Part 4 out of 7
"After all, I'm not really a common workman," reflected he. "It's like
mother helping Mary." And he felt still better when, passing the little
millinery shop of "Wilmot & Company" arm in arm with the great woolen
manufacturer, he saw Estelle Wilmot--sweeping out. Estelle would have
looked like a storybook princess about royal business, had she been down
on her knees scrubbing a sidewalk. He was glad she didn't happen to see
him, but he was gladder that he had seen her. Clearly, toil was beginning
to take on the appearance of "good form."
He thought pretty well of himself all that day. Howells treated him like
the proprietor's son; Pat Waugh, foreman of the cooperage, put "Mr.
Arthur" or "Mr. Ranger" into every sentence; the workingmen addressed him
as "sir," and seemed to appreciate his talking as affably with them as if
he were unaware of the precipice of caste which stretched from him down
to them. He was in a pleasant frame of mind as he went home and bathed
and dressed for dinner. And, while he knew he had really been in the way
at the cooperage and had earned nothing, yet--his ease about his social
status permitting--he felt a sense of self-respect which was of an
entirely new kind, and had the taste of the fresh air of a keen, clear
This, however, could not last. The estate was settled up; the fiction
that he was of the proprietorship slowly yielded to the reality; the
men, not only those over him but also those on whose level he was
supposed to be, began to judge him as a man. "The boys say," growled
Waugh to Howells, "that he acts like one of them damn spying dude sons
proprietors sometimes puts in among the men to learn how to work 'em
harder for less. He don't seem to catch on that he's got to get his
money out of his own hands."
"Touch him up a bit," said Howells, who had worshiped Hiram Ranger and in
a measure understood what had been in his mind when he dedicated his son
to a life of labor. "If it becomes absolutely necessary I'll talk to him.
But maybe you can do the trick."
Waugh, who had the useful man's disdain of deliberately useless men and
the rough man's way of feeling it and showing it, was not slow to act on
Howells's license. That very day he found Arthur unconsciously and even
patronizingly shirking the tending of a planer so that his teacher, Bud
Rollins, had to do double work. Waugh watched this until it had "riled"
him sufficiently to loosen his temper and his language. "Hi, there,
Ranger!" he shouted. "What the hell! You've been here goin' on six months
now, and you're more in the way than you was the first day."
Arthur flushed, flashed, clenched his fists; but the planer was between
him and Waugh, and that gave Waugh's tremendous shoulders and fists a
chance to produce a subduing visual impression. A man, even a young man,
who is nervous on the subject of his dignity, will, no matter how brave
and physically competent, shrink from avoidable encounter that means
doubtful battle. And dignity was a grave matter with young Ranger in
"Don't hoist your dander up at me," said Waugh. "Get it up agin'
yourself. Bud, next time he soldiers on you, send him to me."
"All right, sir," replied Bud, with a soothing grin. And when Waugh was
gone, he said to Arthur, "Don't mind him. Just keep pegging along, and
you'll learn all right."
Bud's was the tone a teacher uses to encourage a defective child. It
stung Arthur more fiercely than had Waugh's. It flashed on him that the
men--well, they certainly hadn't been looking up to him as he had been
fondly imagining. He went at his work resolutely, but blunderingly; he
spoiled a plank and all but clogged the machine. His temper got clean
away from him, and he shook with a rage hard to restrain from venting
itself against the inanimate objects whose possessing devils he could
hear jeering at him through the roar of the machinery.
"Steady! Steady!" warned good-natured Rollins. "You'll drop a hand under
The words had just reached Arthur when he gave a sharp cry. With a cut
as clean as the edge that made it, off came the little finger of his
left hand, and he was staring at it as it lay upon the bed of the
planer, twitching, seeming to breathe as its blood pulsed out, while the
blood spurted from his maimed hand. In an instant Lorry Tague had the
"A bucket of clean water," he yelled to the man at the next planer.
He grabbed dazed Arthur's hand, and pressed hard with his powerful thumb
and forefinger upon the edges of the wound.
"A doctor!" he shouted at the men crowding round.
Arthur did not realize what had happened until he found himself forced to
his knees, his hand submerged in the ice-cold water, Lorry still holding
shut the severed veins and arteries.
"Another bucket of water, you, Bill," cried Lorry.
When it came he had Bill Johnstone throw the severed finger into it. Bud
Rollins, who had jumped through the window into the street in a dash for
a physician, saw Doctor Schulze's buggy just turning out of High Street.
He gave chase, had Schulze beside Arthur within two minutes. More water,
both hot and cold, was brought, and a cleared work bench; with swift,
sure fingers the doctor cleaned the stump, cleaned the severed finger,
joined and sewed them, bandaged the hand.
"Now, I'll take you home," he said. "I guess you've distinguished
yourself enough for the day."
Arthur followed him, silent and meek as a humbled dog. As they were
driving along Schulze misread a mournful look which Arthur cast at his
bandaged hand. "It's nothing--nothing at all," he said gruffly. "In a
week or less you could be back at work." The accompanying sardonic grin
said plain as print, "But this dainty dandy is done with work."
Weak and done though Arthur was, some blood came into his pale face and
he bit his lip with anger.
Schulze saw these signs.
"Several men are _killed_ every year in those works--and not through
their carelessness, either," he went on in a milder, friendlier tone.
"And forty or fifty are maimed--not like that little pin scratch of
yours, my dear Mr. Ranger, but hands lost, legs lost--accidents that make
cripples for life. That means tragedy--not the wolf at the door, but with
his snout right in the platter."
"I've seen that," said Arthur. "But I never thought much about
"Naturally," commented Schulze, with sarcasm. Then he added
philosophically, "And it's just as well not to bother about it. Mankind
found this world a hell, and is trying to make it over into a heaven. And
a hell it still is, even more of a hell than at first, and it'll be still
more of a hell--for these machines and these slave-driving capitalists
with their luxury-crazy families are worse than wars and aristocrats.
They make the men work, and the women and the children--make 'em all work
as the Pharaohs never sweated the wretches they set at building the
pyramids. The nearer the structure gets toward completion, the worse the
driving and the madder the haste. Some day the world'll be worth living
in--probably just about the time it's going to drop into the sun.
Meanwhile, it's a hell of a place. We're a race of slaves, toiling for
the benefit of the race of gods that'll some day be born into a habitable
world and live happily ever afterwards. Science will give them
happiness--and immortality, if they lose the taste for the adventure into
Arthur's brain heard clearly enough to remember afterwards; but Schulze's
voice seemed to be coming through a thick wall. When they reached the
Ranger house, Schulze had to lift him from the buggy and support his
weight and guide his staggering steps. Out ran Mrs. Ranger, with _the_
terror in her eyes.
"Don't lose your head, ma'am," said Schulze. "It's only a cut finger. The
young fool forgot he was steering a machine, and had a sharp but slight
Schulze was heavily down on the "interesting-invalid" habit. He held that
the world's supply of sympathy was so small that there wasn't enough to
provide encouragement for those working hard and well; that those who
fell into the traps of illness set in folly by themselves should get, at
most, toleration in the misfortunes in which others were compelled to
share. "The world discourages strength and encourages weakness," he used
to declaim. "That injustice and cruelty must be reversed!"
"Doctor Schulze is right," Arthur was saying to his mother, with an
attempt at a smile. But he was glad of the softness and ease of the big
divan in the back parlor, of the sense of hovering and protecting love he
got from his mother's and Adelaide's anxious faces. Sorer than the really
trifling wound was the deep cut into his vanity. How his fellow-workmen
were pitying him!--a poor blockhead of a bungler who had thus brought to
a pitiful climax his failure to learn a simple trade. And how the whole
town would talk and laugh! "Hiram Ranger, he begat a fool!"
Schulze, with proper equipment, redressed and rebandaged the wound, and
left, after cautioning the young man not to move the sick arm. "You'll
be all right to strum the guitar and sport a diamond ring in a fortnight
at the outside," said he. At the door he lectured Adelaide: "For God's
sake, Miss Ranger, don't let his mother coddle him. He's got the makings
of a man like his father--not as big, perhaps, but still a lot of a man.
Give him a chance! Give him a chance! If this had happened in a football
game or a fox-hunt, nobody would have thought anything of it. But just
because it was done at useful work, you've got yourself all fixed to make
a fearful to-do."
How absurdly does practice limp along, far behind firm-striding theory!
Schulze came twice that day, looked in twice the next day, and fussed
like a disturbed setting-hen when his patient forestalled the next day's
visit by appearing at his office for treatment. "I want to see if I
can't heal that cut without a scar," was his explanation--but it was a
When Arthur called on the fifth day, Schulze's elder daughter, Madelene,
opened the door. "Will you please tell the doctor," said he, "that the
workman who cut his finger at the cooperage wishes to see him?"
Madelene's dark gray eyes twinkled. She was a tall and, so he thought,
rather severe-looking young woman; her jet black hair was simply, yet not
without a suspicion of coquetry, drawn back over her ears from a central
part--or what would have been a part had her hair been less thick. She
was studying medicine under her father. It was the first time he had seen
her, it so happened, since she was in knee dresses at public school. As
he looked he thought: "A splendid advertisement for the old man's
business." Just why she seemed so much healthier than even the
healthiest, he found it hard to understand. She was neither robust nor
radiant. Perhaps it was the singular clearness of her dead-white skin and
of the whites of her eyes; again it might have been the deep crimson of
her lips and of the inside of her mouth--a wide mouth with two perfect
rows of small, strong teeth of the kind that go with intense vitality.
"Just wait here," said she, in a businesslike tone, as she indicated the
"You don't remember me?" said Arthur, to detain her.
"No, I don't _remember_ you," replied Madelene. "But I know who you are."
"Who I _was_," thought Arthur, his fall never far from the foreground of
his mind. "You used to be very serious, and always perfect in your
lessons," he continued aloud, "and--most superior."
Madelene laughed. "I was a silly little prig," said she. Then, not
without a subtle hint of sarcasm, "But I suppose we all go through that
period--some of us in childhood, others further along."
Arthur smiled, with embarrassment. So he had the reputation of
being a prig.
Madelene was in the doorway. "Father will be free--presently," said she.
"He has another patient with him. If you don't care to wait, perhaps I
can look after the cut. Father said it was a trifle."
Arthur slipped his arm out of the sling.
"In here," said Madelene, opening the door of a small room to the left of
her father's consultation room.
Arthur entered. "This is your office?" he asked, looking round curiously,
admiringly. It certainly was an interesting room, as the habitat of an
interesting personality is bound to be.
"Yes," she replied. "Sit here, please."
Arthur seated himself in the chair by the window and rested his arm on
the table. He thought he had never seen fingers so long as hers, or so
graceful. Evidently she had inherited from her father that sure, firm
touch which is perhaps the highest talent of the surgeon. "It seems such
an--an--such a _hard_ profession for a woman," said he, to induce those
fascinating lips of hers to move.
"It isn't soft," she replied. "But then father hasn't brought us up
This was discouraging, but Arthur tried again. "You like it?"
