soundly virtuous, through and through--must be as clean
shorn of allurement as a Quaker meetinghouse. Mrs. Fred had defied this
ancient and sacred tradition of the "settled" woman. She had kept her
looks; she frankly delighted in the admiration of men. And the fact that
the most captious old maid in Saint X could not find a flaw in her
character as a faithful wife, aggravated the offending. For, did not her
devotion to her husband make dangerous her example of frivolity retained
and flaunted, as a pure private life in an infidel made his heresies
plausible and insidious? At "almost" forty, Mrs. Hastings looked "about"
thirty and acted as if she were a girl or a widow. Each group of gods
seems ridiculous to those who happen not to believe in it. Saint X's set
of gods of conventionality doubtless seems ridiculous to those who knock
the dust before some other set; but Saint X cannot be blamed for having a
sober face before its own altars, and reserving its jeers and pitying
smiles for deities of conventionality in high dread and awe elsewhere.
And if Mrs. Fred had not been "one of the Fuller heirs," Saint X would
have made her feel its displeasure, instead of merely gossiping and
"I'm going the round of the invalids to-day," began Henrietta, after she
had got through the formula of sick-room conversation. "I've just come
from old John Skeffington. I found all the family in the depths. He
fooled 'em again last night."
Hiram smiled. All Saint X knew what it meant for old Skeffington to "fool
'em again." He had been dying for three years. At the first news that he
was seized of a mortal illness his near relations, who had been driven
from him by his temper and his parsimony, gathered under his roof from
far and near, each group hoping to induce him to make a will in its
favor. He lingered on, and so did they--watching each other, trying to
outdo each other in complaisance to the humors of the old miser. And he
got a new grip on life through his pleasure in tyrannizing over them and
in putting them to great expense in keeping up his house. He favored
first one group, then another, taking fagots from fires of hope burning
too high to rekindle fires about to expire.
"How is he?" asked Hiram.
"_They_ say he can't last till fall," replied Henrietta; "but he'll last
another winter, maybe ten. He's having more and more fun all the time. He
has made them bring an anvil and hammer to his bedside, and whenever he
happens to be sleeping badly--and that's pretty often--he bangs on the
anvil until the last one of his relations has got up and come in; then,
maybe he'll set 'em all to work mending his fishing tackle--right in the
dead of night."
"Are they all there still?" asked Hiram. "The Thomases, the Wilsons, the
Frisbies, and the two Cantwell old maids?"
"Everyone--except Miss Frisbie. She's gone back home to Rushville, but
she's sending her sister on to take her place to-morrow. I saw Dory
Hargrave in the street a while ago. You know his mother was a first
cousin of old John's. I told him he ought not to let strangers get the
old man's money, that he ought to shy _his_ castor into the ring."
"And what did Dory say?" asked Hiram.
"He came back at me good and hard," said Mrs. Fred, with a good-humored
laugh. "He said there'd been enough people in Saint X ruined by
inheritances and by expecting inheritances. You know the creek that flows
through the graveyard has just been stopped from seeping into the
reservoir. Well, Dory spoke of that and said there was, and always had
been, flowing from every graveyard a stream far more poisonous than any
graveyard creek, yet nobody talked of stopping it."
The big man, sitting with eyes downcast, began to rub his hands, one over
the other--a certain sign that he was thinking intently.
"There's a good deal of truth in what he said," she went on. "Look at our
family, for instance. We've been living on an allowance from Grandfather
Fuller in Chicago for forty years. None of us has ever done a stroke of
work; we've simply been waiting for him to die and divide up his
millions. Look at us! Bill and Tom drunkards, Dick a loafer without even
the energy to be a drunkard; Ed dead because he was too lazy to keep
alive. Alice and I married nice fellows; but as soon as they got into our
family they began to loaf and wait. We've been waiting in decent, or I
should say, indecent, poverty for forty years, and we're still waiting.
We're a lot of paupers. We're on a level with the Wilmots."
"Yes--there are the Wilmots, too," said Hiram absently.
"That's another form of the same disease," Henrietta went on. "Did you
know General Wilmot?"
"He was a fine man," said Hiram, "one of the founders of this town, and
he made a fortune out of it. He got overbearing, and what he thought was
proud, toward the end of his life. But he had a good heart and worked for
all he had--honest work."
"And he brought his family up to be real down-East gentlemen and
ladies," resumed Henrietta. "And look at 'em. They lost the money,
because they were too gentlemanly and too ladylike to work to hold on to
it. And there they live in the big house, half-starved. Why, really, Mr.
Ranger, they don't have enough to eat. And they dress in clothes that
have been in the family for a generation. They make their underclothes
out of old bed linen. And the grass on their front lawns is three feet
high, and the moss and weeds cover and pry up the bricks of their walks.
They're too 'proud' to work and too poor to hire. How much have they
borrowed from you?"
"I don't know," said Hiram. "Not much."
"I know better--and you oughtn't to have lent them a cent. Yesterday old
Wilmot was hawking two of his grandfather's watches about. And all the
Wilmots have got brains, just as our family has. Nothing wrong with
either of us, but that stream Dory Hargrave was talking about."
"There's John Dumont," mused Ranger.
"Yes--_he_ is an exception. But what's he doing with what his father left
him? I don't let them throw dust in my eyes with his philanthropy as they
call it. The plain truth is he's a gambler and a thief, and he uses what
his father left him to be gambler and thief on the big scale, and so keep
out of the penitentiary--'finance,' they call it. If he'd been poor, he'd
have been in jail long ago--no, he wouldn't--he'd have done differently.
It was the money that started him wrong."
"A great deal of good can be done with money," said Hiram.
"Can it?" demanded Mrs. Fred. "It don't look that way to me. I'm full of
this, for I was hauling my Alfred over the coals this very morning"--she
laughed--"for being what I've made him, for doing what I'd do in his
place--for being like my father and my brothers. It seems to me, precious
little of the alleged good that's done with wealth is really good; and
what little isn't downright bad hides the truth from people. Talk about
the good money does! What does it amount to--the good that's good, and
the good that's rotten bad? What does it all amount to beside the good
that having to work does? People that have to work hard are usually
honest and have sympathy and affection and try to amount to something.
And if they are bad, why at least they can't hurt anybody but themselves
very much, where a John Dumont or a Skeffington can injure
hundreds--thousands. Take your own case, Mr. Ranger. Your money has never
done you any good. It was your hard work. All your money has ever done
has been--Do you think your boy and girl will be as good a man and woman,
as useful and creditable to the community, as you and Cousin Ellen?"
Hiram said nothing; he continued to slide his great, strong,
useful-looking hands one over the other.
"A fortune makes a man stumble along if he's in the right road, makes him
race along if he's in the wrong road," concluded Henrietta.
"You must have been talking a great deal to young Hargrave lately," said
She blushed. "That's true," she admitted, with a laugh. "But I'm not
altogether parroting what he said. I do my own thinking." She rose. "I'm
afraid I haven't cheered you up much."
"I'm glad you came," replied Hiram earnestly; then, with an
admiring look, "It's a pity some of the men of your family haven't
got your energy."
She laughed. "They have," said she. "Every one of us is a first-rate
talker--and that's all the energy I've got--energy to wag my tongue.
Still--You didn't know I'd gone into business?"
"That is, I'm backing Stella Wilmot in opening a little shop--to sell
"A Wilmot at work!" exclaimed Hiram.
"A Wilmot at work," affirmed Henrietta. "She's more like her great
grandfather; you know how a bad trait will skip several generations and
then show again. The Wilmots have been cultivating the commonness of work
out of their blood for three generations, but it has burst in again. She
made a declaration of independence last week. She told the family she
was tired of being a pauper and beggar. And when I heard she wanted to do
something I offered to go in with her in a business. She's got a lot of
taste in trimming hats. She certainly has had experience enough."
"She always looks well," said Hiram.
"And you'd wonder at it, if you were a woman and knew what she's had to
work on. So I took four hundred dollars grandfather sent me as a birthday
present, and we're going to open up in a small way. She's to put her name
out--my family won't let me put mine out, too. 'Wilmot & Hastings' would
sound well, don't you think? But it's got to be 'Wilmot & Co.' We've
hired a store--No. 263 Monroe Street. We have our opening in August."
"Do you need any--" began Hiram.
"No, thank you," she cut in, with a laugh. "This is a close corporation.
No stock for sale. We want to hold on to every cent of the profits."
"Well," said Hiram, "if you ever do need to borrow, you know where to
"Where the whole town comes when it's hard up," said Henrietta; and she
astonished the old man by giving him a shy, darting kiss on the brow.
"Now, don't you tell your wife!" she exclaimed, laughing and blushing
furiously and making for the door.
