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The Precipice by Elia Wilkinson Peattie

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_A Novel_





The Riverside Press Cambridge


_A fanfare of trumpets is blowing to which women the world
over are listening. They listen even against their wills, and
not all of them answer, though all are disturbed. Shut their
ears to it as they will, they cannot wholly keep out the
clamor of those trumpets, but whether in thrall to love or to
religion, to custom or to old ideals of self-obliterating
duty, they are stirred. They move in their sleep, or spring
to action, and they present to the world a new problem, a new
force--or a new menace_....



It was all over. Kate Barrington had her degree and her graduating
honors; the banquets and breakfasts, the little intimate farewell
gatherings, and the stirring convocation were through with. So now she
was going home.

With such reluctance had the Chicago spring drawn to a close that, even
in June, the campus looked poorly equipped for summer, and it was a
pleasure, as she told her friend Lena Vroom, who had come with her to
the station to see her off, to think how much further everything would
be advanced "down-state."

"To-morrow morning, the first thing," she declared, "I shall go in the
side entry and take down the garden shears and cut the roses to put in
the Dresden vases on the marble mantelshelf in the front room."

"Don't try to make me think you're domestic," said Miss Vroom with
unwonted raillery.

"Domestic, do you call it?" cried Kate. "It isn't being domestic; it's
turning in to make up to lady mother for the four years she's been
deprived of my society. You may not believe it, but that's been a
hardship for her. I say, Lena, you'll be coming to see me one of
these days?"

Miss Vroom shook her head.

"I haven't much feeling for a vacation," she said. "I don't seem to fit
in anywhere except here at the University."

"I've no patience with you," cried Kate. "Why you should hang around
here doing graduate work year after year passes my understanding. I
declare I believe you stay here because it's cheap and passes the time;
but really, you know, it's a makeshift."

"It's all very well to talk, Kate, when you have a home waiting for you.
You're the kind that always has a place. If it wasn't your father's
house it would be some other man's--Ray McCrea's, for example. As for
me, I'm lucky to have acquired even a habit--and that's what college
_is_ with me--since I've no home."

Kate Barrington turned understanding and compassionate eyes upon her
friend. She had seen her growing a little thinner and more tense
everyday; had seen her putting on spectacles, and fighting anaemia with
tonics, and yielding unresistingly to shabbiness. Would she always be
speeding breathlessly from one classroom to another, palpitantly yet
sadly seeking for the knowledge with which she knew so little what
to do?

The train came thundering in--they were waiting for it at one of the
suburban stations--and there was only a second in which to say good-bye.
Lena, however, failed to say even that much. She pecked at Kate's cheek
with her nervous, thin lips, and Kate could only guess how much anguish
was concealed beneath this aridity of manner. Some sense of it made Kate
fling her arms about the girl and hold her in a warm embrace.

"Oh, Lena," she cried, "I'll never forget you--never!"

Lena did not stop to watch the train pull out. She marched away on her
heelless shoes, her eyes downcast, and Kate, straining her eyes after
her friend, smiled to think there had been only Lena to speed her
drearily on her way. Ray McCrea had, of course, taken it for granted
that he would be informed of the hour of her departure, but if she had
allowed him to come she might have committed herself in some absurd
way--said something she could not have lived up to.

* * * * *

As it was, she felt quite peaceful and more at leisure than she had for
months. She was even at liberty to indulge in memories and it suited her
mood deliberately to do so. She went back to the day when she had
persuaded her father and mother to let her leave the Silvertree Academy
for Young Ladies and go up to the University of Chicago. She had been
but eighteen then, but if she lived to be a hundred she never could
forget the hour she streamed with five thousand others through Hull
Gate and on to Cobb Hall to register as a student in that young,
aggressive seat of learning.

She had tried to hold herself in; not to be too "heady"; and she hoped
the lank girl beside her--it had been Lena Vroom, delegated by the
League of the Young Women's Christian Association--did not find her
rawly enthusiastic. Lena conducted her from chapel to hall, from office
to woman's building, from registrar to dean, till at length Kate stood
before the door of Cobb once more, fagged but not fretted, and able to
look about her with appraising eyes.

Around her and beneath her were swarms, literally, of fresh-faced,
purposeful youths and maidens, an astonishingly large number of whom
were meeting after the manner of friends long separated. Later Kate
discovered how great a proportion of that enthusiasm took itself out in
mere gesture and vociferation; but it all seemed completely genuine to
her that first day and she thought with almost ecstatic anticipation of
the relationships which soon would be hers. Almost she looked then to
see the friend-who-was-to-be coming toward her with miraculous
recognition in her eyes.

But she was none the less interested in those who for one reason or
another were alien to her--in the Japanese boy, concealing his
wistfulness beneath his rigid breeding; in the Armenian girl with the
sad, beautiful eyes; in the Yiddish youth with his bashful earnestness.
Then there were the women past their first youth, abstracted, and
obviously disdainful of their personal appearance; and the girls with
heels too high and coiffures too elaborate, who laid themselves open to
the suspicion of having come to college for social reasons. But all
appealed to Kate. She delighted in their variety--yes, and in all these
forms of aspiration. The vital essence of their spirits seemed to
materialize into visible ether, rose-red or violet-hued, and to rise
about them in evanishing clouds.

* * * * *

She was recalled to the present by a brisk conductor who asked for her
ticket. Kate hunted it up in a little flurry. The man had broken into
the choicest of her memories, and when he was gone and she returned to
her retrospective occupation, she chanced upon the most irritating of
her recollections. It concerned an episode of that same first day in
Chicago. She had grown weary with the standing and waiting, and when
Miss Vroom left her for a moment to speak to a friend, Kate had taken a
seat upon a great, unoccupied stone bench which stood near Cobb door.
Still under the influence of her high idealization of the scene she lost
herself in happy reverie. Then a widening ripple of laughter told her
that something amusing was happening. What it was she failed to imagine,
but it dawned upon her gradually that people were looking her way. Knots
of the older students were watching her; bewildered newcomers were
trying, like herself, to discover the cause of mirth. At first she
smiled sympathetically; then suddenly, with a thrill of mortification,
she perceived that she was the object of derision.

What was it? What had she done?

She knew that she was growing pale and she could feel her heart pounding
at her side, but she managed to rise, and, turning, faced a blond young
man near at hand, who had protruding teeth and grinned at her like a
sardonic rabbit.

"Oh, what is it, please?" she asked.

"That bench isn't for freshmen," he said briefly.

Scarlet submerged the pallor in Kate's face.

"Oh, I didn't know," she gasped. "Excuse me."

She moved away quickly, dropping her handbag and having to stoop for it.
Then she saw that she had left her gloves on the bench and she had to
turn back for those. At that moment Lena hastened to her.

"I'm so sorry," she cried. "I ought to have warned you about that old
senior bench."

Kate, disdaining a reply, strode on unheeding. Her whole body was
running fire, and she was furious with herself to think that she could
suffer such an agony of embarrassment over a blunder which, after all,
was trifling. Struggling valiantly for self-command, she plunged toward
another bench and dropped on it with the determination to look her world
in the face and give it a fair chance to stare back.

Then she heard Lena give a throaty little squeak.

"Oh, my!" she said.

Something apparently was very wrong this time, and Kate was not to
remain in ignorance of what it was. The bench on which she was now
sitting had its custodian in the person of a tall youth, who lifted his
hat and smiled upon her with commingled amusement and commiseration.

"Pardon," he said, "but--"

Kate already was on her feet and the little gusts of laughter that came
from the onlookers hit her like so many stones.

"Isn't this seat for freshmen either?" she broke in, trying not to let
her lips quiver and determined to show them all that she was, at any
rate, no coward.

The student, still holding his hat, smiled languidly as he shook his

"I'm new, you see," she urged, begging him with her smile to be on her
side,--"dreadfully new! Must I wait three years before I sit here?"

"I'm afraid you'll not want to do it even then," he said pleasantly.
"You understand this bench--the C bench we call it--is for men; any man
above a freshman."

Kate gathered the hardihood to ask:--

"But why is it for men, please?"

"I don't know why. We men took it, I suppose." He wasn't inclined to
apologize apparently; he seemed to think that if the men wanted it they
had a right to it.

"This bench was given to the men, perhaps?" she persisted, not knowing
how to move away.

"No," admitted the young man; "I don't believe it was. It was presented
to the University by a senior class."

"A class of men?"

"Naturally not. A graduating class is composed of men and women. C
bench," he explained, "is the center of activities. It's where the drum
is beaten to call a mass meeting, and the boys gather here when they've
anything to talk over. There's no law against women sitting here, you
know. Only they never do. It isn't--oh, I hardly know how to put it--it
isn't just the thing--"

"Can't you break away, McCrea?" some one called.

The youth threw a withering glance in the direction of the speaker.

"I can conduct my own affairs," he said coldly.

But Kate had at last found a way to bring the interview to an end.

"I said I was new," she concluded, flinging a barbed shaft. "I thought
it was share and share alike here--that no difference was made between
men and women. You see--I didn't understand."

The C bench came to be a sort of symbol to her from then on. It was the
seat of privilege if not of honor, and the women were not to sit on it.

Not that she fretted about it. There was no time for that. She settled
in Foster Hall, which was devoted to the women, and where she expected
to make many friends. But she had been rather unfortunate in that. The
women were not as cooeperative as she had expected them to be. At table,
for example, the conversation dragged heavily. She had expected to find
it liberal, spirited, even gay, but the girls had a way of holding back.
Kate had to confess that she didn't think men would be like that. They
would--most of them--have understood that the chief reason a man went to
a university was to learn to get along with his fellow men and to hold
his own in the world. The girls labored under the idea that one went to
a university for the exclusive purpose of making high marks in their
studies. They put in stolid hours of study and were quietly glad at
their high averages; but it actually seemed as if many of them used
college as a sort of shelter rather than an opportunity for the exercise
of personality.

However, there were plenty of the other sort--gallant, excursive
spirits, and as soon as Kate became acquainted she had pleasure in
picking and choosing. She nibbled at this person and that like a
cautious and discriminating mouse, venturing on a full taste if she
liked the flavor, scampering if she didn't.