"I love it," said she, and now her eyes were a delight. "It makes me
hate to go to bed at night, and eager to get up in the morning. And that
means really living, doesn't it?"
"A man like me must seem to you a petty sort of creature."
"Oh, I haven't any professional haughtiness," was her laughing reply.
"One kind of work seems to me just as good as another. It's the spirit of
the workman that makes the only differences."
"That's it," said Arthur, with a humility which he thought genuine and
which was perhaps not wholly false. "I don't seem to be able to give my
heart to my work."
"I fancy you'll give it _attention_ hereafter," suggested Madelene. She
had dressed the almost healed finger and was dexterously rebandaging it.
She was necessarily very near to him, and from her skin there seemed to
issue a perfumed energy that stimulated his nerves. Their eyes met. Both
smiled and flushed.
"That wasn't very kind--that remark," said he.
"What's all this?" broke in the sharp voice of the doctor.
Arthur started guiltily, but Madelene, without lifting her eyes from her
task, answered: "Mr. Ranger didn't want to be kept waiting."
"She's trying to steal my practice away from me!" cried Schulze. He
looked utterly unlike his daughter at first glance, but on closer
inspection there was an intimate resemblance, like that between the nut
and its rough, needle-armored shell. "Well, I guess she hasn't botched
it." This in a pleased voice, after an admiring inspection of the
workmanlike bandage. "Come again to-morrow, young man."
Arthur bowed to Madelene and somehow got out into the street. He was
astonished at himself and at the world. He had gone drearily into that
office out of a dreary world; he had issued forth light of heart and
delighted with the fresh, smiling, interesting look of the shaded streets
and the green hedges and lawns and flower beds. "A fine old town," he
said to himself. "Nice, friendly people--and the really right sort. As
soon as I'm done with the rough stretch I've got just ahead of me, I'm
going to like it. Let me see--one of those girls was named Walpurga and
one was named--Madelene--this one, I'm sure--Yes!" And he could hear the
teacher calling the roll, could hear the alto voice from the serious face
answer to "Madelene Schulze," could hear the light voice from the face
that was always ready to burst into smiles answer to "Walpurga Schulze."
But though it was quite unnecessary he, with a quite unnecessary show of
carelessness, asked Del which was which. "The black one is Madelene,"
replied she, and her ability to speak in such an indifferent tone of such
an important person surprised him. "The blonde is Walpurga. I used to
detest Madelene. She always treated me as if I hadn't any sense."
"Well, you can't blame her for that, Del," said Arthur. "You've been a
great deal of a fool in your day--before you blossomed out. Do you
remember the time Dory called you down for learning things to show off,
and how furious you got?"
Adelaide looked suddenly warm, though she laughed too. "Why did you ask
about Dr. Schulze's daughters?" she asked.
"I saw one of them this morning--a beauty, a tip-topper. And no nonsense
about her. As she's 'black,' I suppose her name is Madelene."
"Oh, I remember now!" exclaimed Adelaide. "Madelene is going to be a
doctor. They say she's got nerves of iron--can cut and slash like
Arthur was furious, just why he didn't know. No doubt what Del said was
true, but there were ways and ways of saying things. "I suppose there is
some sneering at her," said he, "among the girls who couldn't do
anything if they tried. It seems to me, if there is any profession a
woman could follow without losing her womanliness, it is that of doctor.
Every woman ought to be a doctor, whether she ever tries to make a
living out of it or not."
Adelaide was not a little astonished by this outburst.
"You'll be coming round to Dory's views of women, if you aren't
careful," said she.
"There's a lot of sense in what Dory says about a lot of things,"
Del sheered off. "How did the doctor say your hand is?"
"Oh--all right," said Arthur. "I'm going to work on Monday."
"Did he say you could?"
"No, but I'm tired of doing nothing. I've got to 'get busy' if I'm to
pull out of this mess."
His look, his tone made his words sound revolutionary. And, in fact, his
mood was revolutionary. He was puzzled at his own change of attitude. His
sky had cleared of black clouds; the air was no longer heavy and
oppressive. He wanted to work; he felt that by working he could
accomplish something, could deserve and win the approval of people who
were worthwhile--people like Madelene Schulze, for instance.
Next day he lurked round the corner below the doctor's house until he saw
him drive away; then he went up and rang the bell. This time it was the
"blonde" that answered--small and sweet, pink and white, with tawny hair.
This was disconcerting. "I couldn't get here earlier," he explained. "I
saw the doctor just driving away. But, as these bandages feel
uncomfortable, I thought perhaps his daughter--your sister, is she
not?--might--might fix them."
Walpurga looked doubtful. "I think she's busy," she said. "I don't like
to disturb her."
Just then Madelene crossed the hall. Her masses of black hair were rolled
into a huge knot on top of her head; she was wearing a white work slip
and her arms were bare to the elbows--the finest arms he had ever seen,
Arthur thought. She seemed in a hurry and her face was flushed--she would
have looked no differently if she had heard his voice and had come forth
to prevent his getting away without having seen him. "Meg!" called her
sister. "Can you--"
Madelene apparently saw her sister and Arthur for the first time. "Good
morning, Mr. Ranger. You've come too late. Father's out."
Arthur repeated his doleful tale, convincingly now, for his hand did feel
queer--as what hand would not, remembering such a touch as Madelene's,
and longing to experience it again?
"Certainly," said Madelene. "I'll do the best I can. Come in."
And once more he was in her office, with her bending over him. And
presently her hair came unrolled, came showering down on his arm, on his
face; and he shook like a leaf and felt as if he were going to faint,
into such an ecstasy did the soft rain of these tresses throw him. As
for Madelene, she was almost hysterical in her confusion. She darted
from the room.
When she returned she seemed calm, but that was because she did not lift
those tell-tale gray eyes. Neither spoke as she finished her work. If
Arthur had opened his lips it would have been to say words which he
thought she would resent, and he repent. Not until his last chance had
almost ebbed did he get himself sufficiently in hand to speak. "It wasn't
true--what I said," he began. "I waited until your father was gone. Then
I came--to see you. As you probably know, I'm only a workman, hardly even
that, at the cooperage, but--I want to come to see you. May I?"
"I know the people in this town have a very poor opinion of me," he went
on, "and I deserve it, no doubt. You see, the bottom dropped out of my
life not long ago, and I haven't found myself yet. But you did more for
me in ten minutes the other day than everything and everybody, including
myself, have been able to do since my father died."
"I don't remember that I said anything," she murmured.
"I didn't say that what you said helped me. I said what you _did_--and
looked. And--I'd like to come."
"We never have any callers," she explained. "You see,
father's--our--views--People don't understand us. And, too, we've found
ourselves very congenial and sufficient unto one another. So--I--I--don't
know what to say."
He looked so cast down that she hastened on: "Yes--come whenever you
like. We're always at home. But we work all day."
"So do I," said Arthur. "Thank you. I'll come--some evening next week."
Suddenly he felt peculiarly at ease with her, as if he had always known
her, as if she and he understood each other perfectly. "I'm afraid you'll
find me stupid," he went on. "I don't know much about any of the things
you're interested in."
"Perhaps I'm interested in more things than you imagine," said she. "My
sister says I'm a fraud--that I really have a frivolous mind and that my
serious look is a hollow pretense."
And so they talked on, not getting better acquainted but enjoying the
realization of how extremely well acquainted they were. When he was gone,
Madelene found that her father had been in for some time. "Didn't he ask
for me?" she said to Walpurga.
"Yes," answered Walpurga. "And I told him you were flirting with
Madelene colored violently. "I never heard that word in this house
before," she said stiffly.
"Nor I," replied Walpurga, the pink and white. "And I think it's high
time--with you nearly twenty-two and me nearly twenty."
At dinner her father said: "Well, Lena, so you've got a beau at last. I'd
given up hope."
"For Heaven's sake don't scare him away, father!" cried Walpurga.
"A pretty poor excuse," pursued the doctor. "I doubt if Arthur Ranger can
make enough to pay his own board in a River Street lodging house."
"It took courage--real courage--to go to work as he did," replied
Madelene, her color high.
"Yes," admitted her father, "_if_ he sticks to it."
"He will stick to it," affirmed Madelene.
"I think so," assented her father, dropping his teasing pretense and
coming out frankly for Arthur. "When a man shows that he has the courage
to cross the Rubicon, there's no need to worry about whether he'll go on
or turn back."
"You mustn't let him know he's the only beau you've ever had, Meg,"
cautioned her sister.
"And why not?" demanded Madelene. "If I ever did care especially for a
man, I'd not care for him because other women had. And I shouldn't want a
man to be so weak and vain as to feel that way about me."
It was a temptation to that aloof and isolated, yet anything but lonely
or lonesome, household to discuss this new and strange phenomenon--the
intrusion of an outsider, and he a young man. But the earnestness in
Madelene's voice made her father and her sister feel that to tease her
further would be impertinent.
Arthur had said he would not call until the next week because then he
would be at work again. He went once more to Dr. Schulze's, but was
careful to go in office hours. He did not see Madelene--though she,
behind the white sash curtains of her own office, saw him come, watched
him go until he was out of sight far down the street. On Monday he went
to work, really to work. No more shame; no more shirking or shrinking; no
more lingering on the irrevocable. He squarely faced the future, and,
with his will like his father's, set dogged and unconquerable energy to
battering at the obstacles before him. "All a man needs," said he to
himself, at the end of the first day of real work, "is a purpose. He
never knows where he's at until he gets one. And once he gets it, he
can't rest till he has accomplished it."
What was his purpose? He didn't know--beyond a feeling that he must
lift himself from his present position of being an object of pity to
all Saint X and the sort of man that hasn't the right to ask any woman
to be his wife.
A CAST-OFF SLIPPER
A large sum would soon be available; so the carrying out of the plans to
extend, or, rather, to construct Tecumseh, must be begun. The trustees
commissioned young Hargrave to go abroad at once in search of educational
and architectural ideas, and to get apparatus that would make the
laboratories the best in America. Chemistry and its most closely related
sciences were to be the foundation of the new university, as they are at
the foundation of life. "We'll model our school, not upon what the
ignorant wise of the Middle Ages thought ought to be life, but upon life
itself," said Dr. Hargrave. "We'll build not from the clouds down, but
from the ground up." He knew in the broad outline what was wanted for the
Tecumseh of his dream; but he felt that he was too old, perhaps too
rusted in old-fashioned ways and ideas, himself to realize the dream; so
he put the whole practical task upon Dory, whom he had trained from
infancy to just that end.
When it was settled that Dory was to go, would be away a year at the
least, perhaps two years, he explained to Adelaide. "They expect me to
leave within a fortnight," he ended. And she knew what was in his
mind--what he was hoping she would say.