When Adelaide, sent by her mother, came to sit with him, he said: "Draw
the blinds, child, and leave me alone. I want to rest." She obeyed him.
At intervals of half an hour she opened the door softly, looked in at
him, thought he was asleep, and went softly away. But he had never been
further from sleep in his life. Henrietta Hastings's harum-scarum
gossiping and philosophizing happened to be just what his troubled mind
needed to precipitate its clouds into a solid mass that could be clearly
seen and carefully examined. Heretofore he had accepted the conventional
explanations of all the ultimate problems, had regarded philosophers as
time wasters, own brothers to the debaters who whittled on dry-goods
boxes at the sidewalk's edge in summer and about the stoves in the rear
of stores in winter, settling all affairs save their own. But now,
sitting in enforced inaction and in the chill and calm which diffuses
from the tomb, he was using the unused, the reflective, half of his mind.
Even as Henrietta was talking, he began to see what seemed to him the
hidden meaning in the mysterious "Put your house in order" that would
give him no rest. But he was not the man to make an important decision in
haste, was the last man in the world to inflict discomfort, much less
pain, upon anyone, unless the command to do it came unmistakably in the
one voice he dared not disobey. Day after day he brooded; night after
night he fought to escape. But, slowly, inexorably, his iron inheritance
from Covenanter on one side and Puritan on the other asserted itself.
Heartsick, and all but crying out in anguish, he advanced toward the
stern task which he could no longer deny or doubt that the Most High God
had set for him.
He sent for Dory Hargrave's father.
Mark Hargrave was president of the Tecumseh Agricultural and Classical
University, to give it its full legal entitlements. It consisted in a
faculty of six, including Dr. Hargrave, and in two meager and modest,
almost mean "halls," and two hundred acres of land. There were at that
time just under four hundred students, all but about fifty working their
way through. So poor was the college that it was kept going only by
efforts, the success of which seemed miraculous interventions of
Providence. They were so regarded by Dr. Hargrave, and the stubbornest
infidel must have conceded that he was not unjustified.
As Hargrave, tall and spare, his strong features illumined by life-long
unselfish service to his fellow-men, came into Hiram Ranger's presence,
Hiram shrank and grew gray as his hair. Hargrave might have been the
officer come to lead him forth to execution.
"If you had not sent for me, Mr. Ranger," he began, after the greetings,
"I should have come of my own accord within a day or two. Latterly God
has been strongly moving me to lay before you the claims of my boys--of
This was to Hiram direct confirmation of his own convictions. He tried to
force his lips to say so, but they would not move.
"You and Mrs. Ranger," Hargrave went on, "have had a long life, full of
the consciousness of useful work well done. Your industry, your fitness
for the just use of God's treasure, has been demonstrated, and He has
made you stewards of much of it. And now approaches the final test, the
greatest test, of your fitness to do His work. In His name, my old
friend, what are you going to do with His treasure?"
Hiram Ranger's face lighted up. The peace that was entering his soul lay
upon the tragedy of his mental and physical suffering soft and serene
and sweet as moonlight beautifying a ruin. "That's why I sent for you,
Mark," he said.
"Hiram, are you going to leave your wealth so that it may continue to do
good in the world? Or, are you going to leave it so that it may tempt
your children to vanity and selfishness, to lives of idleness and folly,
to bring up their children to be even less useful to mankind than they,
even more out of sympathy with the ideals which God has implanted? All of
those ideals are attainable only through shoulder-to-shoulder work such
as you have done all your life."
"God help me!" muttered Hiram. The sweat was beading his forehead and his
hands were clasped and wrenching each at the other, typical of the two
forces contending in final battle within him. "God help me!"
"Have you ever looked about you in this town and thought of the meaning
of its steady decay, moral and physical? God prospered the hard-working
men who founded it; but, instead of appreciating His blessings, they
regarded the wealth He gave them as their own; and they left it to their
children. And see how their sin is being visited upon the third and
fourth generations! Industry has been slowly paralyzing. The young
people, whose wealth gave them the best opportunities, are leading idle
lives, are full of vanity of class and caste, are steeped in the sins
that ever follow in the wake of idleness--the sins of selfishness and
indulgence. Instead of being workers, leading in the march upward,
instead of taking the position for which their superior opportunities
should have fitted them, they set an example of idleness and indolence.
They despise their ancestry of toil which should be their pride. They
pride themselves upon the parasitism which is their shame. And they set
before the young an example of contempt for work, of looking on it as a
curse and a disgrace."
"I have been thinking of these things lately," said Hiram.
"It is the curse of the world, this inherited wealth," cried Hargrave.
"Because of it humanity moves in circles instead of forward. The ground
gained by the toiling generations, is lost by the inheriting generations.
And this accursed inheritance tempts men ever to long for and hope for
that which they have not earned. God gave man a trial of the plan of
living in idleness upon that which he had not earned, and man fell. Then
God established the other plan, and through it man has been rising--but
rising slowly and with many a backward slip, because he has tried to
thwart the Divine plan with the system of inheritance. Fortunately, the
great mass of mankind has had nothing to leave to heirs, has had no hope
of inheritances. Thus, new leaders have ever been developed in place of
those destroyed by inherited prosperity. But, unfortunately, the law of
inheritance has been able to do its devil's work upon the best element in
every human society, upon those who had the most efficient and exemplary
parents, and so had the best opportunity to develop into men and women of
the highest efficiency. No wonder progress is slow, when the leaders of
each generation have to be developed from the bottom all over again, and
when the ideal of useful work is obscured by the false ideal of living
without work. Waiting for dead men's shoes! Dead men's shoes instead of
shoes of one's own."
"Dead men's shoes," muttered Hiram.
"The curse of unearned wealth," went on his friend. "Your life, Hiram,
leaves to your children the injunction to work, to labor cheerfully and
equally, honestly and helpfully, with their brothers and sisters; but
your wealth--If you leave it to them, will it not give that injunction
the lie, will it not invite them to violate that injunction?"
"I have been watching my children, my boy, especially," said Hiram. "I
don't know about all this that you've been saying. It's a big subject;
but I do know about this boy of mine. I wish I'd 'a' taken your advice,
Mark, and put him in your school. But his mother was set on the East--on
Harvard." Tears were in his eyes at this. He remembered how she, knowing
nothing of college, but feeling it was her duty to have her children
educated properly, a duty she must not put upon others, had sent for the
catalogues of all the famous colleges in the country. He could see her
poring over the catalogues, balancing one offering of educational
advantage against another, finally deciding for Harvard, the greatest of
them all. He could hear her saying: "It'll cost a great deal, Hiram. As
near as I can reckon it out it'll cost about a thousand dollars a
year--twelve hundred if we want to be v-e-r-y liberal, so the catalogue
says. But Harvard's the biggest, and has the most teachers and scholars,
and takes in all the branches. And we ought to give our Arthur the best."
And now--By what bitter experience had he learned that the college is not
in the catalogue, is a thing apart, unrelated and immeasurably different!
His eyes were hot with anger as he thought how the boy's mother, honest,
conscientious Ellen, had been betrayed.
"Look here, Mark," he blazed out, "if I leave money to your college I
want to see that it can't ever be like them eastern institutions of
learning." He made a gesture of disgust. "Learning!"
"If you leave us anything, Hiram, leave it so that any young man who gets
its advantages must work for them."
"That's it!" exclaimed Hiram. "That's what I want. Can you draw me up
that kind of plan? No boy, no matter what he has at home, can come to
that there college without working his way through, without learning to
work, me to provide the chance to earn the living."
"I have just such a plan," said Hargrave, drawing a paper from his
pocket. "I've had it ready for years waiting for just such an
"Read it," said Hiram, sinking deep in his big chair and closing his eyes
and beginning to rub his forehead with his great hand.
And Hargrave read, forgetting his surroundings, forgetting everything in
his enthusiasm for this dream of his life--a university, in fact as well
as in name, which would attract the ambitious children of rich and
well-to-do and poor, would teach them how to live honestly and nobly,
would give them not only useful knowledge to work with but also the light
to work by. "You see, Hiram, I think a child ought to begin to be a man
as soon as he begins to live--a man, standing on his own feet, in his own
shoes, with the courage that comes from knowing how to do well something
which the world needs."
He looked at Hiram for the first time in nearly half an hour. He was
alarmed by the haggard, ghastly gray of that majestic face; and his
thought was not for his plan probably about to be thwarted by the man's
premature death, but of his own selfishness in wearying and imperiling
him by importunity at such a time. "But we'll talk of this again," he
said sadly, putting the paper in his pocket and rising for instant
"Give me the paper," said Hiram, putting out his trembling hand, but not
lifting his heavy, blue-black lids.
