A Surrender by Robert Grant
Morgan Russell and I were lolling one day on the beach at Rock Ledge
watching the bathers. We had played three sets of tennis, followed by a
dip in the ocean, and were waiting for the luncheon hour. Though Russell
was my junior by four years, we were old friends, and had prearranged our
vacation to renew our intimacy, which the force of circumstances had
interrupted since we were students together at Harvard. Russell had been a
Freshman when I was a Senior, but as we happened to room in the same
entry, this propinquity had resulted in warm mutual liking. I had been out
of college for eight years, had studied law, and was the managing clerk of
a large law firm, and in receipt of what I then thought a tremendous
salary. Russell was still at Cambridge. He had elected at graduation to
pursue post-graduate courses in chemistry and physics, and had recently
accepted a tutorship. He had not discovered until the beginning of the
Junior year his strong predilection for scientific investigation, but he
had given himself up to it with an ardor which dwarfed everything else on
the horizon of his fancy. It was of his future we were talking, for he
wished to take his old chum into his confidence and to make plain his
ambition. "I recognize of course," he told me, "that I've an uphill fight
ahead of me, but my heart is in it. My heart wouldn't be in it if I felt
that the best years of my life were to be eaten up by mere teaching.
Nowadays a man who's hired to teach is expected to teach until his daily
supply of gray matter has run out, and his original work has to wait until
after he's dead. There's where I'm more fortunate than some. The fifteen
hundred dollars—a veritable godsend—which I receive annually
under the will of my aunt, will keep the wolf at a respectful distance and
enable me to play the investigator to my heart's content. I'm determined
to be thorough, George. There is no excuse for superficiality in science.
But in the end I intend to find out something new. See if I don't, old
"I haven't a doubt you will, Morgan," I replied. "I don't mind letting on
that I ran across Professor Drayson last winter, and he told me you were
the most promising enthusiast he had seen for a long time; that you were
patient and level-headed as well as eager. Drayson doesn't scatter
compliments lightly. But fifteen hundred dollars isn't a very impressive
"It was very good of the old fellow to speak so well of me."
"Suppose you marry?"
"Marry?" Russell looked up from the sea-shells with which he had been
playing, and smiled brightly. He had a thin, slightly delicate face with
an expression which was both animated and amiable, and keen, strong gray
eyes. "I've thought of that. I'm not what is called contemplating
matrimony at the moment; but I've considered the possibility, and it
doesn't appall me."
"On fifteen hundred a year?"
"And why not, George?" he responded a little fiercely. "Think of the host
of teachers, clerks, small tradesmen, and innumerable other reputable
human beings who marry and bring up families on that or less. Which do you
think I would prefer, to amass a fortune in business and have my town and
country house and steam yacht, or to exist on a pittance and discover
before I die something to benefit the race of man?"
"Knowing you as I do, there's only one answer to that conundrum," said I.
"And you're right, too, theoretically, Morgan. My ancestors in Westford
would have thought fifteen hundred downright comfort, and in admitting to
you that five thousand in New York is genteel poverty, I merely reveal
what greater comforts the ambitious American demands. I agree with you
that from the point of view of real necessity one-half the increase is
sheer materialism. But who's the girl?"
"There is no girl. Probably there never will be. But I'm no crank. I like
a good dinner and a seat at the play and an artistic domestic hearth as
well as the next man. If I were to marry, of course I should retain the
tutorship which I accepted temporarily as a means of training my own
perceptions, though I should try to preserve as at present a considerable
portion of my time free from the grind of teaching. Then much as I despise
the method of rushing into print prematurely in order to achieve a
newspaper scientific reputation, I should expect to eke out my income by
occasional magazine articles and presently a book. With twenty-five
hundred or three thousand a year we should manage famously."
"It would all depend upon the woman," said I with the definiteness of an
"If the savants in England, France, and Germany—the men who have
been content to starve in order to attain immortality—could find
wives to keep them company, surely their counterparts are to be found here
where woman is not the slave but the companion of man and is encouraged to
think not merely about him but think of him." After this preroration
Russell stopped abruptly, then raised himself on one elbow. Attracted by
his sudden interest I turned lazily in the same direction, and after a
moment's scrutiny ejaculated: "It looks just like her."