It so happened that, in the months since their engagement, an immense
amount of work had been thrust upon Dory. Part of it was a study of the
great American universities, and that meant long absences from home. All
of it was of the kind that must be done at once or not at all--and Work
is the one mistress who, if she be enamored enough of a man to resolve
to have him and no other, can compel him, whether he be enamored of her
or not. However, for the beginning of the artificial relation between
this engaged couple, the chief cause was not his work but his attitude
toward her, his not unnatural but highly unwise regard for the peculiar
circumstances in which they had become engaged. Respect for the real
feelings of others is all very well, if not carried too far; but respect
for the purely imaginary feelings of others simply encourages them to
plunge deeper into the fogs and bogs of folly. There was excuse for
Dory's withholding from his love affair the strong and firm hand he laid
upon all his other affairs; but it cannot be denied that he deserved what
he got, or, rather, that he failed to deserve what he did not get. And
the irony of it was that his unselfishness was chiefly to blame; for a
selfish man would have gone straight at Del and, with Dory's advantages,
would have captured her forthwith.
As it was, she drifted aimlessly through day after day, keeping close at
home, interested in nothing. She answered briefly or not at all the
letters from her old friends, and she noted with a certain blunted
bitterness how their importunities fainted and died away, as the news of
the change in her fortunes got round. If she had been seeing them face to
face every day, or if she had been persistent and tenacious, they would
have extricated themselves less abruptly; for not the least important
among the sacred "appearances" of conventionality is the "appearance" of
good-heartedness; it is the graceful cloak for that icy selfishness which
is as inevitable among the sheltered and pampered as sympathy and
helpfulness are among those naked to the joys and sorrows of real life.
Adelaide was far from her friends, and she deliberately gave them every
opportunity to abandon and to forget her without qualms or fears of
"appearing" mean and snobbish. There were two girls from whom she rather
hoped for signs of real friendship. She had sought them in the first
place because they were "of the right sort," but she had come to like
them for themselves and she believed they liked her for herself. And so
they did; but their time was filled with the relentless routine of the
fashionable life, and they had not a moment to spare for their own
personal lives; besides, Adelaide wouldn't have "fitted in" comfortably.
The men of their set would be shy of her now; the women would regard her
as a waste of time.
Her beauty and her cleverness might have saved her, had she been of one
of those "good families" whom fashionables the world over recognize,
regardless of their wealth or poverty, because recognition of them gives
an elegant plausibility to the pretense that Mammon is not the supreme
god in the Olympus of aristocracy. But--who were the Rangers? They might
be "all right" in Saint X, but where was Saint X? Certainly, not on any
map in the geography of fashion.
So Adelaide, sore but too lethargic to suffer, drifted drearily along,
feeling that if Dory Hargrave were not under the influence of that
brilliant, vanished past of hers, even he would abandon her as had the
rest, or, at least, wouldn't care for her. Not that she doubted his
sincerity in the ideals he professed; but people deceived themselves so
completely. There was her own case; had she for an instant suspected how
flimsily based was her own idea of herself and of her place in the
world?--the "world" meaning, of course, "the set." As is the rule in
"sets," her self-esteem's sole foundation had been what she had, or,
rather, what the family had, and now that that was gone, she held what
was left cheap indeed--and held herself the cheaper that she could feel
thus. At the outset, Arthur, after the familiar male fashion, was
apparently the weaker of the two. But when the test came, when the time
for courageous words was succeeded by the time for deeds, the shrinking
from action that, since the nation grew rich, has become part of the
education of the women of the classes which shelter and coddle their
women, caused Adelaide to seem feeble indeed beside her brother.
Also--and this should never be forgotten in judging such a woman--Arthur
had the advantage of the man's compulsion to act, while Adelaide had the
disadvantage of being under no material necessity to act--and what
necessity but the material is there?
Dory--his love misleading his passion, as it usually does when it has
much influence before marriage--reasoned that, in the interest of the
Adelaide that was to be, after they were married, and in his own interest
with her as well, the wise course for him to pursue was to wait until
time and the compulsion of new circumstances should drive away her mood,
should give her mind and her real character a chance to assert
themselves. In the commission to go abroad, he saw the external force for
which he had been waiting and hoping. And it seemed to him most
timely--for Ross's wedding invitations were out.
"Two weeks," said Adelaide absently. "You will sail in two weeks." Then
in two weeks she could be out of it all, could be far away in new
surroundings, among new ideas, among strangers. She could make the new
start; she could submerge, drown her old self in the new interests.
"Will you come?" he said, when he could endure the suspense no longer.
"Won't you come?"
She temporized. "I'm afraid I couldn't--oughtn't to leave--mother and
Arthur just now."
He smiled sadly. She might need her mother and her brother; but in the
mood in which she had been for the last few months, they certainly did
not need her. "Adelaide," said he, with that firmness which he knew so
well how to combine with gentleness, without weakening it, "our whole
future depends on this. If our lives are to grow together, we must begin.
This is _our_ opportunity."
She knew that Dory was not a man she could play fast and loose with, even
had she been so disposed. Clearly, she must decide whether she intended
to marry him, to make his life hers and her life his. She looked
helplessly round. What but him was there to build on? Without him--She
broke the long silence with, "That is true. We must begin." Then, after a
pause during which she tried to think and found she couldn't, "Make up my
mind for me."
"Let us be married day after to-morrow," said he. "We can leave for New
York on the one o'clock train and sail on Thursday."
"You had it planned!"
"I had several plans," he answered. "That's the best one."
What should she do? Impulsively--why, she did not know--she gave Dory her
answer: "Yes, that _is_ the best plan. I must begin--at once." And she
started up, in a fever to be doing.
Dory, dazed by his unexpected, complete victory, went immediately, lest
he should say or do something that would break or weaken the current of
her aroused energy. He went without as much as touching her hand.
Certainly, if ever man tempted fate to snatch from him the woman he
loved, Dory did then; and at that time Del must, indeed, have been
strongly drawn to him, or she would have been unable to persist.
The problem of the trousseau was almost as simple for her as for him. She
had been extravagant and luxurious, had accumulated really unmanageable
quantities of clothing of all kinds, far, far more than any woman without
a maid could take care of. The fact that she had not had a maid was in
part responsible for this superfluity. She had neither the time nor the
patience for making or for directing the thousand exasperating little
repairs that are necessary if a woman with a small wardrobe is always to
look well. So, whenever repairs were necessary, she bought instead; and
as she always kept herself fresh and perfect to the smallest detail she
had to buy profusely. As soon as a dress or a hat or a blouse or a
parasol, a pair of boots, slippers, stockings, or any of the costly,
flimsy, all but unlaunderable underwear she affected, became not quite
perfect, she put it aside against that vague day when she should have
leisure or inclination for superintending a seamstress. Within two hours
of her decision she had a seamstress in the house, and they and her
mother were at work. There was no necessity to bother about new dresses.
She would soon be putting off black, and she could get in Paris what she
would then need.
In the whirlwind of those thirty-six hours, she had not a moment to think
of anything but the material side of the wedding--the preparations for
the journey and for the long absence. She was half an hour late in
getting down to the front parlor for the ceremony, and she looked so
tired from toil and lack of sleep that Dory in his anxiety about her was
all but unconscious that they were going through the supposedly solemn
marriage rite. Looking back on it afterwards, they could remember little
about it--perhaps even less than can the average couple, under our social
system which makes a wedding a social function, not a personal rite. They
had once in jesting earnest agreed that they would have the word "obey"
left out of the vows; but they forgot this, and neither was conscious of
repeating "obey" after the preacher. Adelaide was thinking of her trunks,
was trying to recall the things she felt she must have neglected in the
rush; Dory was worrying over her paleness and the heavy circles under her
eyes, was fretting about the train--Del's tardiness had not been in the
calculations. Even the preacher, infected by the atmosphere of haste, ran
over the sentences, hardly waiting for the responses. Adelaide's mother
was hearing the trunks going down to the van, and was impatient to be
where she could superintend--there was a very important small trunk, full
of underclothes, which she was sure they were overlooking. Arthur was
gloomily abstracted, was in fierce combat with the bitter and melancholy
thoughts which arose from the contrast he could not but make--this simple
wedding, with Dory Hargrave as her groom, when in other circumstances
there would have been such pomp and grandeur. He and Mary the cook and
Ellen the upstairs girl and old Miss Skeffington, generalissimo of the
Hargrave household, were the only persons present keenly conscious that
there was in progress a wedding, a supposedly irrevocable union of a man
and woman for life and for death and for posterity. Even old Dr. Hargrave
was thinking of what Dory was to do on the other side, was mentally
going over the elaborate scheme for his son's guidance which he had drawn
up and committed to paper. Judge Torrey, the only outsider, was putting
into form the speech he intended to make at the wedding breakfast.
But there was no wedding breakfast--at least, none for bride and groom.
The instant the ceremony was over, Mary the cook whispered to Mrs.
Ranger: "Mike says they've just got time to miss the train."
"Good gracious!" cried Mrs. Ranger. And she darted out to halt the van
and count the trunks. Then she rushed in and was at Adelaide's arm.
"Hurry, child!" she exclaimed. "Here is my present for you."
And she thrust into her hand a small black leather case, the cover of a
letter of credit. Seeing that Del was too dazed to realize what was going
on, she snatched it away and put it into the traveling case which Mary
was carrying. Amid much shaking hands and kissing and nervous crying,
amid flooding commonplaces and hysterical repetitions of "Good-by! Good
luck!" the young people were got off. There was no time for Mary to bring
the rice from the kitchen table, but Ellen had sequestered one of
Adelaide's old dancing slippers under the front stair. She contrived to
get it out and into action, and to land it full in Adelaide's lap by a
lucky carom against the upright of the coach window.
Adelaide looked down at it vaguely. It was one of a pair of slippers she
had got for the biggest and most fashionable ball she had ever attended.
She remembered it all--the gorgeousness of the rooms, the flowers, the
dresses, the favors, her own ecstasy in being where it was supposed to be
so difficult to get; how her happiness had been marred in the early part
of the evening by Ross's attendance on Helen Galloway in whose honor the
ball was given; how he made her happy again by staying beside her the
whole latter part of the evening, he and more young men than any other
girl had. And here was the slipper, with its handsome buckle torn off,
stained, out of shape from having been so long cast aside. Where did it
come from? How did it get here? Why had this ghost suddenly appeared to
her? On the opposite seat, beside her traveling case, fashionable,
obviously expensive, with her initials in gold, was a bag marked
"T.H."--of an unfashionable appearance, obviously inexpensive, painfully
new. She could not take her fascinated eyes from it; and the hammering of
her blood upon her brain, as the carriage flew toward the station, seemed
to be a voice monotonously repeating, "Married--married--" She shuddered.
"My fate is settled for life," she said to herself. "I am _married_!"