Mark gave it to him hesitatingly. "You'd better put it off till you're
"I'll see," said Hiram. "Good morning, Mark."
* * * * *
Judge Torrey was the next to get Ranger's summons; it came toward
mid-afternoon of that same day. Like Hargrave, Torrey had been his
"Torrey," he said, "I want you to examine this plan"--and he held up the
paper Hargrave had left--"and, if it is not legal, put it into legal
shape, and incorporate it into my will. I feel I ain't got much time."
With a far-away, listening look--"I must put my house in order--in order.
Draw up a will and bring it to me before five o'clock. I want you to
write it yourself--trust no one--no one!" His eyes were bright, his
cheeks bluish, and he spoke in a thick, excited voice that broke and
shrilled toward the end of each sentence.
"I can't do it to-day. Too much haste--"
"To-day!" commanded Hiram. "I won't rest till it's done!"
"Of course, I can--"
"Read the paper now, and give me your opinion."
Torrey put on his glasses, opened the paper. "Oh!" he exclaimed. "I
remember this. It's in my partner's handwriting. Hargrave had Watson
draw it up about five years ago. We were very careful in preparing it.
It is legal."
"Very well," continued Hiram. "Now I'll give you the points of my will."
Torrey took notebook and pencil from his pocket.
"First," began Hiram, as if he were reciting something he had learned by
heart, "to my wife, Ellen, this house and everything in it, and the
grounds and all the horses and carriages and that kind of thing."
"Yes," said Torrey, looking up from his note making.
"Second, to my wife an income of seven thousand a year for life--that is
what it cost her and me to live last year, and the children--except the
extras. Seven thousand for life--but only for life."
"Yes," said Torrey, his glance at Hiram now uneasy and expectant.
"Third, to my daughter, Adelaide, two thousand a year for her life--to be
divided among her daughters equally, if she have any; if not, to revert
to my estate at her death."
"Yes," said Torrey.
"Fourth, to my son, five thousand dollars in cash."
A long pause, Torrey looking at his old friend and client as if he
thought one or the other of them bereft of his senses. At last, he said,
"Fifth, to my brothers, Jacob and Ezra, four hundred dollars each,"
continued Hiram, in his same voice of repeating by rote, "and to my
sister Prudence, five thousand dollars--so fixed that her husband can't
"Yes," said Torrey.
"Sixth, the rest of my estate to be made into a trust, with Charles
Whitney and Mark Hargrave and Hampden Scarborough trustees, with power to
select their successors. The trust to be administered for the benefit of
Tecumseh University under the plan you have there."
Torrey half-rose from his chair, his usually calm features reflecting his
inner contention of grief, alarm, and protest. But there was in Hiram's
face that which made him sink back without having spoken.
"Seventh," continued Hiram, "the mills and the cooperage to be continued
as now, and not to be sold for at least fifteen years. If my son Arthur
wishes to have employment in them, he is to have it at the proper wages
for the work he does. If at the end of fifteen years he wishes to buy
them, he to have the right to buy, that is, my controlling interest in
them, provided he can make a cash payment of ten per cent of the then
value; and, if he can do that, he is to have ten years in which to
complete the payment--or longer, if the trustees think it wise."
A long pause; Hiram seemed slowly to relax and collapse like a man
stretched on the rack, who ceases to suffer either because the torture is
ended or because his nerves mercifully refuse to register any more pain.
"That is all," he said wearily.
Torrey wiped his glasses, put them on, wiped them again, hung them on the
hook attached to the lapel of his waistcoat, put them on, studied the
paper, then said hesitatingly: "As one of your oldest friends, Hiram, and
in view of the surprising nature of the--the--"
"I do not wish to discuss it," interrupted Hiram, with that gruff
finality of manner which he always used to hide his softness, and which
deceived everyone, often even his wife. "Come back at five o'clock with
Torrey rose, his body shifting with his shifting mind as he cast about
for an excuse for lingering. "Very well, Hiram," he finally said. As he
shook hands, he blurted out huskily, "The boy's a fine young fellow, Hi.
It don't seem right to disgrace him by cutting him off this way."
Hiram winced. "Wait a minute," he said. He had been overlooking the
public--how the town would gossip and insinuate. "Put in this, Torrey,"
he resumed after reflecting. And deliberately, with long pauses to
construct the phrases, he dictated: "I make this disposal of my estate
through my love for my children, and because I have firm belief in the
soundness of their character and in their capacity to do and to be. I
feel they will be better off without the wealth which would tempt my son
to relax his efforts to make a useful man of himself and would cause my
daughter to be sought for her fortune instead of for herself."
"That may quiet gossip against your children," said Torrey, when he had
taken down Hiram's slowly enunciated words, "but it does not change the
extraordinary character of the will."
"John," said Hiram, "can you think of a single instance in which
inherited wealth has been a benefit, a single case where a man has become
more of a man than he would if he hadn't had it?"
Hiram waited long. Torrey finally said: "That may be, but--" But what?
Torrey did not know, and so came to a full stop.
"I've been trying for weeks to think of one," continued Hiram, "and
whenever I thought I'd found one, I'd see, on looking at all the facts,
that it only _seemed_ to be so. And I recalled nearly a hundred instances
right here in Saint X where big inheritances or little had been ruinous."
"I have never thought on this aspect of the matter before," said Torrey.
"But to bring children up in the expectation of wealth, and then to leave
them practically nothing, looks to me like--like cheating them."
"It does, John," Hiram answered. "I've pushed my boy and my girl far
along the broad way that leads to destruction. I must take the
consequences. But God won't let me divide the punishment for my sins with
them. I see my duty clear. I must do it. Bring the will at five o'clock."
Hiram's eyes were closed; his voice sounded to Torrey as if it were the
utterance of a mind far, far away--as far away as that other world which
had seemed vividly real to Hiram all his life; it seemed real and near to
Torrey, looking into his old friend's face. "The power that's guiding
him," Torrey said to himself, "is one I daren't dispute with." And he
went away with noiseless step and with head reverently bent.
MRS. WHITNEY NEGOTIATES
The Rangers' neighbors saw the visits of Hargrave and Torrey. Immediately
a rumor of a bequest to Tecumseh was racing through the town and up the
Bluffs and through the fashionable suburb. It arrived at Point Helen, the
seat of the Whitneys, within an hour after Torrey left Ranger. It had
accumulated confirmatory detail by that time--the bequest was large; was
very large; was half his fortune--and the rest of the estate was to go to
the college should Arthur and Adelaide die childless.
Mrs. Whitney lost no time. At half-past four she was seated in the same
chair in which Hargrave and Torrey had sat. It was not difficult to bring
up the subject of the two marriages, which were doubly to unite the
houses and fortunes of Ranger and Whitney--the marriages of Arthur and
Janet, of Ross and Adelaide. "And, of course," said Mrs. Whitney, "we all
want the young people started right. I don't believe children ought to
feel dependent on their parents. It seems to me that puts filial and
parental love on a very low plane. Don't you think so?"
"Yes," said Hiram.
"The young people ought to feel that their financial position is secure.
And, as you and Ellen and Charles and I have lived for our children, have
toiled to raise them above the sordid cares and anxieties of life, we
ought to complete our work now and make them--happy."
Hiram did not speak, though she gave him ample time.
"So," pursued Mrs. Whitney, "I thought I wouldn't put off any longer
talking about what Charles and I have had in mind some months. Ross and
Janet will soon be here, and I know all four of the children are anxious
to have the engagements formally completed."
"Completed?" said Hiram.
"Yes," reaffirmed Matilda. "Of course they can't be completed until we
parents have done our share. You and Ellen want to know that Arthur and
Adelaide won't be at the mercy of any reverse in business Charles might
have--or of any caprice which might influence him in making his will. And
Charles and I want to feel the same way as to our Ross and Janet."
"Yes," said Hiram. "I see." A smile of stern irony roused his features
from their repose into an expressiveness that made Mrs. Whitney
exceedingly uncomfortable--but the more resolute.
"Charles is willing to be liberal both in immediate settlement and in
binding himself in the matter of his will," she went on. "He often says,
'I don't want my children to be impatient for me to die. I want to make
'em feel they're getting, if anything, more because I'm alive.'"
A long pause, then Hiram said: "That's one way of looking at it."
