THE LAW-BREAKERS AND OTHER STORIES
The American Short Story Series
By Robert Grant
AGAINST HIS JUDGMENT
ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON
THE ROMANCE OF A SOUL
AN EXCHANGE OF COURTESIES
ACROSS THE WAY
George Colfax was in an outraged frame of mind, and properly so.
Politically speaking, George was what might be called, for lack of a
better term, a passive reformer. That is, he read religiously the New York
Nation, was totally opposed to the spoils system of party rewards,
and was ostensibly as right-minded a citizen as one would expect to find
in a Sabbath day's journey. He subscribed one dollar a year to the
civil-service reform journal, and invariably voted on Election Day for the
best men, cutting out in advance the names of the candidates favored by
the Law and Order League of his native city, and carrying them to the
polls in order to jog his memory. He could talk knowingly, too, by the
card, of the degeneracy of the public men of the nation, and had at his
finger-ends inside information as to the manner in which President This or
Congressman That had sacrificed the ideals of a vigorous manhood to the
brass idol known as a second term. In fact, there was scarcely a prominent
political personage in the country for whom George had a good word in
every-day conversation. And when the talk was of municipal politics he
shook his head with a profundity of gloom which argued an utterly hopeless
condition of affairs—a sort of social bottomless pit.
And yet George was practically passive. He voted right, but, beyond his
yearly contribution of one dollar, he did nothing else but cavil and
deplore. He inveighed against the low standards of the masses, and went on
his way sadly, making all the money he could at his private calling, and
keeping his hands clean from the slime of the political slough. He was a
censor and a gentleman; a well-set-up, agreeable, quick-witted fellow,
whom his men companions liked, whom women termed interesting. He was apt
to impress the latter as earnest and at the same time fascinating—an
alluring combination to the sex which always likes a moral frame for its
It was to a woman that George was unbosoming his distress on this
particular occasion, and, as has been already indicated, his indignation
and disgust were entirely justified. Her name was Miss Mary Wellington,
and she was the girl whom he wished with all his heart to marry. It was no
hasty conclusion on his part. He knew her, as he might have said, like a
book, from the first page to the last, for he had met her constantly at
dances and dinners ever since she "came out" seven years before, and he
was well aware that her physical charms were supplemented by a
sympathetic, lively, and independent spirit. One mark of her independence—the
least satisfactory to him—was that she had refused him a week
before; or, more accurately speaking, the matter had been left in this
way: she had rejected him for the time being in order to think his offer
over. Meanwhile he had decided to go abroad for sixty days—a shrewd
device on his part to cause her to miss him—and here he was come to
pay his adieus, but bubbling over at the same time with what he called the
latest piece of disregard for public decency on the part of the free-born
"Just think of it. The fellow impersonated one of his heelers, took the
civil-service examination in the heeler's name, and got the position for
him. He was spotted, tried before a jury who found him guilty, and was
sentenced to six months in jail. The day he was discharged, an admiring
crowd of his constituents escorted him from prison with a brass band and
tendered him a banquet. Yesterday he was chosen an alderman by the ballots
of the people of this city. A self-convicted falsifier and cheat! A man
who snaps his fingers in the face of the laws of the country! Isn't that a
commentary on the workings of universal suffrage?" This was a caustic
summing up on George's part of the story he had already told Miss
Wellington piecemeal, and he looked at her as much as to ask if his
dejection were not amply justified.
"It's a humiliating performance certainly," she said. "I don't wonder you
are exercised about it. Are there no extenuating circumstances?" Miss
Wellington appeared duly shocked; yet, being a woman of an alert and
cheery disposition, she reached out instinctively for some palliative
before accepting the affair in all its stark offensiveness.
"None which count—none which should weigh for a moment with any one
with patriotic impulses," he answered. "The plea is that the people down
there—Jim Daly's constituents—have no sympathy with the
civil-service examination for public office, and so they think it was
rather smart of him than otherwise to get the better of the law. In other
words, that it's all right to break a law if one doesn't happen to fancy
it. A nation which nurses that point of view is certain to come to grief."
Mary nodded gravely. "It's a dangerous creed—dangerous, and a little
specious, too. And can nothing be done about it? About Daly, I mean?"
"No. He's an alderman-elect, and the hero of his district. A wide-awake,
square-dealing young man with no vices, as I heard one of his admirers
declare. By the time I return from my trip to the Mediterranean I expect
they will be booming him for Congress."
Looking at the matter soberly, Mary Wellington perceived that Jim Daly's
performance was a disreputable piece of business, which merited the
censure of all decent citizens. Having reached this conclusion, she
dismissed George Colfax on his travels with a sense of satisfaction that
he viewed the affair with such abhorrence. For, much as she liked George,
her hesitation to become his wife and renounce the bachelor-girl career to
which, since her last birthday—her twenty-fifth—she had felt
herself committed, was a sort of indefinable suspicion as to the real
integrity of his standards. He was an excellent talker, of course; his
ideals of public life and private ethics, as expressed in drawing-rooms,
or during pleasant dialogues when they were alone together, were
exemplary. But every now and then, while he discoursed picturesquely of
the evils of the age and the obligations of citizenship, it would occur to
her to wonder how consistent he would be in case his principles should
happen to clash with his predilections. How would he behave in a tight
place? He was a fashionable young man with the tastes of his class, and
she thought she had detected in him once or twice a touch of that
complacent egotism which is liable to make fish of one foible and flesh of
another, as the saying is, to suit convention. In short, were his moral
perceptions genuinely delicate?
However, she liked him so well that she was anxious to believe her
questionings groundless. Accordingly, his protestations of repugnance at
Jim Daly's conduct were reassuring. For though they were merely words, his
denunciation appeared heartfelt and to savor of clean and nice
appreciation of the distinction between truth and falsehood. Indeed, she
was half-inclined to call him back to tell him that she had changed her
mind and was ready to take him for better or for worse. But she let him
go, saying to herself that she could live without him perfectly well for
the next sixty days, and that the voyage would do him good. Were she to
become his wife, it would be necessary to give up the Settlement work in
which she had become deeply interested as the result of her activities as
a bachelor-girl. She must be certain that he was all she believed him to
be before she admitted that she loved him and burned her philanthropical
Returning to her quarters in the heart of the city, Mary Wellington became
so absorbed in her work of bringing cheer and relief to the ignorant and
needy that she almost forgot George Colfax. Yet once in a while it would
occur to her that it would be very pleasant if he should drop in for a cup
of tea, and she would wonder what he was doing. Did she, perchance, at the
same time exert herself with an ardor born of an acknowledged inkling that
these might be the last months of her service? However that may have been,
she certainly was very busy, and responded eagerly to every call upon her
Among the cases of distress brought to her attention which interested her
most was that of two children whose mother had just died. Their father was
a drinking man—a reeling sot who had neglected his family for years.
His wife, proud in her destitution, had worked her fingers to the bone to
maintain a tenement-roof over the heads of their two little boys and to
send them neat and properly nourished to school. This labor of love had
been too much for her strength, and finally she had fallen a victim to
consumption. This was shortly after her necessities had become known to
the Settlement to which Mary Wellington belonged. The dying mother
besought her visitor to keep watch over her boys, which Mary promised
faithfully to do.
The waifs, Joe and Frank, were two bright-eyed youngsters of eleven and
nine. They stood so well in their classes at school that Mary resolved
that their attendance should not be interrupted during the interval while
a new home was being found for them. She accompanied them to the
school-house, on the morning after the funeral, in order to explain the
situation to their teacher and evince her personal interest. Miss Burke
was a pretty girl two or three years younger than herself. She looked
capable and attractive; a little coquettish, too, for her smile was arch,
and her pompadour had that fluffy fulness which girls who like to be
admired nowadays are too apt to affect. She was just the sort of girl whom
a man might fall desperately in love with, and it occurred to Mary, as
they conversed, that it was not likely she would remain a public-school
Miss Burke evidently knew the art of ingratiating herself with her pupils.
Joe and Frank smiled bashfully, but contentedly, under her sympathetic,
sunny welcome. The two young women exchanged a few words, the sequel of
which was that Mary Wellington accepted the invitation to remain and
observe how the youthful mind was inoculated with the rudiments of
knowledge by the honeyed processes of the modern school system. While the
teacher stepped to the blackboard to write some examples before the bell
should ring, Joe, the elder of the two orphans, utilized the occasion to
remark in a low voice intended for Mary's ear:
"She's Jim Daly's mash."
Mary, who failed on the instant to grasp the meaning of this piece of
eloquent information, invited the urchin to repeat it, which he did with
the sly unction of one proud of his secret. Mary laughed to herself. Some
girls would have repressed the youthful gossip, but she was human.
Somehow, too, the name sounded familiar.
"Who's Jim Daly, Joe?"
"He's the boss of the Ninth Ward."
"The Daly who has just been elected alderman?"
Then Mary understood. "Really, Joe!" she said in the stage whisper
necessary to the situation.
"Maybe she's going to be married after Easter," the guileless prattler
continued, to make his confidence complete.
"Then you and Frank would lose her." This was the answer which rose to
Mary's lips, partly prompted, doubtless, by her own instinctive aversion
to the match.
The suggestion of another loss worked upon Joe's susceptible feelings.
Evidently he had not taken this side of the matter into consideration, and
he put up one of his hands to his eyes. Fortunately the bell for the
opening of the session broke in upon the conversation, and not only
diverted him, but relegated the whole subject to the background for the
time being. Nevertheless, the thought of it continued in Mary's mind as
she sat listening to the exercises. How could an attractive girl like this
take a fancy to such a trickster? It seemed totally incompatible with the
teacher's other qualities, for in her attitude toward her pupils she
appeared discerning and conscientious.
When the time came to go, Mary referred to her connection with the
Settlement work in the course of the few minutes' further conversation
which they had together. Miss Burke expressed so lively an interest in
this that it was agreed before they parted that the schoolmistress should
pay Mary a visit some day later in the week, with the twofold object of
taking tea with the two orphans and of being shown the workings of the
At this subsequent interview, the two young women chatted briskly in a
cosey corner. Each found the other sympathetic, despite Mary's secret
prejudice; and it happened presently that Miss Burke, whose countenance
now and again had seemed a little pensive, as though she had something on
her mind, said after a pause:
"I'd like to ask your advice about something, Miss Wellington, if you
Mary thought she knew what was coming, surprising as it was to be
consulted. She smiled encouragingly.
"It's about a gentleman friend of mine," continued Miss Burke, with rising
color, "who wishes me to marry him. Perhaps you have heard of him," she
added with a suggestion of furtive pride. "His name is Jim Daly."
"I know all about him."
Miss Burke was evidently not prepared for such a sweeping answer. "You
know what he did, then?" she asserted after a moment's hesitation.
"He pretended to be some one else, and passed a civil-service examination,
"Yes. I can tell by your tone that you think it was disreputable. So do I,
Miss Wellington; though some of my friends say that it was Jim's desire to
help a friend which led him to do it. But he had to serve his time in
jail, didn't he?" She looked as though she were going to cry. Then she
said awkwardly: "What I wished to ask was whether you would marry him if
you were I."
Mary frowned. The responsibility was disconcerting. "Do you love him?" she
"I did love him; I suppose I do still; yes, I do." She jerked out her
answers in quick succession. "But our engagement is broken."
"Because of this?"
"Because he has been in jail. None of my family has ever been in jail."
Miss Burke set in place the loose hairs of her pompadour with a gesture of
severe dignity as she spoke.
"And he knows, of course, that his dishonesty is the reason why you feel
that you cannot trust him?" inquired Mary, who, being a logical person,
regarded the last answer as not altogether categorical.
"It wasn't like stealing," said the girl, by way of resenting the phrase.
"It was dishonorable and untrue."
"The people down my way don't think much of the civil-service laws. They
call them frills, something to get round if you can. That's how they
excuse him." She spoke with nervous rapidity and a little warmth.
"But they are our country's laws just the same. And a good man—a
patriotic man—ought not to break them." Mary was conscious of
voicing George Colfax's sentiments as well as her own. The responsibility
of the burden imposed on her was trying, and she disliked her part of
mentor. Nevertheless, she felt that she must not abstain from stating the
vital point clearly; so she continued:
"Is not the real difficulty, my dear, that the man who could be false in
one thing might be false in another when the occasion arose?"
Miss Burke flushed at the words, and suddenly covered her face with her
"That's it, of course. That's what haunts me. I could forgive him the
other—the having been in jail and all that; but it's the possibility
that he might do something worse after we were married—when it was
too late—which frightens me. 'False in one thing, false in
everything,' that's what the proverb is. Do you believe that is true, Miss
Her unmasked conscience revealed clearly the distress caused by its own
sensitiveness; but she spoke beseechingly, as though to invite comfort
from her companion on the score of this adage.
"Tell me what sort of a man Mr. Daly is in other respects," said Mary.
"Oh, he's kind!" she answered with enthusiasm. "He has been a good son and
brother; he is always helping people, and has more friends than any one in
the district. I don't see why he cared for me," she added with seeming
"It's a great point in his favor that he does care for you, my dear. Is he
steady at his work?"
"When he isn't too busy with politics. He says that he will give them up,
if I insist; but my doing so might prevent his being chosen to Congress."
There was again rueful pride in her plaint.
Mary sat silent for a moment. "He stands convicted of falsehood." She
seemed to be speaking to herself.
"Yes," gasped the girl, as her mentor paused to let the fell substantive
"That seems terrible to me. But you know him better than I do."
Miss Burke's face lighted at the qualification. Yet her quick intelligence
refused to be thus cajoled. "But what would you do in my place? That's
what I wish to know."
Mary winced. She perceived the proud delicacy of the challenge, and
recognized that she had condescendingly shirked the real inquiry.
"It is so hard to put oneself in another's place. The excuses you have
given for his conduct seem to me inadequate. That is, if a man gave those
reasons to me—I believe I could never trust him again." Mary spoke
with conviction, but she realized that she felt like a grandmother.
"Thank you," said Miss Burke. "That's what I wished to know." She looked
at the floor for an instant. "Suppose you felt that you could trust him?"
Mary smiled and reflected. "If I loved him enough for that, I dare say I
should forgive him."
"You really would?" Then Miss Burke perceived that in her elation she had
failed to observe the logical inconsistency which the counsel contained.
"I don't know that I understand exactly," she added.
Mary smiled again, then shook her head. "I doubt if I can make it any
plainer than that. I mean that—if I were you—I should have to
feel absolutely sure that I loved him; and even then—" She paused
without completing the ellipsis. "As to that, dear, no one can enlighten
you but yourself.'
"Of course," said poor Miss Burke. Yet she was already beginning to
suspect that the sphinx-like utterance might contain both the kernel of
eternal feminine truth and the real answer to her own doubts.
Some two months later the Meteoric, one of the fast ocean
greyhounds, was approaching the port of New York. At sight of land the
cabin passengers, who had been killing time resignedly in one another's
society, became possessed with a rampant desire to leave the vessel as
soon as possible. When it was definitely announced that the Meteoric
would reach her dock early enough in the afternoon to enable them to have
their baggage examined and get away before dark, they gave vent to their
pent-up spirits in mutual congratulations and adieus.
Among those on board thus chafing to escape from the limitations of an
ocean voyage was George Colfax, whose eagerness to land was enhanced by
the hope that his absence had made the heart of his lady-love fonder. His
travels had been restful and stimulating; but there is nothing like one's
own country, after all. So he reflected as, cigar in mouth, he perused the
newspapers which the pilot had brought, and watched the coast-line
gradually change to the familiar monuments of Manhattan.
Yet apparently there was a subconsciousness to his thought, for as he
folded his last newspaper and stretched himself with the languor of a man
no longer harried by lack of knowledge as to what has happened during the
last seven days, he muttered under his breath:
"Confound the customs anyway!"
A flutter of garments and a breezy voice brought him politely to his feet.
"That's over with, thank Heaven!" The speaker was a charming woman from
Boston, whose society he had found engrossing during the voyage—a
woman of the polite world, voluble and well informed.
"I just signed and swore to the paper they gave me without reading it,"
she added, with a gay shrug of her shoulders, as though she were well
content with this summary treatment of a distasteful matter. "Have you
made your declaration yet?" she asked indifferently.
"What I don't understand is why they should make you take oath to a thing
and then rummage through your trunks as though they didn't believe you."
"It's an outrage—an infernal outrage," said George. "Every time the
Government does it the spirit of American institutions is insulted."
"I haven't much with me this time, anyway; they can hardly expect that a
person will go to Europe for six months and not bring back more than one
hundred dollars' worth of things," continued Miss Golightly artlessly.
"One might almost as well stay at home. It isn't as if I bought them to
sell. They are my own ownty donty effects, and I've no intention of paying
the Government one cent on them if I can help it. And they charge one for
presents. Of course, I won't pay on presents I have bought to give other
people. That would simply make them cost so much more."
"The whole thing is a wretched and humiliating farce," was George's not
altogether illuminating comment on this naive revelation of the workings
of the female mind. He spoke doggedly, and then hummed the refrain of a
song as though to keep up his courage.
"Well, I'll go and take my turn," he said, with the air of aristocratic
urbanity which made him a favorite in social circles.
Miss Golightly detained him to add: "If you find any better method, I wish
you'd let me know. It seemed the simplest way not to declare anything, and
to trust to luck."
So great was the bustle and confusion that George was not conscious of the
presence of his lively companion again until he heard her voice in his ear
two hours later on the pier or platform where the baggage from the Meteoric
was being inspected.
"Well," she said under her breath, "I'm all through. They gave me a jewel
of a man. And you?"
"I've had no trouble." George spoke with nonchalance as if to imply that
he had expected none. Out of the corner of his eye he was following the
actions of the custom-house official allotted to him who was chalking his
examined trunks with the hieroglyphics which signified that the Government
had released its grip on them.
This done, George beckoned to an attendant porter, after which he turned
again to Miss Golightly.
"If you'll wait a moment until I see these things of mine safely in the
hands of the transfer express, I'll put you into your carriage and take a
"You needn't hurry," was her answer.
"My friend, Miss Pilgrim, has declared thirty-four articles, and she
doesn't know in which of her eight trunks any of them are. She and the
citizen in glasses meted out to her, who insists on finding every one, are
now engaged in ransacking her entire wardrobe. I intend to keep at a safe
distance from the scene of worry. That's what comes of being
George and the inspector, preceded by the porter wheeling the traveller's
three trunks, hat-box, and small bags, set out for the other end of the
George returned ten minutes later; he stepped briskly and was beaming.
"Still waiting, I see," he said jocularly.
"And in your eyes I read the purple light of love, young man. I wish you
success." Her words were the rallying outcome of confidences on shipboard
after five days at sea.
George blushed, but looked pleased. "You may see her first," he said, "for
she is constantly at her cousin's, or was before she took up Settlement
"How much did you give him?" asked Miss Golightly.
The reversion to their previous topic was so abrupt and barefaced that the
lover stared for a moment, then tried not to appear confused.
"Oh, a mere trifle!" he said with offhand dignity.
"I gave mine twenty-five dollars," she whispered. "Wasn't that enough?"
"Abundant, I should say. But I am not well posted on such matters." It was
evident he wished to avoid the subject, and was also impatient to get
away, for he took out his watch. "If Miss Pilgrim is really likely to be
detained—" he began.
Miss Golightly rose to the occasion and dismissed him. "I understand," she
exclaimed amiably. "Every minute is precious."