She dared not look at her husband--Husband! In that moment of cruel
memory, of ghastly chopfallen vanity, it was all she could do not visibly
to shrink from him. She forgot that he was her best friend, her friend
from babyhood almost, Theodore Hargrave. She felt only that he was her
husband, her jailer, the representative of all that divided her forever
from the life of luxury and show which had so permeated her young blood
with its sweet, lingering poison. She descended from the carriage, passed
the crowd of gaping, grinning loungers, and entered the train, with
cheeks burning and eyes downcast, an ideal bride in appearance of shy and
refined modesty. And none who saw her delicate, aristocratic beauty of
face and figure and dress could have attributed to her the angry, ugly,
snobbish thoughts, like a black core hidden deep in the heart of a
As he sat opposite her in the compartment, she was exaggerating into
glaring faults the many little signs of indifference to fashion in his
dress. She had never especially noted before, but now she was noting as
a shuddering exhibition of "commonness," that he wore detachable
cuffs--and upon this detail her distraught mind fixed as typical. She
could not take her eyes off his wrists; every time he moved his arms so
that she could see the wristband within his cuff, she felt as if a piece
of sandpaper were scraping her skin. He laid his hand on her two gloved
hands, folded loosely in her lap. Every muscle, every nerve of her body
grew tense; she only just fought down the impulse to snatch her hands
away and shriek at him.
She sat rigid, her teeth set, her eyes closed, until her real self got
some control over the monstrous, crazy creature raving within her. Then
she said: "Please don't--touch me--just now. I've been on such a
strain--and I'm almost breaking down."
He drew his hand away. "I ought to have understood," he said. "Would you
like to be left alone for a while?"
Without waiting for her answer, he left the compartment to her. She
locked the door and let herself loose. When she had had her cry "out,"
she felt calm; but oh, so utterly depressed. "This is only a mood," she
said to herself. "I don't really feel that way toward him. Still--I've
made a miserable mistake. I ought not to have married him. I must hide
it. I mustn't make him suffer for what's altogether my own fault. I must
make the best of it."
When he came back, she proceeded to put her programme into action. All
the afternoon he strove with her sweet gentleness and exaggerated
consideration for him; he tried to make her see that there was no
necessity for this elaborate pose and pretense. But she was too absorbed
in her part to heed him. In the evening, soon after they returned to the
compartment from the dining car, he rose. "I am going out to smoke," he
said. "I'll tell the porter to make up your berth. You must be very
tired. I have taken another--out in the car--so that you will not be
She grew white, and a timid, terrified look came into her eyes.
He touched her shoulder--gently. "Don't--please!" he said quietly. "In
all the years we've known each other, have you ever seen anything in me
to make you feel--like--that?"
Her head drooped still lower, and her face became crimson.
"Adelaide, look at me!"
She lifted her eyes until they met his uncertainly.
He put out his hand. "We are friends, aren't we?"
She instantly laid her hand in his.
"Friends," he repeated. "Let us hold fast to that--and let the rest take
care of itself."
"I'm ashamed of myself," said she. And in her swift revulsion of
feeling there was again opportunity for him. But he was not in the mood
to see it.
"You certainly ought to be," replied he, with his frank smile that was so
full of the suggestions of health and sanity and good humor. "You'll
never get a martyr's crown at _my_ expense."
At New York he rearranged their steamer accommodations. It was no longer
diffidence and misplaced consideration that moved him permanently to
establish the most difficult of barriers between them; it was pride now,
for in her first stormy, moments in the train he had seen farther into
her thoughts than he dared let himself realize.
POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE
The day after the wedding, as Arthur was going home from work, he saw
Ross on the lofty seat of a dogcart, driving toward him along lower
Monroe Street. His anger instantly flamed and flared; he crushed an oath
between his teeth and glanced about for some way to avoid the humiliating
meeting. But there was no cross street between him and the on-coming
cart. Pride, or vanity, came to his support, as soon as he was convinced
that escape was impossible. With an air that was too near to defiance to
create the intended impression of indifference, he swung along and, just
as the cart was passing, glanced at his high-enthroned former friend.
Ross had not seen him until their eyes met. He drew his horse in so
sharply that it reared and pawed in amazement and indignation at the
bit's coarse insult to thoroughbred instincts for courteous treatment. He
knew Arthur was at work in the factory; but he did not expect to see him
in workman's dress, with a dinner pail in his hand. And from his height,
he, clad in the carefully careless, ostentatiously unostentatious
garments of the "perfect gentleman," gazed speechless at the spectacle.
Arthur reddened violently. Not all the daily contrasts thrust upon him in
those months at the cooperage had so brought home to his soul the
differences of caste. And there came to him for the first time that
hatred of inequalities which, repulsive though it is in theory, is yet
the true nerver of the strong right arm of progress. It is as
characteristic of the homely, human countenance of Democracy as the
supercilious smirk is of the homely, inhuman countenance of caste.
Arthur did not want to get up where Ross was seated in such elegant
state; he wanted to tear Ross, all the Rosses down. "The damn fool!" he
fumed. "He goes lounging about, wasting the money _we_ make. It's all
wrong. And if we weren't a herd of tame asses, we wouldn't permit it."
And now he began to feel that he was the superior of this showy idler,
that his own garments and dinner pail and used hands were the titles to a
nobility which could justly look down upon those who filched from the
treasury of the toiler the means to buzz and flit and glitter in
dronelike ease. "As for these Whitneys," he thought, "mother's right
about them." Then he called out in a tone of good-natured contempt, which
his stature and his powerful frame and strong, handsome face made
effective: "Hello, Ross! When did _you_ come to town?"
"This morning," replied Ross. "I heard you were working, but I had no
idea it was--I've just been to your house, looking for you, and was on
the way to the factory. Father told me to see that you get a suitable
position. I'm going to Howells and arrange it. You know, father's been in
the East and very busy."
"Don't bother," said Arthur, and there was no pretense in his air of
ease. "I've got just what I want. I am carrying out father's plan, and
I'm far enough into it to see that he was right."
In unbelieving silence Ross looked down at his former equal with
condescending sympathy; how well Arthur knew that look! And he remembered
that he had once, so short a time before, regarded it as kindly, and the
thoughts behind it as generous!
"I like my job," he continued. "It gives me a sense of doing something
useful--of getting valuable education. Already I've had a thousand
damn-fool ideas knocked out of my head."
"I suppose it _is_ interesting," said Ross, with gracious encouragement.
"The associations must be rather trying."
"They _were_ rather trying," replied Arthur with a smile. "Trying to the
other men, until I got my bearings and lost the silliest of the silly
ideas put in my head by college and that sort of thing. But, now that I
realize I'm an apprentice and not a gentleman deigning to associate with
the common herd, I think I'm less despicable--and less ridiculous. Still,
I'm finding it hard to get it through my head that practically everything
I learned is false and must be unlearned."
"Don't let your bitterness over the injustice to you swing you too far
the other way, Artie," said Ross with a faint smile in his eyes and a
suspicious, irritating friendliness in his voice. "You'll soon work out
of that class and back where you belong."
Arthur was both angry and amused. No doubt Ross was right as to the
origin of this new breadth of his; but a wrong motive may start a man
right just as readily as a right motive may start him wrong. Arthur would
have admitted frankly his first feelings about his changed position,
would have admitted that those feelings still lingered, still seemed to
influence him, as grown people often catch themselves thinking in terms
of beliefs impressed on them in childhood, but exploded and abandoned at
the very threshold of youth. But he knew, also, that his present beliefs
and resolves and aspirations were sincere, were sane, were final--the
expression of the mind and heart that were really himself. Of what use,
however, to argue with Ross? "I could no more convince him," thought
Arthur, "than I could myself have been convinced less than a year ago."
Besides, of what importance were Ross's beliefs about him or about his
views? So he said to him, and his tone and manner were now convincing:
"Well, we'll see. However, as long as I'm a workman, I'll stand with my
class--just as you stand with your class. And while you are pretending to
be generous to us, we'll pretend to be contemptuous of you. You'll think
we are living off of your money; we'll think you are living off of our
work. You'll say we're earning less than half what we get; we'll say
you're stealing more than half what you get. It may amuse you to hear
that I am one of the organizers of the trades union that's starting. I'm
on the committee on wages. So some day you and I are likely to meet."
"I don't know much about those things," said Ross politely. "I can
see that you're right to ingratiate yourself with those working
chaps. It will stand you in good stead when you get on top and have
to manage them."
Arthur laughed, and so did Ross. They eyed each the other with covert
hostility. "Poor creature!" thought Ross. And "Pup!" thought Arthur. "How
could I have wanted Del to marry _him_?" He wished to pass on, but was
detained by some suggestion in Ross's manner that he had not yet
discharged his mind of its real burden.
"I was glad to see your mother so well," said Ross.
"I wish she were," replied Arthur. "She seemed to be better while the
excitement about Del's wedding was on; but as soon as Del and Dory went,
she dropped back again. I think the only thing that keeps her from--from
joining father is the feeling that, if she were to go, the family income
would stop. I feel sure we'd not have her, if father had left us well
provided for, as they call it."
"That is true," said Ross, the decent side of his nature now full to the
fore. "I can't tell you what a sense of loss I had when your father died.
Artie, he was a splendid gentleman. And there is a quality in your mother
that makes me feel very humble indeed before her."
Arthur passed, though he noted, the unconscious superciliousness in this
tribute; he felt that it was a genuine tribute, that, for all its
discoloration in its passage through the tainted outer part of Ross's
nature, it had come from the unspoiled, untainted, deepest part.
Fortunately for us all, the gold in human nature remains gold, whatever
its alloys from base contacts; and it is worth the mining, though there
be but a grain of it to the ton of dross. As Ross spoke Arthur warmed to
him. "You must come to see us," he said cordially.
Ross became embarrassed, so embarrassed that all his ability to command
his feelings went for nothing. "Thank you," said he hurriedly, "but I'm
here only for a few hours. I go away to-night. I came about a matter
that--that--I want to get back as soon as possible."
Arthur was mystified by the complete transformation of the
self-complacent, superior Ross of a few minutes before. He now noted that
Ross was looking almost ill, his eyes sunken, the lids red at the edges,
as if from loss of sleep. Under Arthur's scrutiny his embarrassment
increased to panic. He nervously shifted the reins, made the horse
restless, shook hands with Arthur, reined in, tried to speak, said only,
"I must be off--my horse is getting nervous," and was gone.
Arthur looked after him. "That's the sort of chap I was on the way to
being when father pulled me up," he reflected. "I wonder if I'll ever get
sense enough not to have a sneaking envy of him--and regret?"
If he could have looked in upon Ross's mind, he might have been abruptly
thrust far along the toilsome road toward his goal. In this world, roses
and thorns have a startling, preposterous way of suddenly exchanging
natures so that what was thorn becomes fairest rose, and what was rose
becomes most poisonous of thorns. Ross had just fallen an amazed and
incredulous victim to this alchemy. Though somewhat uncomfortable and
downright unhappy at times, he had been, on the whole, well pleased with
himself and his prospects until he heard that Adelaide was actually about
to marry Dory. His content collapsed with the foundation on which it was
built--the feeling that Adelaide was for no other man, that if at any
time he should change his mind he would find her waiting to welcome him
gratefully. He took train for Saint X, telling himself that after he got
there he could decide what to do. In fact, when he had heard that the
wedding was about to be, it was over and Adelaide and Dory were off for
New York and Europe; but he did not find this out until he reached Saint
X. The man who gave him that final and overwhelming news noticed no
change in his face, though looking for signs of emotion; nor did Ross
leave him until he had confirmed the impression of a heart at ease. Far
along the path between the Country Club and Point Helen he struck into
the woods and, with only the birds and the squirrels as witnesses, gave
way to his feelings.