"That's _your_ way," said Matilda, as if the matter were settled. And
she smiled her softest and sweetest. But Hiram saw only the glitter in
her cold brown eyes, a glitter as hard as the sheen of her
"No," said he emphatically, "that's _not_ my way. That's the broad and
easy way that leads to destruction. Ellen and I," he went on, his
excitement showing only in his lapses into dialect, "we hain't worked
all our lives so that our children'll be shiftless idlers, settin'
'round, polishin' their fingernails, and thinkin' up foolishness and
Matilda had always known that Hiram and Ellen were hopelessly vulgar; but
she had thought they cherished a secret admiration for the "higher
things" beyond their reach, and were resolved that their son should be a
gentleman and their daughter a lady. She found in Hiram's energetic
bitterness nothing to cause her to change her view. "He simply wants to
hold on to his property to the last, and play the tyrant," she said to
herself. "All people of property naturally feel that way." And she held
steadily to her programme. "Well, Hiram," she proceeded tranquilly, "if
those marriages are to take place, Charles and I will expect you to meet
"If Ross and my Delia and Arthur and your Jane are fond of each other,
let 'em marry as you and Charles, as Ellen and I married. I ain't buyin'
your son, nor sellin' my daughter. That's my last word, Tillie."
On impulse, he pressed the electric button in the wall behind him.
When the new upstairs girl came, he said: "Tell the children I want
to see 'em."
Arthur and Adelaide presently came, flushed with the exercise of the
tennis the girl had interrupted.
"Mrs. Whitney, here," said Hiram, "tells me her children won't marry
without settlements, as it's called. And I've been tellin' her that my
son and daughter ain't buyin' and sellin'."
Mrs. Whitney hid her fury. "Your father has a quaint way of expressing
himself," she said, laughing elegantly. "I've simply been trying to
persuade him to do as much toward securing the future of you two as Mr.
Whitney is willing to do. Don't be absurd, Hiram. You know better than to
talk that way."
Hiram looked steadily at her. "You've been travelin' about, 'Tilda,"
he said, "gettin' together a lot of newfangled notions. Ellen and I
and our children stick to the old way." And he looked at Arthur, then
Their faces gave him a twinge at the heart. "Speak up!" he said. "Do you
or do you not stick to the old way?"
"I can't talk about it, father," was Adelaide's evasive answer, her face
scarlet and her eyes down.
"And you, sir?" said Hiram to his son.
"You'll have to excuse me, sir," replied Arthur coldly.
Hiram winced before Mrs. Whitney's triumphant glance. He leaned forward
and, looking at his daughter, said: "Del, would you marry a man who
wouldn't take you unless you brought him a fortune?"
"No, father," Adelaide answered. She was meeting his gaze now. "But, at
the same time, I'd rather not be dependent on my husband."
"Do you think your mother is dependent on me?"
"That's different," said Adelaide, after a pause.
"How?" asked Hiram.
Adelaide did not answer, could not answer. To answer honestly would be
to confess that which had been troubling her greatly of late--the
feeling that there was something profoundly unsatisfactory in the
relations between Ross and herself; that what he was giving her was
different not only in degree but even in kind from what she wanted, or
ought to want, from what she was trying to give him, or thought she
ought to try to give him.
"And you, Arthur?" asked Hiram in the same solemn, appealing tone.
"I should not ask Janet to marry me unless I was sure I could support her
in the manner to which she is accustomed," said Arthur. "I certainly
shouldn't wish to be dependent upon her."
"Then, your notion of marrying is that people get married for a
living, for luxury. I suppose you'd expect her to leave you if you
lost your money?"
"That's different," said Arthur, restraining the impulse to reason with
his illogical father whose antiquated sentimentalism was as unfitted to
the new conditions of American life as were his ideas about work.
"You see, Hiram," said Mrs. Whitney, good-humoredly, "your children
The master workman brought his fist down on the arm of his chair--not a
gesture of violence, but of dignity and power. "I don't stand for the
notion that marriage is living in luxury and lolling in carriages and
showing off before strangers. I told you what my last word was, Matilda."
Mrs. Whitney debated with herself full half a minute before she
spoke. In a tone that betrayed her all but departed hope of changing
him, she said: "It is a great shock to me to have you even pretend to
be so heartless--to talk of breaking these young people's hearts--just
for a notion."
"It's better to break their hearts before marriage," replied Hiram, "than
to let them break their lives, and their hearts, too, on such marriages.
The girl that wants my son only if he has money to enable her to make a
fool of herself, ain't fit to be a wife--and a mother. As for Del and
Ross--The man that looks at what a woman _has_ will never look at what
she _is_--and my daughter's well rid of him."
A painful silence, then Mrs. Whitney rose. "If I hadn't suspected, Hiram,
that you intended to cheat your children out of their rights in order to
get a reputation as a philanthropist, I'd not have brought this matter up
at this time. I see my instincts didn't mislead me. But I don't give up
hope. I've known you too many years, Hiram Ranger, not to know that your
heart is in the right place. And, after you think it over, you will give
up this wicked--yes, wicked--plan old Doctor Hargrave has taken advantage
of your sickness to wheedle you into."
Hiram, his face and hands like yellow wax, made no answer. Arthur and
Adelaide followed Mrs. Whitney from the room. "Thank you, Mrs. Whitney,"
said Arthur, gratefully, when they were out of his father's hearing. "I
don't know what has come over him of late. He has gone back to his
childhood and under the spell of the ideas that seemed, and no doubt
were, right then. I believe you have set him to thinking. He's the best
father in the world when he is well and can see things clearly."
Mrs. Whitney was not so sanguine, but she concealed it. She appreciated
what was troubling Hiram. While she encouraged her own son, her Ross, to
be a "gentleman," she had enough of the American left to see the flaws in
that new ideal of hers--when looking at another woman's son. And the
superciliousness which delighted her in Ross, irritated her in Arthur;
for, in him, it seemed a sneering reflection upon the humble and
toilsome beginnings of Charles and herself. She believed--not without
reason--that, under Ross's glossy veneer of gentleman, there was a shrewd
and calculating nature; it, she thought, would not permit the gentleman
to make mess of those matters, which, coarse and sordid though they were,
still must be looked after sharply if the gentleman was to be kept going.
But she was, not unnaturally, completely taken in by Arthur's similar
game, the more easily as Arthur put into it an intensity of energy which
Ross had not. She therefore thought Arthur as unpractical as he so
fashionably professed, thought he accepted without reservation "our
set's" pretenses of aristocracy for appearance's sake. "Of course, your
father'll come round," she said, friendly but not cordial. "All that's
necessary is that you and Adelaide use a little tact."
And she was in her victoria and away, a very grand-looking lady, indeed,
with two in spick and span summer livery on the box, with her exquisite
white and gold sunshade, a huge sapphire in the end of the handle, a
string of diamonds worth a small fortune round her neck, a gold bag,
studded with diamonds, in her lap, and her superb figure clad in a
close-fitting white cloth dress. In the gates she swept past Torrey and
his two clerks accompanying him as witnesses. She understood; her face
was anything but an index to her thoughts as she bowed and smiled
graciously in response to the old judge's salutation.
* * * * *
Torrey read the will to Hiram slowly, pausing after each paragraph for
sign of approval or criticism. But Hiram gave no more indication of his
thought, by word or expression or motion, than if he had been a seated
statue. The reading came to an end, but neither man spoke. The choir of
birds, assembled in the great trees round the house, flooded the room
with their evening melody. At last, Hiram said: "Please move that table
in front of me."
Torrey put the table before him, laid the will upon it ready for
Hiram took a pen; Torrey went to the door and brought in the two clerks
waiting in the hall. The three men stood watching while Hiram's eyes
slowly read each word of the will. He dipped the pen and, with a hand
that trembled in spite of all his obvious efforts to steady it, wrote his
name on the line to which Torrey silently pointed. The clerks signed as
"Thank you," said Hiram. "You had better take it with you, judge."
"Very well," said Torrey, tears in his eyes, a quaver in his voice.
A few seconds and Hiram was alone staring down at the surface of the
table, where he could still see and read the will. His conscience told
him he had "put his house in order"; but he felt as if he had set fire to
it with his family locked within, and was watching it and them burn to
ashes, was hearing their death cries and their curses upon him.
* * * * *
The two young people, chilled by Mrs. Whitney's manner, flawless though
it was, apparently, had watched with sinking hearts the disappearance of
her glittering chariot and her glistening steeds. Then they had gone into
the garden before Torrey and the clerks arrived. And they sat there
thinking each his own kind of melancholy thoughts.
"What did she mean by that remark about Doctor Hargrave?" asked Arthur,
after some minutes of this heavy silence.
"I don't know," said Adelaide.
"We must get mother to go at father," Arthur continued.
Adelaide made no answer.
Arthur looked at her irritably. "What are you thinking about, Del?"
"I don't like Mrs. Whitney. Do you?"
"Oh, she's a good enough imitation of the real thing," said Arthur. "You
can't expect a lady in the first generation."
Adelaide's color slowly mounted. "You don't mean that," said she.