Nevertheless, it was not until two days later that he succeeded in finding
Mary Wellington at home. He called that evening, but was told by the
person in charge that she had taken a brief respite from work and would
not return for another twenty-four hours. On the second occasion, as the
first, he brought with him under his arm a good-sized package, neatly done
"I am back again," he said, and he pressed her hand with unmistakable
Her greeting was friendly; not emotional like his, or unreserved; but he
flattered himself that she seemed very glad to see him. He reflected: "I
don't believe that it did my cause a particle of harm to let her go
without the constant visits she had grown accustomed to expect."
He said aloud: "I came across this on the other side and took the liberty
of bringing it to you."
Mary undid the parcel, disclosing a beautiful bit of jade; not too costly
a gift for a friend to accept, yet really a defiance of the convention
which forbids marriageable maidens to receive from their male admirers
presents less perishable than flowers or sweetmeats.
"It is lovely, and it was very kind of you to remember me."
"Remember you? You were in my thoughts day and night."
She smiled to dispel the tension. "I shall enjoy hearing about your
travels. A friend of yours has told me something of them."
"Ah! Miss Golightly. You have seen her, then, at your cousin's? A
companionable woman; and she knows her Europe. Yes, we compared notes
regarding our travels."
He colored slightly, but only at the remembrance of having confided to
this comparative stranger his bosom's secret under the spell of an ocean
"You brought home other things, I dare say?" Mary asked after a pause,
glancing up at him.
"Oh, yes!" The trend of the question was not clear to him, but he was
impelled to add: "For one thing, I ordered clothes enough to last me three
years at least. I bought gloves galore for myself and for my sister. As I
belong to the working class, and there is no knowing how soon I may be
able to get away again, I laid in a stock of everything which I needed, or
which took my fancy. Men's things as well as women's are so much cheaper
over there if one knows where to go."
"With the duties?"
The words, gently spoken, were like a bolt from the blue. George betrayed
his distaste for the inquiry only by a sudden gravity. "Yes, with the
duties." He hastened to add: "But enough of myself and my travels. They
were merely to pass the time." He bent forward from his chair and
interrogated her meaningly with his glance.
"But I am interested in duties."
He frowned at her insistence.
"Miss Golightly," continued Mary, "explained to us yesterday how she got
all her things through the custom-house by giving the inspector
twenty-five dollars. She gloried in it and in the fact that, though her
trunks were full of new dresses, she made oath that she had nothing
He suspected now her trend, yet he was not certain that he was included in
its scope. But he felt her eyes resting on him searchingly.
"Did she?" he exclaimed, with an effort at airy lightness which seemed to
afford the only hope of escape.
"How did you manage?"
"I?" He spoke after a moment's pause with the calm of one who slightly
resents an invasion of his privacy.
"Did you pay the duties on your things?"
George realized now that he was face to face with a question which, as
lawyers say, required that the answer should be either "yes" or "no."
Still, he made one more attempt to avert the crucial inquiry.
"Does this really interest you?"
"Immensely. My whole future may be influenced by it."
"I see." There was no room left for doubt as to her meaning. Nor did he
choose to lie. "No, I paid no duties."
"I feared as much."
There was a painful silence. George rose, and walking to the mantel-piece,
looked down at the hearth and tapped the ironwork with his foot. He would
fain have made the best of what he ruefully recognized to be a shabby
situation by treating it jocosely; but her grave, grieved demeanor
forbade. Yet he ventured to remark:
"Why do you take this so seriously?"
"I expected better things of you."
He felt of his mustache and essayed extenuation. "It was—er—unworthy
of me, of course; foolish—pig-headed—tricky, I suppose. I got
mad. I'd nothing to sell, and the declaration is a farce when they examine
after it. So I left them to find what they chose. I'm terribly sorry, for
you seem to hate it so. But it's an idiotic and impertinent law, anyway."
"In other words, you think it all right to break a law if you don't happen
to fancy it."
George started visibly and colored. He recognized the aphorism as his, but
for the moment did not recall the occasion of its use. He chose to evade
it by an attempt at banter. "You can't make a tragedy, my dear girl, out
of the failure to pay duties on a few things bought for one's personal
use, and not for sale. Why, nearly every woman in the world smuggles when
she gets the chance—on her clothes and finery. You must know that.
Your sex as a class doesn't regard it as disreputable in the least. At the
worst, it is a peccadillo, not a crime. The law was passed to enable our
native tailors to shear the well-to-do public."
Mary ignored the plausible indictment against the unscrupulousness of her
sex. "Can such an argument weigh for a moment with any one with patriotic
Again the parrot-like reminder caused him to wince, and this time he
recognized the application.
"Oh!" he exclaimed, with sorry yet protesting confusion.
"It's the inconsistency," she answered without flinching, perceiving that
George flushed to the roots of his hair. "You compare me with that—er—blatherskite?"
he asked, conscious as he spoke that her logic was irrefutable. Yet his
self-respect cried out to try to save itself.
"Why not? The civil-service law seemed a frill to Jim Daly; the customs
law an impertinence to you."
He looked down at the hearth again. There was an air of finality in her
words which was disconcerting.
"I've been an ass," he ejaculated. "I'll give the things up; pay the
duties; go to prison, if you like. The punishment is fine or
imprisonment." He intended to be sincere in his offer of self-humiliation,
though his speech savored of extravagance.
Mary shrugged her shoulders. "If you did, I dare say a bevy of society
women would tender you a banquet when you were released from jail."
He bit his lip and stared at her. "You are taking this seriously with a
He crossed the room and, bending beside her, sought to take her hand. "Do
you mean that but for this—? Mary, are you going to let a little
thing like this separate us?"
He had captured her fingers, but they lay limp and unresponsive in his.
"It is not a little thing; from my standpoint it is everything."
"But you will give me another chance?"
"You have had your chance. That was it. I was trying to find out whether I
loved you, and now I know that I do not. I could never marry a man I could
"Trust? I swear to you that I am worthy of trust."
She smiled sadly and drew away her hand. "Maybe. But I shall never know,
you see, because I do not love you."
Her feminine inversion of logic increased his dismay. "I shall never give
up," he exclaimed, rising and buttoning his coat. "When you think this
over you will realize that you have exaggerated what I did."
She shook her head. His obduracy made no impression on her, for she was
free from doubts.
"We will be friends, if you like; but we can never be anything closer."
An inspiration seized him. "What would the girl whom Jim Daly loves, if
there is one, say? She has never given him up, I wager."
Mary blushed at his unconscious divination. "I do not know," she said.
"But you are one person, Jim Daly is another. You have had every
advantage; he is a—er—blatherskite. Yet you condescend to put
yourself on a par with him, and condone the offence on the ground that
your little world winks at it. Remember
"'Spirits are not finely touched
But to fine issues.'
How shall society progress, unless my sex insists on at least that patent
of nobility in the men who woo us? I am reading you a lecture, but you
insisted on it."
George stood for a moment silent. "You are right, I suppose." He lifted
her hand to his lips and kissed it. Then he turned and left the room.
As he passed out, Mary heard the voices of the orphans, Joe and Frank, in
the entry. The former in greeting her held out a letter which had just
been delivered by the postman.
"You've come back, Miss Wellington," cried the little boy rapturously.
"Yes, Joe dear."
Mechanically she opened the envelope. As she read the contents she smiled
faintly and nodded her head as much as to say that the news was not
"But noblesse oblige," she murmured to herself proudly, not
realizing that she had spoken aloud.
"What did you say, Miss Wellington?"
Mary recalled her musing wits. "I've something interesting to tell you,
boys. Miss Burke is going to be married to Jim Daly. That is bad for you,
dears, but partly to make up for it, I wish to let you know that there is
no danger of my leaving you any more."
AGAINST HIS JUDGMENT
Three days had passed, and the excitement in the neighborhood was nearly
at an end. The apothecary's shop at the corner into which John Baker's
body and the living four-year-old child had been carried together
immediately after the catastrophe had lost most of its interest for the
curious, although the noses of a few idlers were still pressed against the
large pane in apparent search of something beyond the brilliant colored
bottles or the soda-water fountains. Now that the funeral was over, the
womenkind, whose windows commanded a view of the house where the dead man
had been lying, had taken their heads in and resumed their sweeping and
washing, and knots of their husbands and fathers no longer stood in gaping
conclave close to the very doorsill, rehearsing again and again the
details of the distressing incident. Even the little child who had been so
miraculously saved from the jaws of death, although still decked in the
dirty finery which its mother deemed appropriate to its having suddenly
become a public character, had ceased to be the recipient of the dimes of
the tender-hearted. Such is the capriciousness of the human temperament at
times of emotional excitement, the plan of a subscription for the victim's
family had not been mooted until what was to its parents a small fortune
had been bestowed on the rescued child; but the scale of justice had
gradually righted itself. Contributions were now pouring in, especially
since it was reported that the mayor and several other well-known persons
had headed the list with fifty dollars each; and there was reason to
believe that a lump sum of from fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars
would be collected for the benefit of the widow and seven children before
public generosity was exhausted.
Local interest was on the wane; but, thanks to the telegraph and the
press, the facts were being disseminated through the country, and every
leading newspaper in the land was chronicling, with more or less
prominence according to the character of its readers, the item that John
Baker, the gate-keeper at a railroad crossing in a Pennsylvania city, had
snatched a toddling child from the pathway of a swiftly moving locomotive
and been crushed to death.
A few days later a dinner-company of eight was gathered at a country house
several hundred miles distant from the scene of the calamity. The host and
hostess were people of wealth and leisure, who enjoyed inviting congenial
parties from their social acquaintance in the neighboring city to share
with them for two or three days at a time the charms of nature. The dinner
was appetizing, the wine good, and conversation turned lightly from one
subject to another.
They had talked on a variety of topics: of tarpon fishing in Florida; of
amateur photography, in which the hostess was proficient, and of gardens;
of the latest novels and some current inelegancies of speech. Some one
spoke of the growing habit of feeing employés to do their duty. Another
referred to certain breaches of trust by bank officers and treasurers,
which occurring within a short time of one another had startled the
community. This last subject begot a somewhat doleful train of commentary
and gave the lugubrious their cue. Complaints were made of our easygoing
standards of morality, and our disposition not to be severe on anybody; of
the decay of ideal considerations and the lack of enthusiasm for all but
"The gist is here," reiterated one of the speakers: "we insist on tangible
proof of everything, of being able to see and feel it—to get our
dollar's worth, in short. We weigh and measure and scrutinize, and discard
as fusty and outworn, conduct and guides to conduct that do not promise
six per cent per annum in full sight."
"What have you to say to John Baker?" said the host, breaking the pause
which followed these remarks. "I take for granted that you are all
familiar with his story: the newspapers have been full of it. There was a
man who did not stop to measure or scrutinize."
A murmur of approbation followed, which was interrupted by Mrs. Caspar
Green, a stout and rather languid lady, inquiring to whom he referred.
"You know I never read the newspapers," she added, with a decidedly
superior air, putting up her eye-glass.
"Except the deaths and marriages," exclaimed her husband, a lynx-eyed
little stockbroker, who was perpetually poking what he called fun at his
more ponderous half.
"Well, this was a death: so there was no excuse for her not seeing it,"
said Henry Lawford, the host. "No, seriously, Mrs. Green, it was a
splendid instance of personal heroism: a gate-keeper at a railway crossing
in Pennsylvania, perceiving a child of four on the track just in front of
the fast express, rushed forward and managed to snatch up the little
creature and threw it to one side before—poor fellow!—he was
struck and killed. There was no suggestion of counting upon six per cent
there, was there?"
"Unless in another sphere," interjected Caspar Green.
"Don't be sacrilegious, Caspar," pleaded his wife, though she added her
mite to the ripple of laughter that greeted the sally.
"It was superb!—superb!" exclaimed Miss Ann Newbury, a young woman
not far from thirty, with a long neck and a high-bred, pale, intellectual
face. "He is one of the men who make us proud of being men and women." She
spoke with sententious earnestness and looked across the table appealingly
at George Gorham.
"He left seven children, I believe?" said he, with precision.
"Yes, seven, Mr. Gorham—the eldest eleven," answered Mrs. Lawford,
who was herself the mother of five. "Poor little things!"
"I think he made a great mistake," remarked George, laconically.
For an instant there was complete silence. The company was evidently
making sure that it had understood his speech correctly. Then Miss Newbury
gave a gasp, and Henry Lawford, with a certain stern dignity that he knew
how to assume, said——
"A mistake? How so, pray?"
"In doing what he did—sacrificing his life to save the child."
"Why, Mr. Gorham!" exclaimed the hostess, while everybody turned toward
him. He was a young man between thirty and thirty-five, a lawyer beginning
to be well thought of in his profession, with a thoughtful, pleasant
expression and a vigorous physique.
"It seems to me," he continued, slowly, seeking his words, "if John Baker
had stopped to think, he would have acted differently. To be sure, he
saved the life of an innocent child; but, on the other hand, he robbed of
their sole means of support seven other no less innocent children and
their mother. He was a brave man, I agree; but I, for one, should have
admired him more if he had stopped to think."
"And let the child be killed?" exclaimed Mr. Carter, the gentleman who had
deplored so earnestly the decay of ideal considerations. He was a young
mill-treasurer, with aristocratic tendencies, and a strong interest in
"Yes, if need be. It was in danger through no fault of his. Its natural
guardians had neglected it."
"What a frightful view to take!" murmured Mrs. Green; and, although she
was very well acquainted with George Gorham's physiognomy, she examined
him disapprovingly through her glass, as if there must be something
compromising about it which had hitherto escaped detection.
"Well, I don't agree with you at all," said the host, emphatically.
"Nor I," said Mr. Carter.
"Nor I, Mr. Gorham," said Mrs. Lawford, plaintively conveying the
impression that if a woman so ready as she to accept new points of view
abandoned him there could be no chance of his being right.
"No, you're all wrong, my dear fellow," said Caspar Green. "Such ideas may
go down among your long-haired artistic and literary friends at the
Argonaut Club, but you can't expect civilized Christians to accept them.
Why, man, it's monstrous—monstrous, by Jove!—to depreciate
that noble fellow's action—a man we all ought to be proud of, as
Miss Newbury says. If we don't encourage such people, how can we expect
them to be willing to risk their lives?" Thereupon the little broker, as a
relief to his outraged feelings, emptied his champagne-glass at a draught
and scowled irascibly. His jesting equanimity was rarely disturbed;
consequently, everybody felt the importance of his testimony.
"I'm sorry to be so completely in the minority," said Gorham, "but that's
the way the matter strikes me. I don't think you quite catch my point,
though, Caspar," he added, glancing at Mr. Green. At a less heated moment
the company, with the possible exception of Mrs. Green, might have tacitly
agreed that this was extremely probable; but now Miss Newbury, who had
hitherto refrained from comment, in order to digest the problem thoroughly
before speaking, came to the broker's aid.
"It seems to me, Mr. Gorham," she said, "that your proposition is a very
plain one: you claim simply that John Baker had better not have saved the
child if, in order to do so, it was necessary to lose his own life."
"Precisely," exclaimed Mr. Green, in a tone of some contempt.
"Was not Mr. Gorham's meaning that, though it required very great courage
to do what Baker did, a man who stopped to think of his own wife and
children would have shown even greater courage?" asked Miss Emily Vincent.
She was the youngest of the party, a beautiful girl, of fine presence,
with a round face, dark eyes, and brilliant pink-and-white coloring. She
had been invited to stay by the Lawfords because George Gorham was
attentive to her; or, more properly speaking, George Gorham had been asked
because he was attentive to her.
"Thank you, Miss Vincent: you have expressed my meaning perfectly," said
Gorham; and his face gladdened. He was dead in love with her, and this was
the first civil word, so to speak, she had said to him during the visit.
"Do you agree with him?" inquired Miss Newbury, with intellectual
"And do you agree with Mr. Gorham?" asked Mrs. Lawford, at the same
All eyes were turned on Emily Vincent, and she let hers fall. She felt
that she would give worlds not to have spoken. Why had she spoken?
"I understand what he means; but I don't believe a man in John Baker's
place could help himself," she said quietly.
"Of course he couldn't!" cried Mrs. Lawford. "There, Mr. Gorham, you have
lost your champion. What have you to say now?" A murmur of approval went
round the table.
"I appreciate my loss, but I fear I have nothing to add to what has been
said already," he replied, with smiling firmness. "Although in a pitiful
minority, I shall have to stand or fall by that."
"Ah, but when it came to action we know that under all circumstances Mr.
Gorham would be his father's son!" said Mrs. Lawford, with less than her
usual tact, though she intended to be very ingratiating. Gorham's father,
who was conspicuous for gallantry, had been killed in the Civil War.
Gorham bowed a little stiffly, feeling that there was nothing for him to
say. There was a pause, which showed that the topic was getting
threadbare. This prompted the host to call his wife's attention to the
fact that one of the candles was flaring. So the current of conversation
was turned, and the subject was not alluded to again, thereby anticipating
Mr. Carter, who, having caught Miss Newbury's eye, was about to
philosophize further on the same lines.
During the twelve months following his visit at the Lawfords' the
attentions of George Gorham to Emily Vincent became noticeable. He had
loved her for three years in secret; but the consciousness that he was not
able to support a wife had hindered him from devoting himself to her. He
knew that she, or rather her father, had considerable property; but Gorham
was not willing to take this into consideration; he would never offer
himself until his own income was sufficient for both their needs. But, on
the other hand, his ideas of a sufficient income were not extravagant. He
looked forward to building a comfortable little house in the suburbs in
the midst of an acre or two of garden and lawn, so that his neighbors'
windows need not overlook his domesticity. He would have a horse and buggy
wherewith to drive his wife through the country on summer afternoons, and
later, if his bank-account warranted it, a saddle-horse for Emily and one
for himself. He would keep open house in the sense of encouraging his
friends to visit him; and, that they might like to come, he would have a
thoroughly good plain cook—thereby eschewing French kickashaws—and
his library should contain the best new books, and etchings and sketches
luring to the eye, done by men who were rising, rather than men who had
risen. There should be no formality; his guests should do what they
pleased, and wear what they pleased, and, above all, they should become
intimate with his wife, instead of merely tolerating her after the manner
of the bachelor friends of so many other men.
Thus he had been in the habit of depicting to himself the future, and at
last, by dint of undeviating attention to his business, he had got to the
point where he could afford to realize his project if his lady-love were
willing. His practice was increasing steadily, and he had laid by a few
thousand dollars to meet any unexpected emergency. His life was insured
for fifty thousand dollars, and the policies were now ten years old. He
had every reason to expect that in course of time as the older lawyers
died off he would either succeed to the lucrative conduct of large suits
or be made a judge of one of the higher tribunals. In this manner his
ambition would be amply satisfied. His aim was to progress slowly but
solidly, without splurge or notoriety, so that every one might regard him
as a man of sound dispassionate judgment, and solid, keen understanding.
His especial antipathy was for so-called cranks—people who went off
at half-cock, who thought nothing out, but were governed by the impulse of
the moment, shilly-shally and controlled by sentimentality.