Now, now that she was irrevocably gone, he knew. He had made a hideous
mistake; he had been led on by his vanity, led on and on until the trap
was closed and sprung; and it was too late. He sat there on a fallen tree
with his head aching as if about to explode, with eyes, dry and burning
and a great horror of heart-hunger sitting before him and staring at him.
In their sufferings from defeated desire the selfish expiate their sins.
He had forgotten his engagement to Theresa Howland, the wedding only
two weeks away. It suddenly burst in upon his despair like a shout
of derisive laughter. "I'll _not_ marry her!" he cried aloud. "I
_can't_ do it!"
But even as he spoke he knew that he could, and would, and must. He had
been a miserable excuse for a lover to Theresa; but Theresa had never had
love. All the men who had approached her with "intentions" had been
fighting hard against their own contempt of themselves for seeking a wife
for the sake of her money, and their efforts at love-making had been tame
and lame; but Theresa, knowing no better, simply thought men not up to
the expectations falsely raised by the romances and the songs. She
believed _she_ could not but get as good a quality of love as there was
going; and Ross, with his delightful, aristocratic indifference, was
perfectly satisfactory. Theresa had that thrice-armored self-complacence
which nature so often relentingly gives, to more than supply the lack of
the charms withheld. She thought she was fascinating beyond any woman of
her acquaintance, indeed, of her time. She spent hours in admiring
herself, in studying out poses for her head and body and arms, especially
her arms, which she regarded as nature's last word on that kind of
beauty--a not wholly fanciful notion, as they were not bad, if a bit too
short between elbow and wrist, and rather fat at the shoulders. She
always thought and, on several occasions in bursts of confidence, had
imparted to girl friends that "no man who has once cared for me can ever
care for another woman." Several of her confidantes had precisely the
same modest opinion of their own powers; but they laughed at
Theresa--behind her back.
Ross knew how vain she was. To break with her, he would have to tell her
flatly that he would not marry her. "I'd be doing her no injury," thought
he. "Her vanity would root out some explanation which would satisfy her
that, whatever might be the cause, it wasn't lack of love for her on my
part." But--To break off was unthinkable. The invitations out; the
arrangements for the wedding all made; quantities of presents
arrived--"I've got to go through with it. I've got to marry her," said
Ross. "But God help me, how I shall hate her!"
And, stripped clean of the glamour of her wealth, she rose before
him--her nose that was red and queer in the mornings; her little personal
habits that got on the nerves, especially a covert self-infatuated smile
that flitted over her face at any compliment, however obviously
perfunctory; her way of talking about every trivial thing she did--and
what did she do that was not trivial?--as if some diarist ought to take
it down for the delight of ages to come. As Ross looked at the
new-created realistic image of her, he was amazed. "Why, I've always
disliked her!" he cried. "I've been lying to myself. I am too low for
words," he groaned. "Was there ever such a sneaking cur?" Yes, many a
one, full as unconscious of his own qualities as he himself had been
until that moment; nor could he find consolation in the fact that he had
company, plenty of company, and it of the world's most "gentlemanly" and
The young man who left that wood, the young man whom Arthur saw that day,
had in his heart a consciousness, an ache, of lonely poverty that dress
and dogcarts and social position could do little--something, but
* * * * *
He stopped at Chicago and sent word to Windrift that he was ill--not
seriously ill, but in such a state that he thought it best to take care
of himself, with the wedding so near. Theresa was just as well pleased
to have him away, as it gave her absolute freedom to plan and to
superintend her triumph. For the wedding was to be her individual and
exclusive triumph, with even Ross as part of the background--the most
conspicuous part, but still simply background for her personal splendor.
Old Howland--called Bill until his early career as a pedlar and keeper of
a Cheap Jack bazaar was forgotten and who, after the great fire, which
wiped out so many pasts and purified and pedigreed Chicago's present
aristocracy, called himself William G. Howland, merchant prince, had, in
his ideal character for a wealth-chaser, one weakness--a doting fondness
for his daughter. When she came into the world, the doctors told him his
wife would have no more children; thereafter his manner was always
insulting, and usually his tone and words, whenever and of whatever he
spoke to her. Women were made by the Almighty solely to bear children to
men; his woman had been made to bear him a son. Now that she would never
have a son, she was of no use, and it galled him that he could find no
plausibly respectable excuse for casting her off, as he cast off worn-out
servants in his business. But as the years passed and he saw the various
varieties of thorns into which the sons of so many of his fellow-princes
developed, he became reconciled to Theresa--_not_ to his wife. That
unfortunate woman, the daughter of a drunkard and partially deranged by
illness and by grief over her husband's brutality toward her, became--or
rather, was made by her insistent doctor--what would have been called a
drunkard, had she not been the wife of a prince. Her "dipsomania" took an
unaggressive form, as she was by nature gentle and sweet; she simply used
to shut herself in and drink until she would cry herself into a timid,
suppressed hysteria. So secret was she that Theresa never knew the truth
about these "spells."
Howland did not like Ross; but when Theresa told him she was going to
marry him she had only to cry a little and sit in the old man's lap and
tease. "Very well, then," said her father, "you can have him. But he's a
gambler, like his father. They call it finance, but changing the name of
a thing only changes the smell of it, not the thing itself. I'm going to
tie my money up so that he can't get at it."
"I want you to, papa," replied Theresa, giving him a kiss and a great hug
for emphasis. "I don't want anybody to be able to touch _my_ property."
For the wedding, Howland gave Theresa a free hand. "I'll pay the bills,
no matter what they are," said he. "Give yourself a good time." And
Theresa, who had been brought up to be selfish, and was prudent about her
impulses only where she suspected them of being generous, proceeded to
arrange for herself the wedding that is still talked about in Chicago
"society" and throughout the Middle West. A dressmaker from the Rue de la
Paix came over with models and samples, and carried back a huge order and
a plaster reproduction of Theresa's figure, and elaborate notes on the
color of her skin, hair, eyes, and her preferences in shapes of hats. A
jeweler, also of the Rue de la Paix, came with jewels--nearly a million
dollars' worth--for her to make selections. Her boots and shoes and
slippers she got from Rowney, in Fifth Avenue, who, as everybody knows,
makes nothing for less than thirty-five dollars, and can put a hundred
dollars worth of price, if not of value, into a pair of evening slippers.
Theresa was proud of her feet; they were short and plump, and had those
abrupt, towering insteps that are regarded by the people who have them as
unfailing indications of haughty lineage, just as the people who have
flat feet dwell fondly upon the flat feet of the Wittlesbachs, kings in
Bavaria. She was not easy to please in the matter of casements for those
feet; also, as she was very short in stature, she had to get three and a
half extra inches of height out of her heels; and to make that sort of
heel so that it can even be hobbled upon is not easy or cheap. Once
Theresa, fretting about her red-ended nose and muddy skin, had gone to a
specialist. "Let me see your foot," said he; and when he saw the heel, he
exclaimed: "Cut that tight, high-heeled thing out or you'll never get a
decent skin, and your eyes will trouble you by the time you are thirty."
But Theresa, before adopting such drastic measures, went to a beauty
doctor. He assured her that she could be cured without the sacrifice of
the heel, and that the weakness of her eyes would disappear a year or so
after marriage. And he was soon going into ecstasies over her
improvement, over the radiance of her beauty. She saw with his eyes and
ceased to bother about nose or skin--they were the least beautiful of her
beauties, but--"One can't expect to be absolutely perfect. Besides, the
absolutely perfect kind of beauty might be monotonous."
The two weeks before the wedding were the happiest of her life. All day
long, each day, vans were thundering up to the rear doors of Windrift,
each van loaded to bursting with new and magnificent, if not beautiful
costliness. The house was full of the employees of florists, dressmakers,
decorators, each one striving to outdo the other in servility. Theresa
was like an autocratic sovereign, queening it over these menials and
fancying herself adored. They showed _so_ plainly that they were awed by
her and were in ecstasies of admiration over her taste. And, as the
grounds and the house were transformed, Theresa's exaltation grew until
she went about fairly dizzy with delight in herself.
The bridesmaids and ushers came. They were wealth-worshipers all, and
their homage lifted Theresa still higher. They marched and swept about in
her train, lording it over the menials and feeling that they were not a
whit behind the grand ladies and gentlemen of the French courts of the
eighteenth century. They had read the memoirs of that idyllic period
diligently, had read with minds only for the flimsy glitter which hid the
vulgarity and silliness and shame as a gorgeous robe hastily donned by a
dirty chambermaid might conceal from a casual glance the sardonic and
repulsive contrast. The wedding day approached all too swiftly for
Theresa and her court. True, that would be the magnificent climax; but
they knew it would also dissipate the spell--after the wedding, life in
twentieth century America again.
"If only it don't rain!" said Harry Legendre.
"It won't," replied Theresa with conviction--and her look of command
toward the heavens made the courtiers exchange winks and smiles behind
her back. They were courtiers to wealth, not to Theresa, just as their
European prototypes are awed before a "king's most excellent Majesty,"
not before his swollen body and shrunken brain.
And it did not rain. Ross arrived in the red sunset of the wedding eve,
Tom Glenning, his best man, coming with him. They were put, with the
ushers, in rooms at the pavilion where were the squash courts and winter
tennis courts and the swimming baths. Theresa and Ross stood on the front
porch alone in the moonlight, looking out over the enchantment-like scene
into which the florists and decorators had transformed the terraces and
gardens. She was a little alarmed by his white face and sunken eyes; but
she accepted his reassurances without question--she would have
disbelieved anything which did not fit in with her plans. And now, as
they gazed out upon that beauty under the soft shimmer of the moonlight,
her heart suddenly expanded in tenderness. "I am _so_ happy," she
murmured, slipping an arm through his.
Her act called for a return pressure. He gave it, much as a woman's
salutation would have made him unconsciously move to lift his hat.
"While Adele was dressing me for dinner--" she began.
At that name, he moved so that her arm dropped from his; but she did not
connect her maid with her former bosom friend.
"I got to thinking about those who are not so well off as we," she went
on; "about the poor. And so, I've asked papa to give all his employees
and the servants nice presents, and I've sent five thousand dollars to be
divided among the churches in the town, down there--for the poor. Do you
think I did wrong? I'm always afraid of encouraging those kind of people
to expect too much of us."
She had asked that he might echo the eulogies she had been bestowing
upon herself. But he disappointed her. "Oh, I guess it was well
enough," he replied. "I must go down to the pavilion. I'm fagged, and
you must be, too."
The suggestion that he might not be looking his best on the morrow was
enough to change the current of her thoughts. "Yes, _do_, dear!" she
urged. "And don't let Tom and Harry and the rest keep you up."