He frowned and retorted angrily: "There's a great deal of truth that
we don't like. Why do you always get mad at me for saying what we
"I admit it's foolish and wrong of me," said she; "but I can't help it.
And if I get half-angry with you, I get wholly angry with myself for
being contemptible enough to think those things. Don't you get angry at
yourself for thinking them?"
Arthur laughed mirthlessly--an admission.
"We and father can't both be right," she pursued. "I suppose we're both
partly right and partly wrong--that's usually the way it is. But I can't
make up my mind just where he begins to be wrong."
"Why not admit he's right through and through, and be done with it?"
cried Arthur impatiently. "Why not tell him so, and square yourself
Adelaide, too hurt to venture speech, turned away. She lingered a while
in the library; on her way down the hall to ascend to her own room she
looked in at her father. There he sat so still that but for the regular
rise and fall of his chest she would have thought him dead. "He's
asleep," she murmured, the tears standing in her eyes and raining in her
heart. Her mother she could judge impartially; her mother's disregard of
the changes which had come to assume so much importance in her own and
Arthur's lives often made her wince. But the same disregard in a man did
not offend her; it had the reverse effect. It seemed to her, to the woman
in her, the fitting roughness of the colossal statue. "That's a _man_!"
she now said to herself proudly, as she gazed at him.
His eyes opened and fixed upon her in a look so agonized, that she
leaned, faint, against the door jamb. "What is it, father?" she gasped.
He did not answer--did not move--sat rigidly on, with that expression
unchanging, as if it had been fixed there by the sculptor who had made
the statue. She tried to go to him, but at the very thought she was
overwhelmed by such fear as she had not had since she, a child, lay in
her little bed in the dark, too terrified by the phantoms that beset her
to cry out or to move. "Father! What is it?" she repeated, then wheeled
and fled along the hall crying: "Mother! Mother!"
Ellen came hurrying down the stairs.
"It's father!" cried Adelaide.
Together they went into the back parlor. He was still motionless, with
that same frozen yet fiery expression. They went to him, tried to lift
him. Ellen dropped the lifeless arm, turned to her daughter. And Adelaide
saw into her mother's inmost heart, saw the tragic lift of one of those
tremendous emotions, which, by their very coming into a human soul, give
it the majesty and the mystery of the divine.
"Telephone for Dr. Schulze," she commanded; then, as Adelaide sped, she
said tenderly to her husband: "Where is the pain? What can I do?"
But he did not answer. And if he could have answered, what could she have
done? The pain was in his heart, was the burning agony of remorse for
having done that which he still believed to be right, that which he now
thought he would give his soul's salvation for the chance to undo. For,
as the paralysis began to lock his body fast in its vise, the awful
thought had for the first time come to him: "When my children know what I
have done they will _hate_ me! They will hate me all their lives."
Dr. Schulze examined him. "Somewhat sooner than I expected," he muttered.
"How long will it last?" said Ellen.
"Some time--several weeks--months--perhaps." He would let her learn
gradually that the paralysis would not relax its grip until it had borne
him into the eternal prison and had handed him over to the jailer who
makes no deliveries.
Mrs. Ranger consented to a third girl, to do the additional heavy work;
but a nurse--no! What had Hiram a wife for, and a daughter, and a son, if
not to take care of him? What kind of heartlessness was this, to talk of
permitting a stranger to do the most sacred offices of love? And only by
being on the watch early and late did Adelaide and Arthur prevent her
doing everything for him herself.
"Everybody, nowadays, has trained nurses in these cases," said Dr.
Schulze. "I don't think you ought to object to the expense."
But the crafty taunt left her as indifferent as did the argument from
what "everybody does."
"I don't make rules for others," replied she. "I only say that nobody
shall touch Hiram but us of his own blood. I won't hear to it, and the
children won't hear to it. They're glad to have the chance to do a little
something for him that has done everything for them."
The children thus had no opportunity to say whether they would "hear to
it" or not. But Arthur privately suggested to Adelaide that she ought
to try to persuade her mother. "It will make her ill, all this extra
work," said he.
"Not so quickly as having some one about interfering with her,"
"Then, too, it _looks_ so bad--so stingy and--and--old-fashioned," he
"Not from mother's point of view," said Adelaide quietly.
Arthur flushed. "Always putting me in the wrong," he sneered. Then,
instantly ashamed of this injustice, he went on in a different tone, "I
suppose this sort of thing appeals to the romantic strain in you."
"And in mother," said Del.
Whereupon they both smiled. Romantic was about the last word anyone would
think of in connection with frankly practical Ellen Ranger. She would
have died without hesitation, or lived in torment, for those she loved;
but she would have done it in the finest, most matter-of-fact way in the
world, and without a gleam of self-conscious heroics, whether of boasting
or of martyr-meekness or of any other device for signaling attention to
oneself. Indeed, it would not have occurred to her that she was doing
anything out of the ordinary. Nor, for that matter, would she have been;
for, in this world the unheroic are, more often than not, heroes, and the
heroic usually most unheroic. We pass heroism by to toss our silly caps
"There are some things, Artie, our education has been taking out of us,"
continued Del, "that I don't believe we're the better for losing. I've
been thinking of those things a good deal lately, and I've come to the
conclusion that there really is a rotten streak in what we've been
getting there in the East--you at Harvard, I at Mrs. Spenser's Select
School for Young Ladies. There are ways in which mother and father are
better educated than we."
"It does irritate me," admitted Arthur, "to find myself caring so much
about the _looks_ of things."
"Especially," said Adelaide, "when the people whose opinion we are afraid
of are so contemptibly selfish and snobbish."
"Still mother and father are narrow-minded," insisted her brother.
"Isn't everybody, about people who don't think as they do?"
"I've not the remotest objection to their having their own views," said
Arthur loftily, "so long as they don't try to enforce those views on me."
"But do they? Haven't we been let do about as we please?"
Arthur shrugged his shoulders. The discussion had led up to property
again--to whether or not his father had the right to do as he pleased
with his own. And upon that discussion he did not wish to reenter. He had
not a doubt of the justice of his own views; but, somehow, to state them
made him seem sordid and mercenary, even to himself. Being really
concerned for his mother's health, as well as about "looks," he strongly
urged the doctor to issue orders on the subject of a nurse. "If you
demand it, mother'll yield," he said.
"But I shan't, young man," replied Schulze curtly and with a conclusive
squeezing together of his homely features. "Your mother is right. She
gives your father what money can't buy and skill can't replace, what has
often raised the as-good-as-dead. Some day, maybe, you'll find out what
that is. You think you know now, but you don't." And there the matter
The large room adjoining Hiram and Ellen's bedroom was made over into a
sitting room. The first morning on which he could be taken from his bed
and partially dressed, Mrs. Ranger called in both the children to assist
her. The three tried to conceal their feelings as they, not without
physical difficulty, lifted that helpless form to the invalid's chair
which Ellen wheeled close to the bedside. She herself wheeled him into
the adjoining room, to the window, with strands of ivy waving in and out
in the gentle breeze, with the sun bright and the birds singing, and all
the world warm and vivid and gay. Hiram's cheeks were wet with tears;
they saw some tremendous emotion surging up in him. He looked at Arthur,
at Adelaide, back to Arthur. Evidently he was trying to say
something--something which he felt must be said. His right arm trembled,
made several convulsive twitches, finally succeeded in lifting his right
hand the few inches to the arm of the chair.
"What is it, father?" said Ellen.
"Yes--yes--yes," burst from him in thick, straining utterances.
Mrs. Ranger wiped her eyes. "He is silent for hours," she said; "then he
seems to want to say something. But when he speaks, it's only as just
now. He says 'Yes--yes--yes' over and over again until his strength
The bursting of the blood vessels in his brain had torn out the nerve
connection between the seat of power of speech and the vocal organs. He
could think clearly, could put his thoughts into the necessary words; but
when his will sent what he wished to say along his nerves toward the
vocal organs, it encountered that gap, and could not cross it.
What did he wish to say? What was the message that could not get through,
though he was putting his whole soul into it? At first he would begin
again the struggle to speak, as soon as he had recovered from the last
effort and failure; then the idea came to him that if he would hoard
strength, he might gather enough to force a passage for the words--for he
did not realize that the connection was broken, and broken forever. So,
he would wait, at first for several hours, later for several days; and,
when he thought himself strong enough or could no longer refrain, he
would try to burst the bonds which seemed to be holding him. With his
children, or his wife and children, watching him with agonized faces, he
would make a struggle so violent, so resolute, that even that dead body
was galvanized into a ghastly distortion of tortured life. Always in
vain; always the same collapse of despair and exhaustion; the chasm
between thought and speech could not be bridged. They brought everything
they could think of his possibly wanting; they brought to his room
everyone with whom he had ever had any sort of more than casual
relations--Torrey, among scores of others. But he viewed each object and
each person with the same awful despairing look, his immobile lips giving
muffled passage to that eternal "Yes! Yes! Yes!" And at last they decided
they were mistaken, that it was no particular thing he wanted, but only
the natural fierce desire to break through those prison walls, invisible,
translucent, intangible, worse than death.