As it was nearing the luncheon hour, most of the bathers had retired. Two
women, one of them a girl of twenty-five, in the full bloom of youth and
vigor, with an open countenance and a self-reliant, slightly effusive
smile, were on the way to their bath. They were stepping transversely
across the beach from their bath-house at one end in order to reach the
place where the waves were highest, and their course was taking them
within a few yards of where we lay. For some reason the younger woman had
not put on the oil-skin cap designed to save her abundant hair from
getting wet, but carried it dangling from her fingers, and, just as
Russell noticed her, she dropped it on the beach. After stooping to pick
it up, she waited a moment for her friend to join her, revealing her full
"Yes, it's certainly she," I announced. "I spoke to her on the pier in New
York last autumn, when she was returning from Europe, and it's either she
or her double."
"You know her?"
"Yes, the Widow Spaulding."
"Widow? You mean the girl?"
There was just a trace of disappointment in the tone of Russell's
"Yes, I mean the girl. But you needn't dismiss her altogether from your
fastidiously romantic soul merely because she has belonged to another.
There are extenuating circumstances. She married the Rev. Horace
Spaulding, poor fellow, on his deathbed, when he was in the last stages of
consumption, and two days later she was his widow."
"You seem to know a good deal about her."
"I ought to, for she was born and bred in Westford. Edna Knight was her
name—the daughter of Justin Knight, the local attorney, half-lawyer
and half-dreamer. His parents were followers of Emerson, and there have
been plain living and high thinking in that family for three generations.
Look at her," I added, as she breasted a giant wave and jubilantly threw
herself into its embrace, "she takes to the water like a duck. I never saw
a girl so metamorphosed in three years."
"What was she like before?" asked Russell.
"Changed physically, I mean, and—and socially, I suppose it should
be called. Three years ago, at the time of her marriage to Spaulding, she
was a slip of a girl, shy, delicate, and introspective. She and her lover
were brought up in adjacent houses, and the world for her signified the
garden hedge over which they whispered in the gloaming, and later his
prowess at the divinity school and his hope of a parish. When galloping
consumption cut him off she walked about shrouded in her grief as one dead
to the world of men and women. I passed her occasionally when I returned
home to visit my family, and she looked as though she were going into a
decline. That was a year after her marriage. Solicitous sympathy was
unavailing, and the person responsible for her regaining her grip on life
was, curiously enough, a summer boarder whom old Mrs. Spaulding had taken
into her family in order to make both ends meet. Westford has been saved
from rusting out by the advent in the nick of time of the fashionable
summer boarder, and Mrs. Sidney Dale, whose husband is a New York banker,
and who spent two summers there as a cure for nervous prostration,
fascinated Edna without meaning to and made a new woman of her in the
process. There is the story for you. A year ago Mrs. Dale took her to
Europe as a sort of finishing touch, I suppose. I understand Westford
thinks her affliction has developed her wonderfully, and finds her
immensely improved; which must mean that she has triumphed over her grief,
but has not forgotten, for Westford would never pardon a purely material
"I noticed her at the hotel this morning before you arrived, and admired
the earnestness and ardor of her expression."
"And her good looks presumably. I saw you start when she approached just
now. She may be just the woman for you."
"Introduce me then. And her companion?"
"Will fall to my lot, of course, but I have no clew as to her identity."
Mrs. Spaulding enlightened me on the hotel piazza, after luncheon, when,
as a sequence to this persiflage I brought up my friend. The stranger
proved to be Mrs. Agnes Gay Spinney, a literary person, a lecturer on
history and literature. It transpired later that she and Edna had become
acquainted and intimate at Westford the previous spring during a few weeks
which Mrs. Spinney had spent there in the preparation of three new
lectures for the coming season. She was a rather serious-looking woman of
about forty with a straight figure, good features, and a pleasant, but
infrequent smile, suggesting that its owner was not susceptible to
flippancy. However, she na´vely admitted that she had come away for pure
recreation and to forget the responsibilities of life.
Morgan and the widow were conversing with so much animation that I, to
whom this remark was addressed, took upon myself to give youth a free
field; consequently I resigned myself to Mrs. Spinney's dignified point of
view, and, avoiding badinage or irony, evinced such an amiable interest in
drawing her out that by the end of fifteen minutes she asked leave to show
me the catalogue of her lectures, a proof of which she had just received
from the printer. When she had gone to fetch it, I promptly inquired:
"Why don't you two young people improve this fine afternoon by a round of
A gleam of animation over Morgan's face betrayed that he regarded the
suggestion as eminently happy. But it was Edna who spoke first.
