By Charles Dudley Warner
On a summer day, long gone among the summer days that come but to go, a
lad of twelve years was idly and recklessly swinging in the top of a tall
hickory, the advance picket of a mountain forest. The tree was on the
edge of a steep declivity of rocky pasture-land that fell rapidly down to
the stately chestnuts, to the orchard, to the cornfields in the narrow
valley, and the maples on the bank of the amber river, whose loud,
unceasing murmur came to the lad on his aerial perch like the voice of
some tradition of nature that he could not understand.
He had climbed to the topmost branch of the lithe and tough tree in order
to take the full swing of this free creature in its sport with the
western wind. There was something exhilarating in this elemental battle
of the forces that urge and the forces that resist, and the harder the
wind blew, and the wider circles he took in the free air, the more
stirred the boy was in the spring of his life. Nature was taking him by
the hand, and it might be that in that moment ambition was born to
achieve for himself, to conquer.
If you had asked him why he was there, he would very likely have said,
"To see the world." It was a world worth seeing. The prospect might be
limited to a dull eye, but not to this lad, who loved to climb this
height, in order to be with himself and indulge the dreams of youth.
Any pretense would suffice for taking this hour of freedom: to hunt for
the spicy checker-berries and the pungent sassafras; to aggravate the
woodchucks, who made their homes in mysterious passages in this gravelly
hillside; to get a nosegay of columbine for the girl who spelled against
him in school and was his gentle comrade morning and evening along the
river road where grew the sweet-flag and the snap-dragon and the barberry
bush; to make friends with the elegant gray squirrel and the lively red
squirrel and the comical chipmunk, who were not much afraid of this
unarmed naturalist. They may have recognized their kinship to him,
for he could climb like any squirrel, and not one of them could have
clung more securely to this bough where he was swinging, rejoicing in the
strength of his lithe, compact little body. When he shouted in pure
enjoyment of life, they chattered in reply, and eyed him with a primeval
curiosity that had no fear in it. This lad in short trousers, torn
shirt, and a frayed straw hat above his mobile and cheerful face, might
be only another sort of animal, a lover like themselves of the beech-nut
and the hickory-nut.
It was a gay world up here among the tossing branches. Across the river,
on the first terrace of the hill, were weather-beaten farmhouses, amid
apple orchards and cornfields. Above these rose the wooded dome of Mount
Peak, a thousand feet above the river, and beyond that to the left the
road wound up, through the scriptural land of Bozrah, to high and
lonesome towns on a plateau stretching to unknown regions in the south.
There was no bar to the imagination in that direction. What a gracious
valley, what graceful slopes, what a mass of color bathing this lovely
summer landscape! Down from the west, through hills that crowded on
either side to divert it from its course, ran the sparkling Deerfield,
from among the springs and trout streams of the Hoosac, merrily going on
to the great Connecticut. Along the stream was the ancient highway, or
lowway, where in days before the railway came the stage-coach and the big
transport-wagons used to sway and rattle along on their adventurous
voyage from the gate of the Sea at Boston to the gate of the West at
Below, where the river spread wide among the rocks in shallows, or eddies
in deep, dark pools, was the ancient, long, covered, wooden bridge,
striding diagonally from rock to rock on stone columns, a dusky tunnel
through the air, a passage of gloom flecked with glints of sunlight, that
struggled in crosscurrents through the interstices of the boards, and set
dancing the motes and the dust in a golden haze, a stuffy passage with
odors a century old—who does not know the pungent smell of an old
bridge?—a structure that groaned in all its big timbers when a wagon
invaded it. And then below the bridge the lad could see the historic
meadow, which was a cornfield in the eighteenth century, where Captain
Moses Rice and Phineas Arms came suddenly one summer day to the end of
their planting and hoeing. The house at the foot of the hill where the
boy was cultivating his imagination had been built by Captain Rice, and
in the family burying-ground in the orchard above it lay the body of this
mighty militia-man, and beside him that of Phineas Arms, and on the
headstone of each the legend familiar at that period of our national
life, "Killed by the Indians." Happy Phineas Arms, at the age of
seventeen to exchange in a moment the tedium of the cornfield for
There was a tradition that years after, when the Indians had disappeared
through a gradual process of intoxication and pauperism, a red man had
been seen skulking along the brow of this very hill and peering down
through the bushes where the boy was now perched on a tree, shaking his
fist at the hated civilization, and vengefully, some said pathetically,
looking down into this valley where his race had been so happy in the
natural pursuits of fishing, hunting, and war. On the opposite side of
the river was still to be traced an Indian trail, running to the western
mountains, which the boy intended some time to follow; for this highway
of warlike forays, of messengers of defiance, along which white maidens
had been led captive to Canada, appealed greatly to his imagination.
The boy lived in these traditions quite as much as in those of the
Revolutionary War into which they invariably glided in his perspective of
history, the redskins and the redcoats being both enemies of his
ancestors. There was the grave of the envied Phineas Arms—that ancient
boy not much older than he—and there were hanging in the kitchen the
musket and powder-horn that his great-grandfather had carried at Bunker
Hill, and did he not know by heart the story of his great-grandmother,
who used to tell his father that she heard when she was a slip of a girl
in Plymouth the cannonading on that awful day when Gage met his
In fact, according to his history-book there had been little but wars in
this peaceful nation: the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the incessant
frontier wars with the Indians, the Kansas War, the Mormon War, the War
for the Union. The echoes of the latter had not yet died away. What a
career he might have had if he had not been born so late in the world!
Swinging in this tree-top, with a vivid consciousness of life, of his own
capacity for action, it seemed a pity that he could not follow the drum
and the flag into such contests as he read about so eagerly.
And yet this was only a corner of the boy's imagination. He had many
worlds and he lived in each by turn. There was the world of the Old
Testament, of David and Samson, and of those dim figures in the dawn of
history, called the Patriarchs. There was the world of Julius Caesar and
the Latin grammar, though this was scarcely as real to him as the Old
Testament, which was brought to his notice every Sunday as a necessity of
his life, while Caesar and AEneas and the fourth declension were made to
be a task, for some mysterious reason, a part of his education. He had
not been told that they were really a part of the other world which
occupied his mind so much of the time, the world of the Arabian Nights
and Robinson Crusoe, and Coleridge and Shelley and Longfellow, and
Washington Irving and Scott and Thackeray, and Pope's Iliad and
Plutarch's Lives. That this was a living world to the boy was scarcely
his fault, for it must be confessed that those were very antiquated
book-shelves in the old farmhouse to which he had access, and the news
had not been apprehended in this remote valley that the classics of
literature were all as good as dead and buried, and that the human mind
had not really created anything worth modern notice before about the
middle of the nineteenth century. It was not exactly an ignorant valley,
for the daily newspapers were there, and the monthly magazine, and the
fashion-plate of Paris, and the illuminating sunshine of new science, and
enough of the uneasy throb of modern life. Yet somehow the books that
were still books had not been sent to the garret, to make room for the
illustrated papers and the profound physiological studies of sin and
suffering that were produced by touching a scientific button. No, the boy
was conscious in a way of the mighty pulsation of American life, and he
had also a dim notion that his dreams in his various worlds would come to
a brilliant fulfillment when he was big enough to go out and win a name
and fame. But somehow the old books, and the family life, and the sedate
ways of the community he knew, had given him a fundamental and not
unarmed faith in the things that were and had been.
Every Sunday the preacher denounced the glitter and frivolity and
corruption of what he called Society, until the boy longed to see this
splendid panorama of cities and hasting populations, the seekers of
pleasure and money and fame, this gay world which was as fascinating as
it was wicked. The preacher said the world was wicked and vain. It did
not seem so to the boy this summer day, not at least the world he knew.
Of course the boy had no experience. He had never heard of Juvenal nor
of Max Nordau. He had no philosophy of life. He did not even know that
when he became very old the world would seem to him good or bad according
to the degree in which he had become a good or a bad man.
In fact, he was not thinking much about being good or being bad, but of
trying his powers in a world which seemed to offer to him infinite
opportunities. His name—Philip Burnett—with which the world, at least
the American world, is now tolerably familiar, and which he liked to
write with ornamental flourishes on the fly-leaves of his schoolbooks,
did not mean much to him, for he had never seen it in print, nor been
confronted with it as something apart from himself. But the Philip that
he was he felt sure would do something in the world. What that something
should be varied from day to day according to the book, the poem, the
history or biography that he was last reading. It would not be difficult
to write a poem like "Thanatopsis" if he took time enough, building up a
line a day. And yet it would be better to be a soldier, a man who could
use the sword as well as the pen, a poet in uniform. This was a pleasing
imagination. Surely his aunt and his cousins in the farmhouse would have
more respect for him if he wore a uniform, and treat him with more
consideration, and perhaps they would be very anxious about him when he
was away in battles, and very proud of him when he came home between
battles, and went quite modestly with the family into the village church,
and felt rather than saw the slight flutter in the pews as he walked down
the aisle, and knew that the young ladies, the girl comrades of the
district school, were watching him from the organ gallery, curious to see
Phil, who had gone into the army. Perhaps the preacher would have a
sermon against war, and the preacher should see how soldierlike he would
take this attack on him. Alas! is such vanity at the bottom of even a
reasonable ambition? Perhaps his town would be proud of him if he were a
lawyer, a Representative in Congress, come back to deliver the annual
oration at the Agricultural Fair. He could see the audience of familiar
faces, and hear the applause at his witty satires and his praise of the
nobility of the farmer's life, and it would be sweet indeed to have the
country people grasp him by the hand and call him Phil, just as they used
to before he was famous. What he would say, he was not thinking of, but
the position he would occupy before the audience. There were no
misgivings in any of these dreams of youth.
The musings of this dreamer in a tree-top were interrupted by the
peremptory notes of a tin horn from the farmhouse below. The boy
recognized this not only as a signal of declining day and the withdrawal
of the sun behind the mountains, but as a personal and urgent
notification to him that a certain amount of disenchanting drudgery
called chores lay between him and supper and the lamp-illumined pages of
The Last of the Mohicans. It was difficult, even in his own estimation,
to continue to be a hero at the summons of a tin horn—a silver clarion
and castle walls would have been so different—and Phil slid swiftly down
from his perch, envying the squirrels who were under no such bondage of
Recalled to the world that now is, the lad hastily gathered a bouquet of
columbine and a bunch of the tender leaves and the red berries of the
wintergreen, called to "Turk," who had been all these hours watching a
woodchuck hole, and ran down the hill by leaps and circuits as fast as
his little legs could carry him, and, with every appearance of a lad who
puts duty before pleasure, arrived breathless at the kitchen door, where
Alice stood waiting for him. Alice, the somewhat feeble performer on the
horn, who had been watching for the boy with her hand shading her eyes,
called out upon his approach:
"Why, Phil, what in the world—"
"Oh, Alice!" cried the boy, eagerly, having in a moment changed in his
mind the destination of the flowers; "I've found a place where the
checker-berries are thick as spatter." And Phil put the flowers and the
berries in his cousin's hand. Alice looked very much pleased with this
simple tribute, but, as she admired it, unfortunately asked—women always
ask such questions:
"And you picked them for me?"
This was a cruel dilemma. Phil was more devoted to his sweet cousin than
to any one else in the world, and he didn't want to hurt her feelings,
and he hated to tell a lie. So he only looked a lie, out of his
affectionate, truthful eyes, and said:
"I love to bring you flowers. Has uncle come home yet?"
"Yes, long ago. He called and looked all around for you to unharness the
horse, and he wanted you to go an errand over the river to Gibson's.
I guess he was put out."
"Did he say anything?"
"He asked if you had weeded the beets. And he said that you were the
master boy to dream and moon around he ever saw." And she added, with a
confidential and mischievous smile: "I think you'd better brought a
switch along; it would save time."
Phil had a great respect for his uncle Maitland, but he feared him almost
more than he feared the remote God of Abraham and Isaac. Mr. Maitland
was not only the most prosperous man in all that region, but the man of
the finest appearance, and a bearing that was equity itself. He was the
first selectman of the town, and a deacon in the church, and however much
he prized mercy in the next world he did not intend to have that quality
interfere with justice in this world. Phil knew indeed that he was a man
of God, that fact was impressed upon him at least twice a day, but he
sometimes used to think it must be a severe God to have that sort of man.
And he didn't like the curt way he pronounced the holy name—he might as
well have called Job "job."
Alice was as unlike her father, except in certain race qualities of
integrity and common-sense, as if she were of different blood. She was
the youngest of five maiden sisters, and had arrived at the mature age of
eighteen. Slender in figure, with a grace that was half shyness, soft
brown hair, gray eyes that changed color and could as easily be sad as
merry, a face marked with a moving dimple that every one said was lovely,
retiring in manner and yet not lacking spirit nor a sly wit of her own.
Now and then, yes, very often, out of some paradise, no doubt, strays
into New England conditions of reticence and self-denial such a sweet
spirit, to diffuse a breath of heaven in its atmosphere, and to wither
like a rose ungathered. These are the New England nuns, not taking any
vows, not self-consciously virtuous, apparently untouched by the vanities
of the world. Marriage? It is not in any girl's nature not to think of
that, not to be in a flutter of pleasure or apprehension at the
attentions of the other sex. Who has been able truly to read the
thoughts of a shrinking maiden in the passing days of her youth and
beauty? In this harmonious and unselfish household, each with decided
individual character, no one ever intruded upon the inner life of the
other. No confidences were given in the deep matters of the heart, no
sign except a blush over a sly allusion to some one who had been
"attentive." If you had stolen a look into the workbasket or the secret
bureau-drawer, you might have found a treasured note, a bit of ribbon, a
rosebud, some token of tenderness or of friendship that was growing old
with the priestess who cherished it. Did they not love flowers, and
pets, and had they not a passion for children? Were there not moonlight
evenings when they sat silent and musing on the stone steps, watching the
shadows and the dancing gleams on the swift river, when the air was
fragrant with the pink and the lilac? Not melancholy this, nor
poignantly sad, but having in it nevertheless something of the pathos of
life unfulfilled. And was there not sometimes, not yet habitually,
coming upon these faces, faces plain and faces attractive, the shade of
Phil loved Alice devotedly. She was his confidante, his defender, but he
feared more the disapproval of her sweet eyes when he had done wrong than
the threatened punishment of his uncle.
"I only meant to be gone just a little while," Phil went on to say.
"And you were away the whole afternoon. It is a pity the days are so
short. And you don't know what you lost."
"No great, I guess."
"Celia and her mother were here. They stayed all the afternoon."
"Celia Howard? Did she wonder where I was?"
"I don't know. She didn't say anything about it. What a dear little
thing she is!"
"And she can say pretty cutting things."
"Oh, can she? Perhaps you'd better run down to the village before dark
and take her these flowers."
"I'm not going. I'd rather you should have the flowers." And Phil spoke
the truth this time.
Celia, who was altogether too young to occupy seriously the mind of a lad
of twelve, had nevertheless gained an ascendancy over him because of her
willful, perverse, and sometimes scornful ways, and because she was
different from the other girls of the school. She had read many more
books than Phil, for she had access to a library, and she could tell him
much of a world that he only heard of through books and newspapers, which
latter he had no habit of reading. He liked, therefore, to be with
Celia, not withstanding her little airs of superiority, and if she
patronized him, as she certainly did, probably the simple-minded young
gentleman, who was unconsciously bred in the belief that he and his own
kin had no superiors anywhere, never noticed it. To be sure they
quarreled a good deal, but truth to say Phil was never more fascinated
with the little witch, whom he felt himself strong enough to protect,
than when she showed a pretty temper. He rather liked to be ordered
about by the little tyrant. And sometimes he wished that Murad Ault, the
big boy of the school, would be rude to the small damsel, so that he
could show her how a knight would act under such circumstances. Murad
Ault stood to Phil for the satanic element in his peaceful world. He was
not only big and strong of limb and broad of chest, but he was very
swarthy, and had closely curled black hair. He feared nothing, not even
the teacher, and was always doing some dare-devil thing to frighten the
children. And because he was dark, morose, and made no friends, and
wished none, but went solitary his own dark way, Phil fancied that he
must have Spanish blood in his veins, and would no doubt grow up to be a
pirate. No other boy in the winter could skate like Murad Ault, with
such strength and grace and recklessness—thin ice and thick ice were all
one to him, but he skated along, dashing in and out, and sweeping away up
and down the river in a whirl of vigor and daring, like a black marauder.
Yet he was best and most awesome in the swimming pond in summer—though
it was believed that he dared go in in the bitter winter, either by
breaking the ice or through an air-hole, and there was a story that he
had ventured under the ice as fearless as a cold fish. No one could dive
from such a height as he, or stay so long under water; he liked to stay
under long enough to scare the spectators, and then appear at a distance,
thrashing about in the water as if he were rescuing himself from
drowning, sputtering out at the same time the most diabolical noises
—curses, no doubt, for he had been heard to swear. But as he skated alone
he swam alone, appearing and disappearing at the swimming-place silently,
with never a salutation to any one. And he was as skillful a fisher as
he was a swimmer. No one knew much about him. He lived with his mother
in a little cabin up among the hills, that had about it scant patches of
potatoes and corn and beans, a garden fenced in by stumproots, as
ill-cared for as the shanty. Where they came from no one knew. How they
lived was a matter of conjecture, though the mother gathered herbs and
berries and bartered them at the village store, and Murad occasionally
took a hand in some neighbor's hay-field, or got a job of chopping wood
in the winter. The mother was old and small and withered, and they said
evil-eyed. Probably she was no more evil-eyed than any old woman who had
such a hard struggle for existence as she had. An old widow with an only
son who looked like a Spaniard and acted like an imp! Here was another
sort of exotic in the New England life.
Celia had been brought to Rivervale by her mother about a year before
this time, and the two occupied a neat little cottage in the village,
distinguished only by its neatness and a plot of syringas, and pinks, and
marigolds, and roses, and bachelor's-buttons, and boxes of the tough
little exotics, called "hen-and-chickens," in the door-yard, and a
vigorous fragrant honeysuckle over the front porch. She only dimly
remembered her father, who had been a merchant in a small way in the
city, and dying left to his widow and only child a very moderate fortune.
The girl showed early an active and ingenious mind, and an equal love for
books and for having her own way; but she was delicate, and Mrs. Howard
wisely judged that a few years in a country village would improve her
health and broaden her view of life beyond that of cockney provincialism.
For, though Mrs. Howard had more refinement than strength of mind, and
passed generally for a sweet and inoffensive little woman, she did not
lack a certain true perception of values, due doubtless to the fact that
she had been a New England girl, and, before her marriage and emigration
to the great city, had passed her life among unexciting realities, and
among people who had leisure to think out things in a slow way. But the
girl's energy and self-confidence had no doubt been acquired from her
father, who was cut off in mid-career of his struggle for place in the
metropolis, or from some remote ancestor. Before she was eleven years
old her mother had listened with some wonder and more apprehension to the
eager forecast of what this child intended to do when she became a woman,
and already shrank from a vision of Celia on a public platform, or the
leader of some metempsychosis club. Through her affections only was the
child manageable, but in opposition to her spirit her mother was
practically powerless. Indeed, this little sprout of the New Age always
spoke of her to Philip and to the Maitlands as "little mother."