It was with hope and yet with his heart in his mouth that he set out one
afternoon determined to ask Emily Vincent to become his wife. She lived in
the suburbs, within fifteen minutes by the train, or an hour's walk from
town. Gorham took the cars. It was a beautiful day, almost the counterpart
of that which they had passed together at the Lawfords' just a year
before. As he sat in the train he analyzed the situation once more for the
hundredth time, taking care not to give himself the advantage of any
ambiguous symptoms. Certainly she was not indifferent to him; she accepted
his attentions without demur, and seemed interested in his interests. But
was that love? Was it any more than esteem or cordial liking, which would
turn to pity at the first hint of affection on his part? But surely she
could not plead ignorance of his intentions; she must long ere this have
realized that he was seriously attentive to her. Still, girls were strange
creatures. He could not help feeling nervous, because so very much was
involved for him in the result. Should she refuse him, he would be and
remain for a long time excessively unhappy. He obliged himself to regard
this alternative, and his heart sank before the possibility. Not that the
idea of dying or doing anything desperate presented itself to him. Such
extravagance would have seemed out of keeping with respect either for her
or for himself. Doubtless he might recover some day, but the interim would
be terribly hard to endure. Rejection meant a dark, dreary bachelorhood;
success, the crowning of his dearest hopes.
He found his sweetheart at home, and she came down to greet him with roses
that he had sent her in her bosom. It was not easy for him to do or say
anything extravagant, and Emily Vincent, while she might have pardoned
unseemly effusiveness to his exceeding love for her, was well content with
the deeply earnest though unriotous expression of his passion. When
finally he had folded her in his arms she felt that the greatest happiness
existence can give was hers, and he knew himself to be an utterly blissful
lover. He had won the prize for which he had striven with a pertinacity
like Jacob's, and life looked very roseate.
The news was broken to her family that evening, and received delightedly,
though without the surprise which the lovers expected. They were left
alone for a little while before the hour of parting, and in the sweet
kisses given and taken Gorham redeemed himself in his mistress's
estimation for any lack of folly he had been guilty of when he had asked
her to be his wife. There was riot now in his eyes and in his embraces,
revealing that he had needed only to be sure of her encouragement to
become as ridiculous as she could desire. He stood disclosed to himself in
a new light; and when he had kissed her once more for the last time he
went tripping down the lawn radiantly happy, turning now and again to
throw back with his fingers a message from his lips to the one being in
all the world for him, who stood on the threshold, adding poetry and grace
to the beautiful June evening.
When out of sight of the house, Gorham sped fleetly along the road. He
intended to walk to town, for he felt like glorying in his happiness under
the full moon which was shedding her silver light from a clear heaven. The
air was not oppressive, and it was scented with the perfume of the lilacs
and apple-blossoms, so that Gorham was fain every now and then to draw a
deep breath in order to inhale their fragrance. There was no dust, and
nature looked spruce and trig, without a taint of the frowziness which is
observable in the foliage a month later.
Gorham took very little notice of the details; his eyes were busy rather
with mind-problems than with the particular beauties of the night; yet his
rapt gaze swept the brilliant heavens as though he felt their lustre to be
in harmony with the radiance in his own soul. He was imagining the future—his
hearth forever blessed by her sweet presence, their mutual joys and
sorrows sweetened and alleviated through being shared. His efforts to live
worthily would be fortified by her example and counsel. How the pleasures
of walking and riding and reading and travelling—of everything in
life—would be a hundredfold enhanced by being able to interchange
impressions with each other! He pictured to himself the cosey evenings
they would pass at home when the day's work was done, and the jolly trips
they would take together when vacation-time arrived. How he would watch
over her, and how he would guard her and tend her and comfort her if
misfortune came or ill health assailed her! There would be little ones,
perhaps, to claim their joint devotion, and bid him redouble his energies;
he smiled at the thought of baby fingers about his neck, and there arose
to his mind's eye a sweet vision of Emily sitting, pale but triumphant,
rocking her new-born child upon her breast.
He walked swiftly on the wings of transport. It was almost as light as
day, yet he met but few travellers along the country road. An occasional
vehicle passed him, breaking the silvery stillness with its rumble which
subsided at last into the distance. A pair of whispering lovers, arm in
arm, who slunk into the shadow as he came abreast of them, won from him a
glance of sympathy. Just after he had left them behind the shrill whistle
of a locomotive jarring upon the silence seemed to bring him a message
from the woman he adored. Had he not preferred to walk, this was the train
he would have taken, and it must have stopped not many hundred yards from
her door. As he listened to it thundering past almost parallel to him in
the cut below he breathed a prayer of blessing on her rest.
A little beyond this point the road curved and ran at a gradual incline so
as to cross the railroad track at grade about half a mile farther on. This
stretch was lined on each side by horse-chestnut trees set near to one
another, the spreading foliage of which darkened the gravelled foot-path,
so that Gorham, who was enjoying the moonlight, preferred to keep in the
middle of the road, which, by way of contrast, gleamed almost like a
river. He was pursuing his way with elastic steps, when of a sudden his
attention was arrested about a hundred and fifty yards from the crossing
by something lying at the foot of one of the trees on the right-hand side.
At a second glance he saw that it was a woman's figure. Probably she was
asleep: but she might be ill or injured. It was a lonely spot, so it
occurred to him that it was proper for him to investigate. Accordingly, he
stepped to her side and bent over her. From her calico dress, which was
her only covering, she evidently belonged to the laboring class. She was a
large, coarse-looking woman, and was lying, in what appeared to Gorham to
be drunken slumber, on her bonnet, the draggled strings of which caught
his eye. He hesitated a moment, and then shook her by the arm. She groaned
boozily, but after he had shaken her again two or three times she rolled
over and raised herself on her elbow, rubbing her eyes and staring at him
"Are you hurt, woman?" he asked.
She made a guttural response which might have meant anything, but she
proved that she was uninjured by getting on her feet. She stared at her
disturber bewilderedly, then, perceiving her bonnet, stooped to pick it
up, and stood for a moment trying sleepily to poke it into shape and
readjust its tawdry plumage. But all of a sudden she gave a start and
began looking around her with recovered energy. She missed something,
evidently. Gorham followed the direction of her gaze as it shifted, and as
his glance met the line of the road he perceived a little figure standing
in the middle of the railway crossing. It was a child—her child,
without doubt—and as he said so to himself the roar of an
approaching train, coupled with the sound of the whistle, made him start
with horror. The late express from town was due. Gorham remembered that
there was a considerable curve in the railroad at this point. The woman
had not perceived the situation—she was too far in the shade—but
Gorham from where he stood commanded a clear view of the track.
Without an instant's hesitation, he sprang forward and ran at full speed.
His first thought was that the train was very near. He ran with all his
might and main, his eyes fixed on the little white figure, and shouting to
warn it of its danger. Suddenly there flashed before his mind with
vividness the remembrance of John Baker, and he recalled his argument at
the Lawfords'. But he did not abate his speed. The child had plumped
itself down on one of the sleepers, and was apparently playing with some
pebbles. It was on the farther track, and, startled by his cries and by
the clang of the approaching train, looked up at him. He saw a pale,
besmeared little countenance; he heard behind him the agonizing screams of
the mother, who had realized her baby's peril; in his ears rang the shrill
warning of the engineer as the engine rounded the curve. Would he be in
As he reached the edge of the tracks, thought of Emily and a terrible
consciousness of the sorrow she would feel if anything were to happen to
him compressed his heart. But he did not falter. He was aware of the
jangle of a fiercely rung bell, the hiss of steam, and a blinding glare;
he could feel on his cheek the breath of the iron monster. With set teeth
he threw himself forward, stooped, and reached out over the rail: in
another instant he had tossed the child from the pathway of danger, and he
himself had been mangled to death by the powerful engine.
ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON
Paul Harrington, the reporter, shifted his eagle glance from one feature
to another of the obsequies with the comprehensive yet swift perception of
an artist. An experience of three years on the staff had made him an
expert on ceremonies, and, captious as he could be when the occasion
merited his scorn, his predilection was for praise, as he was an optimist
by instinct. This time he could praise unreservedly, and he was impatient
to transfer to the pages of his note-book his seething impressions of the
solemn beauty and simplicity of the last rites in the painful tragedy. In
the rustic church into which he had wormed his way he had already found
time to scribble a brief paragraph to the effect that the melancholy event
had "shrouded the picturesque little town of Carver in gloom," and now as
he stood on the greensward near, though not too near, he hastily jotted
down the points of interest with keen anticipation of working out some
telling description on the way home.
Out from the little church where the families of the pair of lovers had
worshipped in summer time for a generation, the two coffins, piled high
with flowers (Harrington knew them reportorially as caskets), were borne
by the band of pall-bearers, stalwart young intimate friends, and lifted
by the same hands tenderly into the hearse. The long blackness of their
frock-coats and the sable accompaniment of their silk hats, gloves, and
ties appealed to the observant faculties of Harrington as in harmony both
with the high social position of the parties and the peculiar sadness of
the occasion. That a young man and woman, on the eve of matrimony, and
with everything to live for, should be hurled into eternity (a
Harringtonian figure of speech) by a railroad train at a rustic crossing,
while driving, was certainly an affair heartrending enough to invite every
habiliment of woe. As he thus reasoned Harrington became aware that one of
the stalwart young men was looking at him with an expression which seemed
to ask only too plainly, "What the devil are you doing here?"
As a newspaper man of some years' standing Harrington was hardened. Such
an expression of countenance was an almost daily experience and slipped
off the armor of his self-respecting hardihood like water off the
traditional duck's back. When people looked at him like this he simply
took refuge in his consciousness of the necessities of the case and the
honesty of his own artistic purpose. The press must be served faithfully
and indefatigably—boldly, moreover, and at times officiously, in
order to attain legitimate results; yet he flattered himself that no one
could ever say of him that he had "butted in" where others of his craft
would have paused, or was lacking in reportorial delicacy. Was he not
simply doing his professional duty for hire, like any respectable lawyer
or doctor or architect, in order to support his family? Were he to trouble
his head because impetuous people frowned, his wife, Amelia, and infant
son, Tesla, would be the sufferers—a thought which was a constant
stimulus to enterprise. His "job" required "cheek" perhaps, but nine
people out of ten were not sensible enough to realize that he was a modern
necessity, and to ask themselves, "Is this man doing his work creditably?"
There was the essence of the situation for Harrington, and from the
world's lack of nice perception he had made for himself a grievance which
rendered him indifferent to ill-considered scowls.
But, however indifferent his attitude, nothing ever escaped Harrington,
and he noticed that the young man whose eyes met his with the expression
of annoyance was well set up and manly in appearance—a "dude," in
Harrington's parlance, but a pleasant-looking dude, with an open and
rather strong countenance. Such was Harrington's deduction, in spite of
the obvious hostility to himself, and in confirmation of this view he had
the satisfaction of perceiving the tension of the young man's face relax,
as though he had come to the conclusion, on second thoughts, that
interference was, on the whole, not worth while.
"He realizes," said the reporter to himself approvingly, "that there's no
sense in being peevish. A swell funeral must be written up like any other
While he thus soliloquized, the nearest relatives of the deceased victims
issued from the church, seeking the carriages in waiting for them. Among
those who came next was a handsome, spirited-looking girl of twenty-five,
who, though not of the family group, was a sincere mourner. As she stepped
forward with the elasticity of youth, glad of the fresh air on her
tear-stained cheeks, it happened that she also observed the presence of
the reporter, and she paused, plainly appalled. Her nostrils quivered with
horrified distress, and she turned her head as though seeking some one. It
proved to be the young man who had misjudged Harrington a few moments
before. At least, he sprang to her side with an agility which suggested
that his eyes had been following her every movement, thereby prompting
Harrington, who was ever on the alert for a touch of romance amid the
prose of every-day business, to remark shrewdly:
"That's plain as the nose on your face; he's her 'steady.'"
He realized at the same time that he was being pointed out in no
flattering terms by the young lady in question, who cast a single haughty
glance in his direction by way of identification. He saw her eyes flash,
and, though the brief dialogue which ensued was necessarily inarticulate
to him, it was plain that she was laying her outraged feelings at the feet
of her admirer, with a command for something summary and substantial by
way of relief.
At any rate, Harrington jumped at once to this conclusion, for he
murmured: "She's telling him I'm the scum of the earth, and that it's up
to him to get rid of me." He added, sententiously: "She'll find, I guess,
that this is about the most difficult billet a fair lady ever intrusted to
a gallant knight." Whereupon, inspired by his metaphor, he proceeded to
hum under his breath, by way of outlet to his amused sensibilities, the
dulcet refrain which runs:
In days of old, when knights were bold
And barons held their sway,
A warrior bold, with spurs of gold.
Sang merrily his lay,
Sang merrily his lay:
"My love is young and fair,
My love hath golden hair,
And eyes so blue and heart so true
That none with her compare.
So what care I, though death be nigh?
I'll live for love or die!
So what care I, though death be nigh,
I'll live for love or die!"
What was going to happen? How would Sir Knight set to work to slay or
expel the obnoxious dragon? Harrington felt mildly curious despite his
sardonic emotions, and while he took mental note of what was taking place
around him he contrived to keep an eye on his censors. He had observed
that the young man's face while she talked to him had worn a worried
expression, as though he were already meditating whether the situation was
not hopeless unless he had recourse to personal violence; but, having put
his Dulcinea into her carriage, he appeared to be in no haste to begin
hostilities. Indeed, without further ado, or even a glance in Harrington's
direction, he took his place in the line of mourners which was moving
toward the neighboring cemetery.
Harrington was for a moment divided in his own mind between the claims of
reportorial delicacy and proper self-respect. It had been his intention to
absent himself from the services at the grave, out of consideration for
the immediate family. It occurred to him now that it was almost his duty
to show himself there, in order not to avoid a meeting. But the finer
instinct prevailed. Why allow what was, after all, nothing save ignorant
disapproval to alter his arrangements? He had just time to walk leisurely
to the station without overheating himself, and delay would oblige him to
take a later train, as there was no vehicle at his disposal.
Consequently, after his brief hesitation, he followed a high-road at right
angles to that taken by the funeral procession, and gave himself up to the
beguilement of his own thoughts. They were concerned with the preparation
of his special article, and he indulged in the reflection that if it were
read by the couple who had looked at him askance they would be put to
shame by its accuracy and good taste.
Before Harrington had finished three-quarters of the distance which lay
between the church and his destination, the carriages of those returning
from the cemetery began to pass him. When the dust raised by their wheels
had subsided he looked for an undisturbed landscape during the remainder
of his walk, and had just given rein again to contemplation when a sound
which revealed unmistakably the approach of an automobile caused him to
turn his head. A touring car of large dimensions and occupied by two
persons was approaching at a moderate rate of speed, which the driver, who
was obviously the owner, reduced to a minimum as he ran alongside him.
"May I give you a lift?" asked a strong, friendly voice.
Before the question was put Harrington had recognized in the speaker the
young man whose mission it had become, according to his shrewd guess, to
call him to account for his presence at the funeral. He had exchanged his
silk hat for a cap, and drawn on a white dust-coat over his other sable
garments, but his identity was unmistakable. Viewing him close at hand
Harrington perceived that he had large, clear eyes, a smooth-shaven,
humorous, determined mouth, and full ruddy cheeks, the immobility of which
suggested the habit of deliberation. Physically and temperamentally he
appeared to be the antipodes of the reporter, who was thin, nervous, and
wiry, with quick, snappy ways and electric mental processes. It occurred
to him now at once that the offer concealed a trap, and he recalled,
knowingly, the warning contained in the classical adage concerning Greeks
who bear gifts. But, on the other hand, what had he to fear or to
apologize for? Besides, there was his boy Tesla to consider. How delighted
the little fellow, who already doted on electricity, would be to hear that
his father had ridden in a huge touring car! He would be glad, too, of the
experience himself, in order to compare the sensation with that of
travelling in the little puffing machines with which he was tolerably
familiar. Therefore he answered civilly, yet without enthusiasm:
"I don't mind if you do, as far as the station."
At his words the chauffeur at a sign made place for him, and he stepped in
beside his pseudo-enemy, who, as he turned on the power, met Harrington's
limitation as to distance with the remark:
"I'm going all the way to New York, if you care to go with me."
Harrington was tempted again. Apart from the peculiar circumstances of the
case he would like nothing better. Then, why not? What had he or his
self-respect to dread from a trip with this accommodating dude? He would
hardly sandbag him, and were he—Harrington grinned inwardly at the
cunning thought—intending to have the machine break down in an
inaccessible spot, and leave him stranded, what difference would it make?
His article was too late already for the evening papers, and he would take
excellent care to see that nothing should interfere with its appearance
the following morning, for at a pinch he was within walking distance of
the city. The thought of such an attempt to muzzle the liberty of the
press was rather an incentive than otherwise, for it savored of real
adventure and indicated that a moral issue was involved.
While he thus reflected he appeared not to have heard the observation.
Meanwhile the automobile was running swiftly and smoothly, as though its
owner were not averse to have his guest perceive what a superb machine it
"What make?" asked the reporter, wishing to show himself affable, yet a
man of the world. He had come to the conclusion that if the invitation
were repeated he would accept it.
His companion told him, and as though he divined that the inquiry had been
intended to convey admiration, added, "She's going now only at about half
Harrington grinned inwardly again. "Springes to catch woodcock!" he said
to himself, quoting Shakespeare, then went on to reflect in his own
vernacular: "The chap is trying to bribe me, confound him! Well, here
goes!" Thereupon he said aloud, for they were approaching the station: "If
you really would like my company on the way to town I'd be glad to see how
fast she can go." As he spoke he drew out his watch and added with
suppressed humorous intention: "I suppose you'll guarantee to get me there
in a couple of hours or so?"
"If we don't break down or are not arrested." The voice was gay and
without a touch of sinister suggestion.
"Here's a deep one, maybe," thought Harrington.
Already the kidnapper—if he were one—was steering the car into
a country way which diverged at a sharp curve from that in which they had
been travelling. It was a smooth, level stretch, running at first almost
parallel with the railroad, and in another moment they were spinning along
at a hair-lifting rate of speed, yet with so little friction that the
reporter's enthusiasm betrayed itself in a grunt of satisfaction, though
he was reflecting that his companion knew the way and did not intend to
allow him to change his mind. But Harrington was quite content with the
situation, and gave himself up unreservedly to the pleasant thrill of
skimming along the surface of the earth at such a pace that the summer
breeze buffeted his face so that his eyes watered. There was nothing in
sight but a clear, straight road flanked by hedges and ditches, save the
railroad bed, along which after a while the train came whizzing. A pretty
race ensued until it crossed their path at almost a right angle.
"Now he thinks he has me," thought Harrington.
It almost seemed so, for in another moment he of the humorous, determined
mouth diminished the power, and after they were on the other side of the
railroad track he proceeded at a much less strenuous pace and opened
"You're a reporter, I judge?"
Harrington, who was enjoying himself, would have preferred to avoid
business for a little longer and to talk as one gentleman to another on a
pleasure trip. So, in response to this direct challenge, he answered with
"Yes. I have the honor of representing the Associated Press."
"One of the great institutions of the country."
This was reasonable—so reasonable, indeed, that Harrington pondered
it to detect some sophistry.
"It must be in many respects an interesting calling."
"Yes, sir; a man has to keep pretty well up to date."
"Married or single, if I may be so bold?"
"I have a wife and a son nine years old."
"That is as it should be. Lucky dog!"
Harrington laughed in approval of the sentiment. "Then I must assume that
you are a bachelor, Mr. ——?"
"Dryden. Walter Dryden is my name. Yes, that's the trouble."
"She won't have you?" hazarded the reporter, wishing to be social in his
"Mrs. Harrington would not the first time I asked her."