Of course she had her furores. Now it was for settlement work, now for
dramatics, now for dancing. Subconsciously she was always looking about
for some one who "needed" her, but there were few such. Patronage would
have been resented hotly, and Kate learned by a series of
discountenancing experiences that friendship would not come--any more
than love--at beck and call.


That gave her pause. Love had not come her way. Of course there was Ray
McCrea. But he was only a possibility. She wondered if she would turn to
him in trouble. Of that she was not yet certain. It was pleasant to be
with him, but even for a gala occasion she was not sure but that she was
happier with Honora Daley than with him. Honora Daley was Honora Fulham
now--married to a "dark man" as the gypsy fortune-tellers would have
called him. He seemed very dark to Kate, menacing even; but Honora found
it worth her while to shed her brightness on his tenebrosity, so that
was, of course, Honora's affair.

Kate smiled to think of how her mother would be questioning her about
her "admirers," as she would phrase it in her mid-Victorian parlance.
There was really only Ray to report upon. He would be the beau ideal
"young gentleman,"--to recur again to her mother's phraseology,--the son
of a member of a great State Street dry-goods firm, an excellently
mannered, ingratiating, traveled person with the most desirable social
connections. Kate would be able to tell of the two mansions, one on the
Lake Shore Drive, the other at Lake Forest, where Ray lived with his
parents. He had not gone to an Eastern college because his father
wished him to understand the city and the people among whom his life was
to be spent. Indeed, his father, Richard McCrea, had made something of a
concession to custom in giving his son four years of academic life. Ray
was now to be trained in every department of that vast departmental
concern, the Store, and was soon to go abroad as the promising cadet of
a famous commercial establishment, to make the acquaintance of the
foreign importers and agents of the house. Oh, her mother would quite
like all that, though she would be disappointed to learn that there had
thus far been no rejected suitors. In her mother's day every fair damsel
carried scalps at her belt, figuratively speaking--and after marriage,
became herself a trophy of victory. Dear "mummy" was that, Kate thought
tenderly--a willing and reverential parasite, "ladylike" at all costs,
contented to have her husband provide for her, her pastor think for her,
and Martha Underwood, the domineering "help" in the house at Silvertree,
do the rest. Kate knew "mummy's" mind very well--knew how she looked on
herself as sacred because she had been the mother to one child and a
good wife to one husband. She was all swathed around in the
chiffon-sentiment of good Victoria's day. She didn't worry about being a
"consumer" merely. None of the disturbing problems that were shaking
femininity disturbed her calm. She was "a lady," the "wife of a
professional man." It was proper that she should "be well cared for."
She moved by her well-chosen phrases; they were like rules set in a
copybook for her guidance.

Kate seemed to see a moving-picture show of her mother's days. Now she
was pouring the coffee from the urn, seasoning it scrupulously to suit
her lord and master, now arranging the flowers, now feeding the
goldfish; now polishing the glass with tissue paper. Then she answered
the telephone for her husband, the doctor,--answered the door, too,
sometimes. She received calls and paid them, read the ladies' magazines,
and knew all about what was "fitting for a lady." Of course, she had her
prejudices. She couldn't endure Oriental rugs, and didn't believe that
smuggling was wrong; at least, not when done by the people one knew and
when the things smuggled were pretty.

Kate, who had the spirit of the liberal comedian, smiled many times
remembering these things. Then she sighed, for she realized that her
ability to see these whimsicalities meant that she and her mother were,
after all, creatures of diverse training and thought.


What! Silver tree? She hadn't realized how the time had been flying. But
there was the sawmill. She could hear the whir and buzz! And there was
the old livery-stable, and the place where farm implements were sold,
and the little harness shop jammed in between;--and there, to convince
her no mistake had been made, was the lozenge of grass with "Silvertree"
on it in white stones. Then, in a second, the station appeared with the
busses backed up against it, and beyond them the familiar surrey with a
woman in it with yearning eyes.

Kate, the specialized student of psychology, the graduate with honors,
who had learned to note contrasts and weigh values, forgot everything
(even her umbrella) and leaped from the train while it was still in
motion. Forgotten the honors and degrees; the majors were mere minor
affairs; and there remained only the things which were from the

She and her mother sat very close together as they drove through the
familiar village streets. When they did speak, it was incoherently.
There was an odor of brier roses in the air and the sun was setting in a
"bed of daffodil sky." Kate felt waves of beauty and tenderness breaking
over her and wanted to cry. Her mother wanted to and did. Neither
trusted herself to speak, but when they were in the house Mrs.
Barrington pulled the pins out of Kate's hat and then Kate took the
faded, gentle woman in her strong arms and crushed her to her.

"Your father was afraid he wouldn't be home in time to meet you," said
Mrs. Barrington when they were in the parlor, where the Dresden vases
stood on the marble mantel and the rose-jar decorated the three-sided
table in the corner. "It was just his luck to be called into the
country. If it had been a really sick person who wanted him, I wouldn't
have minded, but it was only Venie Sampson."

"Still having fits?" asked Kate cheerfully, as one glad to recognize
even the chronic ailments of a familiar community.

"Well, she thinks she has them," said Mrs. Barrington in an easy,
gossiping tone; "but my opinion is that she wouldn't be troubled with
them if only there were some other way in which she could call attention
to herself. You see, Venie was a very pretty girl."

"Has that made her an invalid, mummy?"

"Well, it's had something to do with it. When she was young she received
no end of attention, but some way she went through the woods and didn't
even pick up a crooked stick. But she got so used to being the center of
interest that when she found herself growing old and plain, she couldn't
think of any way to keep attention fixed on her except by having these
collapses. You know you mustn't call the attacks 'fits.' Venie's far too
refined for that."

Kate smiled broadly at her mother's distinctive brand of humor. She
loved it all--Miss Sampson's fits, her mother's jokes; even the fact
that when they went out to supper she sat where she used in the old days
when she had worn a bib beneath her chin.

"Oh, the plates, the cups, the everything!" cried Kate, ridiculously
lifting a piece of the "best china" to her lips and kissing it.

"Absurdity!" reproved her mother, but she adored the girl's
extravagances just the same.

"Everything's glorious," Kate insisted. "Cream cheese and parsley! Did
you make it, mummy? Currant rolls--oh, the wonders! Martha Underwood,
don't dare to die without showing me how to make those currant rolls.
Veal loaf--now, what do you think of that? Why, at Foster we went hungry
sometimes--not for lack of quantity, of course, but because of the
quality. I used to be dreadfully ashamed of the fact that there we were,
dozens of us women in that fine hall, and not one of us with enough
domestic initiative to secure a really good table. I tried to head an
insurrection and to have now one girl and now another supervise the
table, but the girls said they hadn't come to college to keep house."

"Yes, yes," chimed in her mother excitedly; "that's where the whole
trouble with college for women comes in. They not only don't go to
college to keep house, but most of them mean not to keep it when they
come out. We allowed you to go merely because you overbore us. You used
to be a terrible little tyrant, Katie,--almost as bad as--"

She brought herself up suddenly.

"As bad as whom, mummy?"

There was a step on the front porch and Mrs. Barrington was spared the
need for answering.

"There's your father," she said, signaling Kate to meet him.

* * * * *

Dr. Barrington was tall, spare, and grizzled. The torpor of the little
town had taken the light from his eyes and reduced the tempo of his
movements, but, in spite of all, he had preserved certain vivid features
of his personality. He had the long, educated hands of the surgeon and
the tyrannical aspect of the physician who has struggled all his life
with disobedience and perversity. He returned Kate's ardent little storm
of kisses with some embarrassment, but he was unfeignedly pleased at her
appearance, and as the three of them sat about the table in their old
juxtaposition, his face relaxed. However, Kate had seen her mother look
up wistfully as her husband passed her, as if she longed for some
affectionate recognition of the occasion, but the man missed his
opportunity and let it sink into the limbo of unimproved moments.

"Well, father, we have our girl home again," Mrs. Barrington said with
pardonable sentiment.

"Well, we've been expecting her, haven't we?" Dr. Barrington replied,
not ill-naturedly but with a marked determination to make the episode

"Indeed we have," smiled Mrs. Barrington. "But of course it couldn't
mean to you, Frederick, what it does to me. A mother's--"

Dr. Barrington raised his hand.

"Never mind about a mother's love," he said decisively. "If you had seen
it fail as often as I have, you'd think the less said on the subject the
better. Women are mammal, I admit; maternal they are not, save in a
proportion of cases. Did you have a pleasant journey down, Kate?"

He had the effect of shutting his wife out of the conversation; of
definitely snubbing and discountenancing her. Kate knew it had always
been like that, though when she had been young and more passionately
determined to believe her home the best and dearest in the world, as
children will, she had overlooked the fact--had pretended that what was
a habit was only a mood, and that if "father was cross" to-day, he would
be pleasant to-morrow. Now he began questioning Kate about college, her
instructors and her friends. There was conversation enough, but the
man's wife sat silent, and she knew that Kate knew that he expected
her to do so.

Custard was brought on and Mrs. Barrington diffidently served it. Her
husband gave one glance at it.

"Curdled!" he said succinctly, pushing his plate from him. "It's a pity
it couldn't have been right Kate's first night home."

Kate thought there had been so much that was not right her first night
home, that a spoiled confection was hardly worth comment.

"I'm dreadfully sorry," Mrs. Barrington said. "I suppose I should have
made it myself, but I went down to the train--"

"That didn't take all the afternoon, did it?" the doctor asked.

"I was doing things around the house--"

"Putting flowers in my room, I know, mummy," broke in Kate, "and
polishing up the silver toilet bottles, the beauties. You're one of
those women who pet a home, and it shows, I can tell you. You don't see
many homes like this, do you, dad,--so ladylike and brier-rosy?"