"If Mr. Russell will put up with my poor game, I should enjoy playing
immensely. But," she added smiling confidently and regarding him with her
large, steady brown eyes, "I don't intend to remain a duffer at it long. I
see," she continued after a moment, "from your expression, Mr. Randall,
that you doubt this. I could tell from the corners of your mouth."
"I must grow a mustache to conceal my thoughts, it seems. I was only
thinking, Mrs. Spaulding, that golf is a difficult game at which to
"Yes, but they say that care and determination and—and keeping the
eye on the ball will work wonders even for a woman. I shall be only a
moment in getting ready, Mr. Russell."
"But what is to become of you, George?" asked Morgan as she disappeared.
"I noticed that a sensitive conscience kept you tongue-tied. This is
probably one of the most self-sacrificing acts which will be performed the
present summer. But you will remember that Mephistopheles on a certain
occasion was equally good-natured."
"Don't be absurd. Is she very trying?"
"Dame Martha had some humor and no understanding; Mrs. Spinney has some
understanding and no humor. Here she comes with her catalogue of lectures.
There are over fifty of them, and from their scope she must be almost
omniscient. How are you getting on with the widow?"
"Mrs. Spaulding seems to me an interesting woman. She has opinions of her
own, which she expresses clearly and firmly. I like her," responded Morgan
with a definiteness of manner which suggested that he was not to be
debarred by fear of banter from admitting that he was attracted.
It seems that as they strode over the links that afternoon he was
impressed by her fine physical bearing. There were a freedom and an ease
in her movements, essentially womanly and graceful, yet independent and
self-reliant, which stirred his pulses. He had been a close and absorbed
student, and his observation of the other sex had been largely indifferent
and formal. He knew, of course, that the modern woman had sloughed off
helplessness and docile dependence on man, but like an ostrich with its
head in the sand he had chosen to form a mental conception of what she was
like, and he had pictured her either as a hoyden or an unsympathetic
blue-stocking. This trig, well-developed beauty, with her sensible, alert
face and capable manner was an agreeable revelation. If she was a type, he
had neglected his opportunities. But the present was his at all events.
Here was companionship worthy of the name, and a stimulating vindication
of the success of woman's revolt from her own weakness and subserviency.
When at the conclusion of their game they sat down on a bank overlooking
the last hole and connected conversation took the place of desultory
dialogue between shots, he was struck by her common sense, her enthusiasm,
and her friendliness. He gathered that she was eager to support herself by
some form of intellectual occupation, preferably teaching or writing, and
that she had come to Rock Ledge with Mrs. Spinney in order to talk over
quietly whether she might better take courses of study at Radcliffe or
Wellesley, or learn the Kindergarten methods and at the same time apply
herself diligently to preparation for creative work. Of one thing she was
certain, that she did not wish to rust out in Westford. While her father
lived, of course her nominal home would be there, but she felt that she
could not be happy with nothing but household employment in a small town
out of touch with the movement and breadth of modern life. The substance
of this information was confided to me by Morgan before we went to bed
It is easy and natural for two young people vegetating at a summer resort
to become exceedingly intimate in three or four days, especially when
facility for intercourse is promoted and freedom from interruption
guaranteed by a self-sacrificing accessory. My complicity at the outset
had been pure off-hand pleasantry, but by the end of thirty-six hours it
was obvious to me that Morgan's interest was that of a man deeply
infatuated. Seeing that the two young people were of marriageable age and
free, so far as I knew, from disqualifying blemishes which would justify
me in putting either on guard against the other, I concluded that it
behooved me as a loyal friend to keep Mrs. Spinney occupied and out of the
way. Consequently Morgan and Mrs. Spaulding were constantly together
during the ensuing ten days, and so skilfully did I behave that the
innocent pair regarded the flirtation which I was carrying on as a superb
joke—a case of a banterer caught in the toils, and Mrs. Spinney's
manners suggested that she was agreeably flattered.