"I have offered myself to her six separate times, and she has thus far
Harrington paused a moment. The temptation to reveal his own astuteness,
and at the same time enhance the personal flavor which the dialogue had
acquired, was not to be resisted. "May I venture to ask if she is the lady
with whom you exchanged a few words this forenoon at the door of the
The young man turned his glance from the road toward his questioner by way
of tribute to such acumen. "I see that nothing escapes your observation."
"It is my business to notice everything and to draw my own conclusions,"
said the reporter modestly.
"They are shrewdly correct in this case. Would you be surprised,"
continued Dryden in a confidential tone, "if I were to inform you that I
believe it lies in your power to procure me a home and happiness?"
Harrington chuckled in his secret soul. He would dissemble. "How could
that possibly be?"
"I don't mind telling you that the last time I offered myself the young
lady appeared a trifle less obdurate. She shook her head, but I thought I
observed signs of wavering—faint, yet appreciable. If now I could
only put her under an obligation and thus convince her of my
effectiveness, I am confident I could win her."
"Your effectiveness?" queried Harrington, to whom the interview was
becoming more psychologically interesting every moment.
"Yes, she considers me an unpractical person—not serious, you know.
I know what you consider me," he added with startling divergence—"a
Harrington found this searchlight on his own previous thought
disconcerting. "Well, aren't you one?" he essayed boldly.
Dryden pondered a moment. "I suppose so. I don't wear reversible cuffs and
I am disgustingly rich. I've shot tigers in India, lived in the Latin
quarter, owned a steam yacht, climbed San Juan Hill—but I have not
found a permanent niche. There are not places enough to go round for men
with millions, and she calls me a rolling stone. Come, now, I'll swap
places with you. You shall own this motor and—and I'll write the
press notice on the Ward-Upton funeral."
Harrington stiffened instinctively. He did not believe that the amazing,
splendid offer was genuine. But had he felt complete faith that the young
man beside him was in earnest, he would have been proof against the lure
of even a touring car, for he had been touched at his most sensitive
point. His artistic capacity was assailed, and his was just the nature to
take proper umbrage at the imputation. More; over, though this was a minor
consideration, he resented slightly the allusion to reversible cuffs.
Hence the answer sprang to his lips:
"Can you not trust me to write the notice, Mr. Dryden?"
"She would like me to write it."
"Ah, I see! Was that what she whispered to you this morning?"
Dryden hesitated. "Certainly words to that effect. Let me ask you in turn,
can you not trust me? If so, the automobile is yours and——"
Harrington laughed coldly. "I'm sorry not to oblige you, Mr. Dryden. If
you understood my point of view you would see that what you propose is out
of the question. I was commissioned to write up the Ward-Upton obsequies,
and I alone must do so."
As he spoke they were passing at a lively gait through the picturesquely
shaded main street of a small country town and were almost abreast of the
only tavern of the place, which wore the appearance of having been
recently remodelled and repainted to meet the demands of modern road
"Your point of view? What is your point of view?"
Before Harrington had time to begin to put into speech the statement of
his principles there was a sudden loud explosion beneath them like the
discharge of a huge pistol, and the machine came abruptly to a stop. So
unexpected and startling was the shock that the reporter sprang from the
car and in his nervous annoyance at once vented the hasty conclusion at
which he arrived in the words: "I see; this is a trap, and you are a
modern highwayman whose stunt will make good Sunday reading in cold
print." He wore a sarcastic smile, and his sharp eyes gleamed like a
Dryden regarded him humorously with his steady gaze. "Gently there; it's
only a tire gone. Do you suspect me of trying to trifle with the sacred
liberties of the press?"
"I certainly did, sir. It looks very much like it."
"Then you agree that I chose a very inappropriate place for my purpose.
'The Old Homestead' there is furnished with a telephone, a livery-stable,
and all the modern protections against highway robbery. Besides, there is
a cold chicken and a bottle of choice claret in the basket with which to
supplement the larder of our host of the inn. We will take luncheon while
my chauffeur is placing us on an even keel again, and no time will be
lost. You will even have ten minutes in which to put pen to paper while
the table is being laid."
Harrington as a nervous man was no less promptly generous in his impulses
when convinced of error than he was quick to scent out a hostile plot. "I
beg your pardon, Mr. Dryden. I see I was mistaken." He thrust out a lean
hand by way of amity. "Can't I help?"
"Oh, no, thank you. My man will attend to everything."
"You see I got the idea to begin with and then the explosion following so
close upon your offer——"
"Quite so," exclaimed Dryden. "A suspicious coincidence, I admit." He
shook the proffered fingers without a shadow of resentment. "I dare say my
dust-coat and goggles give me quite the highwayman effect," he continued
"They sort of got on my nerves, I guess." Under the spell of his generous
impulse various bits of local color flattering to his companion began to
suggest themselves to Harrington for his article, and he added: "I'll take
advantage of that suggestion of yours and get to work until luncheon is
Some fifteen minutes later they were seated opposite to each other at an
appetizing meal. As Dryden finished his first glass of claret, he asked:
"Did you know Richard Upton?"
"The man who was killed? Not personally. But I have read about him in the
"Ah!" There was a deep melancholy in the intonation which caused the
reporter to look at his companion a little sharply. For a moment Dryden
stirred in his chair as though about to make some comment, and twisted the
morsel of bread at his fingers' ends into a small pellet. But he poured
out another glass of claret for each of them and said:
"He was the salt of the earth."
"Tell me about him. I should be glad to know. I might——"
"There's so little to tell—it was principally charm. He was one of
the most unostentatious, unselfish, high-minded, consistent men I ever
knew. Completely a gentleman in the finest sense of that overworked word."
"That's very interesting. I should be glad——"
Dryden shook his head. "You didn't know him well enough. It was like the
delicacy of the rose—finger it and it falls to pieces. No offence to
you, of course. I doubt my own ability to do him justice, well as I knew
him. But you put a stopper on that—and you were right. My kind
regards," he said, draining his second glass of claret. "The laborer is
worthy of his hire, the artist must not be interfered with. It was an
impertinence of me to ask to do your work."
Harrington's eyes gleamed. "It's pleasant to be appreciated—to have
one's point of view comprehended. It isn't pleasant to butt in where
you're not wanted, but there's something bigger than that involved, the——"
"Quite so; it was a cruel bribe; and many men in your shoes would not have
been proof against it."
"And you were in dead earnest, too, though for a moment I couldn't believe
it. But the point is—and that's what I mean—that the public—gentlemen
like you and ladies like the handsome one who looked daggers at me this
morning—don't realize that the world is bound to have the news on
its breakfast-table and supper-table, and that when a man is in the
business and knows his business and is trying to do the decent thing and
the acceptable artistic thing, too, if I do say it, he is entitled to be
taken seriously and—and trusted. There are incompetent men—rascals
even—in my calling. What I contend is that you'd no right to assume
that I wouldn't do the inevitable thing decently merely because you saw me
there. For, if you only knew it, I was saying to myself at that very
moment that for a funeral it was the most tastefully handled I ever
"It is the inevitable thing; that's just it. My manners were bad to begin
to with, and later—" Dryden leaned forward with his elbows on the
table and his head between his hands, scanning his eager companion.
"Don't mention it. You see, it was a matter of pride with me. And now it's
up to me to state that if there's anything in particular you'd like me to
mention about the deceased gentleman or lady——"
Dryden sighed at the reminder, "One of the loveliest and most pure-hearted
"That shall go down," said the reporter, mistaking the apostrophe for an
answer, and he drew a note-book from his side pocket.
Dryden raised his hand by way of protest. "I was merely thinking aloud.
No, we must trust you."
Harrington bowed. He hesitated, then by way of noticing the plural
allusion in the speech added: "It was your young lady's look which wounded
me the most. And she said something. I don't suppose you'd care to tell me
what she said? It wasn't flattering, I'm sure of that, but it was on the
tip of her tongue. I admit I'm mildly curious as to what it was."
Dryden reflected a moment. "You've written your article?" he asked,
indicating the note-book.
"It's all mapped out in my mind, and I've finished the introduction."
"I won't ask to see it because we trust you. But I'll make a compact with
you." Dryden held out a cigar to his adversary and proceeded to light one
for himself. "Supposing what the lady said referred to something which you
have written there, would you agree to cut it out?"
Harrington looked gravely knowing. "You think you can tell what I have
written?" he asked, tapping his note-book.
Dryden took a puff. "Very possibly not. I am merely supposing. But in case
the substance of her criticism—for she did criticise—should
prove to be almost word for word identical with something in your
handwriting—would you agree?"
Harrington shrugged his shoulders. "Against the automobile as a stake, if
it proves not to be?" he inquired by way of expressing his incredulity.
"Let it be rather against another luncheon with you as agreeable as this."
"Done. I will write her exact language here on this piece of paper and
then we will exchange copy."
Harrington sat pleasantly amused, yet puzzled, while Dryden wrote and
folded the paper. Then he proffered his note-book with nervous alacrity.
"Read aloud until you come to the place," he said jauntily.
Dryden scanned for a moment the memoranda, then looked up. "It is all here
at the beginning, just as she prophesied," he said, with a promptness
which was almost radiant, and he read as follows: "The dual funeral of
Miss Josephine Ward, the leading society girl, and Richard Upton, the
well-known club man, took place this morning at—" He paused and
said: "Read now what you have there."
Harrington flushed, then scowled, but from perplexity. He was seeking
enlightenment before he proceeded further, so he unfolded the paper with a
deliberation unusual to him, which afforded time to Dryden to remark with
"Those were her very words."
Harrington read aloud: "'Look at that man; he is taking notes. Oh, he will
describe them in his newspaper as a leading society girl and a well-known
club man, and they will turn in their graves. If you love me, stop it.'"
There was a brief pause. The reporter pondered, visibly chagrined and
disappointed. The silence was broken by Dryden. "Do you not understand?"
"Frankly, I do not altogether. I—I thought they'd like it."
"Of course you did, my dear fellow; there's the ghastly humor of it; the
dire tragedy, rather." As he spoke he struck his closed hand gently but
firmly on the table, and regarded the reporter with the compressed lips of
one who is about to vent a long pent-up grievance.
"He was in four clubs; I looked him up," Harrington still protested in
"And they seemed to you his chief title to distinction? You thought they
did him honor? He would have writhed in his grave, as Miss Mayberry said.
Like it? When the cheap jack or the social climber dies, he may like it,
but not the gentleman or lady. Leading society girl? Why, every shop-girl
who commits suicide is immortalized in the daily press as 'a leading
society girl,' and every deceased Tom, Dick, or Harry has become a
'well-known club man.' It has added a new terror to death. Thank God, my
friends will be spared!"
Harrington felt of his chin. "You object to the promiscuity of it, so to
speak. It's because everybody is included?"
"No, man, to the fundamental indignity of it. To the baseness of the metal
which the press glories in using for a social crown."
Harrington drew himself up a little. "If the press does it, it's because
most people like it and regard it as a tribute."
"Ah! But my friends do not. You spoke just now of your point of view. This
is ours. Think it over, Mr. Harrington, and you will realize that there is
something in it." He sat back in his chair with the air of a man who has
pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat and is well content.
Harrington meditated a moment. "However that be, one thing is certain—it
has got to come out. It will come out. You may rest assured of that, Mr.
Dryden." So saying he reached for his note-book and proceeded to run a
pencil through the abnoxious paragraph.
"You have won your bet and—and the young lady, too, Sir Knight, I
trust. You seem to have found your niche." Which goes to prove that the
reporter was a magnanimous fellow at heart.
Dryden forbore to commit himself as to the condition of his hopes as he
thanked his late adversary for this expression of good-will. Ten minutes
later they were sitting in the rehabilitated motor-car and speeding
rapidly toward New York. When they reached the city Dryden insisted on
leaving the reporter at his doorsteps, a courtesy which went straight to
Harrington's heart, for, as he expected would be the case, his wife and
son Tesla were looking out of the window at the moment of his arrival and
saw him dash up to the curbstone. His sturdy urchin ran out forthwith to
inspect the mysteries of the huge machine. As it vanished down the street
Harrington put an arm round Tesla and went to meet the wife of his bosom.
"Who is your new friend, Paul?" she asked.
It rose to Harrington's lips to say—an hour before he would have
said confidently—"a well-known club man"; but he swallowed the
phrase before it was uttered and answered thoughtfully:
"It was one of the funeral guests, who gave me a lift in his motor, and
has taught me a thing or two about modern journalism on the way up. I got
"I thought you knew everything there is to know about that," remarked Mrs.
Harrington with the fidelity of a true spouse.
To this her husband at the moment made no response. When, six months
later, however, he received an invitation to the wedding of Walter Dryden
and Miss Florence Mayberry, he remarked in her presence, as he sharpened
his pencil for the occasion: "Those swells have trusted me to write it up
THE ROMANCE OF A SOUL
When Marion Willis became a schoolmistress in the Glendale public school
at twenty-two she regarded her employment as a transient occupation, to be
terminated presently by marriage. She possessed an imaginative
temperament, and one of her favorite and most satisfying habits was to
evoke from the realm of the future a proper hero, shining with zeal and
virtue like Sir Galahad, in whose arms she would picture herself living
happily ever after a sweet courtship, punctuated by due maidenly
hesitation. This fondness for letting her fancy run riot and evolve
visions splendid with happenings for her own advancement and gladness was
not confined to matrimonial day-dreams. On the morning when she entered
the school-house door for the first time the eyes of her mind saw the
curtain which veils the years divide, and she beheld herself a famous
educator, still young, but long since graduated from primary teaching. She
forgot the vision of her Sir Galahad there. Nor were the circumstances of
her several day-dreams necessarily consistent in other respects. It
sufficed for her spiritual exaltation that they should be merely a
fairy-like manifestation in her own favor. But though she loved to give
her imagination rein, the fairy-like quality of these visions was patent
to Miss Willis, for she possessed a quiet sense of humor as a sort of
east-wind supplementary to the sentimental and poetic properties of her
nature. She had a way of poking fun at herself, which, when exercised,
sent the elfin figures scattering with a celerity suggestive of the
departure of her own pupils at the tinkle of the bell for dismissal. Then
she was left alone with her humor and her New England conscience, that
stern adjuster of real values and enemy of spiritual dissipation. This
same conscience was a vigilant monitor in the matter of her
school-teaching, despite Miss Willis's reasonable hope that Sir Galahad
would claim her soon. The hope would have been reasonable in the case of
any one of her sex, for every woman is said to be given at least one
opportunity to become a wife; but in the case of Miss Willis nature had
been more than commonly bounteous. She was not a beauty, but she was sweet
and fresh-looking, with clear, honest eyes, and a cheery, gracious manner
such as is apt to captivate discerning men. She was one of those wholesome
spirits, earnest and refined, yet prone to laughter, which do not remain
long unmated in the ordinary course of human experience. But her
conscience did not permit her to dwell on this advantage to the detriment
of her scholars.
Miss Willis lived at home with her mother. They owned their small house.
The other expenses were defrayed from the daughter's salary; hence strict
economy was obligatory, and the expenditure of every five-dollar bill was
a matter of moment. Miss Willis's father had died when she was a baby. The
meagre sum of money which he left had sufficed to keep his widow and only
child from want until Marion's majority. All had been spent except the
house; but, as Miss Willis now proudly reflected, she had become a
breadwinner, and her mother's declining years were shielded from poverty.
They would be able to manage famously until Sir Galahad arrived, and when
he came one of the joys of her surrender would be that her mother's old
age would be brightened by a few luxuries.
Glendale, as its name denotes, had been a rustic village. When Miss Willis
was engaged (to teach school, not to be married) it was a thriving,
bustling, overgrown, manufacturing town already yearning to become a city.
By the end of another five years Glendale had realized its ambition, and
Miss Willis was still a teacher in its crowded grammar-school. How the
years creep, yet how they fly, when one is busy with regular, routine
employment! The days are such a repetition of each other that they
sometimes seem very long, but when one pauses and looks back one starts at
the accumulation of departed time, and deplores the swiftness of the
Five years had but slightly dimmed the freshness of Miss Willis's charms.
She was as comely as ever. She was a trifle stouter, a trifle less girlish
in manner, and only a trifle—what shall we call it?—wilted in
appearance. The close atmosphere of a school-room is not conducive to
rosiness of complexion; and the constant strain of guiding over forty
immature minds in the paths of knowledge will weigh upon the flesh, though
the soul be patient and the heart light. Miss Willis's class comprised the
children whose average age was twelve to thirteen—those who had been
in the school three years. There were both boys and girls, and they
remained with her a year. She had begun with the youngest children, but
promotion had presently established her in this position.
Forty immature minds—minds just groping on the threshold of life—to
be watched, shaped, and helped for ten months, and their individual needs
treated with sympathy and patience. For ten months—the school term,—then
to be exchanged for a new batch, and so from year to year. Glendale's
manufacturing population included several nationalities, so that the
little army of scholars which sat under Miss Willis's eye included Poles,
Italians, negroes, and now and then a youthful Chinaman, as well as the
sons and daughters of the merchant, the tailor, the butcher, and baker,
and other citizens whose title as Americans was of older date. It was not
easy to keep the atmosphere of such a school-room wholesome, for the
apparel of the poorest children, though often well darned, was not always
clean, and the ventilating apparatus represented a political job. But it
was Miss Willis's pride that she knew the identity of every one of her
boys and girls, and carried it by force of love and will written on her
brain as well as on the desk-tablets which she kept as a safeguard against
possible lapses of memory. She loved her classes, and it was a grief to
her at first to be obliged to pass them on at the end of the school year.
But habit reconciles us to the inevitable, and she presently learned to
steel her heart against a too sensitive point of view in this respect, and
to supplement the bleeding ties thus rudely severed with a fresh set
without crying her eyes out. Yet though faithful teachers are thus
schooled to forget, they rarely do, and Miss Willis found herself keeping
track, in her mind's eye, of her little favorites—some of them
youthful reprobates—in their progress up the ladder of knowledge and
out into the world.
But what of Sir Galahad? He had dallied, but about this time—the
sixth year of her life as a teacher—he appeared. Not as she had
imagined him—a lover of great personal distinction, amazing talents,
compelling virtues, and large estates; yet, nevertheless, a presentable
being in trousers, whose devotion touched her maidenly heart until it
reciprocated the passion which his lips expressed. He was a young
bookkeeper in a banker's office, with a taste for literary matters and a
respectable gift for private theatricals. A small social club was the
medium by which they became intimate. Sir Galahad was refined in
appearance and bearing, a trifle too delicate for perfect manliness, yet,
as Miss Willis's mother justly observed, a gentle soul to live with. He
had a taste for poetry, and a sentimental vein which manifested itself in
verses of a Wordsworthian simplicity descriptive of his lady-love's
charms. No wonder Marion fell in love with him, and renounced, without
even a sigh of regret, her vision of a husband with lordly means. Sir
Galahad had only his small means, which were not enough for a matrimonial
venture. They would wait in the hope that some opportunity for preferment
would present itself. So for three years—years when she was in the
heyday of her comeliness—they attended the social club as an engaged
couple, and fed their mutual passion on the poets and occasional chaste
embraces. Marion felt sure that something would happen before long to
redeem the situation and establish her Sir Galahad in the seat to which
his merit entitled him. Her favorite vision was of some providential
catastrophe, even an epidemic or wholesale maiming, by which the partners
of the banking-house and all in authority over her lover should be
temporarily incapacitated, and the entire burden of the business be thrown
on his shoulders long enough to demonstrate his true worth. As a sequel
she beheld him promptly admitted to partnership and herself blissfully
The course of events did not respect her vision. After they had been
engaged nearly four years Sir Galahad came to the conclusion one day that
the only hope of establishing himself in business on his own account was
(to repeat his own metaphor) to seize the bull by the horns and go West.