They did not even see him. He sat in the shed at the end of the
boat-landing, staring out over the lake until the moon set. Then he went
to the pavilion. It was all dark; he stole in, and to bed, but not to
sleep. Before his closed but seeing eyes floated a vision of two
women--Adelaide as he had last seen her, Theresa as she looked in the
mornings, as she had looked that afternoon.
He was haggard next day. But it was becoming to him, gave the
finishing touch to his customary bored, distinguished air; and he
was dressed in a way that made every man there envy him. As Theresa, on
insignificant-looking little Bill Howland's arm, advanced to meet him at
the altar erected under a canopy of silk and flowers in the bower of
lilies and roses into which the big drawing-room had been transformed,
she thrilled with pride. _There_ was a man one could look at with
delight, as one said, "My husband!"
It was a perfect day--perfect weather, everything going forward without
hitch, everybody looking his and her best, and "Mama" providentially
compelled by one of her "spells" to keep to her room. Those absences of
hers were so frequent and so much the matter of course that no one gave
them a second thought. Theresa had studied up the customs at fashionable
English and French weddings, and had combined the most aristocratic
features of both. Perhaps the most successful feature was when she and
Ross, dressed for the going away, walked, she leaning upon his arm,
across the lawns to the silk marquee where the wedding breakfast was
served. Before them, walking backward, were a dozen little girls from the
village school, all in white, strewing roses from beribboned baskets, and
singing, "Behold! The bride in beauty comes!"
"Well, I'm glad it's all over," said Theresa as she settled back in a
chair in the private car that was to take them to Wilderness Lodge, in
northern Wisconsin for the honeymoon.
"So am I," Ross disappointed her by saying. "I've felt like a damn fool
ever since I began to face that gaping gang."
"But you must admit it was beautiful," objected Theresa pouting.
Ross shut his teeth together to keep back a rude reply. He was
understanding how men can be brutal to women. To look at her was to have
an all but uncontrollable impulse to rise up and in a series of noisy and
profane explosions reveal to her the truth that was poisoning him. After
a while, a sound from her direction made him glance at her. She was
sobbing. He did not then know that, to her, tears were simply the means
to getting what she wanted; so his heart softened. While she was thinking
that she was looking particularly well and femininely attractive, he was
pitying her as a forlorn creature, who could never inspire love and ought
to be treated with consideration, much as one tries to hide by an
effusive show of courtesy the repulsion deformity inspires.
"Don't cry, Theresa," he said gently, trying to make up his mind to touch
her. But he groaned to himself, "I can't! I must wait until I can't see
her." And he ordered the porter to bring him whisky and soda.
"Won't you join me?" he said.
"You know, I never touch anything to drink," she replied. "Papa and Dr.
Massey both made me promise not to."
Ross's hand, reaching out for the bottle of whisky, drew slowly back. He
averted his face that she might not see. He knew about her mother--and
knew Theresa did not. It had never entered his head that the weakness of
the mother might be transmitted to the daughter. Now--Just before they
left, Dr. Massey had taken him aside and, in a manner that would have
impressed him instantly but for his mood, had said: "Mr. Whitney, I want
you never to forget that Theresa must not be depressed. You must take the
greatest care of her. We must talk about it again--when you return."
And _this_ was what he meant!
He almost leaped to his feet at Theresa's softly interrupting voice, "Are
you ill, dear?"
"A little--the strain--I'll be all right--" And leaving the whisky
untouched, he went into his own compartment. As he was closing the door,
he gave a gasp of dismay. "She might begin now!" he muttered. He rang for
the porter. "Bring that bottle," he said. Then, as an afterthought of
"appearances," "And the soda and a glass."
"I can get you another, sir," said the porter.
"No--that one," ordered Ross.
Behind the returning porter came Theresa. "Can't I do something for you,
dear? Rub your head, or fix the pillows?"
Ross did not look at her. "Do, please--fix the pillows," he said. "Then
if I can sleep a little, I'll be all right, and will soon rejoin you."
"Can't I fix your drink for you?" she asked, putting her hand on
Ross restrained an impulse to snatch it away from her. "Thanks,
no--dear," he answered. "I've decided to swear off--with you. Is it a
She laughed. "Silly!" she murmured, bending and kissing him. "If
"That settles it," said Ross, with a forced, pained smile. "We'll neither
of us touch it. I was getting into the habit of taking too much--not
really too much--but--Oh, you understand."
"That's the way father feels about it," said Theresa, laughing. "We never
drink at home--except mother when she has a spell, and has to be kept up
Ross threw his arm up to hide his face. "Let me sleep, do," he
LOVE, THE BLUNDERER
As Dory had several months' work before him at Paris, he and Del took a
furnished apartment in the Rue de Rivoli, high up, attractive within,
before its balconied windows the stately trees, the fountains, the bright
flower beds, the thronged playgrounds of the Tuileries. But they were not
long left to themselves; in their second week, the _concierge's_ little
girl late one afternoon brought Janet's card up to Adelaide. As Janet
entered, Del regretted having yielded to impulse and admitted her. For,
the granddaughter of "blue-jeans Jones," the tavern keeper, was looking
the elegant and idle aristocrat from the tip of the tall, graceful plume
in her most Parisian of hats to the buckles of shoes which matched her
dress, parasol, and jewels. A lovely Janet, a marvelous Janet; a toilette
it must have taken her two hours to make, and spiritual hazel eyes that
forbade the idea of her giving so much as a moment's thought to any
material thing, even to dress. Adelaide had spent with the dressmakers a
good part of the letter of credit her mother slipped into her traveling
bag at the parting; she herself was in a negligee which had as much style
as Janet's costume and, in addition, individual taste, whereof Janet had
but little; and besides, while her beauty had the same American
delicateness, as of the finest, least florid Sevres or Dresden, it also
had a look of durability which Janet's beauty lacked--for Janet's beauty
depended upon those fragilities, coloring and contour. Adelaide was not
notably vain, had a clear sense of her defects, tended to exaggerate
them, rather than her many and decisive good points. It was not Janet's
appearance that unsettled Del; she brought into the room the atmosphere
Del had breathed during all those important years of girlhood, and had
not yet lost her fondness for. It depressed her at once about herself to
note how this vision of the life that had been but would never be again
"You are sad, dear," said Janet, as she kissed her on both cheeks with a
diffusing of perfume that gave her a sense of a bouquet of priceless
exotics waving before her face.
"You are sad, dear," she repeated, with that air of tenderest sympathy
which can be the safest cover for subtle malice.
"I'm so glad I've come when I may be able to do some good."
"How cozy these rooms are--"
At "cozy" Adelaide shuddered. No one ever used, except apologetically,
that word, which is the desperate last resort of compliment.
"And what a beautiful view from the windows--so much better than ours at
the pompous old Bristol, looking out on that bare square!"
Adelaide laughed. Not by chance, she knew, did Miss Janet, with her
softly sheathed but swift and sharp cat claws, drag in the delicate hint
that while Adelaide was "cozy" in an unaristocratic _maison meublee_, she
herself was ensconced in the haunts of royalty; and it suddenly came back
to Del how essentially cheap was "aristocracy."
"But I mustn't look at those adorable gardens," continued Janet. "They
fill me with longing for the country, for the pure, simple things. I am
so sick of the life mamma and I lead. And you are married to dear
Dory--how romantic! And I hear that Arthur is to marry Margaret
Schultz--or whatever her name was--that splendid creature! She was a
_dear_ friend of the trained nurse I had last spring, and what the nurse
told me about her made me positively love her. Such character! And
getting ready to lead _such_ a useful life." This without the least
suggestion of struggle with a difficult subject. "Arthur is a noble
fellow, too. If we had been in spiritual accord, I'd have loved to go and
lead his life with him."
Adelaide was in high good humor now--Janet was too preposterous to be
taken seriously. "What do you want me to do for you, Jen?" said she.
"Why, nothing!" exclaimed Janet, looking a little wonder and much
Del laughed. "Now, really, Jen," said she. "You know you never in the
world went to all the trouble of getting my address, and then left
royalty at the Bristol for a _maison meublee_, four flights up and no
elevator, just to _see_ me!"
"I had thought of something I was sure would give you pleasure," said
"What do you want me to do for you?" repeated Adelaide, with smiling
"Mamma and I have an invitation to spend a week at Besancon--you know,
it's the splendid old chateau Louis Treize used to love to visit. It's
still the seat of the Saint Berthe family, and the present Marquis, a
_dear_ friend of ours, is such a wonderful, fine old nobleman--so simple
and gracious and full of epigrams. He really ought to wear lace and
ruffles and a beautiful peruke. At any rate, as I was saying, he has
asked us down. But mamma has to go to England to see papa before he
sails, and I thought you'd love to visit the chateau--you and Dory. It's
so poetic--and historic, too."
"Your mother is going away and you'll be unable to make this visit unless
you get a chaperon, and you want me to chaperon you," said Adelaide, who
was not minded to be put in the attitude of being the recipient of a
favor from this particular young woman at this particular time, when in
truth she was being asked to confer a favor. "Adversity" had already
sharpened her wits to the extent of making her alert to the selfishness
disguised as generosity which the prosperous love to shower upon their
little brothers and sisters of the poor. She knew at once that Janet must
have been desperately off for a chaperon to come to her.
A look of irritation marred Janet's spiritual countenance for an
instant. But she never permitted anything whatsoever to stand between her
and what she wished. She masked herself and said sweetly: "Won't you go,
dear? I know you'll enjoy it--you and Dory. And it would be a great favor
to me. I don't see how I can go unless you consent. You know, I mayn't go
with just anyone."
Adelaide's first impulse was to refuse; but she did not. She put off
decision by saying, "I'll ask Dory to-night, and let you know in the
morning. Will that do?"
"Perfectly," said Janet, rising to go. "I'll count on you, for I know
Dory will want to see the chateau and get a glimpse of life in the old
aristocracy. It will be _so_ educational."
Dory felt the change in Del the instant he entered their little
_salon_--felt that during the day some new element had intruded into
their friendly life together, to interrupt, to unsettle, and to cloud the
brightening vistas ahead. At the mention of Janet he began to understand.
He saw it all when she said with a show of indifference that deceived
only herself, "Wouldn't you like to go down to Besancon?"
"Not I," replied he coldly. "Europe is full of that kind of places. You
can't glance outdoors without seeing a house or a ruin where the sweat
and blood of peasants were squandered."
"Janet thought you'd be interested in it as history," persisted Adelaide,
beginning to feel irritated.
"That's amusing," said Dory. "You might have told her that scandal isn't
history, that history never was made in such places. As for the people
who live there now, they're certainly not worth while--the same
pretentious ignoramuses that used to live there, except they no longer
"You ought not to be so prejudiced," said Adelaide, who in those days
often found common sense irritating. She had the all but universal habit
of setting down to "prejudice" such views as are out of accord with the
set of views held by one's business or professional or social associates.
Her irritation confirmed Dory's suspicions. "I spoke only for myself,"
said he. "Of course, you'll accept Janet's invitation. She included me
only as a matter of form."
"I couldn't, without you."