Morgan's statement that he had never contemplated marriage was true, and
yet in the background of his dream of the future lurked a female vision
whose sympathy and companionship were to be the spur of his ambition and
the mainstay of his courage. Had he found her? He did not need to ask
himself the question more than once. He knew that he had, and, knowing
that he was deeply in love, he turned to face the two questions by which
he was confronted. First, would she have him? Second, in case she would,
was he in a position to ask her to marry him, or, more concretely, could
he support her? The first could be solved only by direct inquiry. The
answer to the second depended on whether the views which he had expressed
to me as to the possibilities of matrimonial content in circumstances like
his were correct. Or was I right, and did it all depend upon the woman?
But what if it did? Was not this just the woman to sympathize entirely
with his ambition and to keep him up to the mark in case the shoe pinched?
There was no doubt of her enthusiasm and interest when in the course of
one of their walks he had confided to her that he had dedicated his life
to close scientific investigation. Well, he would lay the situation
squarely before her and she could give him his answer. If she was the kind
of woman he believed her to be and she loved him and had faith in him,
would the prospect of limited means appall her? He felt sure that it would
By the light of subsequent events, being something of a mind reader, I
know the rest of their story as well as though I had been present in the
Before the end of the fortnight he made a clean breast of his love and of
his scruples. He chose an occasion when they had strolled far along the
shore and were resting among picturesque rocks overlooking the ocean. She
listened shyly, as became a woman, but once or twice while he was speaking
she looked up at him with unmistakable ardor and joy in her brown eyes
which let him know that his feelings were reciprocated before she
confessed it by speech. He was so determined to make clear to her what was
in store for her if she accepted him that without waiting for an answer to
his burning avowal he proceeded to point out and to reiterate that the
scantiest kind of living so far as creature comforts were concerned was
all which he could promise either for the present or for the future.
When, having satisfied his conscience, he ceased speaking, Edna turned
toward him and with a sigh of sentiment swept back the low bands of
profuse dark hair from her temples as though by the gesture she were
casting all anxieties and hindrances to the winds. "How strange it is!"
she murmured. "The last thing which I supposed could happen to me in
coming here was that I should marry. But I am in love—in love with
you; and to turn one's back on that blessing would be to squander the
happiness of existence." She was silent a moment. Then she continued
gravely, "As you know, I was engaged—married once before. How long
ago it seems! I thought once, I believed once, that I could never love
again. Dear Horace, how wrapped up we were in each other! But I was a
child then, and—and it seems as though all I know of the real world
has been learned since. I must not distrust—I will not refuse the
opportunity to make you happy and to become happier myself by resisting
the impulse of my heart. I love you—Morgan."
"Thank God! But are you sure, Edna, that you have counted the cost of
"Oh, yes! We shall manage very well, I think," she answered, speaking
slowly and contracting a little her broad brow in the attempt to argue
dispassionately. "It isn't as if you had nothing. You have fifteen hundred
dollars and your salary, nearly two thousand more. Five years ago that
would have seemed to me wealth, and now, of course, I understand that it
isn't; and five years ago I suppose I would have married a man if I loved
him no matter how poor he was. But to-day I am wiser—that's the
word, isn't it? For I recognize that I might not be happy as a mere
drudge, and to become one would conflict with what I feel that I owe
myself in the way of—shall I call it civilizing and self-respecting
comfort? So you see if you hadn't a cent, I might feel it was more
sensible and better for us both to wait or to give each other up. But it
isn't a case of that at all. We've plenty to start on—plenty, and
more than I'm accustomed to; and by the time we need more, if we do need
more, you will be famous."
"But it's just that, Edna," he interjected quickly. "I may never be
famous. I may be obscure, and we may be poor, relatively speaking, all our
lives," and he sighed dismally.
"Oh, yes, you will, and oh, no, we shan't!" she exclaimed buoyantly.
"Surely, you don't expect me to believe that you are not going to succeed
and to make a name for yourself? We must take some chances—if that
is a chance. You have told me yourself that you intended to succeed."
"In the end, yes."
"Why, then, shouldn't I believe it, too? It would be monstrous—disloyal
and unromantic not to. I won't listen to a word more on that score,
please. And the rest follows, doesn't it? We are marrying because we love
each other and believe we can help each other, and I am sure one of the
reasons why we love each other is that we both have enthusiasm and find
life intensely absorbing and admire that in the other. There's the great
difference between me now and what I was at eighteen. The mere zest of
existence seems to me so much greater than it used. There are so many
interesting things to do, so many interesting things which we would like
to do. And now we shall be able to do them together, shan't we?" she
concluded, her eyes lighted with confident happiness, her cheeks mantling
partly from love, partly, perhaps, from a sudden consciousness that she
was almost playing the wooer.