The epithet seemed peculiarly tender to Philip, who had lost his father
before he was six years old, and he was more attracted to the timid and
gentle little widow than to his equable but more robust Aunt Eusebia,
Mrs. Maitland, his father's elder sister, whom Philip fancied not a bit
like his father except in sincerity, a quality common to the Maitlands
and Burnetts. Yet there was a family likeness between his aunt and a
portrait of his father, painted by a Boston artist of some celebrity,
which his mother, who survived her husband only three years, had saved
for her boy. His father was a farmer, but a man of considerable
cultivation, though not college-bred—his last request on his death-bed
was that Phil should be sent to college—a man who made experiments in
improving agriculture and the breed of cattle and horses, read papers now
and then on topics of social and political reform, and was the only
farmer in all the hill towns who had what might be called a library.
It was all scattered at the time of the winding up of the farm estate,
and the only jetsam that Philip inherited out of it was an annotated copy
of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, Young's Travels in France, a copy of
The Newcomes, and the first American edition of Childe Harold. Probably
these odd volumes had not been considered worth any considerable bid at
the auction. From his mother, who was fond of books, and had on more
than one occasion, of the failure of teachers, taught in the village
school in her native town before her marriage, Philip inherited his love
of poetry, and he well remembered how she used to try to inspire him with
patriotism by reading the orations of Daniel Webster (she was very fond
of orations), and telling him war stories about Grant and Sherman and
Sheridan and Farragut and Lincoln. He distinctly remembered also
standing at her knees and trying, at intervals, to commit to memory the
Rime of the Ancient Mariner. He had learned it all since, because he
thought it would please his mother, and because there was something in it
that appealed to his coming sense of the mystery of life. When he
repeated it to Celia, who had never heard of it, and remarked that it was
all made up, and that she never tried to learn a long thing like that
that wasn't so, Philip could see that her respect for him increased a
little. He did not know that the child got it out of the library the
next day and never rested till she knew it by heart. Philip could repeat
also the books of the Bible in order, just as glibly as the
multiplication-table, and the little minx, who could not brook that a
country boy should be superior to her in anything, had surprised her
mother by rattling them all off to her one Sunday evening, just as if she
had been born in New England instead of in New York. As to the other
fine things his mother read him, out of Ruskin and the like; Philip
chiefly remembered what a pretty glow there was in his mother's face when
she read them, and that recollection was a valuable part of the boy's
Another valuable part of his education was the gracious influence in his
aunt's household, the spirit of candor, of affection, and the sane
common-sense with which life was regarded, the simplicity of its faith
and the patience with which trials were borne. The lessons he learned in
it had more practical influence in his life than all the books he read.
Nor were his opportunities for the study of character so meagre as the
limit of one family would imply. As often happens in New England
households, individualities were very marked, and from his stern uncle
and his placid aunt down to the sweet and nimble-witted Alice, the family
had developed traits and even eccentricities enough to make it a sort of
microcosm of life. There, for instance, was Patience, the maiden aunt,
his father's sister, the news-monger of the fireside, whose powers of
ratiocination first gave Philip the Greek idea and method of reasoning to
a point and arriving at truth by the process of exclusion. It did not
excite his wonder at the time, but afterwards it appeared to him as one
of the New England eccentricities of which the novelists make so much.
Patience was a home-keeping body and rarely left the premises except to
go to church on Sunday, although her cheerfulness and social helpfulness
were tinged by nothing morbid. The story was—Philip learned it long
afterwards—that in her very young and frisky days Patience had one
evening remained out at some merry-making very late, and in fact had been
escorted home in the moonlight by a young gentleman when the tall,
awful-faced clock, whose face her mother was watching, was on the
dreadful stroke of eleven. For this delinquency her mother had reproved
her, the girl thought unreasonably, and she had quickly replied, "Mother,
I will never go out again." And she never did. It was in fact a
renunciation of the world, made apparently without rage, and adhered to
with cheerful obstinacy.
But although for many years Patience rarely left her home, until the
habit of seclusion had become as fixed as that of a nun who had taken the
vows, no one knew so well as she the news and gossip of the neighborhood,
and her power of learning or divining it seemed to increase with her
years. She had a habit of sitting, when her household duties permitted,
at a front window, which commanded a long view of the river road, and
gathering the news by a process peculiar to herself. From this peep-hole
she studied the character and destination of all the passers-by that came
within range of her vision, and made her comments and deductions, partly
to herself, but for the benefit of those who might be listening.
"Why, there goes Thomas Henry," she would say (she always called people
by their first and middle names). "Now, wherever can he be going this
morning in the very midst of getting in his hay? He can't be going to
the Browns' for vegetables, for they set great store by their own raising
this year; and they don't get their provisions up this way either,
because Mary Ellen quarreled with Simmons's people last year. No!" she
would exclaim, rising to a climax of certainty on this point, "I'll be
bound he is not going after anything in the eating line!"
Meantime Thomas Henry's wagon would be disappearing slowly up the sandy
road, giving Patience a chance to get all she could out of it, by
eliminating all the errands Thomas Henry could not possibly be going to
do in order to arrive at the one he must certainly be bound on.
"They do say he's courting Eliza Merritt," she continued, "but Eliza
never was a girl to make any man leave his haying. No, he's never going
to see Eliza, and if it isn't provisions or love it's nothing short of
sickness. Now, whoever is sick down there? It can't be Mary Ellen,
because she takes after her father's family and they are all hearty. It
must be Mary Ellen's little girls, and the measles are going the rounds.
It must be they've all got the measles."
If the listeners suggested that possibly one of the little girls might
have escaped, the suggestion was decisively put aside.
"No; if one of them had been well, Mary Ellen would have sent her for the
Presently Thomas Henry's cart was heard rumbling back, and sure enough he
was returning with the doctor, and Patience hailed him from the gate and
demanded news of Mary Ellen.
"Why, all her little girls have the measles," replied Thomas Henry, "and
I had to leave my haying to fetch the doctor."
"I want to know," said Patience.
Being the eldest born, Patience had appropriated to herself two rooms in
the rambling old farmhouse before her brother's marriage, from which
later comers had never dislodged her, and with that innate respect for
the rights and peculiarities of others which was common in the household,
she was left to express her secluded life in her own way. As the habit
of retirement grew upon her she created a world of her own, almost as
curious and more individually striking than the museum of Cluny. There
was not a square foot in her tiny apartment that did not exhibit her
handiwork. She was very fond of reading, and had a passion for the
little prints and engravings of "foreign views," which she wove into her
realm of natural history. There was no flower or leaf or fruit that she
had seen that she could not imitate exactly in wax or paper. All over
the walls hung the little prints and engravings, framed in wreaths of
moss and artificial flowers, or in elaborate square frames made of
pasteboard. The pasteboard was cut out to fit the picture, and the
margins, daubed with paste, were then strewn with seeds of corn and
acorns and hazelnuts, and then the whole was gilded so that the effect
was almost as rich as it was novel. All about the rooms, in nooks and on
tables, stood baskets and dishes of fruit-apples and plums and peaches
and grapes-set in proper foliage of most natural appearance, like enough
to deceive a bird or the Sunday-school scholars, when on rare occasions
they were admitted into this holy of holies. Out of boxes, apparently
filled with earth in the corners of the rooms, grew what seemed to be
vines trained to run all about the cornices and to festoon the pictures,
but which were really strings, colored in imitation of the real vine, and
spreading out into paper foliage. To complete the naturalistic character
of these everlasting vines, which no scale-bugs could assail, there were
bunches of wonderful grapes depending here and there to excite the
cupidity of both bird and child. There was no cruelty in the nature of
Patience, and she made prisoners of neither birds nor squirrels, but
cunning cages here and there held most lifelike counterfeits of their
willing captives. There was nothing in the room that was alive, except
the dainty owner, but it seemed to be a museum of natural history. The
rugs on the floor were of her own devising and sewing together, and
rivaled in color and ingenuity those of Bokhara.
But Patience was a student of the heavens as well as of the earth, and it
was upon the ceiling that her imagination expanded. There one could see
in their order the constellations of the heavens, represented by
paper-gilt stars, of all magnitudes, most wonderful to behold. This part
of her decorations was the most difficult of all. The constellations were
not made from any geography of the heavens, but from actual nightly
observation of the positions of the heavenly bodies. Patience confessed
that the getting exactly right of the Great Dipper had caused her most
trouble. On the night that was constructed she sat up till three o'clock
in the morning, going out and studying it and coming in and putting up
one star at a time. How could she reach the high ceiling? Oh, she took a
bean-pole, stuck the gilt star on the end of it, having paste on the
reverse side, and fixed it in its place. That was easy, only it was
difficult to remember when she came into the house the correct positions
of the stars in the heavens. What the astronomer and the botanist and the
naturalist would have said of this little kingdom is unknown, but
Patience herself lived among the glories of the heavens and the beauties
of the earth which she had created. Probably she may have had a humorous
conception of this, for she was not lacking in a sense of humor. The
stone step that led to her private door she had skillfully painted with
faint brown spots, so that when visitors made their exit from this part
of the house they would say, "Why, it rains!" but Patience would laugh
and say, "I guess it is over by now."
"I'm not going to follow you about any more through the brush and
brambles, Phil Burnett," and Celia, emerging from the thicket into a
clearing, flung herself down on a knoll under a beech-tree.
Celia was cross. They were out for a Saturday holiday on the hillside,
where Phil said there were oceans of raspberries and blueberries,
beginning to get ripe, and where you could hear the partridges drumming
in the woods, and see the squirrels.
"Why, I'm not a bit tired," said Phil; "a boy wouldn't be." And he threw
himself down on the green moss, with his heels in the air, much more
intent on the chatter of a gray squirrel in the tree above him than on
the complaints of his comrade.
"Why don't you go with a boy, then?" asked Celia, in a tone intended to
be severe and dignified.
"A boy isn't so nice," said Philip, with the air of stating a general
proposition, but not looking at her.
"Oh," said Celia, only half appeased, "I quite agree with you." And she
pulled down some beech leaves from a low, hanging limb and began to plait
"Who are you making that for?" asked Philip, who began to be aware that a
cloud had come over his holiday sky.
"Nobody in particular; it's just a wreath." And then there was silence,
till Philip made another attempt.
"Celia, I don't mind staying here if you are tired. Tell me something
about New York City. I wish we were there."
"Much you know about it," said Celia, but with some relaxation of her
severity, for as she looked at the boy in his country clothes and glanced
at her own old frock and abraded shoes, she thought what a funny
appearance the pair would make on a fashionable city street.
"Would you rather be there?" asked Philip. "I thought you liked living
"Would I rather? What a question! Everybody would. The country is
a good place to go to when you are tired, as mamma is. But the city! The
big fine houses, and the people all going about in a hurry; the streets
all lighted up at night, so that you can see miles and miles of lights;
and the horses and carriages, and the lovely dresses, and the churches
full of nice people, and such beautiful music! And once mamma took me to
the theatre. Oh, Phil, you ought to see a play, and the actors, all
be-a-u-ti-fully dressed, and talking just like a party in a house, and
dancing, and being funny, and some of it so sad as to make you cry, and
some of it so droll that you had to laugh—just such a world as you read
of in books and in poetry. I was so excited that I saw the stage all
night and could hardly sleep." The girl paused and looked away to the
river as if she saw it all again, and then added in a burst of
"Do you know, I mean to be an actress some day, when mamma will let me."
"Play-actors are wicked," said Phil, in a tone of decision; "our minister
says so, and my uncle says so."
"Fudge!" returned Celia. "Much they know about it. Did Alice say so?"
"I never asked her, but she said once that she supposed it was wrong, but
she would like to see a play."
"There, everybody would. Mamma says the people from the country go to
the theatre always, a good deal more than the people in the city go. I
should like to see your aunt Patience in a theatre and hear what she said
about it. She's an actress if ever there was one."
Philip opened his eyes in protest.
"Mamma says it is as good as a play to hear her go on about people, and
what they are like, and what they are going to do, and then her little
rooms are just like a scene on a stage. If they were in New York
everybody would go to see them and to hear her talk."
This was such a new view of his home life to Philip that he could neither
combat it nor assent to it, further than to say, that his aunt was just
like everybody else, though she did have some peculiar ways.
"Well, she acts," Celia insisted, "and most people act. Our minister
acts all the time, mamma says." Celia had plenty of opinions of her own,
but when she ventured a startling statement she had the habit of going
under the shelter of "little mother," whose casual and unconsidered
remarks the girl turned to her own uses. Perhaps she would not have
understood that her mother merely meant that the minister's sacerdotal
character was not exactly his own character. Just as Philip noticed
without being able to explain it that his uncle was one sort of a man in
his religious exercises and observances and another sort of man in his
dealings with him. Children often have recondite thoughts that do not
get expression until their minds are more mature; they even accept
contradictory facts in their experience. There was one of the deacons
who was as kind as possible, and Philip believed was a good and pious
man, who had the reputation of being sharp and even tricky in a
horse-trade. And Philip used to think how lucky it was for him that
he had been converted and was saved!
"Are you going to stay here always?" asked Philip, pursuing his own train
of thought about the city.
"Here? I should think not. If I were a boy I wouldn't stay here,
I can tell you. What are you going to do, Phil, what are you going to
"Oh, I don't know," said Philip, turning over on his back and looking up
into the blue world through the leaves; "go to college, I suppose."
Children are even more reticent than adults about revealing their inner
lives, and Philip would not, even to Celia, have confessed the splendid
dreams about his career that came to him that day in the hickory-tree,
and that occupied him a great deal.
"Of course," said this wise child, "but that's nothing. I mean, what are
you going to do? My cousin Jim has been all through college, and he
doesn't do a thing except wear nice clothes and hang around and talk.
He says I'm a little chatter-box. I hate the sight of him."
"If he doesn't like you, then I don't like him," said Philip, as if he
were making a general and not a personal assertion. "Oh, I should like
"So should I, and see things and find things. Jim says he's going to be
an explorer. He never will. He wouldn't find anything. He twits me,
and wants to know what is the good of my reading about Africa and such
things. Phil, don't you love to read about Africa, and the desert, and
the lions and the snakes, and bananas growing, and palm-trees, and the
queerest black men and women, real dwarfs some of them? I just love it."
"So do I," said Philip, "as far as I have read. Alice says it's awful
dangerous—fevers and wild beasts and savages and all that. But I
"Of course you wouldn't. But it costs like everything to go to Africa,
"I'd make a book about it, and give lectures, and make lots of money."
"I guess," said Celia, reflecting upon this proposition, "I'd be an
engineer or a railroad man, or something like that, and make a heap of
money, and then I could go anywhere I liked. I just hate to be poor.
"Is Jim poor?"
"No; he can do what he pleases. I asked him, then, why he didn't go to
Africa, and he wanted to know what was the good of finding Livingstone,
anyway. I'll bet Murad Ault would go to Africa."
"I wish he would," said Philip; and then, having moved so that he could
see Celia's face, "Do you like Murad Ault?"
"No," replied Celia, promptly; "he's horrid, but he isn't afraid of
"Well, I don't care," said Philip, who was nettled by this implication.
And Celia, who had shown her power of irritating, took another tack.
"You don't think I'd be seen going around with him? Aren't we having a
good time up here?"
"Bully!" replied Philip. And not seeing the way to expand this topic
any further, he suddenly said:
"Celia, the next time I go on our hill I'll get you lots of sassafras."
"Oh, I love sassafras, and sweet-flag!"
"We can get that on the way home. I know a place." And then there was a
pause. "Celia, you didn't tell me what you are going to do when you grow
"Go to college."
"You? Why, girls do, don't they? I never thought of that."
"Of course they do. I don't know whether I'll write or be a doctor. I
know one thing—I won't teach school. It's the hatefulest thing there
is! It's nice to be a doctor and have your own horse, and go round like
a man. If it wasn't for seeing so many sick people! I guess I'll write
stories and things."
"So would I," Philip confessed, "if I knew any."
"Why, you make 'em up. Mamma says they are all made up. I can make 'em
in my head any time when I'm alone."
"I don't know," Philip said, reflectively, "but I could make up a story
about Murad Ault, and how he got to be a pirate and got in jail and was
"Oh, that wouldn't be a real story. You have got to have different
people in it, and have 'em talk, just as they do in books; and somebody
is in love and somebody dies, and the like of that."
"Well, there are such stories in The Pirate's Own Book, and it's awful
"I'd be ashamed, Philip Burnett, to read such a cruel thing, all about
robbers and murders."
"I didn't read it through; Alice said she was going to burn it up. I
shouldn't wonder if she did."
"Boys make me tired!" exclaimed this little piece of presumption; and
this attitude of superiority exasperated Philip more than anything else
his mentor had said or done, and he asserted his years of seniority by
jumping up and saying, decidedly, "It's time to go home. Shall I carry
"No, I thank you!" replied Celia, with frigid politeness.
"Down in the meadow," said Philip, making one more effort at
conciliation, "we can get some tigerlilies, and weave them in and make a
beautiful wreath for your mother."
"She doesn't like things fussed up," was the gracious reply. And then
the children trudged along homeward, each with a distinct sense of
Traits that make a child disagreeable are apt to be perpetuated in the
adult. The bumptious, impudent, selfish, "hateful" boy may become a man
of force, of learning, of decided capacity, even of polish and good
manners, and score success, so that those who know him say how remarkable
it is that such a "knurly" lad should have turned out so well. But some
exigency in his career, it may be extraordinary prosperity or bitter
defeat, may at any moment reveal the radical traits of the boy, the
original ignoble nature. The world says that it is a "throwing back"; it
is probably only a persistence of the original meanness under all the
overlaid cultivation and restraint.
Without bothering itself about the recondite problems of heredity or the
influence of environment, the world wisely makes great account of
"stock." The peasant nature, which may be a very different thing from
the peasant condition, persists, and shows itself in business affairs, in
literature, even in the artist. No marriage is wisely contracted without
consideration of "stock." The admirable qualities which make a union one
of mutual respect and enduring affection—the generosities, the
magnanimities, the courage of soul, the crystalline truthfulness, the
endurance of ill fortune and of prosperity—are commonly the persistence
of the character of the stock.
We can get on with surface weaknesses and eccentricities, and even
disagreeable peculiarities, if the substratum of character is sound.
There is no woman or man so difficult—to get on with, whatever his or
her graces or accomplishments, as the one "you don't know where to find,"
as the phrase is. Indeed, it has come to pass that the highest and final
eulogy ever given to a man, either in public or private life, is that he
is one "you can tie to." And when you find a woman of that sort you do
not need to explain to the cynical the wisdom of the Creator in making
the most attractive and fascinating sex.
The traits, good and bad, persist; they may be veneered or restrained,
they are seldom eradicated. All the traits that made the great Napoleon
worshiped, hated, and feared existed in the little Bonaparte, as
perfectly as the pea-pod in the flower. The whole of the First Empire
was smirched with Corsican vulgarity. The world always reckons with
these radical influences that go to make up a family. One of the first
questions asked by an old politician, who knew his world thoroughly,
about any man becoming prominent, when there was a discussion of his
probable action, was, "Whom did he marry?"
There are exceptions to this general rule, and they are always noticeable
when they occur—this deviation from the traits of the earliest years
—and offer material fox some of the subtlest and most interesting studies
of the novelist.
It was impossible for those who met Philip Burnett after he had left
college, and taken his degree in the law-school, and spent a year, more
or less studiously, in Europe, to really know him if they had not known
the dreaming boy in his early home, with all the limitations as well as
the vitalizing influences of his start in life. And on the contrary, the
error of the neighbors of a lad in forecasting his career comes from the
fact that they do not know him. The verdict about Philip would probably
have been that he was a very nice sort of a boy, but that he would never
"set the North River on fire." There was a headstrong, selfish, pushing
sort of boy, one of Philip's older schoolmates, who had become one of the
foremost merchants and operators in New York, and was already talked of
for mayor. This success was the sort that fulfilled the rural idea of
getting on in the world, whereas Philip's accomplishments, seen through
the veneer of conceit which they had occasioned him to take on, did not
commend themselves as anything worth while. Accomplishments rarely do
unless they are translated into visible position or into the currency of
the realm. How else can they be judged? Does not the great public
involuntarily respect the author rather for the sale of his books than
for the books themselves?