She leaned smilingly across the table as she addressed her father,
offering him not the ingratiating and seductive smile which he was
accustomed to see women--his wife among the rest--employ when they
wished to placate him. Kate's was the bright smile of a comradely fellow
creature who asked him to play a straight game. It made him take fresh
stock of his girl. He noted her high oval brow around which the dark
hair clustered engagingly; her flexible, rather large mouth, with lips
well but not seductively arched, and her clear skin with its uniform
tinting. Such beauty as she had, and it was far from negligible, would
endure. She was quite five feet ten inches, he estimated, with a good
chest development and capable shoulders. Her gestures were free and
suggestive of strength, and her long body had the grace of flexibility
and perfect unconsciousness. All of this was good; but what of the
spirit that looked out of her eyes? It was a glance to which the man was
not accustomed--feminine yet unafraid, beautiful but not related to sex.
The physician was not able to analyze it, though where women were
concerned he was a merciless analyst. Gratified, yet unaccountably
disturbed, he turned to his wife.

"Martha has forgotten to light up the parlor," he said testily. "Can't
you impress on her that she's to have the room ready for us when we've
finished inhere?"

"She's so excited over Kate's coming home," said Mrs. Barrington with a
placatory smile. "Perhaps you'll light up to-night, Frederick."

"No, I won't. I began work at five this morning and I've been going all
day. It's up to you and Martha to run the house."

"The truth is," said Mrs. Barrington, "neither Martha nor I can reach
the gasolier."

Dr. Barrington had the effect of pouncing on this statement.

"That's what's the matter, then," he said. "You forgot to get the
tapers. I heard Martha telling you last night that they were out."

A flush spread over Mrs. Barrington's delicate face as she cast about
her for the usual subterfuge and failed to find it. In that moment Kate
realized that it had been a long programme of subterfuges with her
mother--subterfuges designed to protect her from the onslaughts of the
irritable man who dominated her.

"I'll light the gas, mummy," she said gently. "Let that be one of my
fixed duties from now on."

"You'll spoil your mother, Kate," said the doctor with a whimsical

His jesting about what had so marred the hour of reunion brought a surge
of anger to Kate's brain.

"That's precisely what I came home to do, sir," she said significantly.
"What other reason could I have for coming back to Silvertree? The town
certainly isn't enticing. You've been doctoring here for forty years,
but you havn't been able to cure the local sleeping-sickness yet."

It stung and she had meant it to. To insult Silvertree was to hurt the
doctor in his most tender vanity. It was one of his most fervid beliefs
that he had selected a growing town, conspicuous for its enterprise. In
his young manhood he had meant to do fine things. He was
public-spirited, charitable, a death-fighter of courage and persistence.
Though not a religious man, he had one holy passion, that of the
physician. He respected himself and loved his wife, but he had from
boyhood confused the ideas of masculinity and tyranny. He believed that
women needed discipline, and he had little by little destroyed the
integrity of the woman he would have most wished to venerate. That she
could, in spite of her manifest cowardice and moral circumventions,
still pray nightly and read the book that had been the light to
countless faltering feet, furnished him with food for acrid sarcasm. He
saw in this only the essential furtiveness, inconsistency, and
superstition of the female.

The evening dragged. The neighbors who would have liked to visit them
refrained from doing so because they thought the reunited family would
prefer to be alone that first evening. Kate did her best to preserve
some tattered fragments of the amenities. She told college stories,
talked of Lena Vroom and of beautiful Honora Fulham,--hinted even at Ray
McCrea,--and by dint of much ingenuity wore the evening away.

"In the morning," she said to her father as she bade him good-night,
"we'll both be rested." She had meant it for an apology, not for herself
any more than for him, but he assumed no share in it.

Up in her room her mother saw her bedded, and in kissing her

"Don't oppose your father, Kate. You'll only make me unhappy. Anything
for peace, that's what I say."


It was sweet to awaken in the old room. Through the open window she
could see the fork in the linden tree and the squirrels making free in
the branches. The birds were at their opera, and now and then the shape
of one outlined itself against the holland shade. Kate had been
commanded to take her breakfast in bed and she was more than willing to
do so. The after-college lassitude was upon her and her thoughts moved
drowsily through her weary brain.

Her mother, by an unwonted exercise of self-control, kept from the room
that morning, stopping only now and then at the door for a question or a
look. That was sweet, too. Kate loved to have her hovering about like
that, and yet the sight of her, so fragile, so fluttering, added to the
sense of sadness that was creeping over her. After a time it began to
rain softly, the drops slipping down into the shrubbery and falling like
silver beads from the window-hood. At that Kate began to weep, too, just
as quietly, and then she slept again. Her mother coming in on tiptoe saw
tears on the girl's cheek, but she did not marvel. Though her experience
had been narrow she was blessed with certain perceptions. She knew that
even women who called themselves happy sometimes had need to weep.

* * * * *

The little pensive pause was soon over. There was no use, as all the
sturdier part of Kate knew, in holding back from the future. That very
afternoon the new life began forcing itself on her. The neighbors
called, eager to meet this adventurous one who had turned her back on
the pleasant conventions and had refused to content herself with the
Silvertree Seminary for Young Ladies. They wanted to see what the new
brand of young woman was like. Moreover, there was no one who was not
under obligations to be kind to her mother's daughter. So, presently the
whole social life of Silvertree, aroused from its midsummer torpor by
this exciting event, was in full swing.

Kate wrote to Honora a fortnight later:--

I am trying to be the perfect young lady according to dear
mummy's definition. You should see me running baby ribbon in
my _lingerie_ and combing out the fringe on tea-napkins.
Every afternoon we are 'entertained' or give an
entertainment. Of course we meet the same people over and
over, but truly I like the cordiality. Even the
inquisitiveness has an affectionate quality to it. I'm
determined to enjoy my village and I do appreciate the homely
niceties of the life here. Of course I have to 'pretend'
rather hard at times--pretend, for example, that I care about
certain things which are really of no moment to me whatever.
To illustrate, mother and I have some recipes which nobody
else has and it's our role to be secretive about them! And we
have invented a new sort of 'ribbon sandwich.' Did you ever
hear of a ribbon sandwich? If not, you must be told that it
consists of layers and layers of thin slices of bread all
pressed down together, with ground nuts or dressed lettuce in
between. Each entertainer astonishes her guests with a new
variety. That furnishes conversation for several minutes.

"How long can I stand it, Honora, my dear old defender of
freedom? The classrooms are mine no more; the campus is a
departed glory; I shall no longer sing the 'Alma Mater' with
you when the chimes ring at ten. The whole challenge of the
city is missing. Nothing opposes me, there is no task for me
to do. I must be supine, acquiescent, smiling, non-essential.
I am like a runner who has trained for a race, and, ready for
the speeding, finds that no race is on. But I've no business
to be surprised. I knew it would be like this, didn't I? the
one thing is to ¸make and keep mummy happy. She needs me _so_
much. And I am happy to be with her. Write me often--write me
everything. Gods, how I'd like a walk and talk with you!"

Mrs. Barrington did not attempt to conceal her interest in the letters
which Ray McCrea wrote her daughter. She was one of those women who
thrill at a masculine superscription on a letter. Perhaps she got more
satisfaction out of these not too frequent missives than Kate did
herself. While the writer didn't precisely say that he counted on Kate
to supply the woof of the fabric of life, that expectation made itself
evident between the lines to Mrs. Barrington's sentimental perspicacity.

Kate answered his letters, for it was pleasant to have a masculine
correspondent. It provided a needed stimulation. Moreover, in the back
of her mind she knew that he presented an avenue of escape if Silvertree
and home became unendurable. It seemed piteous enough that her life with
her parents should so soon have become a mere matter of duty and
endurance, but there was a feeling of perpetually treading on eggs in
the Barrington house. Kate could have screamed with exasperation as one
eventless day after another dawned and the blight of caution and
apprehension was never lifted from her mother and Martha. She writhed
with shame at the sight of her mother's cajolery of the tyrant she
served--and loved. To have spoken out once, recklessly, to have entered
a wordy combat without rancor and for the mere zest of tournament, to
have let the winnowing winds of satire blow through the house with its
stale sentimentalities and mental attitudes, would have reconciled her
to any amount of difference in the point of view. But the hushed voice
and covertly held position afflicted her like shame.

Were all women who became good wives asked to falsify themselves? Was
furtive diplomacy, or, at least, spiritual compromise, the miserable
duty of woman? Was it her business to placate her mate, and, by
exercising the cunning of the weak, to keep out from under his heel?

There was no one in all Silvertree whom the discriminating would so
quickly have mentioned as the ideal wife as Mrs. Barrington. She
herself, no doubt, so Kate concluded with her merciless young
psychology, regarded herself as noble. But the people in Silvertree had
a passion for thinking of themselves as noble. They had, Kate said to
herself bitterly, so few charms that they had to fall back on their
virtues. In the face of all this it became increasingly difficult to
think of marriage as a goal for herself, and her letters to McCrea were
further and further apart as the slow weeks passed. She had once read
the expression, "the authentic voice of happiness," and it had lived
hauntingly in her memory. Could Ray speak that? Would she, reading his
summons from across half the world, hasten to him, choose him from the
millions, face any future with him? She knew she would not. No, no;
union with the man of average congeniality was not her goal. There must
be something more shining than that for her to speed toward it.

However, one day she caught, opportunely, a hint of the further meanings
of a woman's life. Honora provided a great piece of news, and
illuminated with a new understanding, Kate wrote:--


"You write me that something beautiful is going to happen to
you. I can guess what it is and I agree that it is glorious,
though it does take my breath away. Now there are two of
you--and by and by there will be three, and the third will be
part you and part David and all a miracle. I can see how it
makes life worth living, Honora, as nothing else
could--nothing else!

"Mummy wouldn't like me to write like this. She doesn't
approve of women whose understanding jumps ahead of their
experiences. But what is the use of pretending that I don't
encompass your miracle? I knew all about it from the
beginning of the earth.

"This will mean that you will have to give up your laboratory
work with David, I suppose. Will that be a hardship? Or are
you glad of the old womanly excuse for passing by the outside
things, and will you now settle down to be as fine a mother
as you were a chemist? Will you go further, my dear, and make
a fuss about your house and go all delicately bedizened after
the manner of the professors' nice little wives--go in, I
mean, for all the departments of the feminine profession?