* * * * *
Sorrow and anxiety and care pressed so heavily and so unceasingly upon
that household for several weeks that there was no time for, no thought
of, anything but Hiram. Finally, however, the law of routine mercifully
reasserted itself; their lives, in habit and in thought, readjusted,
conformed to the new conditions, as human lives will, however chaotic has
been the havoc that demolished the old routine. Then Adelaide took from
her writing desk Ross's letters, which she had glanced at rather than
read as they came; when she finished the rereading, or reading, she was
not only as unsatisfied as when she began, but puzzled, to boot--and
puzzled that she was puzzled. She read them again--it did not take long,
for they were brief; even the first letter after he heard of her father's
illness filled only the four sides of one sheet, and was written large
and loose. "He has sent short letters," said she, "because he did not
want to trouble me with long ones at this time." But, though this excuse
was as plausible as most of those we invent to assist us to believe what
we want to believe, it did not quite banish a certain hollow, hungry
feeling, a sense of distaste for such food as the letters did provide.
She was not experienced enough to know that the expression of the
countenance of a letter is telltale beyond the expression of the
countenance of its writer; that the face may be controlled to lie, but
never yet were satisfying and fully deceptive lies told upon paper.
Without being conscious of the action of the sly, subconscious instinct
which prompted it, she began to revolve her friend, Theresa Howland,
whose house party Ross was honoring with such an extraordinarily long
lingering. "I hope Theresa is seeing that he has a good time," she said.
"I suppose he thinks as he says--that he'd only be in the way here.
That's a man's view! It's selfish, but who isn't selfish?"
Thus, without her being in the least aware of the process, her mind was
preparing her for what was about to happen. It is a poor mind, or poorly
served by its subconscious half, that is taken wholly by surprise by any
blow. There are always forewarnings; and while the surface mind
habitually refuses to note them, though they be clear as sunset
silhouettes, the subconscious mind is not so stupid--so blind under the
sweet spells of that arch-enchanter, vanity.
At last Ross came, but without sending Adelaide word. His telegram to his
mother gave just time for a trap to meet him at the station. As he was
ascending the broad, stone approaches of the main entrance to the house
at Point Helen, she appeared in the doorway, her face really beautiful
with mother-pride. For Janet she cared as it is the duty of parent to
care for child; Ross she loved. It was not mere maternal imagination that
made her so proud of him; he was a distinguished and attractive figure of
the kind that dominates the crowds at football games, polo and tennis
matches, summer resort dances, and all those events which gather together
the youth of our prosperous classes. Of the medium height, with a strong
look about the shoulders, with sufficiently, though not aggressively,
positive features and a clear skin, with gray-green eyes, good teeth, and
a pleasing expression, he had an excellent natural basis on which to
build himself into a particularly engaging and plausible type of
fashionable gentleman. He was in traveling tweeds of pronounced plaid
which, however, he carried off without vulgarity. His trousers were
rolled high, after the fashion of the day, to show dark red socks of the
same color as his tie and of a shade harmonious to the stripe in the
pattern of shirt and suit and to the stones in his cuff links. He looked
clean, with the cleanness of a tree after the measureless drenching of a
storm; he had a careless, easy air, which completely concealed his
assiduous and self-complacent self-consciousness. He embraced his mother
"How well you look!" he exclaimed; then, with a glance round, "How well
His mother held tightly to his arm as they went into the house; she
seemed elder sister rather than mother, and he delighted her by
telling her so--omitting the qualifying adjective before the sister.
"But you're not a bit glad to see me," he went on. "I believe you don't
want me to come."
"I'm just a little cross with you for not answering my letters,"
"How is Del?" he asked, and for an instant he looked embarrassed and
curiously ashamed of himself.
"Adelaide is very well," was her reply in a constrained voice.
"I couldn't stay away any longer," said he. "It was tiresome up at
He saw her disappointment, and a smile flitted over his face which
returned and remained when she said: "I thought you were finding Theresa
"Oh, you did?" was his smiling reply. "And why?"
"Then you have come because you were bored?" she said, evading.
"And to see you and Adelaide. I must telephone her right away."
It seemed to be secretly amusing him to note how downcast she was by
this enthusiasm for Adelaide. "I shouldn't be too eager," counseled
she. "A man ought never to show eagerness with a woman. Let the women
make the advances, Ross. They'll do it fast enough--when they find that
"Not the young ones," said Ross. "Especially not those that have choice
of many men."
"But no woman has choice of many men," replied she. "She wants the best,
and when _you're_ in her horizon, you're the best, always."
Ross, being in the privacy of his own family, gave himself the pleasure
of showing that he rather thought so himself. But he said: "Nonsense. If
I listened to your partiality, I'd be making a fearful ass of myself most
of the time."
"Well--don't let Adelaide see that you're eager," persisted his
mother subtly. "She's very good-looking and knows it and I'm afraid
she's getting an exaggerated notion of her own value. She feels _so_
certain of you."
"Of course she does," said Ross, and his mother saw that he was unmoved
by her adroit thrust at his vanity.
"It isn't in human nature to value what one feels sure of."
"But she _is_ sure of me," said Ross, and while he spoke with
emphasis, neither his tone nor his look was quite sincere. "We're
engaged, you know."
"A boy and girl affair. But nothing really settled."
"I've given my word and so has she."
Mrs. Whitney had difficulty in not looking as disapproving as she felt.
A high sense of honor had been part of her wordy training of her
children; but she had relied--she hoped, not in vain--upon their common
sense to teach them to reconcile and adjust honor to the exigencies of
practical life. "That's right, dear," said she. "A man or a woman can't
be too honorable. Still, I should not wish you to make her and yourself
unhappy. And I know both of you would be unhappy if, by marrying, you
were to spoil each other's careers. And your father would not be able
to allow or to leave you enough to maintain an establishment such as
I've set my heart on seeing you have. Mr. Ranger has been acting very
strange of late--almost insane, I'd say." Her tone became constrained
as if she were trying to convey more than she dared put into words. "I
feel even surer than when I wrote you, that he's leaving a large part
of his fortune to Tecumseh College." And she related--with judicious
omissions and embroideries--her last talk with Hiram, and the events
that centered about it.
Ross retained the impassive expression he had been cultivating ever since
he read in English "high life" novels descriptions of the bearing of men
of the "_haut monde_." "That's of no consequence," was his comment, in a
tone of indifference. "I'm not marrying Del for her money."
"Don't throw yourself away, Ross," said she, much disquieted. "I feel
sure you've been brought up too sensibly to do anything reckless. At
least, be careful how you commit yourself until you are sure. In our
station people have to think of a great many things before they think of
anything so uncertain and so more or less fanciful as love. Rest assured,
Adelaide is thinking of those things. Don't be less wise than she."
He changed the subject, and would not go back to it; and after a few
minutes he telephoned Adelaide, ordered a cart, and set out to take her
for a drive. Mrs. Whitney watched him depart with a heavy heart and so
piteous a face that Ross was moved almost to the point of confiding in
her what he was pretending not to admit to himself. "Ross is sensible
beyond his years," she said to herself sadly, "but youth is _so_
romantic. It never can see beyond the marriage ceremony."
Adelaide, with as much haste as was compatible with the demands of so
important an occasion, was getting into a suitable costume. Suddenly she
laid aside the hat she had selected from among several that were what the
Fifth Avenue milliners call the "_dernier cri_." "No, I'll not go!" she
Ever since her father was stricken she had stayed near him. Ellen had his
comfort and the household to look after, and besides was not good at
initiating conversation and carrying it on alone; Arthur's tongue was
paralyzed in his father's presence by his being unable for an instant to
forget there what had occurred between them. So Del had borne practically
the whole burden of filling the dreary, dragging hours for him--who could
not speak, could not even show whether he understood or not. He had never
been easy to talk to; now, when she could not tell but that what she said
jarred upon a sick and inflamed soul, aggravating his torture by
reminding him of things he longed to know yet could not inquire about,
tantalizing him with suggestions--She dared not let her thoughts go far
in that direction; it would soon have been impossible to send him any
message beyond despairing looks.