The period of Philip's novitiate—those most important years from his
acquaintance with Celia Howard to the attainment of his professional
degree—was most interesting to him, but the story of it would not detain
the reader of exciting fiction. He had elected to use his little
patrimony in making himself instead of in making money—if merely
following his inclination could be called an election. If he had
reasoned about it he would have known that the few thousands of dollars
left to him from his father's estate, if judiciously invested in
business, would have grown to a good sum when he came of age, and he
would by that time have come into business habits, so that all he would
need to do would be to go on and make more money. If he had reasoned
more deeply he would have seen that by this process he would become a man
of comparatively few resources for the enjoyment of life, and a person of
very little interest to himself or to anybody else. So perhaps it was
just as well that he followed his instincts and postponed the making of
money until he had made himself, though he was to have a good many bitter
days when the possession of money seemed to him about the one thing
It was Celia, who had been his constant counselor and tormentor, about
the time when she was beginning to feel a little shy and long-legged, in
her short skirts, who had, in a romantic sympathy with his tastes,
opposed his going into a "store" as a clerk, which seemed to the boy at
one time an ideal situation for a young man.
"A store, indeed!" cried the young lady; "pomatum on your hair, and a
grin on your face; snip, snip, snip, calico, ribbons, yard-stick; 'It's
very becoming, miss, that color; this is only a sample, only a remnant,
but I shall have a new stock in by Friday; anything else, ma'am, today?'
Sho! Philip, for a man!"
Fortunately for Philip there lived in the village an old waif, a
scholarly oddity, uncommunicative, whose coming to dwell there had
excited much gossip before the inhabitants got used to his odd ways.
Usually reticent and rough of speech—the children thought he was an old
bear—he was nevertheless discovered to be kindly and even charitable in
neighborhood emergencies, and the minister said he was about the most
learned man he ever knew. His history does not concern us, but he was
doubtless one of the men whose talents have failed to connect with
success in anything, who had had his bout with the world, and retired
into peaceful seclusion in an indulgence of a mild pessimism about the
He lived alone, except for the rather neutral presence of Aunt Hepsy, who
had formerly been a village tailoress, and whose cottage he had bought
with the proviso that the old woman should continue in it as "help."
With Aunt Hepsy he was no more communicative than with anybody else. "He
was always readin', when he wasn't goin' fishin' or off in the woods with
his gun, and never made no trouble, and was about the easiest man to get
along with she ever see. You mind your business and he'll mind his'n."
That was the sum of Aunt Hepsy's delivery about the recluse, though no
doubt her old age was enriched by constant "study" over his probable
history and character. But Aunt Hepsy, since she had given up tailoring,
was something of a recluse herself.
The house was full of books, mostly queer books, "in languages nobody
knows what," as Aunt Hepsy said, which made Philip open his eyes when he
went there one day to take to the old man a memorandum-book which he had
found on Mill Brook. The recluse took a fancy to the ingenuous lad when
he saw he was interested in books, and perhaps had a mind not much more
practical than his own; the result was an acquaintance, and finally an
intimacy—at which the village wondered until it transpired that Philip
was studying with the old fellow, who was no doubt a poor shack of a
school-teacher in disguise.
It was from this gruff friend that Philip learned Greek and Latin enough
to enable him to enter college, not enough drill and exact training in
either to give him a high stand, but an appreciation of the literatures
about which the old scholar was always enthusiastic. Philip regretted
all his life that he had not been severely drilled in the classics and
mathematics, for he never could become a specialist in anything. But
perhaps, even in this, fate was dealing with him according to his
capacities. And, indeed, he had a greater respect for the scholarship of
his wayside tutor than for the pedantic acquirements of many men he came
to know afterwards. It was from him that Philip learned about books and
how to look for what he wanted to know, and it was he who directed
Philip's taste to the best. When he went off to college the lad had not
a good preparation, but he knew a great deal that would not count in the
"You will need all the tools you can get the use of, my boy, in the
struggle," was the advice of his mentor, "and the things you will need
most may be those you have thought least of. I never go fishing without
both fly and bait."
Philip was always grateful that before he entered college he had a fine
reading knowledge of French, and that he knew enough German to read and
enjoy Heine's poems and prose, and that he had read, or read in, pretty
much all the English classics.
He used to recall the remark of a lad about his own age, who was on a
vacation visit to Rivervale, and had just been prepared for college at
one of the famous schools. The boys liked each other and were much
together in the summer, and talked about what interested them during
their rambles, carrying the rod or the fowling-piece. Philip naturally
had most to say about the world he knew, which was the world of books
—that is to say, the stored information that had accumulated in the world.
This more and more impressed the trained student, who one day exclaimed:
"By George! I might have known something if I hadn't been kept at school
all my life."
Philip's career in college could not have been called notable. He was
not one of the dozen stars in the class-room, but he had a reputation of
another sort. His classmates had a habit of resorting to him if they
wanted to "know anything" outside the text-books, for the range of his
information seemed to them encyclopaedic. On the other hand, he escaped
the reputation of what is called "a good fellow." He was not so much
unpopular as he was unknown in the college generally, but those who did
know him were tolerant of the fact that he cared more for reading than
for college sports or college politics. It must be confessed that he
added little to the reputation of the university, since his name was
never once mentioned in the public prints—search has been made since the
public came to know him as a writer—as a hero in any crew or team on any
game field. Perhaps it was a little selfish that his muscle developed in
the gymnasium was not put into advertising use for the university. The
excuse was that he had not time to become an athlete, any more than he
had time to spend three years in the discipline of the regular army,
which was in itself an excellent thing.
Celia, in one of her letters—it was during her first year at a woman's
college, when the development of muscle in gymnastics, running, and the
vigorous game of ball was largely engaging the attention of this
enthusiastic young lady—took him to task for his inactivity. "This is
the age of muscle," she wrote; "the brain is useless in a flabby body,
and probably the brain itself is nothing but concentrated intelligent
muscle. I don't know how men are coming out, but women will never get
the position they have the right to occupy until they are physically the
equals of men."
Philip had replied, banteringly, that if that were so he had no desire to
enter in a physical competition with women, and that men had better look
out for another field.
But later on, when Celia had got into the swing of the classics, and was
training for a part in the play of "Antigone," she wrote in a different
strain, though she would have denied that the change had any relation to
the fact that she had strained her back in a rowing-match. She did not
apologize for her former advice, but she was all aglow about the Greek
drama, and made reference to Aspasia as an intellectual type of what
women might become. "I didn't ever tell you how envious I used to be
when you were studying Greek with that old codger in Rivervale, and could
talk about Athens and all that. Next time we meet, I can tell you, it
will be Greek meets Greek. I do hope you have not dropped the classics
and gone in for the modern notion of being real and practical. If I ever
hear of your writing 'real' poetry—it is supposed to be real if it is in
dialect or misspelled! never will write you again, much less speak to
Whatever this decided young woman was doing at the time she was sure was
the best for everybody to do, and especially for Master Phil.
Now that the days of preparation were over, and Philip found himself in
New York, face to face with the fact that he had nowhere to look for
money to meet the expense of rent, board, and clothes except to his own
daily labor, and that there was another economy besides that which he had
practiced as to luxuries, there were doubtless hours when his faith
wavered a little in the wisdom of the decision that had invested all his
patrimony in himself. He had been fortunate, to be sure, in securing a
clerk's desk in the great law-office of Hunt, Sharp & Tweedle, and he had
the kindly encouragement of the firm that, with close application to
business, he would make his way. But even in this he had his misgivings,
for a great part of his acquirements, and those he most valued, did not
seem to be of any use in his office-work. He had a lofty conception of
his chosen profession, as the right arm in the administration of justice
between man and man. In practice, however, it seemed to him that the
object was to win a case rather than to do justice in a case.
Unfortunately, also, he had cultivated his imagination to the extent that
he could see both sides of a case. To see both sides is indeed the
requisite of a great lawyer, but to see the opposite side only in order
to win, as in looking over an opponent's hand in a game of cards. It
seemed to Philip that this clear perception would paralyze his efforts
for one side if he knew it was the wrong side. The argument was that
every cause a man's claim or his defense—ought to be presented in its
fullness and urged with all the advocate's ingenuity, and that the
decision was in the bosom of an immaculate justice on the bench and the
unbiased intelligence in the jury-box. This might be so. But Philip
wondered what would be the effect on his own character and on his
intellect if he indulged much in the habit of making the worse appear the
better cause, and taking up indifferently any side that paid. For
himself, he was inclined always to advise clients to "settle," and he
fancied that if the occupation of the lawyer was to explain the case to
people ignorant of it, and to champion only the right side, as it
appeared to an unprejudiced, legally trained mind, and to compose instead
of encouraging differences, the law would indeed be a noble profession,
and the natural misunderstandings, ignorance, and different points of
view would make business enough.
"Stuff!" said Mr. Sharp. "If you begin by declining causes you
disapprove of, the public will end by letting you alone in your
self-conceited squeamishness. It's human nature you've got to deal with,
not theories about law and justice. I tell you that men like litigation.
They want to have it out with somebody. And it is better than
From Mr. Hunt, who moved in the serener upper currents of the law, Philip
got more satisfaction.
"Of course, Mr. Burnett, there are miserable squabbles in the law
practice, and contemptible pettifoggers and knaves, and men who will sell
themselves for any dirty work, as there are in most professions and
occupations, but the profession could not exist for a day if it was not
on the whole on the side of law and order and justice.
"No doubt it needs from time to time criticism and reformation.
So does the church. You look at the characters of the really great
lawyers! And there is another thing. In dealing with the cases of our
complex life, there is no accomplishment, no learning in science, art, or
literature, that the successful practitioner will not find it very
advantageous to possess. And a lawyer will never be eminent who has not
Philip thought he had a very good chance of exercising his imagination in
the sky chamber where he slept—a capital situation from which to observe
the world. There could not have been an uglier view created—a shapeless
mass of brick and stone and painted wood, a collected, towering
monstrosity of rectangular and inharmonious lines, a realized dream of
hideousness—but for the splendid sky, always changing and doing all that
was possible in the gleams and shadows and the glowing colors of morning
and evening to soften the ambitious work of man; but for the wide
horizon, with patches of green shores and verdant flats washed by the
kindly tide; but for the Highlands and Staten Island, the gateway to the
ocean; but for the great river and the mighty bay shimmering and
twinkling and often iridescent, and the animated life of sails and
steamers, the leviathans of commerce and the playthings of pleasure, and
the beetle-like, monstrous ferry-boats that pushed their noses through
all the confusion, like intelligent, business-like saurians that knew how
to keep an appointed line by a clumsy courtesy of apparent yielding.
Yes, there was life enough in all this, and inspiration, if one only knew
what to be inspired about.
When Philip came home from the office at sunset, through the bustling
streets, and climbed up to his perch, he insensibly brought with him
something of the restless energy and strife of the city, and in this mood
the prospect before him took on a certain significance of great things
accomplished, of the highest form of human energy and achievement; he was
a part of this exuberant, abundant life, to succeed in the struggle
seemed easy, and for the moment he possessed what he saw.
The little room had space enough for a cot bed, a toilet-stand,
a couple of easy-chairs—an easy-chair is the one article of furniture
absolutely necessary to a reflecting student—some well-filled
book-shelves, a small writing-desk, and a tiny closet quite large enough
for a wardrobe which seemed to have no disposition to grow. Except for
the books and the writing-desk, with its heterogeneous manuscripts,
unfinished or rejected, there was not much in the room to indicate the
taste of its occupant, unless you knew that his taste was exhibited
rather by what he excluded from the room than by what it contained. It
must be confessed that, when Philip was alone with his books and his
manuscripts, his imagination did not expand in the directions that would
have seemed profitable to the head of his firm. That life of the town
which was roaring in his ears, that panorama of prosperity spread before
him, related themselves in his mind not so much as incitements to engage
in the quarrels of his profession as something demanding study and
interpretation, something much more human than processes and briefs and
arguments. And it was a dark omen for his success that the world
interested him much more for itself than for what he could make out of
it. Make something to be sure he must—so long as he was only a law
clerk on a meagre salary—and it was this necessity that had much to do
with the production of the manuscripts. It was a joke on Philip in his
club—by-the-way, the half-yearly dues were not far off—that he was
doing splendidly in the law; he already had an extensive practice in
The law is said to be a jealous mistress, but literature is a young lady
who likes to be loved for herself alone, and thinks permission to adore
is sufficient reward for her votary. Common-sense told Philip that the
jealous mistress would flout him and land him in failure if he gave her a
half-hearted service; but the other young lady, the Helen of the
professions, was always beckoning him and alluring him by the most subtle
arts, occupying all his hours with meditations on her grace and beauty,
till it seemed the world were well lost for her smile. And the
fascinating jade never hinted that devotion to her brought more drudgery
and harassment and pain than any other service in the world. It would
not have mattered if she had been frank, and told him that her promise of
eternal life was illusory and her rewards commonly but a flattering of
vanity. There was no resisting her enchantments, and he would rather
follow her through a world of sin and suffering, pursuing her radiant
form over bog and moor, in penury and heartache, for one sunrise smile
and one glimpse of her sunset heaven, than to walk at ease with a
commonplace maiden on any illumined and well-trod highway.
It is the desire of every ambitious soul to, enter Literature by the
front door, and the few who have patience and money enough to live
without the aid of the beckoning Helen may enter there. But a side
entrance is the destiny of most aspirants, even those with the golden key
of genius, and they are a long time in working their way to be seen
coming out, of the front entrance. It is true that a man can attract
considerable and immediate attention by trying to effect an entrance
through the sewer, but he seldom gains the respect of the public whom he
interests, any more than an exhibitor of fireworks gains the reputation
of an artist that is accorded to the painter of a good picture.
Philip was waiting at the front door, with his essays and his prose
symphonies and his satirical novel—the satire of a young man is apt to
be very bitter—but it was as tightly shut against him as if a publisher
and not the muse of literature kept the door.
There was a fellow-boarder with Philip, whose acquaintance he had made at
the common table in the basement, who appeared to be free of the world of
letters and art. He was an alert, compact, neatly dressed little fellow,
who had apparently improved every one of his twenty-eight years in the
study of life, in gaining assurance and confidence in himself, and also
presented himself as one who knew the nether world completely but was not
of it. He would have said of himself that he knew it profoundly, that he
frequented it for "material," but that his home was in another sphere.
The impression was that he belonged among those brilliant guerrillas of
both sexes, in the border-land of art and society, who lived daintily and
talked about life with unconventional freedom. Slight in figure, with
very black hair, and eyes of cloudy gray, an olive complexion, and
features trained to an immobility proof against emotion or surprise, the
whole poised as we would say in the act of being gentlemanly, it is
needless to say that he took himself seriously. His readiness,
self-confidence, cocksureness, Philip thought all expressed in his name
Mr. Brad was not a Bohemian—that is, not at all a Bohemian of the
recognized type. His fashionable dress, closely trimmed hair, and dainty
boots took him out of that class. He belonged to the new order, which
seems to have come in with modern journalism—that is, Bohemian in
principle, but of the manners and apparel of the favored of fortune. Mr.
Brad was undoubtedly clever, and was down as a bright young man in the
list of those who employed talent which was not dulled by conscientious
scruples. He had stood well in college, during three years in Europe he
had picked up two or three languages, dissipated his remaining small
fortune, acquired expensive tastes, and knowledge, both esoteric and
exoteric, that was valuable to him in his present occupation. Returning
home fully equipped for a modern literary career, and finding after some
bitter experience that his accomplishments were not taken or paid for at
their real value by the caterers for intellectual New York, he had
dropped into congenial society on the staff of the Daily Spectrum, a
mighty engine of public opinion, which scattered about the city and
adjacent territory a million of copies, as prodigally as if they had been
auctioneers' announcements. Fastidious people who did not read it gave
it a bad name, not recognizing the classic and heroic attitude of those
engaged in pitchforking up and turning over the muck of the Augean
stables under the pretense of cleaning them.
Mr. Brad had a Socratic contempt for this sort of fault-finding. It was
answer enough to say, "It pays. The people like it or they wouldn't buy
it. It commands the best talent in the market and can afford to pay for
it; even clergymen like to appear in its columns—they say it's a
providential chance to reach the masses. And look at the "Morning GooGoo"
(this was his nickname for one of the older dailies), it couldn't pay
its paper bills if it hadn't such a small circulation."
Mr. Brad, however, was not one of the editors, though the acceptance of
an occasional short editorial, sufficiently piquant and impudent and
vivid in language—to suit, had given him hopes. He was salaried, but
under orders for special service, and was always in the hope that the
execution of each new assignment would bring him into popular notice,
which would mean an advance of position and pay.
Philip was impressed with the ready talent, the adaptable talent, and the
facility of this accomplished journalist, and as their acquaintance
improved he was let into many of the secrets of success in the
"It isn't an easy thing," said Mr. Brad, "to cater to a public that gets
tired of anything in about three days. But it is just as well satisfied
with a contradiction as with the original statement. It calls both news.
You have to watch out and see what the people want, and give it to 'em.
It is something like the purveying of the manufacturers and the dry-goods
jobber for the changing trade in fashions; only the newspaper has the
advantage that it can turn a somersault every day and not have any
useless stock left on hand.
"The public hasn't any memory, or, if it has, this whirligig process
destroys it. What it will not submit to is the lack of a daily surprise.
Keep that in your mind and you can make a popular newspaper. Only,"
continued Mr. Brad, reflectively, "you've got to hit a lot of different
"You'd laugh," this artist in emotions went on, after a little pause, "at
some of my assignments. There was a run awhile ago on elopements, and my
assignment was to have one every Monday morning. The girl must always be
lovely and refined and moving in the best society; elopement with the
coachman preferred, varied with a teacher in a Sunday-school. Invented?
Not always. It was surprising how many you could find ready made, if you
were on the watch. I got into the habit of locating them in the interior
of Pennsylvania as the safest place, though Jersey seemed equally
probable to the public. Did I never get caught? That made it all the
more lively and interesting. Denials, affidavits, elaborate
explanations, two sides to any question; if it was too hot, I could
change the name and shift the scene to a still more obscure town. Or it
could be laid to the zeal of a local reporter, who could give the most
ingenious reasons for his story. Once I worked one of those imaginary
reporters up into such prominence for his clever astuteness that my boss
was taken in, and asked me to send for him and give him a show on the
"Oh, yes, we have to keep up the domestic side. A paper will not go
unless the women like it. One of the assignments I liked was 'Sayings of
Our Little Ones.' This was for every Tuesday morning. Not more than
half a column. These always got copied by the country press solid. It
is really surprising how many bright things you can make children of five
and six years say if you give your mind to it. The boss said that I
overdid it sometimes and made them too bright instead of 'just cunning.'
"'Psychological Study of Children' had a great run. This is the age of
science. Same with animals, astronomy—anything. If the public wants
science, the papers will give it science.
"After all, the best hold for a lasting sensation is an attack upon some
charity or public institution; show up the abuses, and get all the
sentimentalists on your side. The paper gets sympathy for its
fearlessness in serving the public interests. It is always easy to find
plenty of testimony from ill-used convicts and grumbling pensioners."