"I do hope you'll have a little son, Honora, not so much on
your account as on his. During childhood a girl's feet are as
light as a boy's bounding over the earth; but when once
childhood is over, a man's life seems so much more coherent
than a woman's, though it is not really so important. But it
takes precisely the experience you are going through to give
it its great significance, doesn't it?

"What other career is there for real women, I wonder? What,
for example, am I to do, Honora? There at the University I
prepared myself for fine work, but I'm trapped here in this
silly Silvertree cage. If I had a talent I could make out
very well, but I am talentless, and all I do now is to answer
the telephone for father and help mummy embroider the towels.
They won't let me do anything else. Some one asked me the
other day what colors I intended wearing this autumn. I
wanted to tell them smoke-of-disappointment, ashes-of-dreams,
and dull-as-wash-Monday. But I only said ashes-of-roses.
"'Not all of your frocks, surely, Kate,' one of the girls
cried. 'All,' I declared; 'street frocks, evening gowns,
all.' 'But you mustn't be odd,' my little friend warned.
'Especially as people are a little suspicious that you will
be because of your going to a co-educational college.'

"I thought it would be so restful here, but it doesn't offer
peace so much as shrinkage. Silvertree isn't pastoral--it's
merely small town. Of course it is possible to imagine a
small town that would be ideal--a community of quiet souls
leading the simple life. But we aren't great or quiet souls
here, and are just as far from simple as our purses and
experience will let us be.

"I dare say that you'll be advising me, as a student of
psychology, to stop criticizing and to try to do something
for the neighbors here--go in search of their submerged
selves. But, honestly, it would require too much
paraphernalia in the way of diving-bells and air-pumps.

"I have, however, a reasonable cause of worry. Dear little
mummy isn't well. At first we thought her indisposition of
little account, but she seems run down. She has been flurried
and nervous ever since I came home; indeed, I may say she has
been so for years. Now she seems suddenly to have broken
down. But I'm going to do everything I can for her, and I
know father will, too; for he can't endure to have any one
sick. It arouses his great virtue, his physicianship."

* * * * *

A week later Kate mailed this:--

"I am turning to you in my terrible fear. Mummy won't answer
our questions and seems lost in a world of thought. Father
has called in other physicians to help him. I can't tell you
how like a frightened child I feel. Oh, my poor little
bewildered mummy! What do you suppose she is thinking about?"

* * * * *

Then, a week afterward, this--on black-bordered paper:--


"She's been gone three days. To the last we couldn't tell why
she fell ill. We only knew she made no effort to get well. I
am tormented by the fear that I had something to do with her
breaking like that. She was appalled--shattered--at the idea
of any friction between father and me. When I stood up for my
own ideas against his, it was to her as sacrilegious as if I
had lifted my hand against a king. I might have
capitulated--ought, I suppose, to have foregone everything!

"There is one thing, however, that gives me strange comfort.
At the last she had such dignity! Her silence seemed fine and
brave. She looked at us from a deep still peace as if, after
all her losing of the way, she had at last found it and
Herself. The search has carried her beyond our sight.

"Oh, we are so lonely, father and I. We silently accuse each
other. He thinks my reckless truth-telling destroyed her
timid spirit; I think his twenty-five years of tyranny did
it. We both know how she hated our rasping, and we hate it
ourselves. Yet, even at that hour when we stood beside her
bed and knew the end was coming, he and I were at sword's
points. What a hackneyed expression, but how terrible! Yes,
the hateful swords of our spirits, my point toward his breast
and his toward mine, gleamed there almost visibly above that
little tired creature. He wanted her for himself even to the
last: I wanted her for Truth--wanted her to walk up to God
dressed in her own soul-garments, not decked out in the rags
and tags of those father had tossed to her.

"She spoke only once. She had been dreaming, I suppose, and a
wonderful illuminated smile broke over her face. In the midst
of what seemed a sort of ecstasy, she looked up and saw
father watching her. She shivered away from him with one of
those apologetic gestures she so often used. 'It wasn't a
heavenly vision,' she said--she knew he wouldn't have
believed in that--'it was only that I thought my little brown
baby was in my arms.' She meant me, Honora,--think of it. She
had gone back to those tender days when I had been dependent
on her for all my well-being. My mummy! I gathered her close
and held her till she was gone, my little, strange,
frightened love.

"Now father and I hide our thoughts from each other. He
wanted to know if I was going to keep house for him. I said
I'd try, for six months. He flew in one of his rages because
I admitted that it would be an experiment. He wanted to know
what kind of a daughter I was, and I told him the kind he had
made me. Isn't that hideous?

"I've no right to trouble you, but I must confide in some one
or my heart will break. There's no one here I can talk to,
though many are kind. And Ray--perhaps you think I should
have written all this to him. But I wasn't moved to do so,
Honora. Try to forgive me for telling you these troubles now
in the last few days before your baby comes. I suppose I turn
to you because you are one of the blessed corporation of
mothers--part and parcel of the mother-fact. It's like being
a part of the good rolling earth, just as familiar and
comforting. Thinking of you mysteriously makes me good. I'm
going to forget myself, the way you do, and 'make a home'
for father.

"Your own


In September she sent Honora a letter of congratulation.

"So it's twins! Girls! Were you transported or amused?
Patience and Patricia--very pretty. You'll stay at home with
the treasures, won't you? You see, there's something about
you I can't quite understand, if you'll forgive me for saying
it. You were an exuberant girl, but after marriage you grew
austere--put your lips together in a line that discouraged
kissing. So I'm not sure of you even now that the babies have
come. Some day you'll have to explain yourself to me.

"I'm one who needs explanations all along the road. Why? Why?
Why? That is what my soul keeps demanding. Why couldn't I go
back to Chicago with Ray McCrea? He was down here the other
day, but I wouldn't let him say the things he obviously had
come to say, and now he's on his way abroad and very likely
we shall not meet again. I feel so numb since mummy died that
I can't care about Ray. I keep crying 'Why?' about Death
among other things. And about that horrid gulf between father
and me. If we try to get across we only fall in. He has me
here ready to his need. He neither knows nor cares what my
thoughts are. So long as I answer the telephone faithfully,
sterilize the drinking-water, and see that he gets his
favorite dishes, he is content. I have no liberty to leave
the house and my restlessness is torture. The neighbors no
longer flutter in as they used when mummy was here. They
have given me over to my year of mourning--which
means vacuity.

"Partly for lack of something better to do I have cleaned the
old house from attic to cellar, and have been glad to creep
to bed lame and sore from work, because then I could sleep.
Father won't let me read at night--watches for signs of the
light under my door and calls out to me if it shows. It is
golden weather without, dear friend, and within is order and
system. But what good? I am stagnating, perishing. I can see
no release--cannot even imagine in what form I would like it
to come. In your great happiness remember my sorrow. And with
your wonderful sweetness forgive my bitter egotism. But
truly, Honora, I die daily."

The first letter Honora Fulham wrote after she was able to sit at her
desk was to Kate. No answer came. In November Mrs. Fulham telephoned to
Lena Vroom to ask if she had heard, but Lena had received no word.

"Go down to Silvertree, Lena, there's a dear," begged her old
schoolmate. But Lena was working for her doctor's degree and could not
spare the time. The holidays came on, and Mrs. Fulham tried to imagine
her friend as being at last broken to her galling harness. Surely there
must be compensations for any father and daughter who can dwell
together. Her own Christmas was a very happy one, and she was annoyed
with herself that her thoughts so continually turned to Kate. She had
an uneasy sense of apprehension in spite of all her verbal assurances to
Lena that Kate could master any situation.

* * * * *

What really happened in Silvertree that day changed, as it happened, the
course of Kate's life. Sorrow came to her afterward, disappointment,
struggle, but never so heavy and dragging a pain as she knew that
Christmas Day.

She had been trying in many unsuspected ways to relieve her father's
grim misery,--a misery of which his gaunt face told the tale,--and
although he had said that he wished for "no flubdub about Christmas,"
she really could not resist making some recognition of a day which found
all other homes happy. When the doctor came in for his midday meal, Kate
had a fire leaping in the old grate with the marble mantel and a turkey
smoking on a table which was set forth with her choicest china and
silver. She had even gone so far as to bring out a dish distinctly
reminiscent of her mother,--the delicious preserved peaches, which had
awaked unavailing envy in the breasts of good cooks in the village.
There was pudding, too, and brandy sauce, and holly for decorations. It
represented a very mild excursion into the land of festival, but it was
too much for Dr. Barrington.

He had come in cold, tired, hungry, and, no doubt, bitterly sorrowful at
the bottom of his perverse heart. He discerned Kate in white--it was
the first time she had laid off her mourning--and with a chain of her
mother's about her neck. Beyond, he saw the little Christmas feast and
the old silver vase on the table, red with berries.

"You didn't choose to obey my orders," he said coldly, turning his
unhappy blue eyes on her.

"Your orders?" she faltered.

"There was to be no fuss and feathers of any sort," he said. "Christmas
doesn't represent anything recognized in my philosophy, and you know it.
We've had enough of pretense in this house. I've been working to get
things on a sane basis and I believed you were sensible enough to help
me. But you're just like the rest of them--you're like all of your sex.
You've got to have your silly play-time. I may as well tell you now that
you don't give me any treat when you give me turkey, for I don't
like it."

"Oh, dad!" cried Kate; "you do! I've seen you eat it many times! Come,
really it's a fine dinner. I helped to get it. Let's have a good time
for once."

"I have plenty of good times, but I have them in my own way."

"They don't include me!" cried Kate, her lips quivering. "You're too
hard on me, dad,--much too hard. I can't stand it, really."

He sat down to the table and ran his finger over the edge of the

"It wouldn't cut butter," he declared. "Martha, bring me the steel!"

"I sharpened it, sir," protested Martha.

"Sharpened it, did you? I never saw a woman yet who could sharpen a

He began flashing the bright steel, and the women, their day already in
ashes, watched him fascinatedly. He was waiting to pounce on them. They
knew that well enough. The spirit of perversity had him by the throat
and held him, writhing. He carved and served, and then turned again to
his daughter.

"So I'm too hard on you, am I?" he said, looking at her with a cold
glint in his eye. "I provide you with a first-class education, I house
you, clothe you, keep you in idleness, and I'm too hard on you. What do
you expect?"