Morgan was equal to the occasion. "Until death do us part, Edna. This is
the joy of which I have dreamed for years and wondered if it could ever be
mine," he whispered, as he looked into her face with all the ardor of his
soul and kissed her on the lips.
That evening he hooked his arm in mine on the piazza after dinner and
said, "You builded better than you knew, George. We are engaged, and she's
the one woman in the world for me. I've told her everything—everything,
and she isn't afraid."
"And you give me the credit of it. That's Christian and handsome. I'll say
one thing for her which any one can see from her face, that she has good
looks and intelligence. As to the rest, you monopolized her so that our
acquaintance is yet to begin."
"It shall begin at once," said Morgan, with a happy laugh. "But what about
"I leave for New York to-night. Now that the young lovers have plighted
their troth my presence is no longer necessary. A sudden telegram will
"But Mrs. Spinney? We have begun to—er—hope—"
"Begun to think—wondered if—"
"I were going to marry a woman several years my senior who has the
effrontery to believe that she can lecture acceptably on the entire range
of literary and social knowledge from the Troubadours and the Crusades to
Rudyard Kipling and the Referendum? Such is the reward of disinterested
"Forgive me, George. I knew at first that you were trying to do me a good
turn, but—but you were so persistent that you deceived us. I'm
really glad there's nothing in it."
"Thanks awfully." Then bending a sardonic glance on my friend, I murmured
"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is Winged Cupid painted blind."
"Edna, why don't you take a more active interest in these club
gatherings?" asked Morgan Russell one afternoon eight years subsequent to
their marriage. He had laid aside his work for the day, and having joined
his wife on the piazza was glancing over a printed notice of a meeting
which she had left on the table. "I'm inclined to think you would get
considerable diversion from them, and the study work at home would be in
Edna was silent a moment. She bent her head over her work—a child's
blouse—that he might not notice that she was biting her lip, and she
managed to impart a dispassionate and almost jaunty tone to the indictment
"Every now and then, Morgan, you remind me of Edward Casaubon in
'Middlemarch.' Not often, but every now and then lately."
"That selfish, fusty, undiscerning bookworm?"
"You're not selfish and you're not fusty; but you remind me of him when
you make remarks like your first." She brushed a caterpillar from her
light summer skirt, and noticing the draggled edge held it up. "There's
one answer to your question about taking an active interest in clubs.
There are twenty others, but this is one."
Her husband appeared puzzled. He looked well, but pale and thin, as though
accustomed to close application.
"I mean I can't afford it," she added.
"I see. Then it was stupid of me—Casaubonish, I dare say, to have
spoken. I was only trying to put a little more variety into your life
because I realized that you ought to have it."
Edna gave a faint sigh by way of acquiescence. Marriage had changed her
but little in appearance. She looked scarcely older, and her steady eyes,
broad brow, and ready smile gave the same effect of determination and
spirit, though she seemed more sober.
"I'm a little dull myself and that makes me captious," she asserted. Then
dropping her work and clasping her hands she looked up earnestly at him
and said, "Don't you see the impossibility of my being active in my club,
Morgan? I go to it, of course, occasionally, so as not to drop out of
things altogether, but in order to take a prominent part and get the real
benefit of the meetings a woman needs time and money. Not so very much
money, nor so very much time, but more of either than I have at my
disposal. Of course, I would like, if we had more income—and what is
much more essential—more time, to accept some of the invitations
which I receive to express my ideas before the club, but it is out of the
question. I have a horror of superficiality just as you have."
"A sad fate; a poor man's wife," said Morgan with a smile which, though
tranquil, was wan.
"And you warned me. Don't think for a moment I'm complaining or
regretting. I was only answering your question. Do you realize, dear, we
shall have been married eight years day after to-morrow?"
"So we have, Edna. And what a blessing our marriage has been to me!"
"We have been very happy." Then, she said, after a pause, as though she
had been making up her mind to put the question, "You are really content,
"Content?" he echoed, "with you, Edna?"
"Not with me as me, but with us both together; with our progress, and with
what we stand for as human beings?"
"I think so. That is, relatively speaking, and provided I understand
correctly what you mean."
She had not resumed her work, and her eager, resolute expression indicated
that she was preparing to push the conversation to a more crucial point.