Undoubtedly Olin Brad was a clever fellow, uncommonly well read in the
surface literatures of foreign origin, and had a keen interest in what he
called the metaphysics of his own time. He had many good qualities,
among them friendliness towards men and women struggling like himself to
get up the ladder, and he laid aside all jealousy when he advised Philip
to try his hand at some practical work on the Spectrum. What puzzled
Philip was that this fabricator of "stories" for the newspaper should
call himself a "realist." The "story," it need hardly be explained, is
newspaper slang for any incident, true or invented, that is worked up for
dramatic effect. To state the plain facts as they occurred, or might
have occurred, and as they could actually be seen by a competent
observer, would not make a story. The writer must put in color, and
idealize the scene and the people engaged in it, he must invent dramatic
circumstances and positions and language, so as to produce a "picture."
And this picture, embroidered on a commonplace incident, has got the name
of "news." The thread of fact in this glittering web the reader must
pick out by his own wits, assisted by his memory of what things usually
are. And the public likes these stories much better than the unadorned
report of facts. It is accustomed to this view of life, so much so that
it fancies it never knew what war was, or what a battle was, until the
novelists began to report them.
Mr. Brad was in the story stage of his evolution as a writer. His light
facility in it had its attraction for Philip, but down deep in his nature
he felt and the impression was deepened by watching the career of several
bright young men and women on the press—that indulgence in it would
result in such intellectual dishonesty as to destroy the power of
producing fiction that should be true to life. He was so impressed by
the ability and manifold accomplishments of Mr. Brad that he thought it a
pity for him to travel that road, and one day he asked him why he did not
go in for literature.
"Literature!" exclaimed Mr. Brad, with some irritation; "I starved on
literature for a year. Who does live on it, till he gets beyond the
necessity of depending on it? There is a lot of humbug talked about it.
You can't do anything till you get your name up. Some day I will make a
hit, and everybody will ask, 'Who is this daring, clever Olin Brad?'
Then I can get readers for anything I choose to write. Look at Champ
Lawson. He can't write correct English, he never will, he uses
picturesque words in a connection that makes you doubt if he knows what
they mean. But he did a dare-devil thing picturesquely, and now the
publishers are at his feet. When I met him the other day he affected to
be bored with so much attention, and wished he had stuck to the
livery-stable. He began at seventeen by reporting a runaway from the
point of view of the hostler."
"Well," said Philip, "isn't it quite in the line of the new movement that
we should have an introspective hostler, who perhaps obeys Sir Philip
Sidney's advice, 'Look into your heart and write'? I chanced the other
night in a company of the unconventional and illuminated, the 'poster'
set in literature and art, wild-eyed and anaemic young women and
intensely languid, 'nil admirari' young men, the most advanced products
of the studios and of journalism. It was a very interesting conclave.
Its declared motto was, 'We don't read, we write.' And the members were
on a constant strain to say something brilliant, epigrammatic, original.
The person who produced the most outre sentiment was called 'strong.'
The women especially liked no writing that was not 'strong.' The
strongest man in the company, and adored by the women, was the
poet-artist Courci Cleves, who always seems to have walked straight out
of a fashion-plate, much deferred to in this set, which affects to defer
to nothing, and a thing of beauty in the theatre lobbies. Mr. Cleves
gained much applause for his well-considered wish that all that has been
written in the world, all books and libraries, could be destroyed, so as
to give a chance to the new men and the fresh ideas of the new era."
"My dear sir," said Brad, who did not like this caricature of his
friends, "you don't make any allowance for the eccentricities of genius."
"You would hit it nearer if you said I didn't make allowance for the
eccentricities without genius," retorted Philip.
"Well," replied Mr. Brad, taking his leave, "you don't understand your
world. You go your own way and see where you will come out."
And when Philip reflected on it, he wondered if it were not rash to
offend those who had the public ear, and did up the personals and minor
criticisms for the current prints. He was evidently out of view. No
magazine paper of his had gained the slightest notice from these
sublimated beings, who discovered a new genius every month.
A few nights after this conversation Mr. Brad was in uncommon spirits at
"Anything special turned up?" asked Philip.
"Oh, nothing much. I've thrown away the chance of the biggest kind of a
novel of American life. Only it wouldn't keep. You look in the Spectrum
tomorrow morning. You'll see something interesting."
"Is it a—" and Philip's incredulous expression supplied the word.
"No, not a bit. And the public is going to be deceived this time, sure,
expecting a fake. You know Mavick?"
"I've heard of him—the operator, a millionaire."
"A good many times. Used to be minister or consul or something at Rome.
A great swell. It's about his daughter, Evelyn, a stunning girl about
sixteen or seventeen—not out yet."
"I hope it's no scandal."
"No, no; she's all right. It's the way she's brought up—shows what
we've come to. They say she's the biggest heiress in America and a
raving beauty, the only child. She has been brought up like the
Kohinoor, never out of somebody's sight. She has never been alone one
minute since she was born. Had three nurses, and it was the business of
one of them, in turn, to keep an eye on her. Just think of that. Never
was out of the sight of somebody in her life. Has two maids now—always
one in the room, night and day."
"Why, the parents are afraid she'll be kidnapped, and held for a big
ransom. No, I never saw her, but I've got the thing down to a dot.
Wouldn't I like to interview her, though, get her story, how the world
looks to her. Under surveillance for sixteen years! The 'Prisoner of
Chillon' is nothing to it for romance."
"Just the facts are enough, I should say."
"Yes, facts make a good basis, sometimes. I've got 'em all in, but of
course I've worked the thing up for all it is worth. You'll see.
I kept it one day to try and get a photograph. We've got the house and
Mavick, but the girl's can't be found, and it isn't safe to wait. We are
going to blow it out tomorrow morning."
The Mavick mansion was on Fifth Avenue in the neighborhood of Central
Park. It was one of the buildings in the city that strangers were always
taken to see. In fact, this was a palace not one kind of a palace, but
all kinds of a palace. The clever and ambitious architect of the house
had grouped all the styles of architecture he had ever seen, or of which
he had seen pictures. Here was not an architectural conception, like a
sonnet or a well-constructed novel, but if all the work could have been
spread out in line, in all its variety, there would have been produced a
panorama. The sight of the mansion always caused wonder and generally
ignorant admiration. Its vastness and splendor were felt to be somehow
typical of the New World and of the cosmopolitan city.
The cost, in the eyes of the spectators, was a great part of its merits.
No doubt this was a fabulous sum. "You can form a little idea of it,"
said a gentleman to his country friend, "when I tell you that that little
bit there, that little corner of carving and decoration, cost two hundred
thousand dollars! I had this from the architect himself."
The interior was as fully representative of wealth and of the ambition to
put under one roof all the notable effects of all the palaces in the
world. But it had, what most palaces have not, all the requisites for
luxurious living. The variety of styles in the rooms was bewildering.
Artists of distinction, both foreign and native, had vied with each other
in the decoration of the rooms given over to the display of their genius.
All paganism and all Christianity, history, myth, and the beauties of
nature were spread upon the walls and ceilings. Rare woods, rare
marbles, splendid textures, the product of ancient handiwork and modern
looms, added a certain dignity to the more airy creations of the artists.
Many of the rooms were named from the nations whose styles of decoration
and furnishing were imitated in them, but others had the simple
designation of the gold room, the silver room, the lapis-lazuli room, and
so on. It was not only the show-rooms, the halls, passages, stairways,
and galleries (both of pictures and of curios) that were thus enriched,
but the boudoirs, retiring-rooms, and more private apartments as well.
It was not simply a house of luxury, but of all the comfort that modern
invention can furnish. It was said that the money lavished upon one or
two of the noble apartments would have built a State-house (though not at
Albany), and that the fireplace in the great hall cost as much as an
imitation mediaeval church. These were the things talked about, and yet
the portions of this noble edifice, rich as they were, habitually
occupied by the family had another character—the attractions and
conveniences of what we call a home. Mrs. Mavick used to say that in her
apartments she found refuge in a sublimated domesticity. Mavick's own
quarters—not the study off the library where he received visitors whom
it was necessary to impress—had an executive appearance, and were, in
the necessary appliances, more like the interior bureau of a board of
trade. In fact, the witty brokers who were admitted to its mysteries
called it the bucket-shop.
Mr. Brad's article on "A Prisoned Millionaire" more than equaled Philip's
expectations. No such "story" had appeared in the city press in a long
time. It was what was called, in the language of the period, a work of
art—that is, a sensation, heightened by all the words of color in the
language, applied not only to material things, but to states and
qualities of mind, such as "purple emotions" and "scarlet intrepidity."
It was also exceedingly complimentary. Mavick himself was one of the
powers and pillars of American society, and the girl was an exquisite
exhibition of woodland bloom in the first flush of spring-time. As he
read it over, Philip thought what a fine advertisement it is to every
impecunious noble in Europe.
That morning, before going to his office, Philip strolled up Fifth Avenue
to look at that now doubly, famous mansion. Many others, it appeared,
were moved by the same curiosity. There was already a crowd assembled.
A couple of policemen, on special duty, patrolled the sidewalk in front
in order to keep a passage open, and perhaps to prevent a too impudent
inspection. Opposite the house, on the sidewalk and on door-steps, was a
motley throng, largely made up of toughs and roughs from the East Side,
good-natured spectators who merely wanted to see this splendid prison,
and a moving line of gentlemen and ladies who simply happened to be
passing that way at this time. The curbstone was lined with a score of
reporters of the city journals, each with his note-book. Every window
and entrance was eagerly watched. It was hoped that one of the family
might be seen, or that some servant might appear who could be
interviewed. Upon the windows supposed by the reporters to be those from
which the heiress looked, a strict watch was kept. The number, form, and
location of these windows were accurately noted, the stuff of the
curtains described in the phrase of the upholsterer, and much good
language was devoted to the view from these windows. The shrewdest of
the reporters had already sought information as to the interior from the
flower dealers, from upholsterers, from artists who had been employed in
the decorations, and had even assailed, in the name of the rights of the
public whom they represented, the architects of the building; but their
chief reliance was upon the waiters furnished by the leading caterers on
occasions of special receptions and great dinners, and milliners and
dress-makers, who had penetrated the more domestic apartments. By reason
of this extraordinary article in the newspaper, the public had acquired
the right to know all about the private life of the Mavick family.
This right was not acknowledged by Mr. Mavick and his family. Of course
the object of the excitement was wholly ignorant of the cause of it, as
no daily newspaper was ever seen by her that had not been carefully
inspected by the trusted and intelligent governess. The crowd in front
of the mansion was accounted for by the statement that a picture of it
had appeared in one of the low journals, and there was naturally a
curiosity to see it. And Evelyn was told that this was one of the
penalties a man paid for being popular.
Mrs. Mavick, who seldom lost her head, was thoroughly frightened and
upset, and it was a rare occasion that could upset the equanimity of the
late widow, Mrs. Carmen Henderson. She gave way to her passion and
demanded that the offending editor should be pursued with the utmost
rigor of the law. Mr. Mavick was not less annoyed and angry, but he
smiled when his wife talked of pursuing the press with the utmost rigor
of the law, and said that he would give the matter prompt attention.
That day he had an interview with the editor of the Daily Spectrum; which
was satisfactory to both parties. The editor would have said that Mavick
behaved like a gentleman. The result of the interview appeared in the
newspaper of the following morning.
Mr. Mavick had requested that the offending reporter should be cautioned;
he was too wise to have further attention called to the matter by
demanding his dismissal. Accordingly the reporter was severely
reprimanded, and then promoted.
The editorial, which was written by Mr. Olin Brad, and was in his best
Macaulay style, began somewhat humorously by alluding to the curious
interest of the public in ancient history, citing Mr. Froude and Mr.
Carlyle, and the legend of Casper Hauser. It was true, gradually
approaching the case in point, that uncommon precautions had been taken
in the early years of the American heiress, and it was the romance of the
situation that had been laid before the readers of the Spectrum. But
there had been really no danger in our chivalrous, free American society,
and all these precautions were long a thing of the past (which was not
true). In short, with elaboration and great skill, and some humor, the
exaggerations of the former article were minimized, and put in an airy
and unsubstantial light. And then this friend of the people, this
exposer of abuses and champion of virtue, turned and justly scored the
sensational press for prying into the present life of one of the first
families in the country.
Incidentally, it was mentioned that the ladies of the family had before
this incident bespoken their passage for their annual visit to Europe,
and that this affair had not disturbed their arrangements (which also was
not true). This casual announcement was intended to draw away attention
from the Fifth Avenue house, and to notify the roughs that it would be
useless to lay any plans.
The country press, which had far and wide printed the interesting story,
softened it in accordance with the later development. Possibly no
intelligent person was deceived, but in the estimation of the mass of the
people the Spectrum increased its reputation for enterprise and smartness
and gave also an impression of its fairness. The manager, told Mr. Brad
that the increased sales of the two days permitted the establishment to
give him a vacation of two weeks on full pay, and during these weeks the
manager himself set up a neat and modest brougham.
All of which events, only partially understood, Mr. Philip Burnett
revolved in his mind, and wondered if what was called success was worth
the price paid for it.
The name of Thomas Mavick has lost the prominence and significance it had
at the time the events recorded in this history were taking place. It
seems incredible that the public should so soon have lost interest in
him. His position in the country was most conspicuous. No name was more
frequently in the newspapers. No other person not in official life was
so often interviewed. The reporters instinctively turned to him for
information in matters financial, concerning deals, and commercial, which
were so commonly connected with political, enterprises. No loan was
negotiated without consulting him, no operation was considered safe
without knowing how he was affected towards it, and to ascertain what
Mavick was doing or thinking was a constant anxiety in the Street. Of
course the opinion of a man so powerful was very important in politics,
and any church or sect would be glad to have his support. The fact that
he and his family worshiped regularly at St. Agnes's was a guarantee of
the stability of that church, and incidentally marked the success of the
Christian religion in the metropolis.
But the condition of the presence in the public mind of the name of a
great operator and accumulator of money who is merely that is either that
he go on accumulating, so that the magnitude of his wealth has few if any
rivals, or that his name become synonymous with some gigantic cleverness,
if not rascality, so that it is used as an adjective after he and his
wealth have disappeared from the public view. It is different with the
reputation of an equally great financier who has used his ability for the
service of his country. There is no Valhalla for the mere accumulators
of money. They are fortunate if their names are forgotten, and not
remembered as illustrations of colossal selfishness.
Mavick may have been the ideal of many a self-made man, but he did not
make his fortune—he married it. And it was suspected that the
circumstances attending that marriage put him in complete control of it.
He came into possession, however, with cultivated shrewdness and tact and
large knowledge of the world, the world of diplomacy as well as of
business. And under his manipulation the vast fortune so acquired was
reported to have been doubled. It was at any rate almost fabulous in the
When the charming widow of the late Rodney Henderson, then sojourning in
Rome, placed her attractive self and her still more attractive fortune in
the hands of Mr. Thomas Mavick, United States Minister to the Court of
Italy, she attained a position in the social world which was in accord
with her ambition, and Mavick acquired the means of making the mission,
in point of comparison with the missions of the other powers at the
Italian capital, a credit to the Great Republic. The match was therefore
a brilliant one, and had a sort of national importance.
Those who knew Mrs. Mavick in the remote past, when she was the
fascinating and not definitely placed Carmen Eschelle, and who also knew
Mr. Mavick when he was the confidential agent of Rodney Henderson, knew
that their union was a convenient and material alliance, in which the
desire of each party to enjoy in freedom all the pleasures of the world
could be gratified while retaining the social consideration of the world.
Both had always been circumspect. And it may be added, for the
information of strangers, that they thoroughly knew each other, and were
participants in a knowledge that put each at disadvantage, so that their
wedded life was a permanent truce. This bond of union was not ideal, and
not the best for the creation of individual character, but it avoided an
exhibition of those public antagonisms which so grieve and disturb the
even flow of the current of society, and give occasion to so much witty
comment on the institution of marriage itself.
When, some two years after Mr. Mavick relinquished the mission to Italy
to another statesman who had done some service to the opposite party, an
heiress was born to the house of Mavick, her appearance in the world
occasioned some disappointment to those who had caused it. Mavick
naturally wished a son to inherit his name and enlarge the gold
foundation upon which its perpetuity must rest; and Mrs. Mavick as
naturally shrank from a responsibility that promised to curtail freedom
of action in the life she loved. Carmen—it was an old saying of the
danglers in the time of Henderson—was a domestic woman except in her own
However, it is one of the privileges of wealth to lighten the cares and
duties of maternity, and the enlarged household was arranged upon a basis
that did not interfere with the life of fashion and the charitable
engagements of the mother. Indeed, this adaptable woman soon found that
she had become an object of more than usual interest, by her latest
exploit, in the circles in which she moved, and her softened manner and
edifying conversation showed that she appreciated her position. Even the
McTavishes, who were inclined to be skeptical, said that Carmen was
delightful in her new role. This showed that the information Mrs. Mavick
got from the women who took care of her baby was of a kind to touch the
hearts of mothers and spinsters.
Moreover, the child was very pretty, and early had winning ways.
The nurse, before the baby was a year old, discovered in her the
cleverness of the father and the grace and fascination of the mother.
And it must be said that, if she did not excite passionate affection at
first, she enlisted paternal and maternal pride in her career.
It dawned upon both parents that a daughter might give less cause for
anxiety than a son, and that in an heiress there were possibilities of an
alliance that would give great social distinction. Considering,
therefore, all that she represented, and the settled conviction of Mrs.
Mavick that she would be the sole inheritor of the fortune, her safety
and education became objects of the greatest anxiety and precaution.
It happened that about the time Evelyn was christened there was a sort of
epidemic of stealing children, and of attempts to rob tombs of occupants
who had died rich or distinguished, in the expectation of a ransom. The
newspapers often chronicled mysterious disappearances; parents whose
names were conspicuous suffered great anxiety, and extraordinary
precautions were taken in regard to the tombs of public men. And this
was the reason that the heiress of the house of Mavick became the object
of a watchful vigilance that was probably never before exercised in a
republic, and that could only be paralleled in the case of a sole
heir-apparent of royalty.
These circumstances resulted in an interference with the laws of nature
which it must be confessed destroyed one of the most interesting studies
in heredity that was ever offered to an historian of social life. What
sort of a child had we a right to expect from Thomas Mavick, diplomatist
and operator, successor to the rights and wrongs of Rodney Henderson, and
Carmen Mavick, with the past of Carmen Eschelle and Mrs. Henderson?
Those who adhered to the strictest application of heredity, in
considering the natural development of Evelyn Mavick, sought refuge in
the physiological problem of the influence of Rodney Henderson, and
declared that something of his New England sturdiness and fundamental
veracity had been imparted to the inheritor of his great fortune.
But the visible interference took the form of Ann McDonald, a Scotch
spinster, to whom was intrusted the care of Evelyn as soon as she was
christened. It was merely a piece of good fortune that brought a person
of the qualifications of Ann McDonald into the family, for it is not to
be supposed that Mrs. Mavick had given any thought to the truth that the
important education of a child begins in its cradle, or that in selecting
a care-taker and companion who should later on be a governess she was
consulting her own desire of freedom from the duties of a mother. It was
enough for her that the applicant for the position had the highest
recommendations, that she was prepossessing in appearance, and it was
soon perceived that the guardian was truthful, faithful, vigilant, and of
an affectionate disposition and an innate refinement.