"But I urge you to go--want you to go! I can't possibly leave Paris, not
for a day--at present."
"I shan't go without you," said Adelaide, trying hard to make her tone
firm and final.
Dory leaned across the table toward her--they were in the garden of a
cafe in the Latin Quarter. "If you don't go, Del," said he, "you'll make
me feel that I am restraining you in a way far meaner than a direct
request not to go. You want to go. I want you to go. There is _no_ reason
why you shouldn't."
Adelaide smiled shamefacedly. "You honestly want to get rid of me?"
"Honestly. I'd feel like a jailer, if you didn't go."
"What'll you do in the evenings?"
"Work later, dine later, go to bed and get up earlier."
"Work--always work," she said. She sighed, not wholly insincerely. "I
wish I weren't so idle and aimless. If I were the woman I ought to be--"
"None of that--none of that!" he cried, in mock sternness.
"I ought to be interested in your work."
"Why, I thought you were!" he exclaimed, in smiling astonishment.
"Oh, of course, in a way--in an 'entertainment' sort of way. I like to
hear you talk about it--who wouldn't? But I don't give the kind of
interest I should--the interest that thinks and suggests and stimulates."
"Don't be too sure of that," said Dory. "The 'helpful' sort of people are
usually a nuisance."
But she knew the truth, though passion might still be veiling it from
him. Life, before her father's will forced an abrupt change, had been to
her a showman, submitting his exhibits for her gracious approval,
shifting them as soon as she looked as if she were about to be bored; and
the change had come before she had lived long enough to exhaust and weary
of the few things he has for the well-paying passive spectator, but not
before she had formed the habit of making only the passive spectator's
slight mental exertion.
"Dory is so generous," she thought, with the not acutely painful kind of
remorse we lay upon the penitential altar for our own shortcomings, "that
he doesn't realize how I'm shirking and letting him do all the pulling."
And to him she said, "If you could have seen into my mind while Janet was
here, you'd give me up as hopeless."
Dory laughed. "I had a glimpse of it just now--when you didn't like it
because I couldn't see my way clear to taking certain people so seriously
as you think they deserve."
"But you _are_ prejudiced on that subject," she maintained.
"And ever shall be," admitted he, so good-humoredly that she could not
but respond. "It's impossible for me to forget that every luxurious idler
means scores who have to work long hours for almost nothing in order that
he may be of no use to the world or to himself."
"You'd have the whole race on a dead level," said Adelaide.
"Of material prosperity--yes," replied Dory. "A high dead level. I'd
abolish the coarse, brutal contrasts between waste and want. Then there'd
be a chance for the really interesting contrasts--the infinite varieties
of thought and taste and character and individuality."
"I see," said Adelaide, as if struck by a new idea. "You'd have the
contrasts, differences among flowers, not merely between flower and weed.
You'd abolish the weeds."
"Root and stalk," answered Dory, admiring her way of putting it. "My
objection to these aristocratic ideals is that they are so vulgar--and so
dishonest. Is that prejudice?"
"No--oh, no!" replied Del sincerely. "Now, it seems to me, I don't care
to go with Janet."
"Not to oblige me--very particularly? I want you to go. I want you to
see for yourself, Del."
She laughed. "Then I'll go--but only because you ask it."
* * * * *
That was indeed an elegant company at Besancon--elegant in dress, elegant
in graceful carelessness of manners, elegant in graceful sinuosities of
cleverly turned phrases. But after the passing of the first and second
days' sensations, Hiram and Ellen Ranger's daughter began to have
somewhat the same feeling she remembered having as a little girl, when
she went to both the afternoon and the evening performances of the
circus. These people, going through always the same tricks in the same
old narrow ring of class ideas, lost much of their charm after a few
repetitions of their undoubtedly clever and attractive performance; she
even began to see how they would become drearily monotonous. "No wonder
they look bored," she thought. "They are." What enormous importance they
attached to trifles! What ludicrous tenacity in exploded delusions! And
what self-complacent claiming of remote, powerful ancestors who had
founded their families, when those ancestors would have disclaimed them
as puny nonentities. Their ideas were wholly provided for them, precisely
as were their clothes and every artistic thing that gave them
"background." They would have made as absurd a failure of trying to
evolve the one as the other. Yet they posed--and were widely accepted--as
the superiors of those who made their clothes and furniture and of those
who made their ideas. And she had thought Dory partly insincere, partly
prejudiced when he had laughed at them. Why, he had only shown the
plainest kind of American good sense. As for snobbishness, was not the
silly-child American brand of it less ridiculous than this unblushing and
unconcealed self-reverence, without any physical, mental or material
justification whatsoever? They hadn't good manners even, because--as Dory
had once said--no one could have really good manners who believed, and
acted upon the belief, that he was the superior of most of the members of
his own family--the human race.
"I suppose I could compress myself back into being satisfied with this
sort of people and things," she thought, as she looked round the ballroom
from which pose and self-consciousness and rigid conventionality had
banished spontaneous gayety. "I suppose I could even again come to
fancying this the only life. But I certainly don't care for it now."
But, although Adelaide was thus using her eyes and her mind--her own eyes
and her own mind--in observing what was going on around her, she did not
disconcert the others, not even Janet, by expressing her thoughts. Common
sense--absolute common sense--always sounds incongruous in a conventional
atmosphere. In its milder forms it produces the effect of wit; in
stronger doses it is a violent irritant; in large quantity, it causes
those to whom it is administered to regard the person administering it as
insane. Perhaps Adelaide might have talked more or less frankly to Janet
had Janet not been so obviously in the highest of her own kind of
heavens. She was raised to this pinnacle by the devoted attentions of the
Viscount Brunais, eldest son of Saint Berthe and the most agreeable and
adaptable of men, if the smallest and homeliest. Adelaide spoke of his
intelligence to Janet, when they were alone before dinner on the fourth
day, and Janet at once responded.
"And such a soul!" she exclaimed. "He inherits all the splendid, noble
traditions of their old, _old_ family. You see in his face that he is
descended from generations of refinement and--and--freedom from contact
with vulgarizing work, don't you?"
"That hadn't struck me," said Adelaide amiably. "But he's a well-meaning,
good-hearted little man, and, of course, he feels as at home in the
surroundings he's had all his life as a bird on a bough. Who doesn't?"
"But when you know him better, when you know him as I know him--" Janet's
expression disclosed the secret.
"But won't you be lonely--away off here--among--foreign people?"
"Oh, I should _love_ it here!" exclaimed Janet. "It seems to me I--he
and I--must have lived in this very chateau in a former existence. We
have talked about it, and he agrees with me. We are _so_ harmonious."
"You've really made up your mind to--to marry him?" Adelaide had almost
said "to buy him"; she had a sense that it was her duty to disregard
Janet's pretenses, and "buy" was so exactly the word to use with these
people to whom money was the paramount consideration, the thought behind
every other thought, the feeling behind every other feeling, the
mainspring of their lives, the mainstay of all the fictions of their
"That depends on father," replied Janet. "Mother has gone to talk to him
"I'm sure your father won't stand between you and happiness," said
"But he doesn't understand these aristocratic people," replied she. "Of
course, if it depended upon Aristide and me, we should be married without
consulting anybody. But he can't legally marry without his father's
consent, and his father naturally wants proper settlements. It's a cruel
law, don't you think?"
Adelaide thought not; she thought it, on the contrary, an admirable
device to "save the face" of a mercenary lover posing as a sentimentalist
and money-spurner. But she merely said, "I think it's most
characteristic, most aristocratic." She knew Janet, how shrewd she was,
how thoroughly she understood the "coarse side of life." She added, "And
your father'll come round."
"I wish I could believe it," sighed Janet. "The Saint Berthes have an
exaggerated notion of papa's wealth. Besides, they need a good deal. They
were robbed horribly by those dreadful revolutionists. They used to own
all this part of the country. All these people round here with their
little farms were once the peasants of Aristide's ancestors. Now--even
this chateau has a mortgage on it. I couldn't keep back the tears, while
Aristide was telling me."
Adelaide thought of Charles Whitney listening to that same recital, and
almost laughed. "Well, I feel sure it will turn out all right," she said.
"Your mother'll see to that. And I believe you'll be very, very happy."
Theatricals in private life was Janet's passion--why should she not be
happy? Frenchmen were famous for their politeness and consideration to
their wives; Aristide would never let her see or feel that she bored him,
that her reverence for the things he was too intelligent and modern not
to despise appealed to him only through his sense of humor. Janet would
push her shrewd, soulful way into social leadership, would bring her
children up to be more aristocratic than the children of the oldest
Adelaide smiled as she pictured it all--smiled, yet sighed. She was not
under Janet's fixed and unshakable delusions. She saw that high-sounding
titles were no more part of the personalities bearing them than the mass
of frankly false hair so grandly worn by Aristide's grand-aunt was part
of the wisp-like remnant of natural head covering. But that other self of
hers, so reluctant to be laughed or frowned down and out by the self that
was Hiram Ranger's daughter, still forced her to share in the ancient,
ignorant allegiance to "appearances." She did not appreciate how bored
she was, how impatient to be back with Dory, the never monotonous, the
always interesting, until she discovered that Janet, with her usual
subtlety, had arranged for them to stay another week, had made it
impossible for her to refuse without seeming to be disobliging and even
downright rude. They were to have returned to Paris on a Monday. On
Sunday she wrote Dory to telegraph for her on Tuesday.
"I'd hate to be looking forward to that life of dull foolery," thought
she, as the mossy bastions of Besancon drifted from her horizon--she was
journeying up alone, Janet staying on with one of the Saint Berthe women
as chaperone. "It is foolery and it is dull. I don't see how grown-up
people endure it, unless they've never known any better. Yet I seem
unable to content myself with the life father stands for--and Dory." She
appreciated the meaning of the legend of the creature with the two
bodies and the two wills, each always opposed to the other, with the
result that all motion was in a dazing circle in which neither wished to
go. "Still," she concluded, "I _am_ learning"--which was the truth;
indeed, she was learning with astonishing rapidity for a girl who had had
such an insidiously wrong start and was getting but slight encouragement.
Dory, of course, was helping her, but not as he might. Instead of
bringing to bear that most powerful of influences, the influence of
passionate love, he held to his stupid compact with his supersensitive
self--the compact that he would never intrude his longings upon her. He
constantly reminded himself how often woman gives through a sense of duty
or through fear of alienating or wounding one she respects and likes;
and, so he saw in each impulse to enter Eden boldly a temptation to him
to trespass, a temptation to her to mask her real feelings and suffer it.
The mystery in which respectable womanhood is kept veiled from the male,
has bred in him an awe of the female that she does not fully realize or
altogether approve--though she is not slow to advantage herself of it. In
the smaller cities and towns of the West, this awe of respectable
womanhood exists in a degree difficult for the sophisticated to believe
possible, unless they have had experience of it. Dory had never had that
familiarity with women which breeds knowledge of their absolute and
unmysterious humanness. Thus, not only did he not have the key which
enables its possessor to unlock them; he did not even know how to use it
when Del offered it to him, all but thrust it into his hand. Poor Dory,
indeed--but let only those who have not loved too well to love wisely
strut at his expense by pitying him; for, in matters of the heart,
sophisticated and unsophisticated act much alike. "Men would dare much
more, if they knew what women think," says George Sand. It is also true
that the men who dare most, who win most, are those who do not stop to
bother about what the women think. Thought does not yet govern the world,
but appetite and action--bold appetite and the courage of it.