"I suppose what I mean is, would you, if we were going to start over
again, do just as you have—devote yourself to science?"
"Oh!" Morgan flushed. "I don't see the use of considering that conundrum.
I have devoted myself to science and there is no help for it, even if I
"No present help."
"No help at any time, Edna. But why resurrect this ghost? We burned our
bridges at the altar."
"We did. And don't misunderstand me, dear. I'm not flinching, I'm not even
regretting, as I said to you before. Perhaps it may seem to you brutal—which
is worse than Casaubonish—to ask you such a question. Still, we're
husband and wife, and on an anniversary like this why isn't it sensible to
look matters squarely in the face, and consider whether we've been wise or
not? You ask the use. Are we not both seeking the truth?"
"Just as a tradesman takes an account of stock to ascertain whether he is
bankrupt. I suppose you are thinking of the children and—and you
admitted that you are a little tired yourself."
"I wasn't thinking of any one. I was simply considering the question as an
abstract proposition—by the light, of course, of our experience."
"It is hard for you, Edna; yes, it is hard. I often think of it."
"But I shouldn't mind its being hard if I were sure we were wise—justified."
Morgan leaned toward her and said with grave intensity, "How, dear, are
the great truths of science to be ascertained unless men—men and
their wives—are willing to delve lovingly, to sacrifice comforts,
and even endure hardships in pursuit of them?"
Edna drew a deep breath. "But you must answer me a question. How are
children to be educated, and their minds, bodies, and manners guarded and
formed in the ideal way on a small income such as ours?"
"I thought it was the children."
"It isn't merely the children. It's myself and you—you, Morgan. It
breaks my heart to see you pale, thin, and tired most of the time. You
like good food and we can't afford to keep a decent cook. You have to
consider every cent you spend, and the consequence is you have no
amusement, and if you take a vacation, it is at some cheap place where you
are thoroughly uncomfortable. And, of course, it is the children, too. If
you, with your talents had gone into business or followed medicine or the
law, like your friend Mr. Randall, we should have an income by this time
which—well, for one thing, we should be able to keep the children at
the seaside until October, and for another have Ernest's teeth
"Perhaps I can manage both of those, as it is. But, Edna, what's the
advantage of considering what might have been? Besides, you haven't
answered my question."
"I know it," she said slowly. "You mustn't misunderstand me, Morgan. I'm
very proud of you, and I appreciate fully your talent, your
self-sacrifice, and your modesty. I thought you entirely right the other
day in repulsing that odious reporter who wished to make a public
character of you before you were ready. I'm content to wait—to wait
forever, and I shall be happy in waiting. But, on the other hand, I've
never been afraid to face the truth. It's my way. I've done so all my
life; and my growth mentally and morally has come through my willingness
to acknowledge my mistakes. Every one says it is fine for other people to
starve for the sake of discovery, but how few are willing to do it
themselves! If we were in a book, the world would admire us, but sometimes
I can't help wondering if we would not be happier and more satisfactory
human products if you had done something which brought you rewards more
commensurate with your abilities. I'm merely thinking aloud, Morgan. I'm
intensely interested, as you know, in the problems of life, and this is
one of them."
"But you know foreigners claim that we as a nation are not really
interested in culture and knowledge, but only in their money value. What
becomes of the best scholarship if we are ready to admit it?"
"Ah! but Professor Drayson told me only the other day that abroad, in
Germany, for instance, they give their learned professors and savants
suitable salaries and make much of them socially, because it is recognized
that otherwise they wouldn't be willing to consecrate themselves to their
"Then the essential thing for me to do is to invent some apparatus which I
can sell to a syndicate for half a million dollars."