Ann McDonald was the only daughter of a clergyman of the Scotch Church,
and brought up in the literary atmosphere common in the most cultivated
Edinburgh homes. She had been accurately educated, and always with the
knowledge that her education might be her capital in life. After the
death of her mother, when she was nineteen, she had been her father's
housekeeper, and when in her twenty-fourth year her father relinquished
his life and his salary, she decided, under the advice of influential
friends, to try her fortune in America. And she never doubted that it
was a providential guidance that brought her into intimate relations with
the infant heiress. It seemed probable that a woman so attractive and so
solidly accomplished would not very long remain a governess, but in fact
her career was chosen from the moment she became interested in the
development of the mind and character of the child intrusted to her care.
It is difficult to see how our modern life would go on as well as it does
if there were not in our homes a good many such faithful souls. It
sometimes seems, in this shifting world, that about the best any of us
can do is to prepare some one else for doing something well.
Miss McDonald had a pretty comprehensive knowledge of English literature
and history, and, better perhaps than mere knowledge, a discriminating
and cultivated taste. If her religious education had twisted her view
of the fine arts, she had nevertheless a natural sympathy for the
beautiful, and she would not have been a Scotchwoman if she had not had
a love for the romances of her native land and at heart a "ballad"
sentiment for the cavaliers. If Evelyn had been educated by her
in Edinburgh, she might have been in sentiment a young Jacobite. She had
through translations a sufficient knowledge of the classics to give her
the necessary literary background, and her study of Latin had led her
into the more useful acquisition of French.
If she had been free to indulge her own taste, she would have gone far in
natural history, as was evident from her mastery of botany and her
interest in birds.
She inspired so much confidence by her good sense, clear-headedness, and
discretion, that almost from the first Evelyn was confided to her sole
care, with only the direction that the baby was never for an instant,
night or day, to be left out of the sight of a trusty attendant. The
nurse was absolutely under her orders, she selected the two maids, and no
person except the parents and the governess could admit visitors to the
nursery. This perfect organization was maintained for many years, and
though it came to be relaxed in details, it was literally true that the
heiress was never alone, and never out of the sight of some trusted
person responsible for her safety. But whatever the changes or
relaxation, in holidays, amusements, travel, or education, the person who
formed her mind was the one who had taught her to obey, to put words
together into language, and to speak the truth, from infancy.
It is not necessary to consider Ann McDonald as a paragon. She was
simply an intelligent, disciplined woman, with a strong sense of duty.
If she had married and gone about the ordinary duties of life at the age
of twenty-four, she would probably have been in no marked way
distinguished among women. Her own development was largely due to the
responsibility that was put upon her in the training of another person.
In this sense it was true that she had learned as much as she had
imparted. And in nothing was this more evident than in the range of her
literary taste and judgment. Whatever risks, whatever latitude she might
have been disposed to take with regard to her own mind, she would not
take as to the mind of another, and as a consequence her own standards
rose to meet the situation. That is to say, in a conscientious selection
of only the best for Evelyn, she became more fastidious as to the food
for her own mind. Or, to put it in still another way, in regard to
character and culture generally, the growth of Miss McDonald could be
measured by that of Evelyn.
When, from the time Evelyn was seven years old, it became necessary in
her education to call in special tutors in the languages and in
mathematics, and in certain arts that are generally called
accomplishments, Miss McDonald was always present when the
lessons were given, so that she maintained her ascendency and her
influence in the girl's mind. It was this inseparable companionship, at
least in all affairs of the mind, that gave to this educational
experiment an exceptional interest to students of psychology.
Nothing could be more interesting than to come into contact with a mind
that from infancy onward had dwelt only upon what is noblest in
literature, and from which had been excluded all that is enervating and
degrading. A remarkable illustration of this is the familiar case of
Helen Keller, whose acquisitions, by reason of her blindness and
deafness, were limited to what was selected for her, and that mainly by
one person, and she was therefore for a long time shielded from a
knowledge of the evil side of life. Yet all vital literature is so close
to life, and so full of its passion and peril, that it supplies all the
necessary aliment for the growth of a sound, discriminating mind; and
that knowledge of the world, as knowledge of evil is euphemistically
called, can be safely left out of a good education. This may be admitted
without going into the discussion whether good principles and standards
in literature and morals are a sufficient equipment for the perils of
This experiment, of course, was limited in Evelyn's case. She came in
contact with a great deal of life. Her little world was fairly
representative, for it contained her father, her mother, her governess,
the maids and the servants, and occasional visitors, whom she saw freely
as she grew older. The interesting fact was that she was obliged to
judge this world according to the standards of literature, morals, and
manners that had been implanted in her mainly by the influence of one
person. The important part of this experiment of partial exclusion, in
which she was never alone' an experiment undertaken solely for her safety
and not for her training-was seen in her when she became conscious of its
abnormal character, and perceived that she was always under surveillance.
It might have made her exceedingly morbid, aside from its effect of
paralyzing her self-confidence and power of initiation, had it not been
for the exceptionally strong and cheerful nature of her companion. A
position more hateful, even to a person not specially socially inclined,
cannot be imagined than that of always being watched, and never having
any assured privacy. And under such a tutelage and dependence, how in
any event could she be able to take care of herself? What weapons had
this heiress of a great fortune with which to defend herself? What sort
of a girl had this treatment during seventeen years produced?
To the private apartment of Mr. Mavick, in the evening of the second
eventful day, where, over his after-dinner cigar, he was amusing himself
with a French novel, enters, after a little warning tap, the mistress of
the house, for, what was a rare occurrence, a little family chat.
"So you didn't horsewhip and you didn't prosecute. You preferred to
"Yes," said Mavick, too much pleased with the result to be belligerent,
"I let the newspaper do the wriggling."
"Oh, my dear, I can trust you for that. Have you any idea how it got
hold of the details?"
"No; you don't think McDonald—"
"McDonald! I'd as soon suspect myself. So would you."
"Well, everybody knew it already, for that matter. I only wonder that
some newspaper didn't get on to it before. What did Evelyn say?"
"Nothing more than what you heard at dinner. She thought it amusing that
there should be such a crowd to gaze at the house, simply because a
picture of it had appeared in a newspaper. She thought her father must
be a very important personage. I didn't undeceive her. At times, you
know, dear, I think so myself."
"Yes, I've noticed that," said Mavick, with a good-natured laugh, in
which Carmen joined, "and those times usually coincide with the times
that you want something specially."
"You ought to be ashamed to take me up that way. I just wanted to talk
about the coming-out reception. You know I had come over to your opinion
that seventeen was perhaps better than eighteen, considering Evelyn's
maturity. When I was seventeen I was just as good as I am now."
"I don't doubt it," said Mavick, with another laugh.
"But don't you see this affair upsets all our arrangements? It's very
"I don't see it exactly. By-the-way, what do you think of the escape
suggested by the Spectrum, in the assertion that you and Evelyn had
arranged to go to Europe? The steamer sails tomorrow."
"Think!" exclaimed Carmen. "Do you think I am going to be run, as you
call it, by the newspapers? They run everything else. I'm not politics,
I'm not an institution, I'm not even a revolution. No, I thank you. It
answers my purpose for them to say we have gone."
"I suppose you can keep indoors a few days. As to the reception, I had
arranged my business for it. I may be in Mexico or Honolulu the
"Well, we can't have it now. You see that."
"Carmen, I don't care a rap what the public thinks or says. The child's
got to face the world some time, and look out for herself. I fancy she
will not like it as much as you did."
"Very likely. Perhaps I liked it because I had to fight it. Evelyn
never will do that."
"She hasn't the least idea what the world is like."
"Don't you be too sure of that, my dear; you don't understand yet what a
woman feels and knows. You think she only sees and thinks what she is
told. The conceit of men is most amusing about this. Evelyn is deeper
than you think. The discrimination of that child sometimes positively
frightens me—how she sees into things. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if
she actually knew her father and mother!"
"Then she beats me," said Mavick, with another laugh, "and I've been at
it a long time. Carmen, just for fun, tell me a little about your early
"Well"—there was a Madonna-like smile on her lips, and she put out the
toe of her slender foot and appeared to study it for a moment—"
I was intended to be a nun."
"Spanish or French?"
"Just a plain nun. But mamma would not hear of it. Mamma was just a bit
"I never should have suspected it," said Mavick, with equal gravity.
"But how did you live in those early days, way back there?"
"Oh!" and Carmen looked up with the most innocent, open-eyed expression,
"we lived on our income."
"Naturally. We all try to do that." The tone in Mavick's voice showed
that he gave it up.
"But, of course," and Carmen was lively again, "it's much nicer to have a
big income that's certain than a small one that is uncertain."
"It would seem so."
"Ah, deary me, it's such a world! Don't you think, dear, that we have
had enough domestic notoriety for one year?"
"Quite. It would do for several."
"And we will put it off a year?"
"Arrange as you like." And Mavick stretched up his arms, half yawned,
and took up another cigar.
"It will be such a relief to McDonald. She insisted it was too soon."
And Carmen whirled out of her chair, went behind her husband, lifted with
her delicate fingers a lock of grayish hair on his forehead, deposited
the lightest kiss there—"Nobody in the world knows how good you are
except me," and was gone.
And the rich man, who had gained everything he wanted in life except
happiness, lighted his cigar and sought refuge in a tale of modern life,
that was, however, too much like his own history to be consoling.
It must not be supposed from what she said that Mrs. Mavick stood in fear
of her daughter, but it was only natural that for a woman of the world
the daily contact of a pure mind should be at times inconvenient. This
pure mind was an awful touchstone of conduct, and there was a fear that
Evelyn's ignorance of life would prevent her from making the proper
allowances. In her affectionate and trusting nature, which suspected
little evil anywhere, there was no doubt that her father and mother
had her entire confidence and love. But the likelihood was that she
would not be pliant. Under Miss McDonald's influence she had somewhat
abstract notions of what is right and wrong, and she saw no reason
why these should not be applied in all cases. What her mother would
have called policy and reasonable concessions she would have given
different names. For getting on in the world, this state of mind has its
disadvantages, and in the opinion of practical men, like Mavick, it was
necessary to know good and evil. But it was the girl's power of
discernment that bothered her mother, who used often to wonder where the
child came from.
On the other hand, it must not be supposed that the singular training of
Evelyn had absolutely destroyed her inherited tendencies, or made her as
she was growing into womanhood anything but a very real woman, with the
reserves, the weaknesses, the coquetries, the defenses which are the
charm of her sex. Nor was she so ignorant of life as such a guarded
personality might be thought. Her very wide range of reading had
liberalized her mind, and given her a much wider outlook upon the
struggles and passions and failures and misery of life than many another
girl of her age had gained by her limited personal experience. Those who
hold the theory that experience is the only guide are right as a matter
of fact, since every soul seems determined to try for itself and not to
accept the accumulated wisdom of literature or of experienced advisers;
but those who come safely out of their experiences are generally sound by
principle which has been instilled in youth. But it is useless to
moralize. Only the event could show whether such an abnormal training as
Evelyn had received was wise.
When Mrs. Mavick went to her daughter's apartments she found Evelyn
reading aloud and Miss McDonald at work on an elaborate piece of
"How industrious! What a rebuke to me!"
"I don't see, mamma, how we could be doing less; I've only an audience of
one, and she is wasting her time."
"Well, carissima, it is settled. It's off for a year."
"The reception? Why so?"
"Your father cannot arrange it. He has too much on hand this season, and
may be away."
"There, McDonald, we've got a reprieve," and Evelyn gave a sigh of
The Scotch woman smiled, and only said, "Then I shall have time to finish
Evelyn jumped up, threw herself into her mother's lap, and began to
smooth her hair and pet her. "I'm awfully glad. I'd ever so much rather
stay in than come out. Yes, dear little mother."
"Yes." And the girl pulled her mother from her chair, and made her stand
up to measure. "See, McDonald, almost an inch taller than mamma, and
when I do my hair on top!"
"And see, mamma"—the girl was pirouetting on the floor—"I can do those
steps you do. Isn't it Spanish?"
"Rather Spanish-American, I guess. This is the way."
Evelyn clapped her hands. "Isn't that lovely!"
"You are only a little brownie, after all." Her mother was holding her
at arm's—length and studying her critically, wondering if she would ever
The girl was slender, but not tall. Her figure had her mother's grace,
but not its suggestion of yielding suppleness. She was an undoubted
brunette—complexion olive, hair very dark, almost black except in the
sunlight, and low on her forehead-chin a little strong, and nose piquant
to say the least of it. Certainly features not regular nor classic. The
mouth, larger than her mother's, had full lips, the upper one short, and
admirable curves, strong in repose, but fascinating when she smiled. A
face not handsome, but interesting. And the eyes made you hesitate to
say she was not handsome, for they were large, of a dark hazel and
changeable, eyes that flashed with merriment, or fell into sadness under
the long eyelashes; and it would not be safe to say that they could not
blaze with indignation. Not a face to go wild about, but when you felt
her character through it, a face very winning in its dark virgin purity.
"I do wonder where she came from?" Mrs. Mavick was saying to herself, as
she threw herself upon a couch in her own room and took up the latest
Celia Howard had been, in a way, Philip's inspiration ever since the days
when they quarreled and made up on the banks of the Deer field. And a
fortunate thing for him it was that in his callow years there was a woman
in whom he could confide. Her sympathy was everything, even if her
advice was not always followed. In the years of student life and
preparation they had not often met, but they were constant and
painstaking correspondents. It was to her that he gave the running
chronicle of his life, and poured out his heart and aspirations.
Unconsciously he was going to school to a woman, perhaps the most
important part of his education. For, though in this way he might never
hope to understand woman, he was getting most valuable knowledge of
As a guide, Philip was not long in discovering that Celia was somewhat
uncertain. She kept before him a very high ideal; she expected him to be
distinguished and successful, but, her means varied from time to time.
Now she would have him take one path and now another. And Philip learned
to read in this varying advice the changes in her own experience. There
was a time when she hoped he would be a great scholar: there was no
position so noble as that of a university professor or president. Then
she turned short round and extolled the business life: get money, get a
position, and then you can study, write books, do anything you like and
be independent. Then came a time—this was her last year in college
—when science seemed the only thing. That was really a benefit to
mankind: create something, push discovery, dispel ignorance.
"Why, Phil, if you could get people to understand about ventilation, the
necessity of pure air, you would deserve a monument. And, besides—this
is an appeal to your lower nature—science is now the thing that pays."
Theology she never considered; that was just now too uncertain in its
direction. Law she had finally approved; it was still respectable; it
was a very good waiting-ground for many opportunities, and it did not
absolutely bar him from literature, for which she perceived he had a
Philip wondered if Celia was not thinking of the law for herself.
She had tried teaching, she had devoted herself for a time to work in a
College Settlement, she had learned stenography, she had talked of
learning telegraphy, she had been interested in women's clubs, in a civic
club, in the political education of women, and was now a professor of
economics in a girl's college.
It finally dawned upon Philip, who was plodding along, man fashion, in
one of the old ruts, feeling his way, like a true American, into the
career that best suited him, that Celia might be a type of the awakened
American woman, who does not know exactly what she wants.
To be sure, she wants everything. She has recently come into an open
place, and she is distracted by the many opportunities. She has no
sooner taken up one than she sees another that seems better, or more
important in the development of her sex, and she flies to that.
But nothing, long, seems the best thing. Perhaps men are in the way,
monopolizing all the best things. Celia had never made a suggestion of
this kind, but Philip thought she was typical of the women who push
individualism so far as never to take a dual view of life.
"I have just been," Celia wrote in one of her letters, when she was an
active club woman, "out West to a convention of the Federation of Women's
Clubs. Such a striking collection of noble, independent women!
Handsome, lots of them, and dressed—oh, my friend, dress is still a part
of it! So different from a man's convention! Cranks? Yes, a few left
over. It was a fine, inspiring meeting. But, honestly, I could not
exactly make out what they were federating about, and what they were
going to do when they got federated. It sort of came over me,
I am such a weak sister, that there is such a lot of work done in this
world with no object except the doing of it."
A more recent letter:—"Do you remember Aunt Hepsy, who used to keep the
little thread-and-needle and candy shop in Rivervale? Such a dear,
sweet, contented old soul! Always a smile and a good word for every
customer. I can see her now, picking out the biggest piece of candy in
the dish that she could afford to give for a little fellow's cent. It
never came over me until lately how much good that old woman did in the
world. I remember what a comfort it was to go and talk with her. Well,
I am getting into a frame of mind to want to be an Aunt Hepsy. There is
so much sawdust in everything—No, I'm not low-spirited. I'm just
philosophical—I've a mind to write a life of Aunt Hepsy, and let the
world see what a real useful life is."
And here is a passage from the latest:—"What an interesting story your
friend—I hope he isn't you friend, for I don't half like him—has made
out of that Mavick girl! If I were the girl's mother I should want to
roast him over the coals. Is there any truth in it?
"Of course I read it, as everybody did and read the crawl out, and looked
for more. So it is partly our fault, but what a shame it is, the
invasion of family life! Do tell me, if you happen to see her—the girl
—driving in the Park or anywhere—of course you never will—what she
looks like. I should like to see an unsophisticated millionaire-ess!
But it is an awfully interesting problem, invented or not I'm pretty deep
in psychology these days, and I'd give anything to come in contact with
that girl. You would just see a woman, and you wouldn't know. I'd see a
soul. Dear me, if I'd only had the chance of that Scotch woman! Don't
you see, if we could only get to really know one mind and soul, we should
know it all. I mean scientifically. I know what you are thinking, that
all women have that chance. What you think is impertinent—to the
Indeed, the story of Evelyn interested everybody. It was taken up
seriously in the country regions. It absorbed New York gossip for two
days, and then another topic took possession of the mercurial city; but
it was the sort of event to take possession of the country mind. New
York millionaires get more than their share of attention in the country
press at all times, but this romance became the subject of household talk
and church and sewing-circle gossip, and all the women were eager for
more details, and speculated endlessly about the possible character and
career of the girl.
Alice wrote Philip from Rivervale that her aunt Patience was very much
excited by it. "'The poor thing,' she said, 'always to have somebody
poking round, seeing every blessed thing you do or don't do; it would
drive me crazy. There is that comfort in not having anything much—you
have yourself. You tell Philip that I hope he doesn't go there often.
I've no objection to his being kind to the poor thing when they meet, and
doing neighborly things, but I do hope he won't get mixed up with that
set.' It is very amusing," Alice continued, "to hear Patience
soliloquize about it and construct the whole drama.
"But you cannot say, Philip, that you are not warned (!) and you know that
Patience is almost a prophet in the way she has of putting things
together. Celia was here recently looking after the little house that
has been rented ever since the death of her mother. I never saw her look
so well and handsome, and yet there was a sort of air about her as if she
had been in public a good deal and was quite capable of taking care of
herself. But she was that way when she was little.
"I think she is a good friend of yours. Well, Phil, if you do ever happen
to see that Evelyn in the opera, or anywhere, tell me how she looks and
what she has on—if you can."
The story had not specially interested Philip, except as it was connected
with Brad's newspaper prospects, but letters, like those referred to,
received from time to time, began to arouse a personal interest. Of
course merely a psychological interest, though the talk here and there at
dinner-tables stimulated his desire, at least, to see the subject of
them. But in this respect he was to be gratified, in the usual way
things desired happen in life—that is, by taking pains to bring them
When Mr. Brad came back from his vacation his manner had somewhat
changed. He had the air of a person who stands on firm ground.
He felt that he was a personage. He betrayed this in a certain
deliberation of speech, as if any remark from him now might be important.
In a way he felt himself related to public affairs.