To give himself, journeyman cooper, the feeling of ease and equality,
Arthur dressed, with long-discontinued attention to detail, from his
extensive wardrobe which the eighteen months since its last accessions
had not impaired or antiquated. And, in the twilight of an early
September evening, he went forth to settle the matter that had become the
There is in dress a something independent of material and cut and even of
the individuality of the wearer; there is a spirit of caste. If the lady
dons her maid's dress, some subtle essence of the menial permeates her,
even to her blood, her mind, and heart. The maid, in madame's dress,
putting on "airs," is merely giving an outlet to that which has entered
into her from her clothes. Thus, Arthur assumed again with his "_grande
toilette_" the feeling of the caste from which he had been ejected.
Madelene, come herself to open the door for him, was in a summer dress of
no pretentions to style other than that which her figure, with its large,
free, splendid lines, gave whatever she happened to wear. His nerves, his
blood, responded to her beauty, as always; her hair, her features, the
grace of the movements of that strong, slender, supple form, gave him the
sense of her kinship with freedom and force and fire and all things keen
and bright. But stealthily and subtly it came to him, in this mood
superinduced by his raiment, that in marrying her he was, after all,
making sacrifices--she was ascending socially, he descending,
condescending. The feeling was far too vague to be at all conscious; it
is, however, just those hazy, stealthy feelings that exert the most
potent influence upon us. When the strong are conquered is it not always
by feeble forces from the dark and from behind?
"You have had good news," said Madelene, when they were in the dim
daylight on the creeper-screened back porch. For such was her generous
interpretation of his expression of self-confidence and
"Not yet," he replied, looking away reflectively. "But I hope for it."
There wasn't any mistaking the meaning of that tone; she knew what was
coming. She folded her hands in her lap, and there softly entered and
pervaded her a quiet, enormous content that made her seem the crown of
the quiet beauty of that evening sky whose ocean of purple-tinted crystal
stretched away toward the shores of the infinite.
"Madelene," he began in a self-conscious voice, "you know what my
position is, and what I get, and my prospects. But you know what I was,
too; and so, I feel I've the right to ask you to marry me--to wait until
I get back to the place from which I had to come down."
The light was fading from the sky, from her eyes, from her heart. A
moment before he had been there, so near her, so at one with her; now
he was far away, and this voice she heard wasn't his at all. And his
words--She felt alone in the dark and the cold, the victim of a cheat
upon her deepest feelings.
"I was bitter against my father at first," he went on. "But since I have
come to know you I have forgiven him. I am grateful to him. If it hadn't
been for what he did I might never have learned to appreciate you, to--"
"Don't--_please_!" she said in the tone that is from an aching heart.
"Don't say any more."
Arthur was astounded. He looked at her for the first time since he began;
instantly fear was shaking his self-confidence at its foundations.
"Madelene!" he exclaimed. "I know that you love me!"
She hid her face in her hands--the sight of them, long and narrow and
strong, filled him with the longing to seize them, to feel the throb of
their life thrill from them into him, troop through and through him like
victory-bringing legions into a besieged city. But her broken voice
stopped him. "And I thought you loved me," she said.
"You know I do!" he cried.
She was silent.
"What is it, Madelene?" he implored. "What has come between us? Does your
father object because I am--am not well enough off?"
She dropped her hands from before her face and looked at him. The first
time he saw her he had thought she was severe; ever since he had wondered
how he could have imagined severity into a countenance so gentle and
sweet. Now he knew that his first impression was not imaginary; for she
had again the expression with which she had faced the hostile world of
Saint X until he, his love, came into her life. "It is I that must ask
you what has changed you, Arthur," she said, more in sadness than in
bitterness, though in both. "I don't seem to know you this evening."
Arthur lost the last remnant of his self-consciousness. He saw he was
about to lose, if indeed he had not already lost, that which had come to
mean life to him--the happiness from this woman's beauty, the strength
from her character, the sympathy from her mind and heart. It was in
terror that he asked: "Why, Madelene? What is it? What have I done?" And
in dread he studied her firm, regular profile, a graceful strength that
was Greek, and so wonderfully completed by her hair, blue black and thick
and wavy about the temple and ear and the nape of the neck.
The girl did not answer immediately; he thought she was refusing to hear,
yet he could find no words with which to try to stem the current of those
ominous thoughts. At last she said: "You talk about the position you have
'come down from' and the position you are going back to--and that you are
grateful to your father for having brought you down where you were humble
enough to find me."
"Wait!" she commanded. "You wish to know what is the matter with me. Let
me tell you. We didn't receive you here because you are a cooper or
because you had been rich. I never thought about your position or your
prospects. A woman--at least a woman like me--doesn't love a man for his
position, doesn't love him for his prospects. I've been taking you at
just what you were--or seemed to be. And you--you haven't come, asking me
to marry you. You treat me like one of those silly women in what they
call 'society' here in Saint X. You ask me to wait until you can support
me fashionably--I who am not fashionable--and who will always support
myself. What you talked isn't what I call love, Arthur. I don't want to
hear any more about it--or, we might not be able to be even friends."
She paused; but Arthur could not reply. To deny was impossible, and he
had no wish to attempt to make excuses. She had shown him to himself, and
he could only echo her just scorn.
"As for waiting," she went on, "I am sure, from what you say, that if you
ever got back in the lofty place of a parasite living idly and foolishly
on what you abstracted from the labor of others, you'd forget me--just as
your rich friends have forgotten you." She laughed bitterly. "O Arthur,
Arthur, what a fraud you are! Here, I've been admiring your fine talk
about your being a laborer, about what you'd do if you ever got the
power. And it was all simply envy and jealousy and trying to make
yourself believe you weren't so low down in the social scale as you
thought you were. You're too fine a gentleman for Madelene Schulze,
Arthur. Wait till you get back your lost paradise; then take a wife who
gives her heart only where her vanity permits. You don't want _me_, and
I--don't want you!"
Her voice broke there. With a cry that might have been her name or just
an inarticulate call from his heart to hers, he caught her in his arms,
and she was sobbing against his shoulder. "You can't mean it, Madelene,"
he murmured, holding her tight and kissing her cheek, her hair, her ear.
"You don't mean it."
"Oh, yes, I do," she sobbed. "But--I love you, too."
"Then everything else will straighten out of itself. Help me, Madelene.
Help me to be what we both wish me to be--what I can't help being, with
you by my side."
When a vanity of superiority rests on what used to be, it dies much
harder than when it rests upon what is. But Arthur's self-infatuation,
based though it was on the "used-to-be," then and there crumbled and
vanished forever. Love cleared his sight in an instant, where reason
would have striven in vain against the stubborn prejudices of snobbism.
Madelene's instinct had searched out the false ring in his voice and
manner; it was again instinct that assured her all was now well. And she
straightway, and without hesitation from coquetry or doubt, gave herself
frankly to the happiness of the love that knows it is returned in kind
and in degree.
"Yes, everything else will come right," she said. "For you _are_
"I shall be," was his reply, as he held her closer. "Do I not love a
woman who believes in me?"
"And who believes because she knows." She drew away to look at him. "You
_are_ like your father!" she exclaimed. "Oh, my dear, my love, how rich
he made you--and me!"
* * * * *
At breakfast, the next morning, he broke the news to his mother. Instead
of returning his serene and delighted look she kept her eyes on her plate
and was ominously silent. "When you are well acquainted with her, mother,
you'll love her," he said. He knew what she was thinking--Dr. Schulze's
"unorthodox" views, to put it gently; the notorious fact that his
daughters did not frown on them; the family's absolute lack of standing
from the point of view of reputable Saint X.
"Well," said his mother finally, and without looking at her big, handsome
son, "I suppose you're set on it."
"Set--that's precisely the word," replied Arthur. "We're only waiting for
your consent and her father's."
"_I_ ain't got anything to do with it," said she, with a pathetic
attempt at a smile. "Nor the old doctor, either, judging by the look of
the young lady's eyes and chin. I never thought you'd take to a
"You wouldn't have her _weak_-minded, would you, mother?"
"There's something between."
"Yes," said he. "There's the woman whose mind is weak when it ought to be
strong, and strong when it ought to be weak. I decided for one like you,
mother dear--one that would cure me of foolishness and keep me cured."
"A female doctor!"
Arthur laughed. "And she's going to practice, mother. We shouldn't
have enough to live on with only what I'd make--or am likely to make
Mrs. Ranger lifted her drooping head in sudden panic.
"Why, you'll live _here_, won't you?"
"Of course," replied Arthur, though, as a matter of fact, he hadn't
thought where they would live. He hastened to add, "Only we've got to
"I guess we won't quarrel about that," said the old woman, so immensely
relieved that she was almost resigned to the prospect of a Schulze, a
strong-minded Schulze and a practicing female doctor, as a
"Madelene is coming up to see you this morning," continued Arthur. "I
know you'll make her--welcome." This wistfully, for he was now awake to
the prejudices his mother must be fighting.
"I'll have the horses hitched up, and go and see her," said Ellen,
promptly. "She's a good girl. Nobody could ever say a word against her
character, and that's the main thing." She began to contrast Madelene and
Janet, and the situation brightened. At least, she was getting a
daughter-in-law whom she could feel at ease with, and for whom she could
have respect, possibly even liking of a certain reserved kind.
"I suggested that you'd come," Arthur was replying. "But Madelene said
she'd prefer to come to you. She thinks it's her place, whether it's
etiquette or not. We're not going to go in for etiquette--Madelene
Mrs. Ranger looked amused. This from the young man who had for years
been "picking" at her because she was unconventional! "People will
misunderstand you, mother," had been his oft-repeated polite phrase. She
couldn't resist a mild revenge. "People'll misunderstand, if she comes.
They'll think she's running after me."
Like all renegades, the renegades from the religion of conventionality
are happiest when they are showing their contempt for that before which
they once knelt. "Let 'em think," retorted Arthur cheerfully. "I'll
telephone her it's all right," he said, as he rose from the table, "and
she'll be up here about eleven."
And exactly at eleven she came, not a bit self-conscious or confused.
Mrs. Ranger looked up at her--she was more than a head the taller--and
found a pair of eyes she thought finest of all for their honesty
looking down into hers. "I reckon we've got--to kiss," said she, with a
"I reckon so," said Madelene, kissing her, and then, after a glance and
an irresistible smile, kissing her again. "You were awfully put out when
Arthur told you, weren't you?"
"Well, you know, the saying is 'A bad beginning makes a good ending,'"
said Ellen. "Since there was only Arthur left to me, I hadn't been
calculating on a daughter-in-law to come and take him away."