"Why, I want you to like me," cried Kate, her face flushing. "I simply
want to be your daughter. I want you to take me out with you, to give me
things. I wanted you to give me a Christmas present. I want other
things, too,--things that are not favors."

She paused and he looked at her with a tightening of the lips.

"Go on," he said.

"I am not being kept in idleness, as I think you know very well. My time
and energies are given to helping you. I look after your office and your
house. My time is not my own. I devote it to you. I want some
recognition of my services--I want some money."

She leaned back in her chair, answering his exasperated frown with a
straight look, which was, though he did not see it, only a different
sort of anger from his own.

"Well, you won't get it," he said. "You won't get it. When you need
things you can tell me and I'll get them for you. But there's been
altogether too much money spent in this house in years gone by for
trumpery. You know that well enough. What's in that chest out there in
the hall? Trumpery! What's in those bureau drawers upstairs? Truck!
Hundreds of dollars, that might have been put out where it would be
earning something, gone into mere flubdub."

He paused to note the effect of his words and saw that he had scored.
Poor Mrs. Barrington, struggling vaguely and darkly in her own feminine
way for some form of self-expression, had spent her household allowance
many a time on futile odds and ends. She had haunted the bargain
counter, and had found herself unable to get over the idea that a thing
cheaply purchased was an economic triumph. So in drawers and chests and
boxes she had packed her pathetic loot--odds and ends of embroidery, of
dress goods, of passementerie, of chair coverings; dozens of spools of
thread and crochet cotton; odd dishes; jars of cold cream; flotsam and
jetsam of the shops, a mere wreckage of material. Kate remembered it
with vicarious shame and the blood that flowed to her face swept on into
her brain. She flamed with loyalty to that little dead, bewildered
woman, whose feet had walked so falteringly in her search for the roses
of life. And she said--

But what matter what she said?

Her father and herself were at the antipodes, and they were separated no
less by their similarities than by their differences. Their wistful and
inexpressive love for each other was as much of a blight upon them as
their inherent antagonism. The sun went down that bleak Christmas night
on a house divided openly against itself.

The next day Kate told her father he might look for some one else to run
his house for him. He said he had already done so. He made no inquiry
where she was going. He would not offer her money, though he secretly
wanted her to ask for it. But it was past that with her. The miserable,
bitter drama--the tawdry tragedy, whose most desperate accent was its
shameful approach to farce--wore itself to an end.

Kate took her mother's jewelry, which had been left to her, and sold it
at the local jeweler's. All Silvertree knew that Kate Barrington had
left her home in anger and that her father had shown her the back of
his hand.


Honora Fulham, sitting in her upper room and jealously guarding the
slumbers of Patience and Patricia, her tiny but already remarkable twin
daughters, heard a familiar voice in the lower hallway. She dropped her
book, "The Psychological Significance of the Family Group," and ran to
the chamber door. A second later she was hanging over the banisters.

"Kate!" she called with a penetrating whisper. "You!"

"Yes, Honora, it's bad Kate. She's come to you--a penny nobody else

Honora Fulham sailed down the stairs with the generous bearing of a ship
answering a signal of distress. The women fell into each other's arms,
and in that moment of communion dismissed all those little alien
half-feelings which grow up between friends when their enlarging
experience has driven them along different roads. Honora led the way to
her austere drawing-room, from which, with a rigorous desire to
economize labor, she had excluded all that was superfluous, and there,
in the bare, orderly room, the two women--their girlhood definitely
behind them--faced each other. Kate noted a curious retraction in
Honora, an indescribable retrenchment of her old-time self, as if her
florescence had been clipped by trained hands, so that the bloom should
not be too exuberant; and Honora swiftly appraised Kate's suggestion of
freedom and force.

"Kate," she announced, "you look like a kind eagle."

"A wounded one, then, Honora."

"You've a story for me, I see. Sit down and tell it."

So Kate told it, compelling the history of her humiliating failure to
stand out before the calm, adjudging mind of her friend.

"But oughtn't we to forgive everything to the old?" cried Honora at the
conclusion of the recital.

"Oh, is father old?" responded Kate in anguish. "He doesn't seem
old--only formidable. If I'd thought I'd been wrong I never would have
come up here to ask you to sustain me in my obstinacy. Truly, Honora, it
isn't a question of age. He's hardly beyond his prime, and he has been
using all of his will, which has grown strong with having his own way,
to break me down the way most of the men in Silvertree have broken their
women down. I was getting to be just like the others, and to start when
I heard him coming in at the door, and to hide things from him so that
he wouldn't rage. I'd have been lying next."


"Oh, you think it isn't decent for me to speak that way of my father!
You can't think how it seems to me--how--how irreligious! But let me
save my soul, Honora! Let me do that!"

The girl's pallid face, sharpened and intensified, bore the imprint of
genuine misery. Honora Fulham, strong of nerve and quick of
understanding, embraced her with a full sisterly glance.

"I always liked and trusted you, Kate," she said. "I was sorry when our
ways parted, and I'd be happy to have them joined again. I see it's to
be a hazard of new fortune for you, and David and I will stand by. I
don't know, of course, precisely what that may mean, but we're yours
to command."

A key turned in the front door.

"There's David now," said his wife, her voice vibrating, and she
summoned him.

* * * * *

David Fulham entered with something almost like violence, although the
violence did not lie in his gestures. It was rather in the manner in
which his personality assailed those within the room. Dark, with an
attractive ugliness, arrogant, with restive and fathomless eyes, he
seemed to unite the East and the West in his being. Had his mother been
a Jewess of pride and intellect, and his father an adventurous American
of the superman type? Kate, looking at him with fresh interest, found
her thoughts leaping to the surmise. She knew that he was, in a way, a
great man--a man with a growing greatness. He had promulgated ideas so
daring that his brother scientists were embarrassed to know where to
place him. There were those who thought of him as a brilliant charlatan;
but the convincing intelligence and self-control of his glance
repudiated that idea. The Faust-like aspect of the man might lay him
open to the suspicion of having too experimental and inquisitive a mind.
But he had, it would seem, no need for charlatanism.

He came forward swiftly and grasped Kate's hand.

"I remember you quite well," he said in his deep, vibratory tones. "Are
you here for graduate work?"

"No," said Kate; "I'm not so humble."

"Not so humble?" He showed his magnificent teeth in a flashing but
somewhat satiric smile.

"I'm here for Life--not for study."

"Not 'in for life,' but 'out' for it," he supplemented. "That's
interesting. What is Honora suggesting to you? She's sure to have a
theory of what will be best. Honora knows what will be best for almost
everybody, but she sometimes has trouble in making others see it the
same way."

Honora seemed not to mind his chaffing.

"Yes," she agreed, "I've already thought, but I haven't had time to tell
Kate. Do you remember that Mrs. Goodrich said last night at dinner that
her friend Miss Addams was looking about for some one to take the place
of a young woman who was married the other day? She was an officer of
the Children's Protective League, you remember."

"Oh, that--" broke in Fulham. He turned toward Kate and looked her over
from head to foot, till the girl felt a hot wave of indignation sweep
over her. But his glance was impersonal, apparently. He paid no
attention to her embarrassment. He seemed merely to be getting at her
qualities by the swiftest method. "Well," he said finally, "I dare say
you're right. But--" he hesitated.

"Well?" prompted his wife.

"But won't it be rather a--a waste?" he asked. And again he smiled, this
time with some hidden meaning.

"Of course it won't be a waste," declared Honora. "Aren't women to serve
their city as well as men? It's a practical form of patriotism,
according to my mind."

Kate broke into a nervous laugh.

"I hope I'm to be of some use," she said. "Work can't come a moment too
soon for me. I was beginning to think--"

She paused.

"Well?" supplied Fulham, still with that watchful regard of her.

"Oh, that I had made a mistake about myself--that I wasn't going to be
anything in particular, after all."

* * * * *

They were interrupted. A man sprang up the outside steps and rang the
doorbell imperatively.

"It's Karl Wander," announced Fulham, who had glanced through the
window. "It's your cousin, Honora."

He went to the door, and Kate heard an emphatic and hearty voice making
hurried greetings.

"Stopped between trains," it was saying. "Can stay ten minutes
precisely--not a second longer. Came to see the babies."

Honora had arisen with a little cry and gone to the door. Now she
returned, hanging on to the arm of a weather-tanned man.

"Miss Barrington," she said, "my cousin, Mr. Wander. Oh, Karl, you're
not serious? You don't really mean that you can't stay--not even
over night?"

The man turned his warm brown eyes on Kate and she looked at him
expectantly, because he was Honora's cousin. For the time it takes to
draw a breath, they gazed at each other. Oddly enough, Kate thought of
Ray McCrea, who was across the water, and whose absence she had not
regretted. She could not tell why her thoughts turned to him. This man
was totally unlike Ray. He was, indeed, unlike any one she ever had
known. There was that about him which held her. It was not quite
assertion; perhaps it was competence. But it was competence that seemed
to go without tyranny, and that was something new in her experience of
men. He looked at her on a level, spiritually, querying as to who
she might be.

The magical moment passed. Honora and David were talking. They ran away
up the stairs with their guest, inviting Kate to follow.

"I'll only be in the way now," she called. "By and by I'll have the
babies all to myself."

Yet after she had said this, she followed, and looked into the nursery,
which was at the rear of the house. Honora had thrust the two children
into her cousin's big arms and she and David stood laughing at him.
Another man might have appeared ridiculous in this position; but it did
not, apparently, occur to Karl Wander to be self-conscious. He was
wrapped in contemplation of the babies, and when he peered over their
heads at Kate, he was quite grave and at ease.

Then, before it could be realized, he was off again. He had kissed
Honora and congratulated her, and he and Kate had again clasped hands.

"Sorry," he said, in his explosive way, "that we part so soon." He held
her hand a second longer, gave it a sudden pressure, and was gone.

Honora shut the door behind him reluctantly.

"So like Karl!" she laughed. "It's the second time he's been in my house
since I was married."

"You'd think we had the plague, the way he runs from us," said David.