In short, he had exchanged the curiosity of the reporter for the
omniscience of the editor. And for a time Philip was restrained from
intruding the subject of the Mavick sensation. However, one day after
dinner he ventured:
"I see, Mr. Brad, that your hit still attracts attention." Mr. Brad
looked inquiringly blank.
I mean about the millionaire heiress. It has excited a wide interest."
"Ah, that! Yes, it gave me a chance," replied Brad, who was thinking
only of himself.
"I've had several letters about it from the country."
"Yes? Well, I suppose," said Brad, modestly, "that a little country
notoriety doesn't hurt a person."
Philip did not tell his interlocutor that, so far as he knew, nobody in
the country had ever heard the name of Olin Brad, or knew there was such
a person in existence. But he went on:
"Certainly. And, besides, there is a great curiosity to know about the
girl. Did you ever see her?"
"Only in public. I don't know Mavick personally, and for reasons," and
Mr. Brad laughed in a superior manner. "It's easy enough to see her."
"Watch out for a Wagner night, and go to the opera. You'll see where
Mavick's box is in the bill. She is pretty sure to be there, and her
mother. There is nothing special about her; but her mother is still a
very fascinating woman, I can tell you. You'll find her sure on a
'Carmen' night, but not so sure of the girl."
On this suggestion Philip promptly acted. The extra expense of an
orchestra seat he put down to his duty to keep his family informed of
anything that interested them in the city. It was a "Siegfried" night,
and a full house. To describe it all would be very interesting to Alice.
The Mavick box was empty until the overture was half through. Then
appeared a gentleman who looked as if he were performing a public duty,
a lady who looked as if she were receiving a public welcome, and seated
between them a dark, slender girl, who looked as if she did not see the
public at all, but only the orchestra.
Behind them, in the shadow, a middle-aged woman in plainer attire.
It must be the Scotch governess. Mrs. Mavick had her eyes
everywhere about the house, and was graciously bowing to her friends.
Mr. Mavick coolly and unsympathetically regarded the house, quite
conscious of it, but as if he were a little bored. You could not see him
without being aware that he was thinking of other things, probably of
far-reaching schemes. People always used to say of Mavick, when he was
young and a clerk in a Washington bureau, that he looked omniscient. At
least the imagination of spectators invested him with a golden hue, and
regarded him through the roseate atmosphere that surrounds a
many-millioned man. The girl had her eyes always on the orchestra, and
was waiting for the opening of the world that lay behind the
drop-curtain. Philip noticed that all the evening Mrs. Mavick paid very
little attention to the stage, except when the rest of the house was so
dark that she could distinguish little in it.
Fortunately for Philip, in his character of country reporter, the Mavick
box was near the stage, and he could very well see what was going on in
it, without wholly distracting his attention from Wagner's sometimes very
dimly illuminated creation.
There are faces and figures that compel universal attention and
admiration. Commonly there is one woman in a theatre at whom all glances
are leveled. It is a mystery why one face makes only an individual
appeal, and an appeal much stronger than that of one universally admired.
The house certainly concerned itself very little about the shy and dark
heiress in the Mavick box, having with regard to her only a moment's
curiosity. But the face instantly took hold of Philip. He found it more
interesting to read the play in her face than on the stage. He seemed
instantly to have established a chain of personal sympathy with her. So
intense was his regard that it seemed as if she must, if there is
anything in the telepathic theory of the interchange of feeling, have
been conscious of it. That she was, however, unconscious of any
influence reaching her except from the stage was perfectly evident. She
was absorbed in the drama, even when the drama was almost lost in
darkness, and only an occasional grunting ejaculation gave evidence that
there was at least animal life responsive to the continual pleading,
suggesting, inspiring strains of the orchestra. In the semi-gloom and
groping of the under-world, it would seem that the girl felt that
mystery of life which the instruments were trying to interpret.
At any rate, Philip could see that she was rapt away into that other
world of the past, to a practical unconsciousness of her immediate
surroundings. Was it the music or the poetic idea that held her?
Perhaps only the latter, for it is Wagner's gift to reach by his
creations those who have little technical knowledge of music. At any
rate, she was absorbed, and so perfectly was the progress of the drama
repeated in her face that Philip, always with the help of the orchestra,
could trace it there.
But presently something more was evident to this sympathetic student of
her face. She was not merely discovering the poet's world, she was
finding out herself. As the drama unfolded, Philip was more interested
in this phase than in the observation of her enjoyment and appreciation.
To see her eyes sparkle and her cheeks glow with enthusiasm during the
sword-song was one thing, but it was quite another when Siegfried began
his idyl, that nature and bird song of the awakening of the whole being
to the passion of love. Then it was that Evelyn's face had a look of
surprise, of pain, of profound disturbance; it was suffused with blushes,
coming and going in passionate emotion; the eyes no longer blazed, but
were softened in a melting tenderness of sympathy, and her whole person
seemed to be carried into the stream of the great life passion. When it
ceased she sank back in her seat, and blushed still more, as if in fear
that some one had discovered her secret.
Afterwards, when Philip had an opportunity of knowing Evelyn Mavick, and
knowing her very well, and to some extent having her confidence, he used
to say to himself that he had little to learn—the soul of the woman was
perfectly revealed to him that night of "Siegfried."
As the curtain went down, Mrs. Mavick, whose attention had not been
specially given to the artists before, was clapping her hands in a great
state of excitement.
"Why don't you applaud, child?"
"Oh, mother," was all the girl could say, with heaving breast and
All winter long that face seemed to get between Philip and his work. It
was an inspiration to his pen when it ran in the way of literature, but a
distinct damage to progress in his profession. He had seen Evelyn again,
more than once, at the opera, and twice been excited by a passing glimpse
of her on a crisp, sunny afternoon in the Mavick carriage in the
Park-always the same bright, eager face. So vividly personal was the
influence upon him that it seemed impossible that she should not be aware
of it—impossible that she could not know there was such a person in the
world as Philip Burnett.
Fortunately youth can create its own world. Between the secluded
daughter of millions and the law clerk was a great gulf, but this did not
prevent Evelyn's face, and, in moments of vanity, Evelyn herself, from
belonging to Philip's world. He would have denied—we have a habit of
lying to ourselves quite as much as to others—that he ever dreamed of
possessing her, but nevertheless she entered into his thoughts and his
future in a very curious way. If he saw himself a successful lawyer, her
image appeared beside him. If his story should gain the public
attention, and his occasional essays come to be talked of, it was
Evelyn's interest and approval that he caught himself thinking about.
And he had a conviction that she was one to be much more interested in
him as a man of letters than as a lawyer. This might be true. In
Philip's story, which was very slowly maturing, the heroine fell in love
with a young man simply for himself, and regardless of the fact that he
was poor and had his career to make. But he knew that if his novel ever
got published the critics would call it a romance, and not a transcript
of real life. Had not women ceased to be romantic and ceased to indulge
in vagaries of affection?
Was it that Philip was too irresolute to cut either law or literature,
and go in, single-minded, for a fortune of some kind, and a place?
Or was it merely that he had confidence in the winning character of his
own qualities and was biding his time? If it was a question of making
himself acceptable to a woman—say a woman like Evelyn—was it not
belittling to his own nature to plan to win her by what he could make
rather than by what he was?
Probably the vision he had of Evelyn counted for very little in his
halting decision. "Why don't you put her into a novel?" asked Mr. Brad
one evening. The suggestion was a shock. Philip conveyed the idea
pretty plainly that he hadn't got so low as that yet. "Ah, you fellows
think you must make your own material. You are higher-toned than old
Dante." The fact was that Philip was not really halting. Every day he
was less and less in love with the law as it was practiced, and, courting
reputation, he would much rather be a great author than a great lawyer.
But he kept such thoughts to himself. He had inherited a very good stock
of common-sense. Apparently he devoted himself to his office work, and
about the occupation of his leisure hours no one was in his confidence
except Celia, and now and then, when he got something into print, Alice.
Professedly Celia was his critic, but really she was the necessary
appreciator, for probably most writers would come to a standstill if
there was no sympathetic soul to whom they could communicate, while they
were fresh, the teeming fancies of their brains.
The winter wore along without any incident worth recording, but still
fruitful for the future, as Philip fondly hoped. And one day chance
threw in his way another sensation. Late in the afternoon of a spring
day he was sent from the office to Mavick's house with a bundle of papers
to be examined and signed.
"You will be pretty sure to find him," said Mr. Sharp, "at home about
six. Wait till you do see him. The papers must be signed and go to
Washington by the night mail."
Mr. Mavick was in his study, and received Philip very civilly, as the
messenger of his lawyers, and was soon busy in examining the documents,
flinging now and then a short question to Philip, who sat at the table
Suddenly there was a tap at the door, and, not waiting for a summons, a
young girl entered, and stopped after a couple of steps.
"Oh, I didn't know—"
"What is it, dear?" said Mr. Mavick, looking up a moment, and then down
at the papers.
"Why, about the coachman's baby. I thought perhaps—" She had a paper in
her hand, and advanced towards the table, and then stopped, seeing that
her father was not alone.
Philip rose involuntarily. Mr. Mavick looked up quickly. "Yes,
presently. I've just now got a little business with Mr. Burnett."
It was not an introduction. But for an instant the eyes of the young
people met. It seemed to Philip that it was a recognition. Certainly
the full, sweet eyes were bent on him for the second she stood there,
before turning away and leaving the room. And she looked just as true
and sweet as Philip dreamed she would look at home. He sat in a kind of
maze for the quarter of an hour while Mavick was affixing his signature
and giving some directions. He heard all the directions, and carried
away the papers, but he also carried away something else unknown to the
broker. After all, he found himself reflecting, as he walked down the
avenue, the practice of the law has its good moments!
What was there in this trivial incident that so magnified it in Philip's
mind, day after day? Was it that he began to feel that he had
established a personal relation with Evelyn because she had seen him?
Nothing had really happened. Perhaps she had not heard his name, perhaps
she did not carry the faintest image of him out of the room with her.
Philip had read in romances of love at first sight, and he had personal
experience of it. Commonly, in romances, the woman gives no sign of it,
does not admit it to herself, denies it in her words and in her conduct,
and never owns it until the final surrender. "When was the first moment
you began to love me, dear?" "Why, the first moment, that day; didn't
you know it then?" This we are led to believe is common experience with
the shy and secretive sex. It is enough, in a thousand reported cases,
that he passed her window on horseback, and happened to look her way.
But with such a look! The mischief was done. But this foundation was
too slight for Philip to build such a hope on.
Looking back, we like to trace great results to insignificant, momentary
incidents—a glance, a word, that turned the current of a life. There
was a definite moment when the thought came to Alexander that he would
conquer the world! Probably there was no such moment. The great
Alexander was restless, and at no initial instant did he conceive his
scheme of conquest. Nor was it one event that set him in motion. We
confound events with causes. It happened on such a day. Yes, but it
might have happened on another. But if Philip had not been sent on that
errand to Mavick probably Evelyn would never have met him. What nonsense
this is, and what an unheroic character it makes Philip! Is it
supposable that, with such a romance as he had developed about the girl,
he would not some time have come near her, even if she had been locked up
with all the bars and bolts of a safety deposit?
The incident of this momentary meeting was, however, of great
consequence. There is no such feeder of love as the imagination.
And fortunate it was for Philip that his romance was left to grow in the
wonder-working process of his own mind. At first there had been merely a
curiosity in regard to a person whose history and education had been
peculiar. Then the sight of her had raised a strange tumult in his
breast, and his fancy began to play about her image, seen only at a
distance and not many times, until his imagination built up a being of
surpassing loveliness, and endowed with all the attractions that the
poets in all ages have given to the sex that inspires them. But this
sort of creation in the mind becomes vague, and related to literature
only, unless it is sustained by some reality. Even Petrarch must
occasionally see Laura at the church door, and dwell upon the veiled
dreamer that passed and perhaps paused a moment to regard him with sad
eyes. Philip, no doubt, nursed a genuine passion, which grew into an
exquisite ideal in the brooding of a poetic mind, but it might in time
have evaporated into thin air, remaining only as an emotional and
educational experience. But this moment in Mr. Mavick's library had
given a solid body to his imaginations, and a more definite turn to his
thought of her.
If, in some ordinary social chance, Philip had encountered the heiress,
without this previous wonderworking of his imagination in regard to her,
the probability is that he would have seen nothing especially to
distinguish her from the other girls of her age and newness in social
experience. Certainly the thought that she was the possessor of
uncounted millions would have been, on his side, an insuperable barrier
to any advance. But the imagination works wonders truly, and Philip saw
the woman and not the heiress. She had become now a distinct
personality; to be desired above all things on earth, and that he should
see her again he had no doubt.
This thought filled his mind, and even when he was not conscious of it
gave a sort of color to life, refined his perceptions, and gave him
almost sensuous delight in the masterpieces of poetry which had formerly
appealed only to his intellectual appreciation of beauty.
He had not yet come to a desire to share his secret with any confidant,
but preferred to be much alone and muse on it, creating a world which was
without evil, without doubt, undisturbed by criticism. In this so real
dream it was the daily office work that seemed unreal, and the company
and gossip of his club a kind of vain show. He began to frequent the
picture-galleries, where there was at least an attempt to express
sentiment, and to take long walks to the confines of the city-confines
fringed with all the tender suggestions of the opening spring. Even the
monotonous streets which he walked were illumined in his eyes, glorified
by the fullness of life and achievement. "Yes," he said again and again,
as he stood on the Heights, in view of the river, the green wall of
Jersey and the great metropolis spread away to the ocean gate, "it is a
beautiful city! And the critics say it is commonplace and vulgar." Dear
dreamer, it is a beautiful city, and for one reason and another a million
of people who have homes there think so. But take out of it one person,
and it would have for you no more interest than any other huge assembly
of ugly houses. How, in a lover's eyes, the woman can transfigure a
city, a landscape, a country!
Celia had come up to town for the spring exhibitions, and was lodging at
the Woman's Club. Naturally Philip saw much of her, indeed gave her all
his time that the office did not demand. Her company was always for him
a keen delight, an excitement, and in its way a rest. For though she
always criticised, she did not nag, and just because she made no demands,
nor laid any claims on him, nor ever reproached him for want of devotion,
her society was delightful and never dull. They dined together at the
Woman's Club, they experimented on the theatres, they visited the
galleries and the picture-shops, they took little excursions into the
suburbs and came back impressed with the general cheapness and
shabbiness, and they talked—talked about all they saw, all they had
read, and something of what they thought. What was wanting to make this
charming camaraderie perfect? Only one thing.
It may have occurred to Philip that Celia had not sufficient respect for
his opinions; she regarded them simply as opinions, not as his.
One afternoon, in the Metropolitan Picture-Gallery, Philip had been
expressing enthusiasm for some paintings that Celia thought more
sentimental than artistic, and this reminded her that he was getting into
a general way of admiring everything.
"You didn't use, Philip, to care so much for pictures."
"Oh, I've been seeing more."
"But you don't say you like that? Look at the drawing."
"Well, it tells the story."
"A story is nothing; it's the way it's told. This is not well told."
"It pleases me. Look at that girl."
"Yes, she is domestic. I admit that. But I'm not sure I do not prefer
an impressionistic girl, whom you can't half see, to such a thorough
bread-and-butter miss as this."
"Which would you rather live with?"
"I'm not obliged to live with either. In fact, I'd rather live with
myself. If it's art, I want art; if it's cooking and sewing, I want
cooking and sewing. If the artist knew enough, he'd paint a woman
instead of a cook."
"Then you don't care for real life?"
"Real life! There is no such thing. You are demonstrating that. You
transform this uninteresting piece of domesticity into an ideal woman,
ennobling her surroundings. She doesn't do it. She is level with them."
"It would be a dreary world if we didn't idealize things."
"So it would. And that is what I complain of in such 'art' as this. I
don't know what has got into you, Phil. I never saw you so exuberant.
You are pleased with everything. Have you had a rise in the office?
Have you finished your novel?"
"Neither. No rise. No novel. But Tweedle is getting friendly. Threw
an extra job in my way the other day. Do you think I'd better offer my
novel, when it is done, to Tweedle?"
"Well, one of our clients is one of the great publishing firms, and
Tweedle often dines with the publisher."
"For shame, Phil!"
Philip laughed. "At any rate, that is no meaner than a suggestion of
Brad's. He says if I will just weave into it a lot of line scenery, and
set my people traveling on the great trunk, stopping off now and then at
an attractive branch, the interested railroads would gladly print it and
scatter it all over the country."
"No doubt," said Celia, sinking down upon a convenient seat. "I begin to
feel as if there were no protection for anything. And, Phil, that great
monster of a Mavick, who is eating up the country, isn't he a client
"Occasionally only. A man like Mavick has his own lawyers and judges."
"Did you ever see him?"
"And that daughter of his, about whom such a fuss was made, I suppose you
never met her?"
"Oh, as I wrote you, at the opera; saw her in her box."
"Oh, she's rather a little thing; rather dark, I told you that; seems
devoted to music."
"And you didn't tell what she wore."
"Why, what they all wear. Something light and rather fluffy."
"Just like a man. Is she pretty?"
"Ye-e-s; has that effect. You'd notice her eyes." If Philip had been
frank he would have answered,
"I don't know. She's simply adorable," and Celia would have understood
all about it.
"And probably doesn't know anything. Yes, highly educated? I heard
that. But I'm getting tired of 'highly educated'; I see so many of them.
I've been making them now for years. Perhaps I'm one of them. And where
am I? Don't interrupt. I tell you it is a relief to come across a
sweet, womanly ignoramus. What church does she go to?"
"That Mavick girl."
"St. Thomas', I believe."
"That's good—that's devotional. I suppose you go there too, being
brought up a Congregationalist?"
"At vespers, sometimes. But, Celia, what is the matter with you?
I thought you didn't care—didn't care to belong to anything?"
"I? I belong to everything. Didn't I write you reams about my studies
in psychology? I've come to one conclusion. There are only two persons
in the world who stand on a solid foundation, the Roman Catholic and the
Agnostic. The Roman Catholic knows everything, the Agnostic doesn't know
Philip was never certain when the girl was bantering him; nor, when she
was in earnest, how long she would remain in that mind and mood. So he
"The truth is, Celia, that you know too much to be either. You are what
they call emancipated."
"Emancipated!" And Celia sat up energetically, as if she were now really
interested in the conversation. "Become the slave of myself instead of
the slave of somebody else! That's the most hateful thing to be,
emancipated. I never knew a woman who said she was emancipated who
wasn't in some ridiculous folly or another. Now, Phil, I'm going to tell
you something. I can tell you. You know I've been striving to have a
career, to get out of myself somehow, and have a career for myself.
Well, today—mind, I don't say tomorrow"—(and there was a queer little
smile on her lips)—"I think I will just try to be good to people and
things in general, in a human way."
"And give up education?"
"No, no. I get my living by education, just as you do, or hope to do, by
law or by letters; it's all the same. But wait. I haven't finished what
I was going to say. The more I go into psychology, trying to find out
about my mind and mind generally, the more mysterious everything is. Do
you know, Phil, that I'm getting into the supernatural? You can't help
running into it. For me, I am not side-tracked by any of the nonsense
about magnetism and telepathy and mind-reading and other psychic
imponderabilities. Isn't it queer that the further we go into science
the deeper we go into mystery?
"Now, don't be shocked, I mean it reverently, just as an illustration. Do
you think any one knows really anything more about the operation in the
world of electricity than he does about the operation of the Holy Ghost?