"That would be very nice, Morgan," she answered, smiling brightly. "But
you know perfectly well that if we go on just as we are to the end, I
shall be thoroughly proud of you, and thoroughly happy—relatively
speaking." So saying she put her arm around her husband's neck and kissed
Although this conversation was more definite than any which had taken
place between them, Morgan was not seriously distressed. He knew that it
was his wife's method to think aloud, and he knew that she would be just
as loyal to him and no less cheerful because of it. She was considering a
problem in living, and one which indisputably had two sides. He had always
been aware of it, and the passage of time without special achievement on
his part had brought it more pointedly before him now that there were two
children and the prospect of a third. He was absorbed in his vocation; and
the lack of certain comforts—necessities, perhaps—though
inconvenient, would not have weighed appreciably in the scale were he the
only one affected. But though he was pursuing his course along the path of
investigation eagerly and doing good work without a shadow of
disappointment, he was aware not merely that he had not as yet made a
concrete valuable discovery, but might never do so. This possibility did
not appall him, but he recognized that it was a part of the circumstances
of his particular case viewed from the standpoint of a contemplative
judgment on his behavior. He was succeeding, but was his success of a
character to justify depriving his wife and children of what might have
been theirs but for his selection? The discussion was purely academic, for
he had made his choice, but he did not question Edna's privilege to weigh
the abstract proposition, and accordingly was not depressed by her
It happened a few weeks later that Edna received a letter from Mrs. Sidney
Dale inviting her and Morgan to spend a fortnight at the Dale spring and
autumn home on the Hudson. Edna had seen Mrs. Dale but twice since their
trip abroad. She had been unable to accept a previous similar invitation,
but on this occasion Morgan insisted that she should go. He argued that it
would refresh and rest her, and he agreed to conduct her to Cliffside and
remain for a day or two himself.
Cliffside proved to be a picturesque, spacious house artistically situated
at the vantage point of a domain of twenty acres and furnished with the
soothing elegancies of modern ingenuity and taste. Among the attractions
were a terrace garden, a well-accoutred stable, a tennis court, and a
steam yacht. Mrs. Dale, who had prefaced her invitation by informing her
husband that she never understood exactly why she was so fond of Edna and
feared that the Russells were very poor, sat, a vision of successive cool,
light summer garments, doing fancy work on the piazza, and talking in her
engaging, brightly indolent manner. Morgan found Mr. Dale, who was taking
a vacation within telephonic reach of New York, a genial, well-informed
man with the effect of mental strength and reserve power. They became
friendly over their cigars, and a common liking for old-fashioned gardens.
On the evening before he departed, Morgan, in the course of conversation,
expressed an opinion concerning certain electrical appliances before the
public in the securities of which his host was interested. The banker
listened with keen attention, put sundry questions which revealed his own
acuteness, and in pursuance of the topic talked to Morgan graphically
until after midnight of the large enterprises involving new mechanical
discoveries in which his firm was engaged.
Morgan was obliged to go home on the following morning, but Edna remained
a full fortnight. On the day of her return Morgan was pleased to perceive
that the trip had evidently done her good. Not only did she look brighter
and fresher, but there was a sparkling gayety in her manner which
suggested that the change had served as a tonic. Morgan did not suspect
that this access of spirits was occasioned by the secret she was
cherishing until she confronted him with it in the evening.
"My dear," she said, "you would never guess what has happened, so I won't
ask you to try. I wonder what you will think of it. Mr. Dale is going to
ask you—has asked you to go into his business—to become one of
"Yes. It seems you made a good impression on him from the first—especially
the last evening when you sat up together. It came about through Mrs.
Dale, I think. That is, Mr. Dale has been looking about for some time for
what he calls the right sort of man to take in, for one of his partners
has died recently and the business is growing; and Mrs. Dale seems to have
had us on her mind because she had got it into her head that we were
dreadfully poor. I don't think she has at all a definite idea of what your
occupation is. But the long and short of it is her husband wants you. He
told me so himself in black and white, and you will receive a letter from
him within a day or two."
"Wants me to become a broker?"
"A banker and broker."
"And—er—give up my regular work?"
Edna nervously smoothed out the lap of her dress as though she realized
that she might be inflicting pain, but she raised her steady eyes and said
with pleasant firmness:
"You would have to, of course, wouldn't you? But Mr. Dale explained that
you would be expected to keep a special eye on the mechanical and
scientific interests of the firm. He said he had told you about them. So
all that would be in your line of work, wouldn't it?"
"I understand—I understand. It would amount to nothing from the
point of view of my special field of investigation," he answered a little
sternly. "What reply did you make to him, Edna?"
"I merely said that I would tell you of the offer; that I didn't know what
you would think."
"I wish you had refused it then and there."
"I couldn't do that, of course. The decision did not rest with me.
Besides, Morgan, I thought you might think that we could not—er—afford
to refuse it, and that as you would still be more or less connected with
scientific matters, you might regard it as a happy compromise. Mr. Dale
said," she continued with incisive clearness in which there was a tinge of
jubilation, "that on a conservative estimate you could count on ten or
twelve thousand dollars a year, and his manner suggested that your share
of the profits would be very much more than that."