Marion bravely and enthusiastically seconded his resolution, and fired his
spirit by her own prophecy as to his rapid success. Western real estate
for Eastern investors was the line of business to which Sir Galahad
decided to fasten his hopes. He set forth upon his crusade protesting that
within a twelvemonth he would win a home for Marion and her mother in the
fashionable quarter of St. Paul, Minn., and carrying in his valise a
toilet-case tastefully embroidered by his sweetheart, in a corner of which
were emblazoned two hearts beating as one.
Marion returned to her scholars more than ever convinced that her
employment was but a transient occupation. What followed was this: Sir
Galahad put out his sign as a broker in Western real estate for Eastern
investors, and fifteen months slipped away before he earned more than his
bare living expenses. He had carried with him his poetic tastes and his
gift for private theatricals. The first of these he exercised in his fond
letters home; the second he employed for the entertainment of the social
club in St. Paul, to which he presently obtained admittance. By the end of
the second year he was doing better financially, but his letters to Marion
had become less frequent and less frank in regard to his own circumstances
and doings. There came a letter at last from Sir Galahad—a letter of
eight pages of soul stress and sorrow, as he would have called it, and of
disingenuous wriggling, as the world would call it—in which he
explained as delicately as was possible under the circumstances that his
love for Miss Willis had become the love of a brother for a sister, and
that he was engaged to be married to Miss Virginia Crumb, the only
daughter of Hon. Cephas I. Crumb, owner and treasurer of the Astarte Metal
Works, of Minnesota. Exit Sir Galahad! And following his perfidy Marion's
imagination evoked a vision of revenge in which she figured as the
plaintiff in a breach-of-promise suit, and had the fierce yet melancholy
joy of confronting him and his new love face to face before a sympathizing
judge and jury. But her New England conscience and her sense of humor
combined disposed of this vision in a summary fashion, so that she let Sir
Galahad off with the assurance that it was a happiness to her that he had
discovered how little he cared before it was too late. Then her New
England conscience bade her settle down to her teaching with a grim
courage, and be thankful that she had never been unfaithful to her work.
Also her sense of humor told her that she must not assume all men to be
false because Sir Galahad had been. It was then, when she needed him
sorely, that destiny introduced on the scene Jimmy.
Jimmy was no Sir Galahad. He was a chunky, round-faced school-boy with
brown hair, which, when it had not been cut for a month, blossomed into
close, curly tangles. At first sight Jimmy was dull-eyed, and in the class
his mental processes were so slow that he had already acquired among his
mates the reputation of being stupid. The teacher who had taught him last
confided to Miss Willis that she feared Jimmy was hopeless. Hopeless!
Somehow the word went to Marion's heart. Not that she was hopeless; far
from it, she would have told you. But her sense of humor did not conceal
from her that in spite of her grin-and-bear-it mien, she was far from
happy. At any rate, the suggestion that Jimmy was hopeless awoke a
sympathetic chord in her breast, so that she looked at him more tenderly
on the day after she had been told. Jimmy was slow of speech and rather
dirty as to his face. There were warts on his hands, and his sphinx-like
countenance was impassive almost to the point of stolidity. Somehow,
though, Miss Willis said to herself, in her zeal to characterize him
fairly, the little thirteen-year-old product of democracy (Jimmy was the
son of a carpenter and a grocer's daughter) suggested power; suggested it
as a block of granite or a bull-dog suggests it. His compact, sturdy frame
and well-poised head, with its close, brown curls, seemed a protest in
themselves against hopelessness. On the third day he smiled; it was in
recess that she detected him at it. An organ-grinder's monkey in the
school-yard called it forth, a sweet, glad smile, which lit up his dense
features as the sun at twilight will pierce through and illuminate for a
few minutes a sullen cloud-bank. Miss Willis saw in a vision on the spot a
refuge from hopelessness. Behind that smile there must be a winsome soul.
That spiritless expression was but a veil or rind hiding the germs of
sensibility and reason. This was discovery number one. After it came
darkness again, so far as outward manifestation was concerned. Jimmy's
attitude toward his lessons appeared to be one of utter density. He
listened with blank but slightly lowered eyes. When questioned he
generally gurgled inarticulately, as though seeking a response, then broke
down. Occasionally he essayed an answer, which revealed that he had
understood nothing. Oftener he sought refuge in complete silence. But hope
had been stimulated in Miss Willis's breast, and she relaxed neither
scrutiny nor tenderness. One day matters were brought to a head by the
thoughtless jest of a classmate, a flaxen-haired fairy, who, in the recess
following one of Jimmy's least successful gurgles, crept up behind him and
planted upon his curls a brown-paper cap, across which the little witch
had painted "DUNCE" in large capital letters.
Jimmy did not know what had happened. For a moment he thought, perhaps,
that he had been introduced to some new game. But the jeers of the
children checked the rising smile and led him to pluck at his forehead. As
he gazed at the fool's-cap in his hand a roar of merciless laughter
greeted his discovery. Miss Willis had realized the fairy's deed too late
to prevent the catastrophe. The sharp tap of her ruler on the desk
produced a silence interjected with giggles. The fairy was a successful
scholar, and would not have harmed a fly willingly. It was a case of fun—the
rough expression of an indisputable fact. Jimmy was such a dunce that he
ought really to wear the brand as a notice to the world. What Miss Willis
said by way of reproof to the fairy is immaterial. If Jimmy heard it he
gave no sign. He dropped his head upon his desk and was sobbing audibly.
The bewildered children hearkened to the protest against cruelty with that
elfin look which mischievous youth dares assume, while the culprit stood
with a finger in her mouth, not quite understanding the enormity of her
conduct. In a moment more they were in the school-yard, and Miss Willis
was beside Jimmy's desk patting his tangled head. He wept as though his
heart would break.
"No matter, Jimmy; it was only a thoughtless jest. She didn't mean to hurt
Her words and variations on the same theme called forth successive bursts
of sobs. Only silence diminished their intensity. When at last they had
become only quiverings of his shoulders he looked up and said, with a wail
of fierce despair, but with a grasp upon self which was a fresh
"It's true; it's true! She did it because I'm so stupid!"
Thereupon his shoulders shook again convulsively, and he burst into fresh
Marion's arms were about him in an instant. "Jimmy, Jimmy, it is not true!
You are not stupid! You and I will fight it out together! Will you trust
He sobbed, but she could perceive that he was listening. Had her hope
become his? Surely they were words he had never heard before.
"Jimmy, listen to me. I have found out something, and all owing to that
ridiculous dunce-cap. It is I who have been stupid. I never knew until now
how much you wish to learn and to improve. You are not stupid, Jimmy. I am
sure of it. You are slow, but you and I will put our heads together and
make the best of that. Will you try with me, Jimmy?"
The curly head was raised again. His tear-stained eyes looked out at her
shyly, but with a beam of astonished gratitude. From his quivering lips
fell a low but resolute "Yes, ma'am!"
"We will begin to-day. We need each other, Jimmy."
As a work of art grows slowly from confusion and lack of form to coherence
and symmetry to the moral joy of its maker, so her experience in human
plastic enterprise filled the heart of Miss Willis with a vital happiness.
For two years—day in and day out—she never flagged in her task
of giving sight to the eyes and ears to the mind of the unshaped clay
which fate had put into her hands for making or marring. How patient she
had to be! How ingenious, vigilant, and sympathetic! Through working upon
the souls of Jimmy's father and mother by pathetic appeal she obtained
permission to keep him an hour after school each day and drill him step by
step, inch by inch. She brought her midday meal and shared it with him. In
the evening she framed cunning devices to lure his budding intelligence.
And from the very first she beheld her figure of human ignorance respond
to her gentle moulding. Jimmy's soul was first of all a hot-spring of
ambition; the evidences of which, when once recognized, were ever
paramount. But how blocked and intricate were the passages through which
this yearning for fame sought to express itself! Sometimes it seemed even
to her as though she would never dissipate the fog-bank which tortured his
intelligence. But Jimmy was patient, too, and his bull-dog features were
but the reflex of a grim tenacity of purpose. At the end of the first year
she reported that he was unfit to be promoted, in order that she need not
lose him just when he needed her most. She was able to make clear to Jimmy
that this was not a disgrace, but a sign of progress. But when the end of
the second year came she passed him on with only the qualm of love parting
with its own. Her task was done. The dull, clouded brow was clear with the
light of eager reason; the still struggling faculties had begun to
understand that in slowness there was the compensation of power, and were
resolute with hope.
"Good-by, Miss Willis. I'm going to be at the head of my class next year;
see if I'm not!"
So said Jimmy as he left her. She hesitated a moment, then stooped and
kissed him. It made her blush, for she had never kissed a pupil before,
nor any one but her mother since Sir Galahad. It made Jimmy blush, too,
for he did not know exactly what to make of it. So they parted, and Jimmy
went up the ladder of knowledge for two years more at that school. He was
not the head of his class; he was number five the first year and number
three the second. When he graduated he promised to write; but, boylike, he
never did, so he vanished into the open polar world, and was lost to the
eyes of the woman who had grown gray in his service.
Yes, Miss Willis had grown gray. That is, there were more or less becoming
threads of silver in her maiden tresses, and the dignity of middle age had
added inches to her waist and a few interesting lines to her forehead.
There was no new Sir Galahad on the horizon even of her day-dreams, and
her mother was in failing health. Mrs. Willis continued now to fail for
five years—years which taxed her daughter's strength, though not her
affection. Pupils came and went—pupils to whom she gave herself with
the faithfulness of her New England conscience—but no one exactly
like Jimmy. He remained unique, yet lost in the maze of life. When her
mother died she settled down as an incorrigible old maid, and her
daydreams knew no more the vision of a love coming from the clouds to
possess her. Nor did the years bring with them realization of that other
vision—herself enthroned in the public mind as a wonderful educator
to whom the world should bow. She was only Miss Marion Willis, the next to
the oldest and the most respected teacher of the Glendale grammar-school.
So she found herself at the end of twenty-five years of continuous
service. It did occur to her as a delightful possibility that the
authorities or scholars or somebody would observe this quarter-centennial
anniversary in a suitable manner, and a vision danced before her mind's
eye of a surprise-party bearing a pretty piece of silver or a clock as a
memorial of her life-work. But the date came and passed without comment
from any source, and Marion's sense of humor made the best of it by
drinking her own health on the evening of the day in question, and
congratulating herself that she loved her work and was happy. At that
supper there was no guest save Jimmy's tintype, which she fetched from the
mantelpiece and leaned against the cake-basket on the table. Jimmy stood
now not only for himself, but for a little army of struggling souls upon
whom her patient intelligence had been freely lavished.
Of course, Jimmy was found. Miss Willis had always felt sure that he would
be. But ten years more had slipped away before he was brought to light.
One day she discovered his name in the newspaper as a rising political
constellation, and she was convinced, without the least particle of
evidence to support her credulity, that the James in question was her
Jimmy. His name had suddenly become prominent in the political firmament
on account of his resolute conduct as the mayor of a Western city. The
public had been impressed by his strength and pluck and executive ability,
working successfully against a gang of municipal cutthroats, and his name
was being paraded over the country.
"I've half a mind to write to him and discover if it's he," Miss Willis
said to herself. "How surprised he would be to receive a postal card 'Are
you my Jimmy?'" But somehow she refrained. She did not wish to run the
risk of disappointment, though she was sure it was he. She preferred to
wait and to watch him now that she had him under her eye again. This was
an easy thing to do, for Jimmy the mayor became Jimmy the governor before
two years had passed, and one morning Miss Willis found facing her in the
Daily Dispatch a newspaper cut of large dimensions which set her heart
beating as it had not throbbed since the days of Sir Galahad. It was a
portrait of her Jimmy; Jimmy magnified and grown into a hirsute man, but
the same old Jimmy with the tangled hair, serious brow, and large,
pathetic eyes. Miss Willis laughed and Miss Willis cried, and presently,
after she had time to realize the full meaning of what had happened, she
had a vision of Jimmy in the White House, and herself, a venerable yet
hale old woman, standing beside him in a famous company, and Jimmy was
saying before them all, "I wish to make you acquainted with my dear
teacher—the woman to whom I owe my start in life." The idea tickled
her imagination, and she said to herself that she would keep the secret
until that happy day arrived. What a delightful secret it was, and how
surprised he would be when she said to him, "I suppose you don't recognize
me, Jimmy?" Then, perhaps, he would embrace her before everybody, and the
newspapers would have her picture and give the particulars of her life.
Jimmy was not elected President until four years later, and in the
meantime Miss Willis kept her secret. When he was nominated, and the
details of his career were eagerly sought for, it was announced by the
press that in early life he had attended the Glendale grammar-school, and
the fact was regarded by the authorities as a feather in the school's cap,
and was commemorated during the campaign by the display in the exhibition
hall of a large picture of the candidate festooned with an American flag.
It was vaguely remembered that he had been under Miss Willis, among other
teachers, but the whole truth was unknown to anybody, and Marion's New
England conscience shrank from obtaining glory and sympathy through brag.
She hugged her secret, and bore it with her intact when she took her
departure for Washington to attend the inauguration ceremonies. She did
not tell the authorities where she was going when she asked for a short
leave of absence—the first she had ever requested in all her years
of service. She was setting forth on the spree of her life, and her spirit
was jubilant at the thought of Jimmy's amazement when he found out who she
A day came at last, after the new chief magistrate had taken the oaths of
office and was in possession of the White House, when the American public
was at liberty to file past their President and shake his hand in their
might as free men and free women. Miss Willis had not been able to obtain
a location near enough to the inauguration proceedings to distinguish more
than the portly figure of a man, or to hear anything except the roar of
the multitude. But now she was to have the chance to meet Jimmy face to
face and overwhelm him with her secret. Little by little the file of
visitors advanced on its passage toward the nation's representative, and
presently Miss Willis caught her first glimpse of Sir Galahad—her
real Sir Galahad. Her heart throbbed tumultuously. It was he—her
Jimmy; he, beyond the shadow of a doubt; a strong, grave, resolute man;
the prototype of human power and American intelligence.
Her Jimmy! She let her eyes fall, for it would soon be her turn, and her
nerves were all tingling with a happy mixture of pride and diffidence. Her
vision, her dearest vision, was about to be realized. There was no chance
for delusion or disappointment now. So it seemed. Yet, as she stood there
waiting, with her New England conscience and her sense of humor still
active, of a sudden her imagination was seized by a new prospect. Why
should she tell her secret? What was the use? There he stood—her
Jimmy—good, great, and successful, and she had helped to make him
so. Nothing could ever deprive her of that. The truth was hers forever.
She was only an elderly spinster. Perhaps he would have forgotten. He was
but fifteen when he left her, and he had never written to her during all
these years. Very likely he did not realize at all what she had done for
him. Nothing which he could do for her now would add to the joy of her
heart. Secret? To share it with him might spoil all. The chances were it
was her secret only; that only she could understand it.
She was close to the President now, and some one at her ear was asking her
name. Suddenly she heard her name called, and stepping forward she was
face to face with her soul's knight, and he was holding her hand.
"I am very glad to see you, Miss Willis," she heard him say.
She had been stepping shyly, with her eyes lowered. At his words, spoken
in a voice which for all its manliness was still the same, she looked up
into his face and murmured, as she pressed his fingers:
"God bless you, sir!"
She did not even say "Jimmy." Then she passed, and—and her secret
Six months later Miss Willis was found one morning dead in her bed. She
had died peacefully in her sleep. When her personal effects were
administered there was noticed on the mantelpiece in her sitting-room a
mounted tintype, on the paper back of which were two inscriptions. Of
these the upper, in faded ink, was dated forty years before and read "From
Jimmy." The other, recent and written with the pen of an elderly person,
ran as follows: "Portrait of the President of the United States as a
AN EXCHANGE OF COURTESIES
In the opinion of many persons competent to judge, "The Beaches" was
suffering from an invasion of wealth. Unquestionably it had been
fashionable for a generation; but the people who had established summer
homes there were inhabitants of the large neighboring city which they
forsook during five months in the year to enjoy the ocean breezes and
sylvan scenery, for The Beaches afforded both. Well-to-do New England
families of refinement and taste, they enjoyed in comfort, without
ostentation, their picturesque surroundings. Their cottages were simple;
but each had its charming outlook to sea and a sufficient number of more
or less wooded acres to command privacy and breathing space. In the early
days the land had sold for a song, but it had risen steadily with the
times, as more and more people coveted a foothold. The last ten years had
introduced many changes; the older houses had been pulled down and
replaced by lordly structures with all the modern conveniences, including
spacious stables and farm buildings. Two clubs had been organized along
the six miles of coast to provide golf and tennis, afternoon teas and
bridge whist for the entertainment of the colony. The scale of living had
become more elaborate, and there had been many newcomers—people of
large means who offered for the finest sites sums which the owners could
not afford to refuse. The prices paid in several instances represented ten
times the original outlay. All the desirable locations were held by
proprietors fully aware of their value, and those bent on purchase must
pay what was asked or go without.
Then had occurred the invasion referred to—the coming to The Beaches
of the foreign contingent, so called: people of fabulous means,
multi-millionaires who were captains in one or another form of industry
and who sought this resort as a Mecca for the social uplifting of their
families and protection against summer heat. At their advent prices made
another jump—one which took the breath away. Several of the most
conservative owners parted with their estates after naming a figure which
they supposed beyond the danger point, and half a dozen second-rate
situations, affording but a paltry glimpse of the ocean, were snapped up
in eager competition by wealthy capitalists from Chicago, Pittsburg, and
St. Louis who had set their hearts on securing the best there was
Among the late comers was Daniel Anderson, known as the furniture king in
the jargon of trade, many times a millionaire, and comparatively a person
of leisure through the sale of his large plants to a trust. He hired for
the season, by long-distance telephone, at an amazing rental, one of the
more desirable places which was to let on account of the purpose of its
owners to spend the summer abroad. It was one of the newer houses, large
and commodious; yet its facilities were severely taxed by the Anderson
establishment, which fairly bristled with complexity. Horses by the score,
vehicles manifold, a steam yacht, and three automobiles were the more
striking symbols of a manifest design to curry favor by force of outdoing
The family consisted of Mrs. Anderson, who was nominally an invalid, and a
son and daughter of marriageable age. If it be stated that they were chips
of the old block, meaning their father, it must not be understood that he
had reached the moribund stage. On the contrary, he was still in the prime
of his energy, and, with the exception of the housekeeping details, set in
motion and directed the machinery of the establishment.
It had been his idea to come to The Beaches; and having found a foothold
there he was determined to make the most of the opportunity not only for
his children but himself. With his private secretary and typewriter at his
elbow he matured his scheme of carrying everything before him socially as
he had done in business. The passport to success in this new direction he
assumed to be lavish expenditure. It was a favorite maxim of his—trite
yet shrewdly entertained—that money will buy anything, and every man
has his price. So he began by subscribing to everything, when asked, twice
as much as any one else, and seeming to regard it as a privilege. Whoever
along The Beaches was interested in charity had merely to present a
subscription list to Mr. Anderson to obtain a liberal donation. The
equivalent was acquaintance. The man or woman who asked him for money
could not very well neglect to bow the next time they met, and so by the
end of the first summer he was on speaking terms with most of the men and
many of the women. Owing to his generosity, the fund for the building of a
new Episcopal church was completed, although he belonged to a different
denomination. He gave a drinking fountain for horses and dogs, and when
the selectmen begrudged to the summer residents the cost of rebuilding two
miles of road, Daniel Anderson defrayed the expense from his own pocket.