And yet people talk about science as if it were something they had made
"No, I've talked enough. We are in this world and not in some other, and
I have to make my living. Let's go into the other room and see the old
masters. They, at least, knew how to paint—to paint passion and
character; some of them could paint soul. And then, Phil, I shall be
hungry. Talking about the mind always makes me hungry."
Philip was always welcome at his uncle's house in Rivervale. It was, of
course, his home during his college life, and since then he was always
expected for his yearly holiday. The women of the house made much of
him, waited on him, deferred to him, petted him, with a flattering
mingling of tenderness to a little boy and the respect due to a man who
had gone into the world. Even Mr. Maitland condescended to a sort of
equality in engaging Philip in conversation about the state of the
country and the prospects of business in New York.
It was July. When Philip went to sleep at night—he was in the front
chamber reserved for guests—the loud murmur of the Deerfield was in his
ears, like a current bearing him away into sweet sleep and dreams in a
land of pleasant adventures. Only in youth come such dreams. Later on
the sophisticated mind, left to its own guidance in the night, wanders
amid the complexities of life, calling up in confusion scenes long
forgotten or repented of, images only registered by a sub-conscious
process, dreams to perplex, irritate, and excite.
In the morning the same continuous murmur seemed to awake him into a
peaceful world. Through the open window came in the scents of summer,
the freshness of a new day. How sweet and light was the air! It was
indeed the height of summer. The corn, not yet tasseled, stood in green
flexible ranks, moved by the early breeze. In the river-meadows haying
had just begun. Fields of timothy and clover, yellowing to ripeness,
took on a fresh bloom from the dew, and there was an odor of new-mown
grass from the sections where the scythes had been. He heard the call
of the crow from the hill, the melody of the bobolink along the
meadow-brook; indeed, the birds of all sorts were astir, skimming along
the ground or rising to the sky, keeping watch especially over the garden
and the fruit-trees, carrying food to their nests, or teaching their
young broods to fly and to chirp the songs of summer. And from the
woodshed the shrill note of the scythe under the action of the
grindstone. No such vivid realization of summer as that.
Philip stole out the unused front door without disturbing the family.
Whither? Where would a boy be likely to go the first thing? To the
barn, the great cavernous barn, its huge doors now wide open, the stalls
vacant, the mows empty, the sunlight sifting in through the high shadowy
spaces. How much his life had been in that barn! How he had stifled and
scrambled mowing hay in those lofts! On the floor he had hulled heaps of
corn, thrashed oats with a flail—a noble occupation—and many a rainy
day had played there with girls and boys who could not now exactly
describe the games or well recall what exciting fun they were. There
were the racks where he put the fodder for cattle and horses, and there
was the cutting-machine for the hay and straw and for slicing the frozen
turnips on cold winter mornings.
In the barn-yard were the hens, just as usual, walking with measured
step, scratching and picking in the muck, darting suddenly to one side
with an elevated wing, clucking, chattering, jabbering endlessly about
nothing. They did not seem to mind him as he stood in the open door.
But the rooster, in his oriental iridescent plumage, jumped upon a
fence-post and crowed defiantly, in warning that this was his preserve.
They seemed like the same hens, yet Philip knew they were all strangers;
all the hens and flaunting roosters he knew had long ago gone to
Thanksgiving. The hen is, or should be, an annual. It is never made a
pet. It forms no attachments. Man is no better acquainted with the hen,
as a being, than he was when the first chicken was hatched. Its business
is to live a brief chicken life, lay, and be eaten. And this reminded
Philip that his real occupation was hunting hens' eggs. And this he did,
in the mows, in the stalls, under the floor-planks, in every hidden nook.
The hen's instinct is to be orderly, and have a secluded nest of her own,
and bring up a family. But in such a communistic body it is a wise hen
who knows her own chicken. Nobody denies to the hen maternal instincts or
domestic proclivities, but what an ill example is a hen community!
And then Philip climbed up the hill, through the old grass-plot and the
orchard, to the rocks and the forest edge, and the great view.
It had more meaning to him than when he was a boy, and it was more
beautiful. In a certain peaceful charm, he had seen nothing anywhere in
the world like it. Partly this was because his boyish impressions,
the first fresh impressions of the visible world, came back to him; but
surely it was very beautiful. More experienced travelers than Philip
felt its unique charm.
When he descended, Alice was waiting to breakfast with him. Mrs.
Maitland declared, with an approving smile on her placid, aging face,
that he was the same good-for-nothing boy. But Alice said, as she sat
down to the little table with Philip, "It is different, mother, with us
city folks." They were in the middle room, and the windows opened to the
west upon the river-meadows and the wooded hills beyond, and through one
a tall rose-bush was trying to thrust its fragrant bloom.
What a dainty breakfast! Alice flushed with pleasure. It was so good of
him to come to them. Had he slept well? Did it seem like home at all?
Philip's face showed that it was home without the need of saying so.
Such coffee-yes, a real aroma of the berry! Just a little more, would he
have? And as Alice raised the silver pitcher, there was a deep dimple in
her sweet cheek. How happy she was! And then the butter, so fresh and
cool, and the delicious eggs—by the way, he had left a hatful in the
kitchen as he came in. Alice explained that she did not make the eggs.
And then there was the journey, the heat in the city, the grateful
sight of the Deerfield, the splendid morning, the old barn, the
watering-trough, the view from the hill everything just as it used to be.
"Dear Phil, it is so nice to have you here," and there were tears in
Alice's eyes, she was so happy.
After breakfast Philip strolled down the country road through the
village. How familiar was every step of the way!—the old houses jutting
out at the turns in the road; the glimpse of the river beyond the little
meadow where Captain Rice was killed; the spring under the ledge over
which the snap-dragon grew; the dilapidated ranks of fence smothered in
vines and fireweeds; the cottages, with flower-pots in front; the stores,
with low verandas ornamented with boxes and barrels; the academy in its
green on the hill; the old bridge over which the circus elephant dared
not walk; the new and the old churches, with rival steeples; and, not
familiar, the new inn.
And he knew everybody, young and old, at doorways, in the fields or
gardens, and had for every one a hail and a greeting. How he enjoyed it
all, and his self-consciousness added to his pleasure, as he swung along
in his well-fitting city clothes, broad-shouldered and erect—it is
astonishing how much a tailor can do for a man who responds to his
efforts. It is a pleasure to come across such a hero as this in real
life, and not have to invent him, as the saying is, out of the whole
cloth. Philip enjoyed the world, and he enjoyed himself, because it was
not quite his old self, the farmer's boy going on an errand. There must
be knowledge all along the street that he was in the great law office of
Hunt, Sharp & Tweedle. And, besides, Philip's name must be known to all
the readers of magazines in the town as a writer, a name in more than one
list of "contributors." That was fame. Translated, however, into
country comprehension it was something like this, if he could have heard
the comments after he had passed by:
"Yes, that's Phil Burnett, sure enough; but I'd hardly know him; spruced
up mightily. I wonder what he's at?"
"I heard he was down in New York trying to law it. I heard he's been
writin' some for newspapers. Accordin' to his looks, must pay a durn
sight better'n farmin'."
"Well, I always said that boy wa'n't no skeezics."
Almost the first question Philip asked Alice on his return was about the
new inn, the Peacock Inn.
"There seemed a good deal of stir about it as I passed."
"Why, I forgot to tell you about it. It's the great excitement.
Rivervale is getting known. The Mavicks are there. I hear they've taken
pretty much the whole of it."
"Yes, the New York Mavicks, that you wrote us about, that were in the
"How long have they been there?"
"A week. There is Mrs. Mavick and her daughter, and the governess, and
two maids, and a young fellow in uniform—yes, livery—and a coachman in
the same, and a stableful of horses and carriages. It upset the village
like a circus. And they say there's a French chef in white cap and
apron, who comes to the side-door and jabbers to the small boys like
"How did it come about?"
"Naturally, I guess; a city family wanting a quiet place for summer in
the country. But you will laugh. Patience first discovered it. One
day, sitting at the window, she saw a two-horse buggy driven by the
landlord of the Peacock, and a gentleman by his side. 'Well, I wonder
who that is-city man certainly. And wherever is he going? May be a
railroad man. But there is nothing the matter with the railroad.
Shouldn't wonder if he is going to see the tunnel. If it was just that,
the landlord wouldn't drive him; he'd send a man. And they keep stopping
and pointing and looking round. No, it isn't the railroad, it's scenery.
And what can a man like that want with scenery?
"He does look like a railroad man. It may be tunnel, but it isn't all
tunnel. When the team came back in the afternoon, Patience was again at
the window; she had heard meantime from Jabez that a city man was
stopping at the Peacock. There he goes, and looking round more than
ever. They've stopped by the bridge and the landlord is pointing out.
It's not tunnel, it's scenery. I tell you, he is a city boarder.
Not that he cares about scenery; it's for his family. City families are
always trying to find a grand new place, and he has heard of Rivervale
and the Peacock Inn. Maybe the tunnel had something to do with it."
"Why, it's like second sight."
"No, Patience says it's just judgment. And she generally hits it.
At any rate, the family is here."
The explanation of their being there—it seemed to Philip providential
—was very simple. Mr. Mavick had plans about the Hoosac Tunnel that
required him to look at it. Mrs. Mavick took advantage of this to
commission him to look at a little inn in a retired village of which she
had heard, and to report on scenery and climate. Warm days and cool
nights and simplicity was her idea. Mavick reported that the place
seemed made for the family.
Evelyn was not yet out, but she was very nearly out, and after the late
notoriety Mrs. Mavick dreaded the regular Newport season. And, in the
mood of the moment, she was tired of the Newport palace. She always said
that she liked simplicity—a common failing among people who are not
compelled to observe it. Perhaps she thought she was really fond of
rural life and country ways. As she herself said,
"If you have a summer cottage at Newport or Lenox, it is necessary to go
off somewhere and rest." And then it would be good for Evelyn to live
out-of-doors and see the real country, and, as for herself, as she looked
in the mirror, "I shall drink milk and go to bed early. Henderson used
to say that a month in New Hampshire made another woman of me."
Oh, to find a spot where we could be undisturbed, alone and unknown.
That was the program. But Carmen simply could not be anywhere content if
she were unnoticed. It was not so easy to give up daily luxury, and
habits of ease at the expense of attendants, or the ostentation which had
become a second nature. Therefore the "establishment" went along with
her to Rivervale, and the shy, modest little woman, who had dropped down
into the country simplicity that she so dearly loved, greatly enjoyed the
sensation that her coming produced. It needed no effort on her part to
produce the sensation. The carriage, and coachman and footman in livery,
would have been sufficient; and then the idea of one family being rich
enough to take the whole hotel!
The liveries, the foreign cook in his queer cap and apron, and all the
goings-on at the Peacock were the inexhaustible topic of talk in every
farmhouse for ten miles around. Rivervale was a self-respecting town,
and principled against luxury and self-indulgence, and judged with a just
and severe judgment the world of fashion and of the grasping, wicked
millionaires. And now this world with all its vain show had plumped down
in the midst of them. Those who had traveled and seen the ostentation of
cities smiled a superior smile at the curiosity and wonder exhibited, but
even those who had never seen the like were cautious about letting their
surprise appear. Especially in the presence of fashion and wealth would
the independent American citizen straighten his backbone, reassuring
himself that he was as good as anybody. To be sure, people flew to
windows when the elegant equipage dashed by, and everybody found frequent
occasion to drive or walk past the Peacock Inn. It was only the novelty
of it, in a place that rather lacked novelties.
And yet there prevailed in the community a vague sense that millions were
there, and a curious expectation of some individual benefit from them.
All the young berry-pickers were unusually active, and poured berries
into the kitchen door of the inn. There was not a housewife who was not
a little more anxious about the product of her churning; not a farmer who
did not think that perhaps cord-wood would rise, that there would be a
better demand for garden "sass," and more market for chickens, and who
did not regard with more interest his promising colt. When he drove to
the village his rig was less shabby and slovenly in appearance. The
young fellows who prided themselves upon a neat buggy and a fast horse
made their turnouts shine, and dashed past the inn with a self-conscious
air. Even the stores began to "slick up" and arrange their miscellaneous
notions more attractively, and one of them boldly put in a window a
placard, "Latest New York Style." When the family went to the
Congregational church on Sunday not the slightest notice was taken of
them—though every woman could have told to the last detail what the
ladies wore—but some of the worshipers were for the first time a little
nervous about the performance of the choir, and the deacons heard the
sermon chiefly with reference to what a city visitor would think of it.
Mrs. Mavick was quite equal to the situation. In the church she was
devout, in the village she was affable and friendly. She made
acquaintances right and left, and took a simple interest in everybody and
everything. She was on easy terms with the landlord, who declared,
"There is a woman with no nonsense in her." She chatted with the farmers
who stopped at the inn door, she bought things at the stores that she did
not want, and she speedily discovered Aunt Hepsy, and loved to sit with
her in the little shop and pick up the traditions and the gossip of the
neighborhood. And she did not confine her angelic visits to the village.
On one pretense and another she made her way into every farmhouse that
took her fancy, penetrated the kitchens and dairies, and got, as she told
McDonald, into the inner life of the people.
She must see the grave of Captain Moses Rice. And on this legitimate
errand she one day carried her fluttering attractiveness and patchouly
into the Maitland house. Mrs. Maitland was civil, but no more. Alice
was civil but reserved—a great many people, she said, came to see the
graves in the old orchard. But Mrs. Mavick was not a bit abashed. She
expressed herself delighted with everything. It was such a rest, such a
perfectly lovely country, and everybody was so hospitable! And Aunt
Hepsy had so interested her in the history of the region! But it was
difficult to get her talk responded to.
However, when Miss Patience came in she made better headway. She had
heard so much of Miss Maitland's apartments. She herself was interested
in decorations. She had tried to do something in her New York home. But
there were so many ideas and theories, and it was so hard to be natural
and artificial at the same time. She had no doubt she could get some new
ideas from Miss Maitland. Would it be asking too much to see her
apartments? She really felt like a stranger nowhere in Rivervale.
Patience was only too delighted, and took her into her museum of natural
history, art, religion, and vegetation.
"She might have gone to the grave-yard without coming into the house,"
"Oh, well," said her mother, "I think she is very amusing. You shouldn't
be so exclusive, Alice."
"Mother, I do believe she paints."
With Patience, Mrs. Mavick felt on surer ground.
"How curious, how very curious and delightful it is! Such knowledge of
nature, such art in arrangement."
"Oh, I just put them up," said Patience, "as I thought they ought by
rights to be put up."
"That's it. And you have combined everything here. You have given me an
idea. In our house we have a Japan room, and an Indian room, and a
Chinese room, and an Otaheite, and I don't know what—Egyptian, Greek,
and not one American, not a really American. That is, according to
American ideas, for you have everything in these two rooms. I shall
write to Mr. Mavick." (Mr. Mavick never received the letter.)
When she came away it was with a profusion of thanks, and repeated
invitations to drop in at the inn. Alice accompanied her to the first
stone that marked the threshold of the side door, and was bowing her
away, when Mr. Philip swung over the fence by the wood-shed, with a
shot-gun on his shoulder, and swinging in his left hand a gray squirrel
by its bushy tail, and was immediately in front of the group.
"Ah!" involuntarily from Mrs. Mavick. An introduction was inevitable.
"My cousin, Mr. Burnett, Mrs. Mavick." Philip raised his cap and bowed.
"A hunter, I see."
"Hardly, madam. In vacations I like to walk in the woods with a gun."
"Then you are not—"
"No," said Philip, smiling, "unfortunately I cannot do this all the
"You are of the city, then?"
"With the firm of Hunt, Sharp & Tweedle."
"Ah, my husband knows them, I believe."
"I have seen Mr. Mavick," and Philip bowed again.
Mrs. Mavick had an eye for a fine young fellow—she never denied that
—and Philip's manly figure and easy air were not lost on her. Presently
"We are here for a good part of the summer. Mr. Mavick's business keeps
him in the city and we have to poke about a good deal alone. Now, Miss
Alice, I am so glad I have met your cousin. Perhaps he will show us some
of the interesting places and the beauties of the country he knows so
well." And she looked sideways at Philip.
"Yes, he knows the country," said Alice, without committing herself.
"I am sure I shall be delighted to do what I can for you whenever you
need my services," said Philip, who had reasons for wishing to know the
Mavicks which Alice did not share.
"That's so good of you! Excursions, picnics oh, we will arrange.
You must come and help me arrange. And I hope," with a smile to Alice,
"you can persuade your cousin to join us sometimes."
Alice bowed, they all bowed, and Mrs. Mavick said au revoir, and went
swinging her parasol down the driveway. Then she turned and called back,
"This is the first long walk I have taken." And then she said to
herself, "Rather stiff, except the young man and the queer old maid. But
what a pretty girl the younger must have been ten years ago! These
Mrs. Mavick thought herself fortunate in finding, in the social
wilderness of Rivervale, such a presentable young gentleman as Philip.
She had persuaded herself that she greatly enjoyed her simple intercourse
with the inhabitants, and she would have said that she was in deep
sympathy with their lives. No doubt in New York she would relate her
summer adventures as something very amusing, but for the moment this
adaptable woman seemed to herself in a very ingenuous, receptive, and
sympathetic state of mind. Still, there was a limit to the entertaining
power of Aunt Hepsy, which was perceived when she began to repeat her
annals of the neighborhood, and to bring forward again and again the
little nuggets of wisdom which she had evolved in the small circle of her
experience. And similarly Mrs. Mavick became aware that there was a
monotony in the ideas brought forward by the farmers and the farmers'
wives, whether in the kitchen or the best room, which she lighted up by
her gracious presence, that it was possible to be tired of the most
interesting "peculiarities" when once their novelty was exhausted, and
that so-called "characters" in the country fail to satisfy the
requirements of intimate or long companionship. Their world is too
The fact that Philip was a native of the place, and so belonged to a
world that was remote from her own, made her free to seek his aid in
making the summer pass agreeably without incurring any risk of social
obligations. Besides, when she had seen more of him, she experienced a
good deal of pleasure in his company. His foreign travel, his reading,
his life in the city, offered many points of mutual interest, and it was
a relief to her to get out of the narrow range of topics in the
provincial thought, and to have her allusions understood. Philip, on his
part, was not slow to see this, or to perceive that in the higher
intellectual ranges, the serious topics which occupied the attention of
the few cultivated people in the neighborhood, Mrs. Mavick had little
interest or understanding, though there was nothing she did not profess
an interest in when occasion required. Philip was not of a suspicious
nature, and it may not have occurred to him that Mrs. Mavick was simply
amusing herself, as she would do with any agreeable man, young or old,
who fell in her way, and would continue to do so if she reached the age
On the contrary, it never seemed to occur to Mrs. Mavick, who was
generally suspicious, that Philip was making himself agreeable to the
mother of Evelyn. In her thought Evelyn was still a child, in
leading-strings, and would be till she was formally launched, and the
social gulf between the great heiress and the law clerk and poor writer
was simply impassable. All of which goes to show that the most astute
women are not always the wisest.
To one person in Rivervale the coming of Mrs. Mavick and her train of
worldliness was unwelcome. It disturbed the peaceful simplicity of the
village, and it was likely to cloud her pleasure in Philip's visit. She
felt that Mrs. Mavick was taking him away from the sweet serenity of
their life, and that in everything she said or did there was an element
of unrest and excitement. She was careful, however, not to show any of
this apprehension to Philip; she showed it only by an increased
affectionate interest in him and his concerns, and in trying to make the
old home more dear to him. Mrs. Mavick was loud in her praise of Alice
to her cousin, and sought to win her confidence, but she was, after all,
a little shy of her, and probably would have characterized her to a city
friend as a sort of virgin in the Bible.