"The scientific part is a mere sop; it amounts to nothing. I should be a
banker, engaged in floating new financial enterprises and selling their
securities to the public."
There was a brief silence. Edna rose and seating herself on the sofa
beside him took his hands and said with solemn emphasis, "Morgan, if you
think you will be unhappy—if you are satisfied that this change
would not be the best thing for us, say so and let us give it up. Give it
up and we will never think of it again."
He looked her squarely in the face. "My God, Edna, I don't know what to
answer! It's a temptation. So many things would be made easy. It comes to
this, Is a man justified in refusing such an opportunity and sacrificing
his wife and children in order to be true to his——?"
She interrupted him. "If you put it that way, Morgan, we must decline. If
you are going to break your heart—"
"Morgan, whichever way you decide I shall be happy, provided only you are
sure. If you feel that you—we—all of us will be happier and er—more
effective human creatures going on as we are, it is your duty to refuse
Mr. Dale's offer."
"It's a temptation," murmured Morgan. "I must think it over, Edna. Am I
bound to resist it?"
"You know I may never be heard of in science outside of a few partial
contemporaries." His lip quivered with his wan smile.
"That has really nothing to do with it," she asserted.
"I think it has, Edna," he said simply. Then suddenly the remembrance of
the conversation with his friend Randall recurred to him with vivid
clearness. He looked up into his wife's eyes and said, "After all, dear,
it really rests with you. The modern woman is man's helpmate and
counsellor. What do you advise?"
Edna did not answer for a few moments. Her open, sensible brow seemed to
be seeking to be dispassionate as a judge and to expel every vestige of
"It's a very close question to decide, Morgan. Of course, there are two
distinct sides. You ask me to tell you, as your wife, what I think is
wisest and best. I can't set it forth as clearly as I should like—I
won't attempt to give my reasons even. But somehow my instinct tells me
that if you don't accept Mr. Dale's offer, you will be sorry three years
"Then I shall accept, Edna, dear," he said.
Three years later I took Mrs. Sidney Dale out to dinner at the house of a
common friend in New York. In the course of conversation I remarked, "I
believe it is you, Mrs. Dale, who is responsible for the metamorphosis in
my friend, Morgan Russell."
"Is he a friend of yours?"
"An old friend since college days. I never saw any one so spruced up,
shall I call it? He has gained fifteen pounds, is growing whiskers, and is
beginning to look the embodiment of worldly prosperity."
"It is delightful to see them—both him and his wife. Yes, I suppose
I may claim to be responsible for rescuing him from obscurity. My husband
finds him a most valuable man in his business. I'm very fond of Mrs.
Russell. She hasn't the obnoxious ways of most progressive women, and she
certainly has executive ability and common sense. Being such an indolent
person myself, I have always been fascinated by her spirit and cleverness.
I'm glad she has been given a chance. They are getting on nicely."
"I think she is in her element now. I was at their house the other day," I
continued blandly. "It seems that Edna is prominent in various educational
and philanthropic bodies, high in the councils of her club, and a leading
spirit in diverse lines of reform. They are entertaining a good deal—a
judicious sprinkling of the fashionable and the literary. The latest
swashbuckler romances were on the table, and it was evident from her tone
that she regarded them as great American literature. Everything was rose
color. Morgan came home while I was there. His hands were full of toys for
his children and violets for his wife. He began to talk golf. It's a
complete case of ossification of the soul—pleasant enough to
encounter in daily intercourse, but sad to contemplate."
Mrs. Dale turned in her chair. "I believe you're laughing at me, Mr.
Randall. What is sad? And what do you mean by ossification of the soul?"
Said I with quiet gravity, "Fifteen or twenty thousand dollars a year.
Morgan Russell's life is ruined—and the world had great hopes of
Mrs. Dale, who is a clever person, in spite of her disclaimers, was silent
a moment. "I know what you mean, of course. But I don't agree with you in
the least. And you," she added with the air of a woman making a telling
point—"you the recently appointed attorney of the paper trust, with
a fabulous salary, you're the last man to talk like that."
I regarded her a moment with sardonic brightness. "Mrs. Dale," I said, "it
grieves us to see the ideals of our friends shattered."