An ardent devotee of golf, and daily on the links, he presented toward the
end of the season superb trophies for the competition of both men and
women, with the promise of others in succeeding years. In short, he gave
the society whose favor he coveted to understand that it had merely "to
press the button" and he would do the rest.
Mr. Andersen's nearest neighbors were the Misses Ripley—Miss Rebecca
and Miss Caroline, or Carry, as she was invariably called. They were among
the oldest summer residents, for their father had been among the first to
recognize the attractions of The Beaches, and their childhood had been
passed there. Now they were middle-aged women and their father was dead;
but they continued to occupy season after season their cottage, the
location of which was one of the most picturesque on the whole shore. The
estate commanded a wide ocean view and included some charming woods on one
side and a small, sandy, curving beach on the other. The only view of the
water which the Andersons possessed was at an angle across this beach. The
house they occupied, though twice the size of the Ripley cottage, was
virtually in the rear of the Ripley domain, which lay tantalizingly
between them and a free sweep of the landscape.
One morning, early in October of the year of Mr. Anderson's advent to The
Beaches, the Ripley sisters, who were sitting on the piazza enjoying the
mellow haze of the autumn sunshine, saw, with some surprise, Mr. David
Walker, the real-estate broker, approaching across the lawn—surprise
because it was late in the year for holidays, and Mr. Walker invariably
went to town by the half-past eight train. Yet a visit from one of their
neighbors was always agreeable to them, and the one in question lived not
more than a quarter of a mile away and sometimes did drop in at afternoon
tea-time. Certain women might have attempted an apology for their
appearance, but Miss Rebecca seemed rather to glory in the shears which
dangled down from her apron-strings as she rose to greet her visitor; they
told so unmistakably that she had been enjoying herself trimming vines.
Miss Carry—who was still kittenish in spite of her forty years—as
she gave one of her hands to Mr. Walker held out with the other a basket
of seckel pears she had been gathering, and said:
Mr. Walker complied, and, having completed the preliminary commonplaces,
said, as he hurled the core with an energetic sweep of his arm into the
ocean at the base of the little bluff on which the cottage stood:
"There is no place on the shore which quite compares with this."
"We agree with you," said Miss Rebecca with dogged urbanity. "Is any one
of a different opinion?"
"On the contrary, I have come to make you an offer for it. It isn't usual
for real-estate men to crack up the properties they wish to purchase, but
I am not afraid of doing so in this case." He spoke buoyantly, as though
he felt confident that he was in a position to carry his point.
"An offer?" said Miss Rebecca. "For our place? You know that we have no
wish to sell. We have been invited several times to part with it, and
declined. It was you yourself who brought the last invitation. We are
still in the same frame of mind, aren't we, Carry?"
"Yes, indeed. Where should we get another which we like so well?"
"My principal invites you to name your own figure."
"That is very good of him, I'm sure. Who is he, by the way?"
"I don't mind telling you; it's your neighbor, Daniel Anderson." David
Walker smiled significantly. "He is ready to pay whatever you choose to
"Our horses are afraid of his automobiles, and his liveried grooms have
turned the head of one of our maids. Our little place is not in the
market, thank you, Mr. Walker."
The broker's beaming countenance showed no sign of discouragement. He
rearranged the gay blue flower which had almost detached itself from the
lapel of his coat, then said laconically:
"I am authorized by Mr. Anderson to offer you $500,000 for your property."
"What?" exclaimed Miss Rebecca.
"Half a million dollars for six acres," he added.
"The man must be crazy." Miss Rebecca stepped to the honeysuckle vine with
a detached air and snipped off a straggling tendril with her shears. "That
is a large sum of money," she added.
David Walker enjoyed the effect of his announcement; it was clear that he
had produced an impression.
"Money is no object to him. I told him that you did not wish to sell, and
he said that he would make it worth your while."
"Half a million dollars! We should be nearly rich," let fall Miss Carry,
upon whom the full import of the offer was breaking.
"Yes; and think what good you two ladies could do with all that money—practical
good," continued the broker, pressing his opportunity and availing himself
of his knowledge of their aspirations. "You could buy elsewhere and have
enough left over to endow a professorship at Bryn Mawr, Miss Rebecca; and
you, Miss Carry, would be able to revel in charitable donations."
Those who knew the Ripley sisters well were aware that plain speaking
never vexed them. Beating about the bush from artificiality or ignoring a
plain issue was the sort of thing they resented. Consequently, the
directness of David Walker's sally did not appear to them a liberty, but
merely a legitimate summing up of the situation. Miss Rebecca was the
spokesman as usual, though her choice was always governed by what she
conceived to be the welfare of her sister, whom she still looked on as
almost a very young person. Sitting upright and clasping her elbows, as
she was apt to do in moments of stress, she replied:
"Money is money, Mr. Walker, and half a million dollars is not to be
discarded lightly. We should be able, as you suggest, to do some good with
so much wealth. But, on the other hand, we don't need it, and we have no
one dependent on us for support. My brother is doing well and is likely to
leave his only child all that is good for her. We love this place.
Caroline may marry some day" (Miss Carry laughed protestingly at the
suggestion and ejaculated, "Not very likely"), "but I never shall. I
expect to come here as long as I live. We love every inch of the place—the
woods, the beach, the sea. Our garden, which we made ourselves, is our
delight. Why should we give up all this because some one offers us five
times what we supposed it to be worth? My sister is here to speak for
herself, but so far as I am concerned you may tell Mr. Anderson that if
our place is worth so much as that we cannot afford to part with it."
"Oh, no, it wouldn't do at all! Our heartstrings are round the roots of
these trees, Mr. Walker," added the younger sister in gentle echo of this
"Don't be in a hurry to decide; think it over. It will bear reflection,"
said the broker briskly.
"There's nothing to think over. It becomes clearer every minute," said
Miss Rebecca a little tartly. Then she added: "I dare say it will do him
good to find that some one has something which he cannot buy."
"He will be immensely disappointed, for his heart was set on it," said
David Walker gloomily. His emotions were not untinged by personal dismay,
for his commission would have been a large one.
He returned forthwith to his client, who was expecting him, and who met
him at the door.
"Well, Walker, what did the maiden ladies say? Have one of these," he
exclaimed, exhibiting some large cigars elaborately wrapped in gold foil.
"They're something peculiarly choice which a friend of mine—a Cuban—obtained
"They won't sell, Mr. Anderson."
The furniture king frowned. He was a heavily built but compact man who
looked as though he were accustomed to butt his way through life and sweep
away opposition, yet affable and easy-going withal.
"They won't sell? You offered them my price?"
"It struck them as prodigious, but they were not tempted."
"I've got to have it somehow. With this land added to theirs I should have
the finest place on the shore."
The broker disregarded this flamboyant remark, which was merely a
repetition of what he had heard several times already. "I warned you," he
said, "that they might possibly refuse even this munificent offer. They
told me to tell you that if it was worth so much they could not afford to
"Is it not enough? They're poor, you told me—poor as church mice."
"Compared with you. But they have enough to live on simply, and—and
to be able to maintain such an establishment as yours, for instance, would
not add in the least degree to their happiness. On the contrary, it is
because they delight in the view and the woods and their little garden
just as they see them that they can't afford to let you have the place."
Now that the chances of a commission were slipping away David Walker was
not averse to convey in delicate language the truth which Miss Rebecca had
Mr. Anderson felt his chin meditatively. "I seem to be up against it," he
murmured. "You think they are not holding out for a higher figure?" he
David shook his head. Yet he added, with the instinct of a business man
ready to nurse a forlorn hope, "There would be no harm in trying. I don't
believe, though, that you have the ghost of a chance."
The furniture king reflected a moment. "I'll walk down there this
afternoon and make their acquaintance."
"A good idea," said Walker, contented to shift the responsibility of a
second offer. "You'll find them charming—real thoroughbreds," he saw
fit to add.
"A bit top-lofty?" queried the millionaire.
"Not in the least. But they have their own standards, Mr. Anderson."
The furniture king's progress at The Beaches had been so uninterrupted on
the surface and so apparently satisfactory to himself that no one would
have guessed that he was not altogether content with it. With all his
easy-going optimism, it had not escaped his shrewd intelligence that his
family still lacked the social recognition he desired. People were civil
enough, but there were houses into which they were never asked in spite of
all his spending; and he was conscious that they were kept at arm's length
by polite processes too subtle to be openly resented. Yet he did resent in
his heart the check to his ambitions, and at the same time he sought
eagerly the cause with an open mind. It had already dawned on him that
when he was interested in a topic his voice was louder than the voices of
his new acquaintances. He had already given orders to his chauffeur that
the automobiles should be driven with some regard for the public safety.
Lately the idea had come to him, and he had imparted it to his son, that
the habit of ignoring impediments did not justify them in driving golf
balls on the links when, the players in front of them were slower than
On the way to visit the Misses Ripley later in the day the broker's remark
that they had standards of their own still lingered in his mind. He
preferred to think of them and others along the shore as stiff and what he
called top lofty; yet he intended to observe what he saw. He had been
given to understand that these ladies were almost paupers from his point
of view; and, though when he had asked who they were, David Walker had
described them as representatives of one of the oldest and most respected
families, he knew that they took no active part in the social life of the
colony as he beheld it; they played neither golf, tennis, nor bridge at
the club; they owned no automobile, and their stable was limited to two
horses; they certainly cut no such figure as seemed to him to become
people in their position, who could afford to refuse $500,000 for six
He was informed by the middle-aged, respectable-looking maid that the
ladies were in the garden behind the house. A narrow gravelled path
bordered with fragrant box led him to this. Its expanse was not large, but
the luxuriance and variety of the old-fashioned summer flowers attested
the devotion bestowed upon them. At the farther end was a trellised
summer-house in which he perceived that the maiden ladies were taking
afternoon tea. There was no sign of hothouse roses or rare exotic plants,
but he noticed a beehive, a quaint sundial with an inscription, and along
the middle path down which he walked were at intervals little dilapidated
busts or figures of stone on pedestals—some of them lacking tips of
noses or ears. It did not occur to Mr. Anderson that antiquity rather than
poverty was responsible for these ravages. Their existence gave him fresh
"Who can this be?" said Miss Carry with a gentle flutter. An unknown,
middle-aged man was still an object of curiosity to her.
Miss Rebecca raised her eyeglass. "I do believe, my dear, that it's—yes,
"But who?" queried Miss Carry.
Miss Rebecca rose instead of answering. The stranger was upon them,
walking briskly and hat in hand. His manner was distinctly breezy—more
so than a first meeting would ordinarily seem to her to justify.
"Good afternoon, ladies. Daniel Anderson is my name. My wife wasn't lucky
enough to find you at home when she returned your call, so I thought I'd
"It's very good of you to come to see us," said Miss Rebecca, relenting at
once. She liked characters—being something of one herself—and
her neighbor's heartiness was taking. "This is my sister, Miss Caroline
Ripley," she added to cement the introduction, "and I am Rebecca. Sit
down, Mr. Anderson; and may I give you a cup of tea?"
Four people were apt to be cosily crowded in the summer-house. Being only
a third person, the furniture king was able to settle himself in his seat
and look around him without fear that his legs would molest any one. He
gripped the arms of his chair and inhaled the fragrance of the garden.
"This is a lovely place, ladies," he asserted.
"Those hollyhocks and morning-glories and mignonettes take me back to old
times. Up to my place it's all roses and orchids. But my wife told me last
week that she heard old-fashioned flowers are coming in again. Seems she
"Oh, but we've had old-fashioned flowers for years! Our garden has been
always just like this—only becoming a little prettier all the time,
we venture to hope," said Miss Carry.
"I want to know!" said Mr. Anderson; and almost immediately he remembered
that both his son and daughter had cautioned him against the use of this
phrase at The Beaches. He received the dainty but evidently ancient cup
from Miss Rebecca, and seeing that the subject was, so to speak, before
the house, he tasted his tea and said:
"It's all pretty here—garden, view, and beach. And I hear you
decline to sell, ladies."
Miss Rebecca had been musing on the subject all day, and a heartfelt
response rose promptly to her lips—spoken with the simple grace of a
"Why should we sell, Mr. Anderson?"
The question was rather a poser to answer categorically; yet the would-be
purchaser felt that he sufficiently conveyed his meaning when he said:
"I thought I might have made it worth your while."
"We are people of small means in the modern sense of the word," Miss
Rebecca continued, thereby expressing more concretely his idea; "yet we
have sufficient for our needs. Our tastes are very simple. The sum which
you offered us is a fortune in itself—but we have no ambition for
great wealth or to change our mode of life. Our associations with this
place are so intimate and tender that money could not induce us to
desecrate them by a sale."
"I see," said Mr. Anderson. Light was indeed breaking on him. At the same
time his appreciation of the merits of the property had been growing every
minute. It was an exquisite autumn afternoon. From where they sat he could
behold the line of shore on either side with its background of dark green
woods. Below the wavelets lapped the shingle with melodious rhythm. As far
as the eye could see lay the bosom of the ocean unruffled, and lustrous
with the sheen of the dying day. Accustomed to prevail in buying his way,
he could not resist saying, after a moment of silence:
"If I were to increase my offer to a million would it make any difference
in your attitude?"
A suppressed gurgle of mingled surprise and amusement escaped Miss Carry.
Miss Rebecca paused a moment by way of politeness to one so generous. But
her tone when she spoke was unequivocal, and a shade sardonic.
"Not the least, Mr. Anderson. To tell the truth, we should scarcely
understand the difference."
One summer afternoon two years later the Ripley sisters were again
drinking tea in their attractive summer-house. In the interval the
peaceful current of their lives had been stirred to its depths by
unlooked-for happenings. Very shortly after their refusal of Mr.
Anderson's offer, their only brother, whose home was on the Hudson within
easy distance of New York, had died suddenly. He was a widower; and
consequently the protection of his only daughter straightway devolved on
them. She was eighteen and good-looking. This they knew from personal
observation at Thanksgiving Day and other family reunions; but owing to
the fact that Mabel Ripley had been quarantined by scarlet fever during
the summer of her sixteenth year, and in Europe the following summer, they
were conscious, prior to her arrival at The Beaches, that they were very
much in the dark as to her characteristics.
She proved to be the antipodes of what they had hoped for. Their
traditions had depicted a delicate-appearing girl with reserved manners
and a studious or artistic temperament, who would take an interest in the
garden and like nothing better than to read aloud to them the new books
while they did fancy-work. A certain amount of coy coquetry was to be
expected—would be welcomed, in fact, for there were too many Miss
Ripleys already. Proper facilities would be offered to her admirers, but
they took for granted that she would keep them at a respectful distance as
became a gentlewoman. She would be urged to take suitable exercise; they
would provide a horse, if necessary; and doubtless some of the young
people in the neighborhood would invite her occasionally to play tennis.
Mabel's enthusiasm at the nearness of the sea took precedence over every
other emotion as she stood on the piazza after the embraces were over.
"How adorably stunning! I must go out sailing the first thing," were her
Meanwhile the aunts were observing that she appeared the picture of health
and was tall and athletic-looking. In one hand she had carried a
tennis-racket in its case, in the other, a bag of golf clubs, as she
alighted from the vehicle. These evidently were her household gods. The
domestic vision which they had entertained might need rectification.
"You sail, of course?" Mabel asked, noticing, doubtless, that her
exclamation was received in silence.
Aunt Rebecca shook her head. "I haven't been in a sail-boat for twenty
"But whose steam yacht is that?"
"It belongs to Mr. Anderson, a wealthy neighbor."
"Anyhow, a knockabout is more fun—a twenty-footer," the girl
continued, her gaze still fixed on the haven which the indentations of the
coast afforded, along which at intervals groups of yachts, large and
small, floated at their moorings picturesque as sea-gulls on a
"There is an old rowboat in the barn. I daresay that Thomas, the coachman,
will take you out rowing sometimes after he has finished his work," said
Aunt Carry kindly.
"Do you swim?" inquired Aunt Rebecca, failing to note her niece's
"Like a duck. I'm quite as much at home on the water as on land. I've had
a sailboat since I was thirteen, and most of our summers have been spent
at Buzzard's Bay."
"But you're a young lady now," said Aunt Rebecca.
Mabel looked from one to the other as though she were speculating as to
what these new protectors were like. "Am I?" she asked with a smile. "I
must remember that, I suppose; but it will be hard to change all at once."
Thereupon she stepped lightly to the edge of the cliff that she might
enjoy more completely the view while she left them to digest this
"'No pent-up Utica contracts her powers,'" murmured Miss Rebecca, who was
fond of classic verse.
"It is evident that we shall have our hands full," answered Miss Carry.
"But she's fresh as a rose, and wide-awake. I'm sure the dear girl will
try to please us."
Mabel did try, and succeeded; but it was a success obtained at the cost of
setting at naught all her aunts' preconceived ideas regarding the correct
deportment of marriageable girls. The knockabout was forthcoming shortly
after she had demonstrated her amphibious qualities by diving from the
rocks and performing water feats which dazed her anxious guardians.
Indeed, she fairly lived in her bathing-dress until the novelty wore off.
Thomas, the coachman, who had been a fisherman in his day, announced with
a grin, after accompanying her on the trial trip of the hired cat-boat,
that he could teach her nothing about sailing. Henceforth her small craft
was almost daily a distant speck on the horizon, and braved the seas so
successfully under her guidance that presently the aunts forbore to watch
for disaster through a spyglass.
She could play tennis, too, with the best, as she demonstrated on the
courts of The Beaches Club. Her proficiency and spirit speedily made
friends for her among the young people of the colony, who visited her and
invited her to take part in their amusements. She was prepared to ride on
her bicycle wherever the interest of the moment called her, and deplored
the solemnity of the family carryall. When her aunts declared that a wheel
was too undignified a vehicle on which to go out to luncheon, she
compromised on a pony cart as a substitute, for she could drive almost as
well as she could sail. She took comparatively little interest in the
garden, and was not always at home at five-o'clock tea to read aloud the
latest books; but her amiability and natural gayety were like sunshine in
the house. She talked freely of what she did, and she had an excellent
"She's as unlike the girls of my day as one could imagine, and I do wish
she wouldn't drive about the country bareheaded, looking like a colt or a
young Indian," said Miss Rebecca pensively one morning, just after Mabel's
departure for the tennis-court. "But I must confess that she's the life of
the place, and we couldn't get on without her now. I don't think, though,
that she has done three hours of solid reading since she entered the
house. I call that deplorable."
"She's a dear," said Aunt Carry. "We haven't been much in the way of
seeing young girls of late, and Mabel doesn't seem to me different from
most of those who visit her. Twenty years ago, you remember, girls pecked
at their food and had to lie down most of the time. Now they eat it. What
I can't get quite used to is the habit of letting young men call them by
their first names on short acquaintance. In my time," she added with a
little sigh, "it would have been regarded as inconsistent with maidenly
reserve. I'm sure I heard the young man who was here last night say, 'I've
known you a week now; may I call you Mabel?'"