"Oh," responded Honora, not at all disturbed, "Karl is forever on
important business. He's probably been to New York to some directors'
meeting. Now he's on his way to Denver, he says--'men waiting.' That's
Karl's way. To think of his dashing up here between trains to see my
babies!" The tears came to her eyes. "Don't you think he's fine, Kate?"

The truth was, there seemed to be a sort of vacuum in the air since he
had left--as if he had taken the vitality of it with him.

"But where does he live?" she asked Honora.

"Address him beyond the Second Divide, and he'll be reached. Everybody
knows him there. His post-office bears his own name--Wander."

"He's a miner?"

"How did you know?"

"Oh, by process of elimination. What else could he be?"

"Nothing else in all the world," agreed David Fulham. "I tell Honora
he's a bit mad."

"No, no," Honora laughed; "he's not mad; he's merely Western. How
startled you look, Kate--as if you had seen an apparition."

* * * * *

It was decided that Kate was to stay there at the Fulhams', and to use
one of their several unoccupied rooms. Kate chose one that looked over
the Midway, and her young strength made nothing of the two flights of
stairs which she had to climb to get to it. At first the severity of the
apartment repelled her, but she had no money with which to make it more
to her taste, and after a few hours its very barrenness made an appeal
to her. It seemed to be like her own life, in need of decoration, and
she was content to let things take their course. It seemed probable that
roses would bloom in their time.

No one, it transpired, ate in the house.

"I found out," explained Honora, "that I couldn't be elaborately
domestic and have a career, too, so I went, with some others of similar
convictions and circumstances, into a cooeperative dining-room scheme."

Kate gave an involuntary shrug of her shoulders.

"You think that sounds desolate? Wait till you see us all together. This
talk about 'home' is all very well, but I happen to know--and I fancy
you do, too--that home can be a particularly stultifying place. When
people work as hard as we do, a little contact with outsiders is
stimulating. But you'll see for yourself. Mrs. Dennison, a very fine
woman, a widow, looks after things for us. Dr. von Shierbrand, one of
our number, got to calling the place 'The Caravansary,' and now we've
all fallen into the way of it."

The Caravansary was but a few doors from the Fulhams'; an old-fashioned,
hospitable affair, with high ceilings, white marble mantels, and narrow
windows. Mrs. Dennison, the house-mother, suited the place well. Her
widow's cap and bands seemed to go with the grave pretentiousness of the
rooms, to which she had succeeded in giving almost a personal
atmosphere. There was room for her goldfish and her half-dozen canary
cages as well as for her "cooeperators"--no one there would permit
himself to be called a boarder.

Kate, sensitive from her isolation and sore from her sorrows, had
imagined that she would resent the familiarities of those she would be
forced to meet on table terms. But what was the use in trying, to resent
Marna Cartan, the young Irish girl who meant to make a great singer of
herself, and who evidently looked upon the world as a place of rare and
radiant entertainment? As for Mrs. Barsaloux, Marna's patron and
benefactor, with her world-weary eyes and benevolent smile, who could
turn a cold shoulder to her solicitudes? Then there were Wickersham and
Von Shierbrand, members, like Fulham, of the faculty of the University.
The Applegates and the Goodriches were pleasant folk, rather settled in
their aspect, and all of literary leanings. The Applegates were
identified--both husband and wife--with a magazine of literary
criticism; Mr. Goodrich ran a denominational paper with an academic
flavor; Mrs. Goodrich was president of an orphan asylum and spent her
days in good works. Then, intermittently, the company was joined by
George Fitzgerald, a preoccupied young physician, the nephew of
Mrs. Dennison.

They all greeted Kate with potential friendship in their faces, and she
could not keep back her feeling of involuntary surprise at the absence
of anything like suspicion. Down in Silvertree if a new woman had come
into a boarding-house, they would have wondered why. Here they seemed
tacitly to say, "Why not?"

Mrs. Dennison seated Kate between Dr. von Shierbrand and Marna Cartan.
Opposite to her sat Mrs. Goodrich with her quiet smile. Everyone had
something pleasant to say; when Kate spoke, all were inclined to listen.
The atmosphere was quiet, urbane, gracious. Even David Fulham's exotic
personality seemed to soften under the regard of Mrs. Dennison's
gray eyes.

"Really," Kate concluded, "I believe I can be happy here. All I need is
a chance to earn my bread and butter."

And what with the intervention of the Goodriches and the recommendation
of the Fulhams, that opportunity soon came.


A fortnight later she was established as an officer of the Children's
Protective Association, an organization with a self-explanatory name,
instituted by women, and chiefly supported by them. She was given an
inexhaustible task, police powers, headquarters at Hull House, and a
vocation demanding enough to satisfy even her desire for spiritual

It was her business to adjust the lives of children--which meant that
she adjusted their parents' lives also. She arranged the disarranged;
played the providential part, exercising the powers of intervention
which in past times belonged to the priest, but which, in the days of
commercial feudalism, devolve upon the social workers.

Her work carried her into the lowest strata of society, and her
compassion, her efficiency, and her courage were daily called upon.
Perhaps she might have found herself lacking in the required measure of
these qualities, being so young and inexperienced, had it not been that
she was in a position to concentrate completely upon her task. She knew
how to listen and to learn; she knew how to read and apply. She went
into her new work with a humble spirit, and this humility offset
whatever was aggressive and militant in her. The death of her mother and
the aloofness of her father had turned all her ardors back upon
herself. They found vent now in her new work, and she was not long in
perceiving that she needed those whom she was called upon to serve quite
as much as they needed her.

Mrs. Barsaloux and Marna Carton, who had been shopping, met Kate one day
crossing the city with a baby in her arms and two miserable little
children clinging to her skirts. Hunger and neglect had given these poor
small derelicts that indescribable appearance of depletion and shame
which, once seen, is never to be confused with anything else.

"My goodness!" cried Mrs. Barsaloux, glowering at Kate through her veil;
"what sort of work is this you are doing, Miss Barrington? Aren't you
afraid of becoming infected with some dreadful disease? Wherever do you
find the fortitude to be seen in the company of such wretched little
creatures? I would like to help them myself, but I'd never be willing to
carry such filthy little bags of misery around with me."

Kate smiled cheerfully.

"We've just put their mother in the Bridewell," she said, "and their
father is in the police station awaiting trial. The poor dears are going
to be clean for once in their lives and have a good supper in the
bargain. Maybe they'll be taken into good homes eventually. They're
lovely children, really. You haven't looked at them closely enough, Mrs.

"I'm just as close to them as I want to be, thank you," said the lady,
drawing back involuntarily. But she reached for her purse and gave
Kate a bill.

"Would this help toward getting them something?" she asked.

Marna laughed delightedly.

"I'm sure they're treasures," she said. "Mayn't I help Miss Barrington
take them to wherever they're going, _tante_? I shan't catch a thing,
and I love to know what becomes of homeless children."

Kate saw a look of acute distress on Mrs. Barsaloux's face.

"This isn't your game just now, Miss Cartan," Kate said in her downright
manner. "It's mine. I'm moving my pawns here and there, trying to find
the best places for them. It's quite exhilarating."

Her arms were aching and she moved the heavy baby from one shoulder to
the other.

"A game, is it?" asked the Irish girl. "And who wins?"

"The children, I hope. I'm on the side of the children first and last."

"Oh, so am I. I think it's just magnificent of you to help them."

Kate disclaimed the magnificence.

"You mustn't forget that I'm doing it for money," she said. "It's my
job. I hope I'll do it well enough to win the reputation of being
honest, but you mustn't think there's anything saintly about me,
because there isn't. Good-bye. Hold on tight, children!"

She nodded cheerfully and moved on, fresh, strong, determined, along the
crowded thoroughfare, the people making way for her smilingly. She saw
nothing of the attention paid her. She was wondering if her arms would
hold out or if, in some unguarded moment, the baby would slip from them.
Perhaps the baby was fearful, too, for it reached up its little clawlike
hands and clasped her tight about the neck. Kate liked the feeling of
those little hands, and was sorry when they relaxed and the weary little
one fell asleep.

Each day brought new problems. If she could have decided these by mere
rule of common sense, her new vocation might not have puzzled her as
much as it did. But it was uncommon, superfine, intuitive sense that was
required. She discovered, for example, that not only was sin a virtue in
disguise, but that a virtue might be degraded into a sin.

She put this case to Honora and David one evening as the three of them
sat in Honora's drawing-room.

"It's the case of Peggy Dunn," she explained. "Peggy likes life. She has
brighter eyes than she knows what to do with and more smiles than she
has a chance to distribute. She has finished her course at the parochial
school and she's clerking in a downtown store. That is slow going for
Peggy, so she evens things up by attending the Saturday night dances.
When she's whirling around the hall on the tips of her toes, she really
feels like herself. She gets home about two in the morning on these
occasions and finds her mother waiting up for her and kneeling before a
little statue of the Virgin that stands in the corner of the
sitting-room. As soon as the mother sees Peggy, she pounces on her and
weeps on her shoulder, and after Peggy's in bed and dead with the tire
in her legs, her mother gets down beside the bed and prays some more.
'What would you do, please,' says Peggy to me, 'if you had a mother that
kept crying and praying every time you had a bit of fun? Wouldn't you
run away from home and get where they took things aisier?'"

David threw back his head and roared in sympathetic commendation of
Peggy's point of view.

"Poor little mother," sighed Honora. "I suppose she'll send her girl
straight on the road to perdition and never know what did it."

"Not if I can help it," said Kate. "I don't believe in letting her go to
perdition at all. I went around to see the mother and I put the
responsibility on her. 'Every time you make Peggy laugh,' I said, 'you
can count it for glory. Every time you make her swear,--for she does
swear,--you can know you've blundered. Why don't you give her some
parties if you don't want her to be going out to them?'"

"How did she take that?" asked Honora.

"It bothered her a good deal at first, but when I went down to meet
Peggy the other day as she came out of the store, she told me her mother
had had the little bisque Virgin moved into her own bedroom and that she
had put a talking-machine in the place where it had stood. I told Peggy
the talking-machine was just a new kind of prayer, meant to make her
happy, and that it wouldn't do for her to let her mother's prayers go
unanswered. 'Any one with eyes like yours,' I said to her, 'is bound to
have beaux in plenty, but you've only one mother and you'd better hang
on to her.'"