Sometimes she kissed him. She knew he was separated from her as by a
heavy, grated prison door, and was unable to feel the electric thrill
of touch; yet she thought he must get some joy out of the sight of
the dumb show of caress. Again, she would give up trying to look
cheerful, and would weep--and let him see her weep, having an instinct
that he understood what a relief tears were to her, and that she let
him see them to make him feel her loving sympathy. Again, she would be
so wrought upon by the steady agony of those fixed eyes that she would
leave him abruptly to hide herself and shudder, tearless, at the utter
misery and hopelessness of it all. She wondered at her mother's calm
until she noticed, after a few weeks, how the face was withering with
that shriveling which comes from within when a living thing is dying
at the core.
She read the Bible to him, selecting consolatory passage with the aid of
a concordance, in the evenings after he had been lifted into bed for the
night. She was filled with protest as she read; for it seemed to her that
this good man, her best of fathers, thus savagely and causelessly
stricken, was proof before her eyes that the sentences executed against
men were not divine, but the devilish emanations of brute chance. "There
may be a devil," she said to herself, frightened at her own blasphemy,
"but there certainly is no God." Again, the Bible's promises, so
confident, so lofty, so marvelously responsive to the longings and
cravings of every kind of desolation and woe, had a soothing effect upon
her; and they helped to put her in the frame of mind to find for
conversation--or, rather, for her monologues to him--subjects which her
instinct told her would be welcome visitors in that prison.
She talked to him of how he was loved, of how noble his influence had
been in their lives. She analyzed him to himself, saying things she would
never have dared say had there been the slightest chance of so much
response as the flutter of an eyelid. And as, so it seemed to her, the
sympathetic relations and understanding between them grew, she became
franker, talked of her aspirations--new-born aspirations in harmony with
his life and belief. And, explaining herself for his benefit and bringing
to light her inmost being to show to him, she saw it herself. And when
she one day said to him, "Your illness has made a better woman of me,
father, dear father," she felt it with all her heart.
It was from this atmosphere, and enveloped in it, that she went out to
greet Ross; and, as she went, she was surprised at her own calmness
before the prospect of seeing him again, after six months'
separation--the longest in their lives.
His expression was scrupulously correct--joy at seeing her shadowed by
sympathy for her calamity. When they were safely alone, he took her hand
and was about to kiss her. Her beauty was of the kind that is different
from, and beyond, memory's best photograph. She never looked exactly the
same twice; that morning she seemed to him far more tempting than he had
been thinking, with his head for so many weeks full of worldly ideas. He
was thrilled anew, and his resolve hesitated before the fine pallor of
her face, the slim lines of her figure, and the glimpses of her smooth
white skin through the openwork in the yoke and sleeves of her blouse.
But, instead of responding she drew back, just a little. He instantly
suspected her of being in the state of mind into which he had been trying
to get himself. He dropped her hand. A trifling incident, but a trifle is
enough to cut the communications between two human beings; it often
accomplishes what the rudest shocks would not. They went to the far,
secluded end of the garden, he asking and she answering questions about
"What is it, Del?" he said abruptly, at length. "You act strained toward
me." He did not say this until she had been oppressed almost into silence
by the height and the thickness of the barrier between them.
"I guess it's because I've been shut in with father," she suggested.
"I've seen no one to talk to, except the family and the doctor, for
weeks." And she tried to fix her mind on how handsome and attractive he
was. As a rebuke to her heart's obstinate lukewarmness she forced herself
to lay her hand in his.
He held it loosely. Her making this slight overture was enough to
restore his sense of superiority; his resolve grew less unsteady. "It's
the first time," he went on, "that we've really had the chance to judge
how we actually feel toward each other--that's what's the matter." His
face--he was not looking at her--took on an expression of sad reproach.
"Del, I don't believe you--care. You've found it out, and don't want to
hurt my feelings by telling me." And he believed what he was saying. It
might have been--well, not quite right, for him to chill toward her and
contemplate breaking the engagement, but that she should have been doing
the same thing--his vanity was erect to the last feather. "It's most kind
of you to think so considerately of me," he said satirically.
She took her hand away. "And you?" she replied coldly. "Are your
"I--oh, you know I love you," was his answer in a deliberately
She laughed with an attempt at raillery. "You've been too long up at
Windrift--you've been seeing too much of Theresa Howland," said she,
merely for something to say; for Theresa was neither clever nor pretty,
and Del hadn't it in her to suspect him of being mercenary.
He looked coldly at her. "I have never interfered with your many
attentions from other men," said he stiffly. "On the contrary, I have
encouraged you to enjoy yourself, and I thought you left me free in the
The tears came to her eyes; and he saw, and proceeded to value still less
highly that which was obviously so securely his.
"Whatever is the matter with you, Ross, this morning?" she cried. "Or is
it I? Am I--"
"It certainly is not I," he interrupted icily. "I see you again after six
months, and I find you changed completely."
A glance from her stopped him. "Oh!" she exclaimed, with a dangerous
smile. "You are out of humor this morning and are seeking a quarrel."
"That would be impossible," he retorted. "_I_ never quarrel. Evidently
you have forgotten all about me."
Her pride would not let her refuse the challenge, convert in his words,
frank in his eyes.
"Possibly," mocked she, forcing herself to look amusedly at him. "I don't
bother much about people I don't see."
"You take a light view of our engagement," was his instant move.
"I should take a still lighter view," retorted she, "if I thought the way
you're acting was a fair specimen of your real self."
This from Adelaide, who had always theretofore shared in his almost
reverent respect for himself. Adelaide _judging_ him, criticising _him_!
All Ross's male instinct for unquestioning approval from the female was
astir. "You wish to break our engagement?" he inquired, with a glance of
cold anger that stiffened her pride and suppressed her impulse to try to
"You're free," said she, and her manner so piqued him, that to nerve
himself to persist he had to think hard on the magnificence of Windrift
and the many Howland millions and the rumored Ranger will. She, in a
series of jerks and pauses, took off the ring; with an expression and a
gesture that gave no further hint of how she had valued it, both for its
own beauty and for what it represented, she handed it to him. "If that's
all," she went on, "I'll go back to father." To perfect her pretense, she
should have risen, shaken hands cheerfully with him, and sent him
carelessly away. She knew it; but she could not.
He was not the man to fail to note that she made no move to rise, or to
fail to read the slightly strained expression in her eyes and about the
corners of her mouth. That betrayal lost Adelaide a triumph; for, seeing
her again, feeling her beauty and her charm in all his senses, reminded
of her superiority in brains and in taste to the women from whom he might
choose, he was making a losing fight for the worldly wise course.
"Anyhow, I must tame her a bit," he reflected, now that he was sure she
would be his, should he find on further consideration that he wanted her
rather than Theresa's fortune. He accordingly took his hat, drew himself
up, bowed coldly.
"Good morning," he said. And he was off, down the drive--to the lower end
where the stableboy was guarding his trap--he was seated--he was driving
away--he was gone--_gone_!
She did not move until he was no longer in sight. Then she rushed into
the house, darted up to her room, locked herself in and gave way. It was
the first serious quarrel she had ever had with him; it was so little
like a quarrel, so ominously like a--No; absurd! It could not be a
finality. She rejected that instantly, so confident had beauty and
position as a prospective heiress made her as to her powers over any man
she chose to try to fascinate, so secure was she in the belief that Ross
loved her and would not give her up in any circumstances. She went over
their interview, recalled his every sentence and look--this with
surprising coolness for a young woman as deeply in love as she fancied
herself. And her anger rose against him--a curious kind of anger, to
spring and flourish in a loving heart. "He has been flattered by Theresa
until he has entirely lost his point of view," she decided. "I'll give
him a lesson when he comes trying to make it up."
* * * * *
He drove the part of his homeward way that was through streets with his
wonted attention to "smartness." True "man of the world," he never for
many consecutive minutes had himself out of his mind--how he was
conducting himself, what people thought of him, what impression he had
made or was making or was about to make. He estimated everybody and
everything instinctively and solely from the standpoint of advantage to
himself. Such people, if they have the intelligence to hide themselves
under a pleasing surface, and the wisdom to plan, and the energy to
execute, always get just about what they want; for intelligence and
energy are invincible weapons, whether the end be worthy or not. As soon,
however, as he was in the road up to the Bluffs, deserted at that hour,
his body relaxed, his arms and hands dropped from the correct angle for
driving, the reins lay loose upon the horse's back, and he gave himself
to dejection. He had thought--at Windrift--that, once he was free from
the engagement which was no longer to his interest, he would feel
buoyant, elated. Instead, he was mentally even more downcast a figure
than his relaxed attitude and gloomy face made him physically. His
mother's and his "set's" training had trimmed generous instincts close to
the roots, and, also, such ideals as were not purely for material
matters, especially for ostentation. But, being still a young man, those
roots not only were alive, but also had an under-the-soil vigor; they
even occasionally sent to the surface sprouts--that withered in the
uncongenial air of his surroundings and came to nothing. Just now these
sprouts were springing in the form of self-reproaches. Remembering with
what thoughts he had gone to Adelaide, he felt wholly responsible for the
broken engagement, felt that he had done a contemptible thing, had done
it in a contemptible way; and he was almost despising himself, looking
about the while for self-excuses. The longer he looked the worse off he
was; for the more clearly he saw that he was what he called, and thought,
in love with this fresh young beauty, so swiftly and alluringly
developing. It exasperated him with the intensity of selfishness's
avarice that he could not have both Theresa Howland's fortune and
Adelaide. It seemed to him that he had a right to both. Not in the coldly
selfish only is the fact of desire in itself the basis of right. By the
time he reached home, he was angry through and through, and bent upon
finding some one to be angry with. He threw the reins to a groom and,
savagely sullen of face, went slowly up the terrace-like steps.