As to young men, be it stated, the subject of this conversation showed
herself impartially indifferent. Her attitude seemed to be that boys were
good fellows as well as girls, and should be encouraged accordingly. If
they chose to make embarrassing speeches regarding one's personal
appearance and to try to be alone with one as much as possible, while such
favoritism was rather a fillip to existence, it was to be considered at
bottom as an excellent joke. Young men came and young men went. Mabel
attracted her due share. Yet evidently she seemed to be as glad to see the
last comer as any of his predecessors.
Then occurred the second happening in the tranquil existence of the maiden
ladies. One day at the end of the first summer, an easterly day, when the
sky was beginning to be obscured by scud and the sea was swelling with the
approach of a storm, Dan Anderson, the only son of his father, was knocked
overboard by the boom while showing the heels of his thirty-foot
knockabout to the hired boat of his neighbor, Miss Mabel Ripley. They were
not racing, for his craft was unusually fast, as became a
multi-millionaire's plaything. Besides, he and the girl had merely a
bowing acquaintance. The Firefly was simply bobbing along on the
same tack as the Enchantress, while the fair skipper, who had
another girl as a companion, tried vainly, at a respectful distance, to
hold her own by skill.
The headway on Dan's yacht was so great that before the two dazed salts on
board realized what had happened their master was far astern. They bustled
to bring the Enchantress about and to come to his rescue in the
dingy. Stunned by the blow of the—spar, he had gone down like a
stone; so, in all probability, they would have been too late. When he came
up the second time it was on the port bow of the Firefly, but
completely out of reach. Giving the tiller to her friend, and stripping
off superfluous apparel, Mabel jumped overboard in time to grasp and hold
the drowning youth. There she kept him until aid reached them. But the
unconscious victim did not open his eyes until after he had been laid on
the Misses Ripley's lawn, where, by virtue of brandy from the
medicine-closet and hot-water bottles, the flickering spark of life was
coaxed into a flame.
It was an agitating experience for the aunts. But Mabel was none the worse
for the wetting; and though she naturally made light of her performance,
congratulations on her pluck and presence of mind came pouring in. David
Walker suggested that the Humane Society would be sure to take the matter
up and confer a medal upon the heroine. The members of the Anderson family
came severally to express with emotion their gratitude and admiration. The
father had not been there since his previous eventful visit, though once
or twice he had met his neighbors on the road and stopped to speak to
them, as if to show he harbored no malice in spite of his disappointment.
Now with a tremulous voice he bore testimony to the greatness of the mercy
which had been vouchsafed him.
The third and last happening might be regarded as a logical sequel to the
second by those who believe that marriages are made in heaven. It was to
ponder it again after having pondered it for twenty-four hours that the
Ripley sisters found themselves in their pleached garden at the close of
the day. That the event was not unforeseen by one of them was borne out by
the words of Miss Carry:
"I remember saying to myself that day on the lawn, Rebecca, that it would
be just like the modern girl if she were to marry him; because she saved
his life, I mean. If he had saved hers, as used to happen, she would never
have looked at him twice. I didn't mention it because it was only an idea,
which might have worried you."
"We have seen it coming, of course," answered Miss Rebecca, who was
clasping the points of her elbows. "And there was nothing to do about it—even
if we desired to. I can't help, though, feeling sorry that she isn't going
to marry some one we know all about—the family, I mean.
"Well," she added with a sigh, "the Andersons will get our place in the
end, after all, and we shall be obliged to associate more or less with
multi-millionaires for the rest of our days. It's depressing ethically;
but there's no use in quarrelling with one's own flesh and blood, if it is
a modern girl, for one would be quarrelling most of the time. We must make
the best of it, Carry, and—and try to like it."
"He really seems very nice," murmured Miss Carry. "He gives her some new
jewel almost every day."
Miss Rebecca sniffed disdainfully, as though to inquire if love was to be
attested by eighteen-carat gold rather than by summer blooms.
The sound of steps on the gravel path interrupted their confabulation.
"It is Mr. Anderson, père" said Miss Carry laconically.
"He is coming to take possession," responded her sister.
The crunch of the gravel under his solid, firm tread jarred on their
already wearied sensibilities. Nevertheless they knew that it behooved
them to be cordial and to accept the situation with good grace. Their
niece was over head and ears in love with a young man whose personal
character, so far as they knew, was not open to reproach, and who would be
heir to millions. What more was to be said? Indeed, Miss Rebecca was the
first to broach the subject after the greetings were over.
"Our young people seem to have made up their minds that they cannot live
apart," she said.
"So my son has informed me."
Mr. Anderson spoke gravely and then paused. His habitually confident
manner betrayed signs of nervousness.
"I told him this morning that there could be no engagement until after I
had talked with you," he added.
One could have heard a pin drop. Each of the sisters was tremulous to know
what was coming next. Could he possibly be meditating purse-proud
opposition? The Ripley blue blood simmered at the thought, and Miss
Rebecca, nervous in her turn, tapped the ground lightly with her foot.
"The day I was first here," he resumed, "you ladies taught me a lesson. I
believed then that money could command anything. I discovered that I was
mistaken. It provoked me, but it set me thinking. I've learned since that
the almighty dollar cannot buy gentle birth and—and the standards
which go with it."
Unexpectedly edifying as this admission was, his listeners sought in vain
to connect it with the immediate issue, and consequently forebore to
"The only return I can make for opening my eyes to the real truth is by
doing what I guess you would do if you or one of your folk were in my
shoes. I'm a very rich man, as you know. If your niece marries my son her
children will never come to want in their time. He's a good boy, if I do
say it; and I should be mighty proud of her."
Miss Carry breathed a gentle sigh of relief at this last avowal.
"I don't want her to marry him, though, without knowing the truth, and
perhaps when you hear it you'll decide that she must give him up."
Thereupon Mr. Anderson blew his nose by way of gathering his faculties for
the crucial words as a carter rests his horse before mounting the final
hill when the sledding is hard.
"I'm going to tell you how I made my first start. I was a clerk in a bank
and sharp as a needle in forecasting what was going to happen downtown. I
used to say to myself that if I had capital it would be easy to make money
breed money. Well, one day I borrowed from the bank, without the bank's
leave, $3,000 in order to speculate. I won on that deal and the next and
the next. Then I was able to return what I'd borrowed and to set up in a
small way for myself in the furniture business. That was my start, ladies—the
nest-egg of all I've got."
He sat back in his chair and passed his handkerchief across his forehead
like one who has performed with credit an agonizing duty.
There was silence for a moment. Unequivocal as the confession was, Miss
Rebecca, reluctant to believe her ears, asked with characteristic
"You mean that you—er—misappropriated the money?"
"I was an embezzler, strictly speaking."
"Perhaps you wonder why I told you this," he said, bending forward.
"No, we understand," said Miss Rebecca.
"We understand perfectly," exclaimed Miss Carry with gentle warmth.
"It's very honest of you, Mr. Anderson," said Miss Rebecca after a musing
"I've never been dishonest since then," he remarked naïvely. "But a year
ago I wouldn't have told you this, though it's been in the back of my mind
as a rankling sore, growing as I grew in wealth and respectability. I made
a bluff at believing that it didn't matter, and that a thing done has an
end. Well, now I've made a clean breast of it to the ones who have a right
to know. I should like you to tell Mabel."
As he spoke the lovers appeared in the near distance at the edge of the
lawn, coming up from the beach. "But I don't think it will be necessary to
tell my son," he added yearningly.
"Certainly not" said Miss Rebecca with emphasis.
The sisters exchanged glances, trying to read each other's thoughts.
"It's a blot in the 'scutcheon, of course," said Miss Rebecca. "It's for
our niece to say." But there was no sternness in her tone.
This gave Miss Carry courage. Her hand shook a little as she put down her
teacup, for she was shy of taking the initiative. "I think I know what she
would say. In our time it would probably have been different, on account
of the family—and heredity; but Mabel is a modern girl. And a modern
girl would say that she isn't to marry the father but the son. She loves
him, so I'm certain she would never give him up. Therefore is it best to
Daniel Anderson's face was illumined with the light of hope, and he turned
to the elder sister, whom he recognized as the final judge.
Miss Rebecca sniffed. Her ideas of everlasting justice were a little
disconcerted. Nevertheless she said firmly after brief hesitation:
"I was taught to believe that the sins of the fathers should be visited on
the children; but I believe, Carry, you're right."
"Bless you for that," exclaimed the furniture king. Then, groping in the
excess of his emotion for some fit expression of gratitude, he bent
forward and, taking Miss Rebecca's hand, pressed his lips upon her fingers
as an act of homage.
Miss Carry would have been justified in reflecting that it would have been
more fitting had he kissed her fingers instead. But she was used to taking
the second place in the household, and the happy expression of her
countenance suggested that her thoughts were otherwise engaged.
ACROSS THE WAY
The news that the late Mr. Cherrington's house on Saville Street had been
let for a school, within a few months after his death, could not have been
a surprise to any one in the neighborhood. Ten years before, when Mr.
Cherrington and those prominent in his generation were in their heyday,
Saville Street had been sacred to private residences from one end to the
other, but the tide of fashion had been drifting latterly. There was
already another school in the same block, and there were scattered all
along on either side of the street a sprinkling of throat, eye, and ear
doctors, a very fashionable dressmaker or two, an up-town bank, and
numerous apartments for bachelors.
The news could not have been a surprise even to Mr. Homer Ramsay, but that
crusty old bachelor in the seventies brought down his walking-stick with a
vicious thump when he heard it, and remarked that he would live to be
ninety "if only to spite 'em." This threat, however, had reference, not to
Mr. Cherrington's residence, but his own, which was exactly opposite, and
which he had occupied for more than forty years. It was a conviction of
Mr. Ramsay's that there was a conspiracy on foot to purchase his house,
and accordingly he took every opportunity to declare that he would never
part with an inch of his land while he was in the flesh. A wag in the
neighborhood had expressed the opinion that the old gentleman waxed hale
and hearty on his own bile. He was certainly a churlish individual in his
general bearing toward his fellow-beings, and violent in his prejudices.
For the last ten years his favorite prophecy had been that the country was
going to the devil.
Besides the house on Saville Street, Mr. Ramsay had some bonds and stock—fifty
or sixty thousand dollars in all—which tidy little property would,
in the natural course of events, descend to his next of kin; in this case,
however, only a first cousin once removed. In the eye of the law a living
person has no heir; but blood is thicker than water, and it was generally
taken for granted that Mr. Horace Barker, whose grandmother had been the
sister of Mr. Ramsay's father, would some day be the owner of the house on
Saville Street. At least, confident expectation that this would come to
pass had long restrained Mr. Barker from letting any one but his better
half know that he regarded his Cousin Homer as an irascible old
curmudgeon; and perhaps, on the other hand, had justified Mr. Ramsay in
his own mind for referring in common parlance to his first cousin once
removed as a stiff nincompoop who had married a sickly doll. Not that Mr.
Horace Barker needed the money, by any means. He was well-to-do already,
and lived in a more fashionable street than Saville Street, where he
occupied a dignified-looking brown-stone house, from the windows of which
his three little people—all girls—peeped and nodded at the
organ-grinder and the street-band.
The name of the person to whom Mr. Cherrington's house had been leased was
Miss Elizabeth Whyte. She was twenty-five, and she was starting a school
because it was necessary for her to earn her own living. She considered
that life, from the point of view of happiness, was over for her; and yet,
though she had made up her mind that she could never be really happy
again, she was resolved neither to mope nor to be a burden on any one. Mr.
Mills, the executor of Mr. Cherrington's estate, who believed himself to
be a judge of human nature withal, had observed that she seemed a little
overwrought, as though she had lived on her nerves; but, on the other
hand, he had been impressed by her direct, business-like manner, which
argued that she was very much in earnest. Besides, she was vouched for by
the best people, and Mrs. Cyrus Bangs was moving heaven and earth to
procure pupils for her. It was clearly his duty as a business man to let
her have the house.
Until within a few months Elizabeth Whyte had lived in a neighboring town—the
seat of a college, where the minds of young men for successive generations
have been cultivated, but sometimes at the expense of a long-suffering
local community. Her father, who at the time of her birth was a clergyman
with a parish, had subsequently evolved into an agnostic and an invalid
without one, and she had been used to plain living and high thinking from
her girlhood. Even parents who find it difficult to keep the wolf at a
respectful distance by untiring economy will devise some means to make an
only daughter look presentable on her first appearance in society. Fine
feathers do not make fine birds, and yet the consciousness of a becoming
gown will irradiate the cheek of beauty. Elizabeth at eighteen would have
been fetching in any dress, but in each of her three new evening frocks
she looked bewitching. She was a gay, trig little person, with snapping,
dark eyes and an arch expression; a tireless dancer, quick and audacious
at repartee; the very ideal of a college belle. The student world had
fallen prostrate at her feet, and Tom Whittemore most conspicuously and
devotedly of all.
Tom was, perhaps, the most popular man of his day; a Philadelphian of
reputedly superfine stock, fresh-faced and athletic, with a jaunty walk.
There was no one at the college assemblies who whispered so entrancingly
in her ear when she was all alone with him in a corner, and no one who
placed her new fleecy wrap about her shoulders with such an air of
devotion when it was time to go home. She liked him from the very first;
and all her girl friends babbled, "Wouldn't it be a lovely match?" But
Tom's classmates from Philadelphia, when they became confidential in the
small hours of the morning, asked each other what Tom's mother would say.
Tom was a senior, and it was generally assumed that matters would
culminate on Class-day evening, that evening of all evenings in the
collegiate world sacred to explanation and vows. Elizabeth lay awake all
that night, remembering that she had let Tom have his impetuous say, and
that at the end he had folded her in his arms and kissed her. Not until
the next morning, and then merely as an unimportant fact, did it occur to
her that, though Tom had told her she was dearer to him than all the world
besides, there was no definite engagement between them. It was only when
whispers reached her that Tom, who had gone to Philadelphia to attend the
wedding of a relation, was not coming back to his Commencement, that she
began to think a little. But she never really doubted until the news came
that Tom had been packed off by his mother on a two years' journey round
What mother in a distant city would be particularly pleased to have her
only son, on whom rested the hopes of an illustrious stock, lose his heart
to a college belle? But Elizabeth can scarcely be blamed for not having
taken the illustrious stock into consideration. She kept saying to
herself, that, if he had only written, she could have forgiven him; and it
was not surprising that the partners with whom she danced at the college
assemblies during the next five years described her to each other as
steely. Indeed, she danced and prattled with such vivacious energy, and
her black eyes shone so like beads, that college tradition twisted her
story until it ran that she had thrown over Tom Whittemore, the most
popular man of his day, and that she had no more heart than a nether
millstone. And all the time, just to prove to herself that she had not
cared for him, she kept the roses that he had given her on that Class-day
evening in the secret drawer of her work-box. It had been all sheer
nonsense, a boy and girl flirtation. So she had taught herself to argue,
knowing that it was untrue, and knowing that she knew it to be so.
Then had come the deaths of her father and mother within three months of
each other, and she had awakened one morning to the consciousness that she
was alone in the world, and face to face with the necessity of earning her
daily bread. The gentleman who had charge of the few thousand dollars
belonging to her father's estate, in announcing that her bonds had ceased
to pay interest, had added that she was in the same boat with many of the
best people; which ought to have been a consolation, had she needed any.
But this loss of the means of living had seemed a mere trifle beside her
other griefs; indeed, it acted as a spur rather than a bludgeon. The same
pride which had prompted her to continue to dance bade her bestir herself
to make a living. Upon reflection, the plan of starting a school struck
her as the most practicable. But it should be a school for girls; she had
done with the world of men. She had loved with all her heart, and her
heart was broken; it was withered, like the handful of dried roses in the
secret drawer of her work-box.
Elizabeth was fortunate enough to obtain at the outset the patronage of
some of those same "best people" in the adjacent city, who happened to
know her story. Fashionable favor grows apace. It was only after hearing
that Mrs. Cyrus Bangs had intrusted her little girl to the tender mercies
of Miss Whyte that Mrs. Horace Barker subdued the visions of
scarlet-fever, bad air, and evil communications which haunted her,
sufficiently to be willing to send her own darlings to the new
kindergarten. People intimate with Mrs. Barker were apt to say that worry
over her three little girls, who were exceptionally healthy children, kept
her a nervous invalid.
"I consider Mrs. Cyrus Bangs a very particular woman," she said, with
plaintive impressiveness to her husband. "If she is willing to send her
Gwendolen to Miss Whyte, I am disposed to let Margery, Gladys, and Dorothy
go. Only you must have a very clear understanding with Miss Whyte, at the
outset, as to hours and ventilation and Gladys's hot milk. We cannot move
from the seaside until a fortnight after her term begins, and it will be
utterly impossible for me to get the children to school in the mornings
before half-past nine."
It never occurred to Horace Barker, when one morning about ten o'clock,
some six weeks later, he called at the kindergarten with his precious
trio, that there was any impropriety in breaking in upon Miss Whyte's
occupations an hour after school had begun. What school-mistress could
fail to be proud of the distinction of obtaining his three daughters as
pupils at any hour of the twenty-four when he saw fit to proffer them? He
expected to find a cringing, deferential young person, who would, in the
interest of her own bread and butter, accede without a murmur to any
stipulations which so important a patroness as Mrs. Horace Barker might
see fit to impose. He became conscious, in the first place, that the
school-mistress was a much more attractive-looking young person than he
had anticipated, and secondly, that she seemed rather amused than
otherwise at his conditions. No man, and least of all a man so consummate
as Mr. Barker—for he was a dapper little person with a closely
cropped beard and irreproachable kid gloves—likes to be laughed at
by a woman, especially by one who is young and moderately good-looking;
and he instinctively drew himself up by way of protest before Elizabeth
"Really, Mr. Barker," she replied, after a few moments of reflection, "I
don't see how it is possible for me to carry out Mrs. Barker's wishes. To
let the children come half an hour later and go home half an hour earlier
than the rest would interfere with the proper conduct of the school. I
will do my best to have the ventilation satisfactory, and perhaps I can
manage to provide some hot milk for the second one, as her mother desires;
but in the matter of the hours, I do not see how I can accommodate Mrs.
Barker. To make such an exception would be entirely contrary to my
Horace Barker smiled inwardly at the suggestion that a school-mistress
could have principles which an influential parent might not violate.
"When I say to you that it is Mrs. Barker's particular desire that her
preferences regarding hours should be observed, I am sure that you will
interpose no further objection."
Elizabeth gave a strange little laugh, and her eyes, which were still her
most salient feature, snapped noticeably. "It is quite out of the
question, Mr. Barker," she said with decision. "Much as I should like to
have your little girls, I cannot consent to break my rules on their
"Mrs. Barker would be very sorry to be compelled to send her children
elsewhere," he said solemnly, with the air of one who utters a dire
"I should be glad to teach your little girls upon the same terms as I do
my other pupils," said Elizabeth, quietly. "But if my regulations are
unsatisfactory, you had better send them elsewhere."
Horace Barker was a man who prided himself on his deportment. He would no
more have condescended to express himself with irate impetuosity than he
would have permitted his closely cropped beard to exceed the limits which
he imposed upon it. He simply bowed stiffly, and turning to the Misses
Barker, who, under the supervision of a nurse, whom they had been taught
to address by her patronymic Thompson instead of by her Christian name
Bridget, had been open-mouthed listeners to the dialogue, said, "Come,
It so happened that as Mr. Horace Barker and the Misses Barker descended
the steps of the late Mr. Cherrington's house, they came plump upon Mr.