"Then what did she say?" demanded the interested Honora.

"She's an impudent little piece. She said, 'You've some eyes yourself,
Miss Barrington, but I suppose you know how to make them behave."

"Better marry that girl as soon as you can, Miss Barrington," counseled
David; "that is, if any hymeneal authority is vested in you."

"That's what Peggy wanted to know," admitted Kate. "She said to me the
other day: 'Ain't you Cupid, Miss Barrington? I heard about a match you
made up, and it was all right--the real thing, sure enough.' 'Have you a
job for me--supposing I was Cupid?' I asked. That set her off in a gale.
So I suppose there's something up Peggy's very short sleeves."

The Fulhams liked to hear her stories, particularly as she kept the
amusing or the merely pathetic ones for them, refraining from telling
them of the unspeakable, obscene tragedies which daily came to her
notice. It might have been supposed that scenes such as these would so
have revolted her that she could not endure to deal with them; but this
was far from being the case. The greater the need for her help, the more
determined was she to meet the demand. She had plenty of superiors whom
she could consult, and she suffered less from disgust or timidity than
any one could have supposed possible.

The truth was, she was grateful for whatever absorbed her and kept her
from dwelling upon that dehumanized house at Silvertree. Her busy days
enabled her to fight her sorrow very well, but in the night, like a
wailing child, her longing for her mother awoke, and she nursed it,
treasuring it as those freshly bereaved often do. The memory of that
little frustrated soul made her tender of all women, and too prone,
perhaps, to lay to some man the blame of their shortcomings. She had no
realization that she had set herself in this subtle and subconscious way
against men. But whether she admitted it or not, the fact remained that
she stood with her sisters, whatever their estate, leagued secretly
against the other sex.

By way of emphasizing her devotion to her work, she ceased answering Ray
McCrea's letters. She studiously avoided the attentions of the men she
met at the Settlement House and at Mrs. Dennison's Caravansary.
Sometimes, without her realizing it, her thoughts took on an almost
morbid hue, so that, looking at Honora with her chaste, kind, uplifted
face, she resented her close association with her husband. It seemed
offensive that he, with his curious, half-restrained excesses of
temperament, should have domination over her friend who stood so
obviously for abnegation. David manifestly was averse to bounds and
limits. All that was wild and desirous of adventure, in Kate informed
her of like qualities in this man. But she held--and meant always to
hold--the restless falcons of her spirit in leash. Would David Fulham do
as much? She could not be quite sure, and instinctively she avoided
anything approaching intimacy with him.

He was her friend's husband. "Friend's husband" was a sort of limbo into
which men were dropped by scrupulous ladies; so Kate decided, with a
frown at herself for having even thought that David could wish to emerge
from that nondescript place of spiritual residence. Anyway, she did not
completely like him, though she thought him extraordinary and
stimulating, and when Honora told her something of the great discovery
which the two of them appeared to be upon the verge of making concerning
the germination of life without parental interposition, she had little
doubt that David was wizard enough to carry it through. He would have
the daring, and Honora the industry, and--she reflected--if renown came,
that would be David's beyond all peradventure.

No question about it, Kate's thoughts were satiric these days. She was
still bleeding from the wound which her father had inflicted, and she
did not suspect that it was wounded affection rather than hurt
self-respect which was tormenting her. She only knew that she shrank
from men, and that at times she liked to imagine what sort of a world it
would be if there were no men in it at all.

Meantime she met men every day, and whether she was willing to admit it
or not, the facts were that they helped her on her way with brotherly
good will, and as they saw her going about her singular and heavy tasks,
they gave her their silent good wishes, and hoped that the world of pain
and shame would not too soon destroy what was gallant and trustful
in her.

* * * * *

But here has been much anticipation. To go back to the beginning, at the
end of her first week in the city she had a friend. It was Marna Cartan.
They had fallen into the way of talking together a few minutes before or
after dinner, and Kate would hasten her modest dinner toilet in order to
have these few marginal moments with this palpitating young creature who
moved to unheard rhythms, and whose laughter was the sweetest thing she
had yet heard in a city of infinite dissonances.

"You don't know how to account for me very well, do you?" taunted Marna
daringly, when they had indulged their inclination for each other's
society for a few days. "You wonder about me because I'm so streaked. I
suppose you see vestiges of the farm girl peeping through the operatic
student. Wouldn't you like me to explain myself?"

She had an iridescent personality, made up of sudden shynesses, of
bright flashes of bravado, of tenderness and hauteur, and she contrived
to be fascinating in all of them. She held Kate as the Ancient Mariner
held the wedding-guest.

"Of course I'd love to know all about you," answered Kate.
"Inquisitiveness is the most marked of my characteristics. But I don't
want you to tell me any more than I deserve to hear."

"You deserve everything," cried Marna, seizing Kate's firm hand in her
own soft one, "because you understand friendship. Why, I always said it
could be as swift and surprising as love, and just as mysterious. You
take it that way, too, so you deserve a great deal. Well, to begin with,
I'm Irish."

Kate's laugh could be heard as far as the kitchen, where Mrs. Dennison
was wishing the people would come so that she could dish up the soup.
Marna laughed, too.

"You guessed it?" she cried. She didn't seem to think it so obvious as
Kate's laugh indicated.

"You don't leave a thing to the imagination in that direction," Kate
cried. "Irish? As Irish as the shamrock! Go on."

"Dear me, I want to begin so far back! You see, I don't merely belong to
modern Ireland. I'm--well, I'm traditional. At least, Great-Grandfather
Cartan, who came over to Wisconsin with a company of immigrants, could
tell you things about our ancestors that would make you feel as if we
came up out of the Irish hills. And great-grandfather, he actually
looked legendary himself. Why, do you know, he came over with these
people to be their story-teller!"

"Their story-teller?"

"Yes, just that--their minstrel, you understand. And that's what my
people were, 'way back, minstrels. All the way over on the ship, when
the people were weeping for homesickness, or sitting dreaming about the
new land, or falling sick, or getting wild and vicious, it was
great-granddaddy's place to bring them to themselves with his stories.
Then when they all went on to Wisconsin and took up their land, they
selected a small beautiful piece for great-grandfather, and built him a
log house, and helped him with his crops. He, for his part, went over
the countryside and was welcomed everywhere, and carried all the
friendly news and gossip he could gather, and sat about the fire nights,
telling tales of the old times, and keeping the ancient stories and the
ancient tongue alive for them."

"You mean he used the Gaelic?"

"What else would he be using, and himself the descendant of minstrels?
But after a time he learned the English, too, and he used that in his
latter years because the understanding of the Gaelic began to die out."

"How wonderful he must have been!"

"Wonderful? For eighty years he held sway over the hearts of them, and
was known as the best story-teller of them all. This was the more
interesting, you see, because every year they gathered at a certain
place to have a story-telling contest; and great-grandfather was voted
the master of them until--"

Marna hesitated, and a flush spread over her face.

"Until--" urged Kate.

"Until a young man came along. Finnegan, his name was. He was no more
than a commercial traveler who heard of the gathering and came up there,
and he capped stories with great-grandfather, and it went on till all
the people were thick about them like bees around a flower-pot. Four
days it lasted, and away into the night; and in the end they took the
prize from great-grandfather and gave it to Gerlie Finnegan. And that
broke great-granddad's heart."

"He died?"

"Yes, he died. A hundred and ten he was, and for eighty years had been
the king of them. When he was gone, it left me without anybody at all,
you see. So that was how I happened to go down to Baraboo to earn
my living."

"What were you doing?"

Marna looked at the tip of her slipper for a moment, reflectively. Then
she glanced up at Kate, throwing a supplicating glance from the blue
eyes which looked as if they were snared behind their long dark lashes.

"I wouldn't be telling everybody that asked me," she said. "But I was
singing at the moving-picture show, and Mrs. Barsaloux came in there and
heard me. Then she asked me to live with her and go to Europe, and I
did, and she paid for the best music lessons for me everywhere,
and now--"

She hesitated, drawing in a long breath; then she arose and stood before
Kate, breathing deep, and looking like a shining butterfly free of its
chrysalis and ready to spread its emblazoned wings.

"Yes, bright one!" cried Kate, glowing with admiration. "What now?"

"Why, now, you know, I'm to go in opera. The manager of the Chicago
Opera Company has been Mrs. Barsaloux's friend these many years, and she
has had him try out my voice. And he likes it. He says he doesn't care
if I haven't had the usual amount of training, because I'm really born
to sing, you see. Perhaps that's my inheritance from the old
minstrels--for they chanted their ballads and epics, didn't they?
Anyway, I really can sing. And I'm to make my debut this winter in
'Madame Butterfly.' Just think of that! Oh, I love Puccini! I can
understand a musician like that--a man who makes music move like
thoughts, flurrying this way and blowing that. It's to be very soon--my
debut. And then I can make up to Mrs. Barsaloux for all she's done for
me. Oh, there come all the people! You mustn't let Mrs. Fulham know how
I've chattered. I wouldn't dare talk about myself like that before her.
This is just for you--I _knew_ you wanted to know about me. I want to
know all about you, too."

"Oh," said Kate, "you mustn't expect me to tell my story. I'm different
from you. I'm not born for anything in particular--I've no talents to
point out my destiny. I keep being surprised and frustrated. It looks to
me as if I were bound to make mistakes. There's something wrong with me.
Sometimes I think that I'm not womanly enough--that there's too much of
the man in my disposition, and that the two parts of me are always going
to struggle and clash."

Chairs were being drawn up to the table.

"Come!" called Dr. von Shierbrand. "Can't you young ladies take time
enough off to eat?"

He looked ready for conversation, and Kate went smilingly to sit beside
him. She knew he expected women to be amusing, and she found it
agreeable to divert him. She understood the classroom fag from which he
was suffering; and, moreover, after all those austere meals with her
father, it really was an excitement and a pleasure to talk with an
amiable and complimentary man.


"We're to have a new member in the family, Kate," Honora said one
morning, as she and Kate made their way together to the Caravansary.
"It's my cousin, Mary Morrison. She's a Californian, and very charming,
I understand."