His mother, on the watch for his return, came to meet him. "How is Mr.
Ranger this morning?" she asked.
"Just the same," he answered curtly.
They went into the library; he lit a cigarette and seated himself at the
writing table. She watched him anxiously but had far too keen insight to
speak and give him the excuse to explode. Not until she turned to leave
the room did he break his surly silence to say: "I might as well tell
you. I'm engaged to Theresa Howland."
"O Ross, I'm _so_ glad!" she exclaimed, lighting up with pride and
pleasure. Then, warned by his expression, she restrained herself. "I have
felt certain for a long time that you would not throw yourself away on
Adelaide. She is a nice girl--pretty, sweet, and all that. But women
differ from each other only in unimportant details. A man ought to see to
it that by marrying he strengthens his influence and position in the
world and provides for the standing of his children. And I think Theresa
has far more steadiness; and, besides, she has been about the world--she
was presented at court last spring a year ago, wasn't she? She is _such_
a lady. It will be so satisfactory to have her as the head of your
establishment--probably Mr. Howland will give her Windrift. And her
cousin--that Mr. Fanning she married--is connected with all the best
families in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. They are at the top of
This recital was not to inform, but to inspire--to remind him what a wise
and brilliant move he had made in the game of life. And it had precisely
the effect she intended. Had she not herself created and fostered in him
the nature that would welcome such stuff as a bat welcomes night?
"I'm going back to Windrift to-morrow," he said, still sullen, but with
the note of the quarrel-seeker gone from his voice.
"When do you wish me to write to her?"
"Whenever you like," he said. The defiance in his tone was for Adelaide.
"The engagement is to be announced as soon as I get back."
Mrs. Whitney was called away, and Ross tried to write to Theresa. But the
words wouldn't come. He wandered restlessly about the room, ordered the
electric, went to the Country Club. After an hour of bitterness, he
called up his mother. "You needn't send that note we were talking about
just yet," he said.
"But I've already sent it," his mother answered. In fact, the note was
just then lying on the table at her elbow.
"What were you in such a devil of a hurry for?" he stormed--an
unnecessary question, for he knew his mother was the sort of person
that loses no time in settling an important matter beyond possibility
"I'm sorry, Ross," she replied soothingly. "I thought I might as well
send it, as you had told me everything was settled."
"Oh--all right--no matter." He could break with Theresa whenever he
wished. Perhaps he would not wish to break with her; perhaps, after a few
days he would find that his feeling for Adelaide was in reality no
stronger than he had thought it at Windrift, when Theresa was tempting
him with her huge fortune. There was plenty of time before it would be
necessary to make final choice.
Nevertheless, he did not leave Saint X, but hung round, sour and morose,
hoping for some sign from "tamed" Adelaide.
* * * * *
As soon as Theresa got Mrs. Whitney's note, she wrote to Adelaide. "I've
promised not to tell," her letter began, "but I never count any promise
of that kind as including _you_, dear, sweet Adelaide--"
Adelaide smiled as she read this; Theresa's passion for intimate
confession had been the joke of the school. "Besides," Adelaide read on,
"I think you'll be especially interested as Ross tells me there was some
sort of a boy-and-girl flirtation between you and him. I don't see how
you could get over it. Now--you've guessed. Yes--we're engaged, and will
probably be married up here in the fall--Windrift is simply divine then,
you know. And I want you to be my 'best man.' The others'll be Edna and
Clarice and Leila and Annette and perhaps Jessie and Anita. We're to live
in Chicago--father will give us a house, I'm sure. And you must come to
It is hardly fair to eavesdrop upon a young woman in such an hour as
this of Adelaide's. Only those might do so who are willing freely to
concede to others that same right to be human which they themselves
exercise, whether they will or no, when things happen that smash the
veneer of "gentleman" or "lady" like an eggshell under a plowboy's heel,
and penetrate to and roil that unlovely human nature which is in us all.
Criticism is supercilious, even when it is just; so, without criticism,
the fact is recorded that Adelaide paced the floor and literally raved in
her fury at this double-distilled, double treachery. The sense that she
had lost the man she believed she loved was drowned in the oceanic flood
of infuriated vanity. She raged now against Ross and now against Theresa
"She's marrying him just because she's full of envy, and can't bear to
see anybody else have anything," she fumed. "Theresa couldn't love
anybody but herself. And he--he's marrying her for her money. She isn't
good to look at; to be in the house with her is to find out how mean and
small and vain she is. It serves me right for being snob enough to have
such a friend. If she hadn't been immensely rich and surrounded by such
beautiful things I'd never have had anything to do with her. She's buying
him; he's selling himself. How vile!"
But the reasons why they were betraying her did not change or mitigate
the fact of betrayal; and that fact showed itself to proud, confident
Adelaide Ranger in the form of the proposition that she had been jilted,
and that all the world, all her world, would soon know it. Jilted!
She--Adelaide Ranger--the all-conqueror--flung aside, flouted, jilted.
She went back to that last word; it seemed to concentrate all the insult
and treason and shame that were heaped upon her. And she never once
thought of the wound to her heart; the fierce fire of vanity seemed to
have cauterized it--if there was a wound.
What could she do to hide her disgrace from her mocking, sneering
friends? For, hide it she must--must--_must_! And she had not a
moment to lose.
A little thought, and she went to the telephone and called up her brother
at the Country Club. When she heard his voice, in fear and fright,
demanding what she wanted, she said:
"Will you bring Dory Hargrave to dinner to-night? And, of course, don't
let him know I wanted you to."
"Is _that_ all!" exclaimed Arthur in a tone of enormous relief, which she
was too absorbed in her calamity to be conscious of.
"You will, won't you? Really, Arthur, it's _very_ important; and don't
say a _word_ of my having telephoned--not to _anybody_."
"All right! I'll bring him." A pause, then. "Father's just the same?"
"Yes," she answered, in sudden confusion and shame.
A FRIEND IN NEED
In the turmoil of his own affairs Arthur forgot his promise almost while
he was making it. Fortunately, as he was driving home, the sight of Dr.
Hargrave, marching absent-mindedly along near the post office, brought it
to his mind again. With an impatient exclamation--for he prided himself
upon fidelity to his given word, in small matters as well as in
larger--he turned the horse about. He liked Dory Hargrave, and in a way
admired him; Dory was easily expert at many of the sports at which Arthur
had had to toil before he was able to make even a passable showing. But
Dory, somehow, made him uncomfortable. They had no point of view in
common; Dory regarded as incidental and trivial the things which seemed
of the highest importance to Arthur. Dory had his way to make in the
world; Arthur had been spared that discomfort and disadvantage. Yet Dory
persisted in pretending to regard Arthur as in precisely the same
position as himself; once he had even carried the pretense to the
impertinence of affecting to sympathize with Arthur for being so sorely
handicapped. On that occasion Arthur had great difficulty in restraining
plain speech. He would not have been thus tactful and gentlemanly had he
not realized that Dory meant the best in the world, and was wholly
unconscious that envy was his real reason for taking on such a
preposterous pose. "Poor chap!" Arthur had reflected. "One shouldn't
blame him for snatching at any consolation, however flimsy." In those
days Arthur often, in generous mood, admitted--to himself--that fortune
had been shamefully partial in elevating him, without any effort on his
part, but merely by the accident of birth, far above the overwhelming
majority of young men. He felt doubly generous--in having such broad
views and in not aggravating the misfortunes of the less lucky by
Dr. Hargrave and his son--his only child--and his dead wife's sister,
Martha Skeffington, lived in a quaint old brick house in University
Avenue. A double row of ancient elms shaded the long walk straight up
from the gate. On the front door was a huge bronze knocker which Arthur
lifted and dropped several times without getting response. "Probably the
girl's in the kitchen; and old Miss Skeffington is so deaf she couldn't