Homer Ramsay, who was taking his morning stroll. The old gentleman was
standing leaning on his cane, glaring across the street; and, by way of
acknowledging that he perceived his first cousin once removed, he raised
the cane, and, pointing in the line of his scowling gaze, ejaculated:
"This street is going to perdition. As though it weren't enough to have a
school opposite me, a fellow has had the impudence to put his doctor's
sign right next door to my house—an oculist, he calls himself. In my
day, a man who was fit to call himself a doctor could set a leg, or
examine your eyes, or tell what was the matter with your throat, and not
leave you so very much the wiser even then; but now there's a different
kind of quack for every ache and pain in our bodies."
"We live in a progressive world, Cousin Homer," said Mr. Barker, placing
his eyeglass astride his nose to examine the obnoxious sign across the
way. "Dr. James Clay, Oculist," he read aloud, indifferently.
"Progressive fiddlesticks, Cousin Horace. A fig for your oculists and your
dermatologists and all the rest of your specialists! I have managed to
live to be seventy-five, and I never had anybody prescribe for me but a
good old-fashioned doctor, thank Heaven! And I'm not dead yet, as the
speculators who have their eyes on my house and are waiting for me to die
will find out." Mr. Ramsay scowled ferociously; then casting a sweeping
glance from under his eyebrows at the little girls, he said, "Cousin
Horace, if your children don't have better health than their mother, they
might as well be dead. Do they go there?" he asked, indicating the
school-house with his cane.
"I am removing them this morning. Anabel had concluded to send them there,
but I find that the young woman who is the teacher has such hoity-toity
notions that I cannot consent to let my daughters remain with her. In my
opinion, so arbitrary a young person should be checked; and my belief is
that before many days she will find herself without pupils." Whereupon Mr.
Barker proceeded on his way, muttering to himself, when at a safe
distance, "Irrational old idiot!"
Mr. Ramsay stood for some moments mulling over his cousin's answer; by
degrees his countenance brightened and he began to chuckle; and every now
and then, in the course of his progress along Saville Street, he would
stand and look back at the late Mr. Cherrington's house, as though it had
acquired a new interest in his eyes. His daily promenade was six times up
and six times down Saville Street; and he happened to complete the last
lap, so to speak, of his sixth time down at the very moment when Miss
Whyte's little girls came running out on the sidewalk for recess. Behind
them appeared the school-mistress, who stood looking at her flock from the
top of the stone flight.
Elizabeth knew the old gentleman by sight but not by name, and she was
therefore considerably astonished to see him suddenly veer from his
ordinary course, and come slowly up the steps.
"You're the school-mistress?" he asked, with the directness of an old man
who feels that he need not mince his words.
"Yes, sir. I'm Miss Whyte."
"My name's Ramsay; Homer Ramsay. I live opposite, and I've come to tell
you I admire your pluck in not letting my cousin, Hortace Barker, put you
down. I'll stand by you, too; you can tell him that. Break up your school?
I should like to see him do it. Had to take his three little girls away,
did he? Ho, ho! A grand good joke that; a grand good joke. What was it he
asked you to do?"
"Mr. Barker wished me to change some of my rules about hours, and I was
not able to accommodate him, that was all," answered Elizabeth, who found
herself eminently puzzled by the interest in her affairs displayed by this
"I'll warrant he did. And you wouldn't make the change. A grand good joke
that. I know him; he's my first cousin once removed, and the only relation
I've left. And he is going to try and break up your school. I'd like to
see him do it."
"I don't believe that Mr. Barker would do anything so unjust," said
"Yes, he would. I had it from his own lips. But he shan't; not while I'm
in the flesh. What did you say your name was?"
"And what made you become a school-teacher, I should like to know?"
"I had to earn my living."
"Humph! In my day, girls as pretty as you got married; but now the rich
ones are those who get husbands, and those who are poor have to tend shop
instead of baby."
"I know a number of girls who were poor, who have excellent husbands,"
said Elizabeth quietly, spurred into coming to the rescue of the sex she
despised. "But," she added, "there are many girls nowadays who are poor
who prefer to remain single." She was amused at having been led into so
unusual a discussion with this queer old gentleman.
"Bah! That caps the climax. When pretty girls pretend that they don't wish
to be married, the world is certainly turned upside down. Well, I like
your spirit, though I don't approve of your methods. I just dropped in to
say that if Horace Barker does cause you any trouble, you've a friend
across the way. Good-morning."
And before Elizabeth could bethink herself to say that she was very much
obliged to him, Mr. Ramsay was gone.
That very day after school, while Elizabeth was on her way across the park
which lay between Saville Street and the section of the city where her
rooms were, she dodged the wrong way in a narrow path, so that she ran
plump into the arms of a young man who was walking in the opposite
direction. Most women expect men to look out for them when they dodge, but
Elizabeth's code did not allow her to put herself under obligations to any
man. To tell the truth, she was in such a brown study over the events of
the morning that she had become practically oblivious of her surroundings.
When she recovered sufficiently from her confusion at her clumsiness to
take in the details of the situation, she realized that the individual in
question was a young man whom she was in the habit of passing daily at
this same hour. Only the day before he had rescued her veil which had been
swept away by a high wind; and here she was again, within twenty-four
hours, forcing herself upon his attention. She, too, of all women, who had
done with men forever!
But Elizabeth's confusion was slight compared with that manifested by her
victim, who, notwithstanding that his hat had been jammed in by her
school-bag (which she had raised as a shield), was so profuse in the
utterance of his apologies and so willing to shoulder all responsibility,
that her own sensibilities were speedily comforted. She found herself,
after they had separated, much more engrossed by the fact that he had
addressed her by name. Although they had been passing each other daily for
over two months, it had never occurred to her to wonder who he might be.
But it was evident that she was not unknown to him. She remembered now
merely that he was a gentleman, and that he had intelligent eyes and a
pleasant, deferential smile. The recollection of his blushing diffidence
made her laugh.
On the following day, when they were about to pass as usual, she was
suddenly confronted in her mind by the alternative whether to recognize
him or not. A glance at him as he approached told her that he himself was
evidently uncertain if she would choose to consider their experience of
the previous day as equivalent to an introduction, and yet she noticed a
certain wistfulness of expression which suggested the desire to be
permitted to doff his hat to her. To acknowledge by a simple inclination
of her head the existence of a man whom she was likely to pass every day
seemed the natural thing to do, however unconventional; so she bowed.
"Good afternoon, Miss Whyte," he said, lifting his hat with a glad smile.
How completely our lives are often appropriated by incidents which seem at
the time of but slight importance! For the next few months Elizabeth was
buffeted as it were between the persistent persecution of Mr. Horace
Barker and the persistent devotion of Mr. Homer Ramsay. With Mr. Barker
she had no further interview, but not many weeks elapsed before the
influence of malicious strictures and insinuations circulated by him
concerning the hygienic arrangements of her school began to bear their
natural fruit. Parents became querulous and suspicious; and when calumny
was at its height, a case of scarlet-fever among her pupils threw
consternation even into the soul of Mrs. Cyrus Bangs, her chief patroness.
But, on the other hand, she soon realized that she possessed an ardent, if
not altogether discreet, champion in her enemy's septuagenarian first
cousin once removed, who sang her praises and fought her battles from one
end of Saville Street to the other. Mr. Ramsay no longer railed against
electric cars and specialists; all his fulminations were uttered against
the malicious warfare which his Cousin Horace and that blood relative's
sickly wife were waging against the charming little Miss Whyte, who had
hired Mr. Cherrington's house across the way. What is more, he paid
Elizabeth almost daily visits, during which, after he had discussed ways
and means for confounding his vindictive kinsman, he was apt to declare
that she ought to be married, and that it was a downright shame so pretty
a girl should be condemned to drudgery because she lacked a dowry. This
was a point on which the old gentleman never ceased to harp; and Elizabeth
labored vainly to make him understand that teaching was a delight to her
instead of a drudgery, and that she had not the remotest desire for a
husband. And by way of proving how indifferent she was to the whole race
of men, she continued to bow to the unknown stranger of her daily walk
without making the slightest effort to discover his name.
Pneumonia, that deadly foe of hale and hearty septuagenarians, carried Mr.
Homer Ramsay off within forty-eight hours in the first week of May. And
very shortly after, Elizabeth received a letter from Mr. Mills, the
lawyer, requesting her to call on a matter of importance. She supposed
that it concerned her lease. Perhaps her enemy had bought the roof over
Mr. Mills ushered her into his private office. Then opening a parchment
envelope on his desk, he turned to her, and said: "I have the pleasure to
inform you, Miss Whyte, that my client, the late Mr. Homer Ramsay, has
left you the residuary legatee of his entire property—some fifty or
sixty thousand dollars. Perhaps," he added, observing Elizabeth's
bewildered expression, "you would like to read the will while I attend to
a little matter in the other office. It is quite short, and straight as a
string. I drew the instrument, and the testator knew what he was about
just as well as you or I."
Mr. Mills, who, as you may remember, was a student of human nature,
believed that Miss Whyte lived on her nerves, and he had therefore planned
to leave her alone for a few moments to allow any hysterical tendency to
exhaust itself. When he returned, he found her looking straight before her
with the document in her lap.
"Is it all plain?" he asked kindly.
"Yes. But I don't understand exactly why he left it to me."
"Because he liked you, my dear. He had become very fond of you. And if you
will excuse my saying so," he added, with a knowing smile, "he was very
anxious to see you well married. He said that he wished to provide you
with a suitable dowry."
"I see," said Elizabeth, coloring. She reflected for a moment, then looked
up and said, "But I am free to use it as I see fit?"
"Absolutely. I may as well tell you now as any time, however," Mr. Mills
added smoothly, "that Mr. Ramsay's cousin, Mr. Horace Barker, has
expressed an intention to contest the will. He is the next of kin, though
only a first cousin once removed."
Elizabeth started at the name, and drew herself up slightly.
"You need not give yourself the smallest concern in the matter," the
lawyer continued. "If Mr. Barker were in needy circumstances or were a
nearer relative, he might be able to make out a case, but no jury will
hesitate between a first cousin once removed, amply rich in this world's
goods, and a—a—pretty woman. I myself am ready to testify that
Mr. Ramsay was completely in his right mind," he added, with professional
dignity; "and as for the claim of undue influence, it is rubbish—sheer
Elizabeth sat for a few moments without speaking. She seemed to pay no
heed to several further reassuring remarks which Mr. Mills, who judged
that she was appalled by the idea of a legal contest, hastened to let
fall. At last she looked straight at him, and said with firmness, "I
suppose that I am at liberty not to take this money, if I don't wish to?"
"At liberty? Bless my stars, Miss Whyte, anybody is at liberty to refuse a
gift of fifty thousand dollars. But when you call to see me again, you
will be laughing at the very notion of such a thing. Go home, my dear
young lady, and leave the matter in my hands. Naturally you are
overwrought at the prospect of going into court."
"It isn't that, Mr. Mills. I cannot take this money; I have no right to
it. I am no relation to Mr. Ramsay, and the only reason he left it to me
was—was because he thought it would help me to be married. Otherwise
he would have left it to Mr. Barker. I have no intention of marrying, and
I should not be willing to take a fortune under such circumstances."
"The will is perfectly legal, my dear. And as to marrying, you are free to
remain single all your days, if you wish to," said Mr. Mills, with another
knowing smile. "Indeed, you are overwrought."
Elizabeth shook her head. "I am sure that I shall never change my mind,"
she answered. "I could never take it."
Elizabeth slept little that night; but when she arose in the morning, she
felt doubly certain that she had acted to her own satisfaction. What real
right had she to this money? It was coming to her as the result of the
fancy of an eccentric old man, who, in a moment of needless pity and
passing interest, had made a will in her favor to the prejudice of his
natural heir. Of what odds was it that that heir had ample means already,
or even that he was her bitter enemy? Did not the very fact that he was
her enemy and that she despised him make it impossible for her to take
advantage of an old man's whim so as to rob him? She would have no
lawsuit; he might keep the fifty thousand dollars, and she would go her
way as though Mr. Homer Ramsay and Mr. Horace Barker had never existed.
Mr. Ramsay had left her his money on the assumption that she would be able
to marry. To have taken it knowing that she intended never to marry would
have been to take it under false pretences.
Mr. Mills consoled himself after much additional expostulation with the
reflection that if a woman is bent on making a fool of herself, the wisest
man in the world is helpless to prevent her. He set himself at last to
prepare the necessary papers which would put Mr. Horace Barker in
possession of his cousin's property; and very shortly the act of signal
folly, as he termed it, was completed. Tongues in the neighborhood wagged
energetically for a few days; but presently the birth of twins in the next
block distracted the public mind, and Elizabeth was allowed to resume the
vocation of an inconspicuous schoolmistress. From the object of her
bounty, Mr. Horace Barker, she heard nothing directly; but at least he had
the grace to discontinue his persecutions. And parental confidence, which,
in spite of scarlet-fever, had never been wholly lost, was manifested in
the form of numerous applications to take pupils for the coming year. For
the first time for many weeks Elizabeth was in excellent spirits and was
looking forward to the summer vacation, now close at hand; during which
she hoped to be able to fit herself more thoroughly for her duties after a
few weeks of necessary rest.
One evening, about a fortnight before the date when the school was to
close, she noticed that the print of her book seemed blurred; she turned
the page and, perceiving the same effect, realized that her vision was
impaired. On the following morning at school she noticed the same
peculiarity whenever she looked at a book. She concluded that it was but a
passing weakness, the result of having studied too assiduously at night.
Still, recognizing that her eyes were all-important to her, she decided to
consult an oculist at once. It would be a simple matter to do, for was
there not one directly opposite in the house next to Mr. Ramsay's? The
sign, Dr. James Clay, Oculist, had daily stared her in the face. She
resolved to consult him that very day after school. To be sure she knew
nothing about him individually, but she was aware that only doctors of the
best class were to be found in Saville Street.
She was obliged to wait in an anteroom, as there were three or four
patients ahead of her. When her turn came to be ushered into the doctor's
office, she found herself suddenly in the presence of the unknown young
man whom she was accustomed to meet daily on her way from school. Her
impulse at recognizing him, though she could not have told why, was to
slip away; but before she could move, he looked up from the table over
which he was bent making a memorandum.
"Miss Whyte!" he exclaimed with pleased astonishment and some confusion,
advancing to meet her. "In what way can I be of service to you?"
"Dr. Clay? I should like you to look at my eyes; they have been troubling
Elizabeth briefly detailed her symptoms. He listened with gravity, and
then after requesting her to change her seat, he examined her eyes with
absorbed attention. This took some minutes, and when he had finished there
was something in his manner which prompted her to say:
"Of course you will tell me, Dr. Clay, exactly what is the matter."
"I am bound to do so," he said, slowly. "I wished to make perfectly sure,
before saying that your eyes are quite seriously affected—not that
there is danger of a loss of sight, if proper precautions are taken—but—but
it will be absolutely necessary for you to abstain from using them in
order to check the progress of the disease."
"I see," she said, quietly, after a brief silence. "Do you mean that I
cannot teach school? I am a school-teacher."
"I knew that; and knowing it, I thought it best to tell you the whole
truth. No, Miss Whyte; you must not use your eyes for at least a year, if
you do not wish to lose your sight."
"I see," said Elizabeth again, with the hopeless air of one from whom the
impossible is demanded. "I thank you, Dr. Clay, for telling me the truth,"
she added, simply. "Have I strained my eyes?"
"You have evidently overtaxed them a little; but the disease is primarily
a disease of the nerves. Will you excuse me for asking if at any time
within the last few years you have suffered a severe shock?"
"A shock?" Elizabeth hesitated an instant, and replied gently: "Yes; but
it was a number of years ago."
"That would account for the case, nevertheless."
A few minutes later Elizabeth was walking along the street, face to face
with despair. She had not been able to obtain permission from the doctor
to use her eyes even during the ten days which remained before vacation.
He had said that every moment of delay would make the cure more difficult.
She must absolutely cease to look at a book for one whole year. It would
be necessary at first for her to visit him for treatment two or three
times a week. He had said—she remembered his exact words—"I
cannot do a very great deal for you; we can rely only on time for that;
but believe me, I shall endeavor to help you so far as it lies in human
power. I hope that you will trust me—and—and come to me
freely." Kind words these, but of what avail were they to answer the
embarrassing question how she was to live? She must give up her school at
least for a year; that seemed inevitable. How was she to earn her daily
bread if she obeyed the doctor's orders? Would it not be better to use her
eyes to the end, and trust to charity to send her to an infirmary when she
became blind? Why had she been foolish enough to refuse Mr. Ramsay's
property? But for a quixotic theory, she would not now have been at the
It was the sting of shame which this last thought aroused, following in
the train of her bitter reasoning, that caused her to quicken her pace and
clinch her hands. That same pride, which had been her ally hitherto, had
come to her rescue once more. She said to herself that she had done what
she knew was right, and that no force of cruel circumstances should induce
her to regret that she had not acted differently. She would prove still
that she was able to make her own way without assistance, even though she
were obliged to scrub floors. A shock? The shock of a betrayed faith which
had arrayed her soul in bitterness against mankind. Must she own that she
was crushed? Not while she had an arm to toil and a heart to strive.
The next ten days were bitter ones. Elizabeth, after disbanding her
school, began to plan and contrive for the future. Schemes bright with
prospect suggested themselves, and faded into smoke at the touch of
practicability. She had a few hundred dollars, which would enable her to
live until she had been able to devise a plan, and she determined that the
world should not think that she was discouraged. The world, and chiefly at
the moment Dr. Clay, whose kindness and earnest attention during the
visits which she paid him suggested that he felt great pity for her. Pity?
She wished the pity of no man.
One evening while she was alone in her parlor, wrestling with her schemes,
the maid entered and said that a gentleman wished to see her. A gentleman?
She could think of none who would be likely to call upon her, but she bade
the girl show him in; and a moment later she was greeting Dr. Clay.
Presently, while she was wondering why he had come, she found herself
listening to these words: "I am a stranger to you to all intents and
purposes, but you are none to me. For months I have dogged your footsteps
unknown to you, and haunted this house in my walks because I knew that you
lived here. The memory of your face has sweetened my dreams, and those
brief moments when we have passed each other daily have been sweeter than
any paradise. I know the story of your struggle with that coward and of
your noble act of renunciation. It cut into my heart like a knife to speak
to you those necessary words the other day, and I have been miserable ever
since. I said to myself at last that I would go to you and tell you that I
could not be happy apart from you; and that your happiness was mine. This
seems presumptuous, intrusive: I wish to be neither. I have merely come to
ask that I may be free to call upon you and to try to make you love me. I
am not rich, but my practice is such that I am able to offer you a home.
Will you allow me to come to see you, at least to be your friend?"
The silence which followed this eager question seemed to demand an answer.
Elizabeth, who had been sitting with bent head, looked up presently and
answered with a sweet smile:
"I have no friends, Dr. Clay. I think it would be very pleasant to have
A few minutes later when he was gone, Elizabeth sat for some time without
moving, with the same happy smile on her lips. He had asked nothing more
and she had given him no greater assurance. Why was it that at last she
buried her face in her hands and sobbed as though her bosom would break?
Why was it, too, that before she went to bed that night she took a handful
of withered flowers, mere dust and ashes, from the secret drawer of her
work-box, and, wrapping them in the paper which had enclosed them, held
them in the flame of the lamp until they were consumed? Why? Because love,
unwatched for, unbidden had entered her heart, which she thought sere as
the rose-leaves, and restored light to the sunshine and joy to the world.
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 naïvely 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."