"She's to attend the University?"

"I don't quite know as to that," admitted Honora, frowning slightly.
"Her father and mother have been dead for several years, and she has
been living with her brother in Santa Barbara. But he is to go to the
Philippines on some legal work, and he's taking his family with him.
Mary begs to stay here with me during his absence."

"Is she the sort of a person who will need a chaperon? Because I don't
seem to see you in that capacity, Honora."

"No, I don't know that I should care to sit against the wall smiling
complacently while other people were up and doing. I've always felt I
wouldn't mind being a chaperon if they'd let me set up some sort of a
workshop in the ballroom, or even if I could take my mending, or a book
to read. But slow, long hours of vacuous smiling certainly would wear me
out. However, I don't imagine that Mary will call upon me for any
such service."

"But if your cousin isn't going to college, and doesn't intend to go
into society, how will she amuse herself?"

"I haven't an idea--not an idea. But I couldn't say no to her, could I?
I've so few people belonging to me in this world that I can't, for
merely selfish reasons, bear to turn one of my blood away. Mary's mother
and my mother were sisters, and I think we should be fond of each other.
Of course she is younger than I, but that is immaterial."

"And David--does he like the idea? She may be rather a fixture, mayn't
she? Haven't you to think about that?"

"Oh, David probably won't notice her particularly. People come and go
and it's all the same to him. He sees only his great problems." Honora
choked a sigh.

"Who wants him to do anything else!" defended Kate quickly. "Not you,
surely! Why, you're so proud of him that you're positively offensive!
And to think that you are working beside him every day, and helping
him--you know it's all just the way you would have it, Honora."

"Yes, it is," agreed Honora contritely, "and you should see him in the
laboratory when we two are alone there, Kate! He's a changed man. It
almost seems as if he grew in stature. When he bends over those tanks
where he is making his great experiments, all of my scientific training
fails to keep me from seeing him as one with supernatural powers. And
that wonderful idea of his, the finding out of the secret of life, the
prying into this last hidden place of Nature, almost overwhelms me. I
can work at it with a matter-of-fact countenance, but when we begin to
approach the results, I almost shudder away from it. But you must never
let David know I said so. That's only my foolish, feminine, reverent
mind. All the trained and scientific part of me repudiates such

They turned in at the door of the Caravansary.

"I don't want to see you repudiating any part of yourself," cried Kate
with sudden ardor. "It's so sweet of you, Honora, to be a mere woman in
spite of all your learning and your power."

Honora stopped and grasped Kate's wrist in her strong hand.

"But am I that?" she queried, searching her friend's face with her
intense gaze. "You see, I've tried--I've tried--"

She choked on the words.

"I've tried not to be a woman!" she declared, drawing her breath sharply
between her teeth. "It's a strange, strange story, Kate."

"I don't understand at all," Kate declared.

"I've tried not to be a woman because David is so completely and
triumphantly a man."

"Still I don't understand."

"No, I suppose not. It's a hidden history. Sometimes I can't believe it
myself. But let me ask you, am I the woman you thought I would be?"

Kate smiled slowly, as her vision of Honora as she first saw her came
back to her.

"How soft and rosy you were!" she cried. "I believe I actually began my
acquaintance with you by hugging you. At any rate, I wanted to. No, no;
I never should have thought of you in a scientific career, wearing
Moshier gowns and having curtain-less windows. Never!"

Honora stood a moment there in the dim hall, thinking. In her eyes
brooded a curiously patient light.

"Do you remember all the trumpery I used to have on my toilet-table?"
she demanded. "I sent it to Mary Morrison. They say she looks like me."

She put her hand on the dining-room door and they entered. The others
were there before them. There were growing primroses on the table, and
the sunlight streamed in at the window. A fire crackled on the hearth;
and Mrs. Dennison, in her old-fashioned widow's cap, sat smiling at the
head of her table.

Kate knew it was not really home, but she had to admit that these busy
undomestic moderns had found a good substitute for it: or, at least,
that, taking their domesticity through the mediumship of Mrs. Dennison,
they contrived to absorb enough of it to keep them going. But, no, it
was not really home. Kate could not feel that she, personally, ever had
been "home." She thought of that song of songs, "The Wanderer."

"Where art thou? Where art thou, O home so dear?"

She was thinking of this still as, her salutation over, she seated
herself in the chair Dr. von Shierbrand placed for her.

"Busy thinking this morning, Miss Barrington?" Mrs. Dennison asked
gently. "That tells me you're meaning to do some good thing to-day. I
can't say how splendid you social workers seem to us common folks."

"Oh, my dear Mrs. Dennison!" Kate protested. "You and your kind are the
true social workers. If only women--all women--understood how to make
true homes, there wouldn't be any need for people like us. We're only
well-intentioned fools who go around putting plasters over the sores. We
don't even reach down as far as the disease--though I suppose we think
we do when we get a lot of statistics together. But the men and women
who go about their business, doing their work well all of the time, are
the preventers of social trouble. Isn't that so, Dr. von Shierbrand?"

That amiable German readjusted his glasses upon his handsome nose and
began to talk about the Second Part of "Faust." The provocation, though
slight, had seemed to him sufficient.

"My husband has already eaten and gone!" observed Honora with some
chagrin. "Can't you use your influence, Mrs. Dennison, to make him spend
a proper amount of time at the table?"

"Oh, he doesn't need to eat except once in a great while. He has the
ways of genius, Mrs. Fulham. Geniuses like to eat at odd times, and my
own feeling is that they should be allowed to do as they please. It is
very bad for geniuses to make them follow a set plan," said Mrs.
Dennison earnestly.

"That woman," observed Dr. von Shierbrand under his breath to Kate, "has
the true feminine wisdom. She should have been the wife of a great man.
It was such qualities which Goethe meant to indicate in his Marguerite."

Honora, who had overheard, lifted her pensive gray eyes and interchanged
a long look with Dr. von Shierbrand. Each seemed to be upon the verge of
some remark.

"Well," said Kate briskly, "if you want to speak, why don't you? Are
your thoughts too deep for words?"

Von Shierbrand achieved a laugh, but Honora was silent. She seemed to
want to say that there was more than one variety of feminine wisdom;
while Von Shierbrand, Kate felt quite sure, would have maintained that
there was but one--the instinctive sort which "Marguerite knew."

* * * * *

The day that Mary Morrison was to arrive conflicted with the visit of a
very great Frenchman to Professor Fulham's laboratory.

"I really don't see how I'm to meet the child, Kate," Honora said
anxiously to her friend. "Do you think you could manage to get down to
the station?"

Kate could and did go. This girl, like herself, was very much on her
own resources, she imagined. She was coming, as Kate had come only the
other day, to a new and forbidding city, and Kate's heart warmed to her.
It seemed rather a tragedy, at best, to leave the bland Californian
skies and to readjust life amid the iron compulsion of Chicago. Kate
pictured her as a little thing, depressed, weary with her long journey,
and already homesick.

The reality was therefore somewhat of a surprise. As Kate stood waiting
by the iron gate watching the outflowing stream of people with anxious
eyes, she saw a little furore centered about the person of an opulent
young woman who had, it appeared, many elaborate farewells to make to
her fellow-passengers. Two porters accompanied her, carrying her smart
bags, and, even with so much assistance, she was draped with extra
garments, which hung from her arms in varying and seductive shades of
green. She herself was in green of a subtle olive shade, and her plumes
and boa, her chains and chatelaine, her hand-bags and camera, marked her
as the traveler triumphant and expectant. Like an Arabian princess,
borne across the desert to the home of her future lord, she came
panoplied with splendor. The consciousness of being a personage, by the
mere right conferred by regal womanhood-in-flower, emanated from her.
And the world accepted her smilingly at her own estimate. She wished to
play at being queen. What more simple? Let her have her game. On every
hand she found those who were--or who delightedly pretended to
be--her subjects.

Once beyond the gateway, this exuberant creature paused. "And now," she
said to a gentleman more assiduous than the rest, who waited upon her
and who was laden with her paraphernalia, "you must help me to identify
my cousin. That will be easy enough, too, for they say we resemble
each other."

That gave Kate her cue. She went forward with outstretched hand.

"I am your cousin's emissary, Miss Morrison," she said. "I am Kate
Barrington, and I came to greet you because your cousin was unable to
get here, and is very, very sorry about it."

Miss Morrison revealed two deep dimples when she smiled, and held out so
much of a hand as she could disengage from her draperies. She presented
her fellow-traveler; she sent a porter for a taxi. All was
exhilaratingly in commotion about her; and Kate found herself
apportioning the camera and some of the other things to herself.

They had quite a royal setting-forth. Every one helped who could find
any excuse for doing so; others looked on. Miss Morrison nodded and
smiled; the chauffeur wheeled his machine splendidly, making dramatic
gestures which had the effect of causing commerce to pause till the
princess was under way.

"Be sure," warned Miss Morrison, "to drive through the pleasantest

Then she turned to Kate with a deliciously reproachful expression on
her face.

"Why didn't you order blue skies for me?" she demanded.

* * * * *

Kate never forgot the expression of Miss Morrison's face when she was
ushered into Honora's "sanitary drawing-room," as Dr. von Shierbrand had
dubbed it. True, the towers of Harper Memorial Library showed across the
Plaisance through the undraped windows, mitigating the gravity of the
outlook, and the innumerable lights of the Midway already began to
render less austere the January twilight. But the brown walls, the brown
rug, the Mission furniture in weathered oak, the corner clock,--an
excellent time-piece,--the fireplace with its bronze vases, the etchings
of foreign architecture, and the bookcase with Ruskin, Eliot, Dickens,
and all the Mid-Victorian celebrities in sets, produced but a grave and
unillumined interior.

"Oh!" cried Miss Morrison with ill-concealed dismay. And then, after a
silence: "But where do you sit when you're sociable?"

"Here," said Kate. She wasn't going to apologize for Honora to a pair of
exclamatory dimples!

"But you can be intimate here?" Miss Morrison inquired.

"We're not intimate," flashed Kate. "We're too busy--and we respect each

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