It so happened that day after day went by without giving Philip anything
more than passing glimpses of Evelyn, when she was driving with her
mother or her governess. Yet Rivervale never seemed so ravishingly
beautiful to all his senses. Surely it was possessed by a spirit of
romance and poetry, which he had never perceived before, and he wasted a
good deal of time in gazing on the river, on the gracious meadows, on the
graceful contours of the hills. When he was a lad, in the tree-top,
there had been something stimulating and almost heroic in the scene,
which awakened his ambition. Now it was the idyllic beauty that took
possession of him, transformed as it was by the presence of a woman,
that supreme interpreter of nature to a youth. And yet scarcely a
woman—rather a vision of a girl, impressible still to all the influences
of such a scene and to the most delicate suggestions of unfolding life.
Probably he did not analyze this feeling, but it was Evelyn he was
thinking of when he admired the landscape, breathed with exhilaration the
fresh air, and watched the white clouds sail along the blue vault; and he
knew that if she were suddenly to leave the valley all the light would go
out of it and the scene would be flat to his eyes and torturing to his
Mrs. Mavick he encountered continually in the village. He had taken many
little strolls with her to this or that pretty point of view, they had
exchanged reminiscences of foreign travel, and had dipped a little into
current popular books, so that they had come to be on easy, friendly
terms. Philip's courtesy and deference, and a certain wit and humor of
suggestion applied to ordinary things, put him more and more on a good
footing with her, so much so that she declared to McDonald that really
young Burnett was a genuine "find" in the country.
It seems a pity that the important events in our lives are so
commonplace. Philip's meeting with Evelyn, so long thought of and
dramatized in his mind, was not in the least as he had imagined it. When
one morning he went to the Peacock Inn at the summons of Mrs. Mavick, in
order to lay out a plan of campaign, he found Evelyn and her governess
seated on the veranda, with their books. It was Evelyn who rose first
and came forward, without, so far as Philip could see, the least
embarrassment of recognition.
"Mr. Burnett? Mamma will be here in a moment. This is our friend, Miss
The girl's morning costume was very simple, and in her short
walking-skirt she seemed younger even than in the city. She spoke and
moved—Philip noticed that—without the least self-consciousness, and
she had a way of looking her interlocutor frankly in the eyes, or, as
Philip expressed it, "flashing" upon him.
Philip bowed to the governess, and, still standing and waving his hand
towards the river, hoped they liked Rivervale, and then added:
"I see you can read in the country."
"We pretend to," said Evelyn, who had resumed her seat and indicated a
chair for Philip, "but the singing of that river, and the bobolinks in
the meadow, and the light on the hills are almost too much for us. Don't
you think, McDonald, it is like Scotland?"
"It would be," the governess replied, "if it rained when it didn't mist,
and there were moors and heather, and—"
"Oh, I didn't mean all that, but a feeling like that, sweet and retired
and sort of lonesome?"
"Perhaps Miss McDonald means," said Philip, "that there isn't much to
feel here except what you see."
Miss McDonald looked sharply around at Philip and remarked: "Yes, that's
just it. It is very lovely, like almost any outdoors, if you will give
yourself up to it. You remember, Evelyn, how fascinating the Arizona
desert was? But there was a romantic addition to the colored desolation
because the Spaniards and the Jesuits had been there. Now this place
lacks traditions, legends, romance. You have to bring your romance with
"And that is the reason you read here?"
"One reason. Especially romances. This charming scenery and the summer
sounds of running water and birds make a nice accompaniment to the
"But mamma says," Evelyn interrupted, "there is plenty of legend here,
and tradition and flavor, Indians and early settlers, and even Aunt
"Well, I confess they don't appeal to me. And as for Indians, Parkman's
descriptions of those savages made me squirm. And I don't believe there
was much more romance about the early settlers than about their
descendants. Isn't it true, Mr. Burnett, that you must have a human
element to make any country interesting?"
Philip glanced at Evelyn, whose bright face was kindled with interest in
the discussion, and thought, "Good heavens! if there is not human
interest here, I don't know where to look for it," but he only said:
"And why don't you writers do something about it? It is literature that
does it, either in Scotland or Judea."
"Well," said Philip, stoutly, "they are doing something. I could name
half a dozen localities, even sections of country, that travelers visit
with curiosity just because authors have thrown that glamour over them.
But it is hard to create something out of nothing. It needs time."
"And genius," Miss McDonald interjected.
"Of course, but it took time to transform a Highland sheep-stealer into a
Miss McDonald laughed. "That is true. Take a modern instance. Suppose
Evangeline had lived in this valley! Or some simple Gretchen about whose
simple story all the world is in sympathy!"
"Or," thought Philip, "some Evelyn." But he replied, looking at Evelyn,
"I believe that any American community usually resents being made the
scene of a romance, especially if it is localized by any approach to
"Isn't that the fault mostly of the writer, who vulgarizes his material?"
"The realists say no. They say that people dislike to see themselves as
"Very likely," said Miss McDonald; "no one sees himself as others see
him, and probably the poet who expressed the desire to do so was simply
attitudinizing.—[Robert Burns: "Oh! wha gift the Giftie gie us; to see
o'rselves as others see us." Ed.]—By the way, Mr. Burnett, you know
there is one place of sentiment, religious to be sure, not far from here.
I hope we can go some day to see the home of the 'Mountain Miller.'"
"Yes, I know the place. It is beyond the river, up that steep road
running into the sky, in the next adjoining hill town. I doubt if you
find any one there who lays it much to heart. But you can see the mill."
"What is the Mountain Miller?" asked Evelyn.
"A tract that, when I was a girl," answered Miss McDonald, "used to be
bound up with 'The Dairyman's Daughter' and 'The Shepherd of Salisbury
Plain.' It was the first thing that interested me in New England."
"Well," said Philip, "it isn't much. Just a tract. But it was written
by Parson Halleck, a great minister and a sort of Pope in this region for
fifty years. It is, so far as I know, the only thing of his that
This tractarian movement was interrupted by the arrival of Mrs. Mavick.
"Good-morning, Mr. Burnett. I've been down to see Jenkins about his
picnic wagon. Carries six, besides the driver and my man, and the
hampers. So, you see, Miss Alice will have to go. We couldn't go
rattling along half empty. I'll go up and see her this afternoon.
So, that's settled. Now about the time and place. You are the director.
Let's sit down and plan it out. It looks like good weather for a week."
"Miss McDonald says she wants to see the Mountain Miller," said Philip,
with a smile.
"What's that? A monument like your Pulpit Rock?"
"No, a tract about a miller."
"Ah, something religious. I never heard of it. Well, perhaps we had
better begin with something secular, and work round to that."
So an excursion was arranged for the next day. And as Philip walked
home, thinking how brilliant Evelyn had been in their little talk,
he began to dramatize the excursion.
All excursions are much alike, exhilarating in the outset, rarely up to
expectation in the object, wearisome in the return; but, nevertheless,
delightful in the memory, especially if attended with some hardship or
slight disaster. To be free, in the open air, and for a day
unconventional and irresponsible, is the sufficient justification of a
country picnic; but its common attraction is in the opportunity for
bringing young persons of the opposite sex into natural and unrestrained
relations. To Philip it was the first time in his life that a picnic had
ever seemed a defensible means of getting rid of a day.
The two persons to whom this excursion was most novel and exciting were
Evelyn and the elder maiden, Alice, who sat together and speedily
developed a sympathy with each other in the enjoyment of the country, and
in a similar poetic temperament, very shy on the part of Alice and very
frank on the part of Evelyn. The whole wild scene along the river was
quite as novel to Alice as to the city girl, because, although she was
familiar with every mile of it and had driven through it a hundred times,
she had never in all her life before, of purpose, gone to see it. No
doubt she had felt its wildness and beauty, but now for the first time
she looked at it as scenery, as she might have looked at a picture in a
gallery. And in the contagion of Evelyn's outspoken enthusiasm she was
no longer afraid to give timid expression to the latent poetry in her own
soul. And daring to express this, she seemed to herself for the first
time to realize vividly the nobility and grace of the landscape. And yet
there was a difference in the appreciation of the two. More widely read
and traveled, Evelyn's imagination took a wider range of comparison and
of admiration, she was appealed to by the large features and the
grandiose effects; while Alice noted more the tenderer aspects, the
wayside flowers and bushes, the exotic-looking plants, which she longed
to domesticate in what might be called the Sunday garden on the terraces
in front of her house. For it is in these little cultivated places by
the door-step, places of dreaming in the summer hours after meeting and
at sunset, that the New England maiden experiences something of that
tender religious sentiment which was not much fed in the barrenness of
the Congregational meeting-house.
The Pulpit Rock, in the rough pasture land of Zoar, was reached by a
somewhat tedious climb from the lonely farmhouse, in a sheltered nook,
through straggling woods and gray pastures. It was a vast exposed
surface rising at a slight angle out of the grass and undergrowth. Along
the upper side was a thin line of bushes, and, pushing these aside, the
observer was always startled at the unexpected scene—as it were the
raising of a curtain upon another world. He stood upon the edge of a
sheer precipice of a thousand feet, and looked down upon a green
amphitheatre through the bottom of which the brawling river, an amber
thread in the summer foliage, seemed trying to get an outlet from this
wilderness cul de sac. From the edge of this precipice the first impulse
was to start back in surprise and dread, but presently the observer
became reassured of its stability, and became fascinated by the lonesome
wildness of the scene.
"Why is it called Pulpit Rock?" asked Mrs. Mavick; "I see no pulpit."
"I suppose," said Philip, "the name was naturally suggested to a
religious community, whose poetic images are mainly Biblical, and who
thought it an advantageous place for a preacher to stand, looking down
upon a vast congregation in the amphitheatre."
"So it is," exclaimed Evelyn. "I can see John the Baptist standing here
now, and hear his voice crying in the wilderness."
"Very likely," said Mrs. Mavick, persisting in her doubt, "of course in
Zoar. Anywhere else in the world it would be called the Lover's Leap."
"That is odd," said Alice; "there was a party of college girls came here
two years ago and made up a story about it which was printed, how an
Indian maiden pursued by a white man ran up this hill as if she had been
a deer, disappeared from his sight through these bushes, and took the
fatal leap. They called it the Indian Maiden's Rock. But it didn't
take. It will always be Pulpit Rock."
"So you see, Miss McDonald," said Philip, "that writers cannot graft
legends on the old stock."
"That depends upon the writer," returned the Scotch woman, shortly. "I
didn't see the schoolgirl's essay."
When the luncheon was disposed of, with the usual adaptation to nomadic
conditions, and the usual merriment and freedom of personal comment, and
the wit that seems so brilliant in the open air and so flat in print,
Mrs. Mavick declared that she was tired by the long climb and the unusual
"Perhaps it is the Pulpit," she said, "but I am sleepy; and if you young
people will amuse yourselves, I will take a nap under that tree."
Presently, also, Alice and the governess withdrew to the edge of the
precipice, and Evelyn and Philip were left to the burden of entertaining
each other. It might have been an embarrassing situation but for the
fact that all the rest of the party were in sight, that the girl had not
the least self-consciousness, having had no experience to teach her that
there was anything to be timid about in one situation more than in
another, and that Philip was so absolutely content to be near Evelyn
and hear her voice that there was room for nothing else in his thought.
But rather to his surprise, Evelyn made no talk about the situation
or the day, but began at once with something in her mind, a directness
of mental operation that he found was characteristic of her.
"It seems to me, Mr. Burnett, that there is something of what Miss
McDonald regards as the lack of legend and romance in this region in our
"I fancy everybody feels that who travels much elsewhere. You mean life
seems a little thin, as the critics say?"
"Yes, lacks color and background. But, you see, I have no experience.
Perhaps it's owing to Miss McDonald. I cannot get the plaids and tartans
and Jacobins and castles and what-not out of my head. Our landscapes are
"But don't you think we are putting history and association into them
"Yes, I know, but that takes a long time. I mean now. Take this lovely
valley and region, how easily it could be made romantic."
"Not so very easy, I fancy."
"Well, I was thinking about it last night." And then, as if she saw a
clear connection between this and what she was going to say, "Miss
McDonald says, Mr. Burnett, that you are a writer."
"I? Why, I'm, I'm—a lawyer."
"Of course, that's business. That reminds me of what papa said once:
'It's lucky there is so much law, or half the world, including the
lawyers, wouldn't have anything to do, trying to get around it and evade
it.' And you won't mind my repeating it—I was a mite of a girl—I said,
'Isn't that rather sophistical, papa?' And mamma put me down'—It seems
to me, child, you are using pretty big words.'"
They both laughed. But suddenly Evelyn added:
"Why don't you do it?"
"Write a story about it—what Miss McDonald calls 'invest the region with
The appeal was very direct, and it was enforced by those wonderful eyes
that seemed to Philip to discern his powers, as he felt them, and his
ambitions, and to express absolute confidence in him. His vanity was
touched in its most susceptible spot. Here seemed to be a woman, nay, a
soul, who understood him, understood him even better than Celia, the
lifelong confidante. It is a fatal moment for men and women, that in
which they feel the subtle flattery of being understood by one of the
opposite sex. Philip's estimation of himself rose 'pari passu' with his
recognition of the discernment and intellectual quality of the frank and
fascinating girl who seemed to believe in him. But he restrained himself
and only asked, after a moment of apparent reflection upon the general
"Well, Miss Mavick, you have been here some time. Have you discovered
any material for such use?"
"Why, perhaps not, and I might not know what to do with it if I had. But
perhaps you don't mean what I mean. I mean something fitting the
setting. Not the domestic novel. Miss McDonald says we are vulgarized
in all our ideals by so much domesticity. She says that Jennie Deans
would have been just an ordinary, commonplace girl but for Walter Scott."
"Then you want a romance?"
"No. I don't know exactly what I do want. But I know it when I see it."
And Evelyn looked down and appeared to be studying her delicate little
hands, interlacing her taper, ivory fingers—but Philip knew she did not
see them—and then looked up in his face again and said:
"I'll tell you. This morning as we came up I was talking all the way
with your cousin. It took some time to break the ice, but gradually she
began to say things, half stories, half poetic, not out of books; things
that, if said with assurance, in the city would be called wit. And then
I began to see her emotional side, her pure imagination, such a
refinement of appreciation and justice—I think there is an immovable
basis of justice in her nature—and charity, and I think she'd be heroic,
with all her gentleness, if occasion offered."
"I see," said Philip, rather lightly, "that you improved your time in
finding out what a rare creature Alice is. But," and this more gravely,
"it would surprise her that you have found it out."
"I believe you. I fancy she has not the least idea what her qualities
are, or her capacities of doing or of suffering, and the world will never
know—that is the point-unless some genius comes along and reveals them."
"Why, through a tragedy, a drama, a story, in which she acts out her
whole self. Some act it out in society. She never will. Such sweetness
and strength and passion—yes, I have no doubt, passion under all the
reserve! I feel it but I cannot describe it; I haven't imagination to
make you see what I feel."
"You come very near it," said Philip, with a smile. And after a moment
the girl broke out again:
"Materials! You writers go searching all round for materials, just as
painters do, fit for your genius."
"But don't you know that the hardest thing to do is the obvious, the
thing close to you?"
"I dare say. But you won't mind? It is just an illustration. I went
the other day with mother to Alice's house. She was so sort of distant
and reserved that I couldn't know her in the least as I know her now.
And there was the rigid Puritan, her father, representing the Old
Testament; and her placid mother, with all the spirit of the New
Testament; and then that dear old maiden aunt, representing I don't know
what, maybe a blind attempt through nature and art to escape out of
Puritanism; and the typical old frame farmhouse—why, here is material
for the sweetest, most pathetic idyl. Yes, the Story of Alice. In
another generation people would come long distances to see the valley
where Alice lived, and her spirit would pervade it."
There could be but one end to such a burst of enthusiasm, and both
laughed and felt a relief in a merriment that was, after all,
sympathetic. But Evelyn was a persistent creature, and presently she
turned to Philip, again with those appealing eyes.
"Now, why don't you do it?"
Philip hesitated a moment and betrayed some embarrassment under the
questioning of the truthful eyes.
"I've a good mind to tell you. I have—I am writing something."
"Not that exactly. I couldn't, don't you see, betray and use my own
relatives in that way."
"Yes, I see that."
"It isn't much. I cannot tell how it will come out. I tell you—I don't
mean that I have any right to ask you to keep it as a secret of mine, but
it is this way: If a writer gives away his imagination, his idea, before
it is fixed in form on paper, he seems to let the air of all the world
upon it and it disappears, and isn't quite his as it was before to grow
in his own mind."
"I can understand that," Evelyn replied.
"Well—" and Philip found himself launched. It is so easy to talk about
one's self to a sympathetic listener. He told Evelyn a little about his
life, and how the valley used to seem to him as a boy, and how it seemed
now that he had had experience of other places and people, and how his
studies and reading had enabled him to see things in their proper
relations, and how, finally, gradually the idea for a story in this
setting had developed in his mind. And then he sketched in outline
the story as he had developed it, and left the misty outlines of its
possibilities to the imagination.
The girl listened with absorbing interest, and looked the approval which
she did not put in words. Perhaps she knew that a bud will never come to
flower if you pull it in pieces. When Philip had finished he had a
momentary regret for this burst of confidence, which he had never given
to any one else. But in the light of Evelyn's quick approval and
understanding, it was only momentary. Perhaps neither of them thought
what a dangerous game this is, for two young souls to thus unbosom
themselves to each other.
A call from Mrs. Mavick brought them to their feet. It was time to go.
Evelyn simply said:
"I think the valley, Mr. Burnett, looks a little different already."
As they drove home along the murmuring river through the golden sunset,
the party were mostly silent. Only Mrs. Mavick and Philip, who sat
together, kept up a lively chatter, lively because Philip was elated with
the event of the day, and because the nap under the beech-tree in the
open air had brightened the wits of one of the cleverest women Philip had
If the valley did seem different to Evelyn, probably she did not think so
far as to own to herself whether this was owing to the outline of the
story, which ran in her mind, or to the presence of the young author.
Alice and Philip were set down at the farmhouse, and the company parted
with mutual enthusiasm over the success of the excursion.
"She is a much more interesting girl than I thought," Alice admitted.
"Not a bit fashionable."
"And she likes you."
"Yes, your ears would have burned."
"Well, I am glad, for I think she is sincere."
"And I can tell you another thing. I had a long talk while you were
taking your siesta. She takes an abstract view of things, judging the
right and wrong of them, without reference to conventionalities or the
practical obstacles to carrying out her ideas, as if she had been
educated by reading and not by society. It is very interesting."
"Philip," and Alice laid her hand on his shoulder, "don't let it be too
When Philip said that Evelyn was educated in the world of literature and
not in the conflicts of life he had hit the key-note of her condition at
the moment she was coming into the world and would have to act for
herself. The more he saw of her the more was he impressed with the fact
that her discrimination, it might almost be called divination, and her
judgment were based upon the best and most vital products of the human
mind. A selection had evidently been made for her, until she had
acquired the taste, or the habit rather, of choosing only the best for
herself. Very little of the trash of literature, or the ignoble—that is
to say, the ignoble view of life—had come into her mind. Consequently
she judged the world as she came to know it by high standards. And her
mind was singularly pure and free from vulgar images.
It might be supposed that this sort of education would have its
disadvantages. The word is firmly fixed in the idea that both for its
pleasure and profit it is necessary to know good and evil. Ignorance of
the evil in the world is, however, not to be predicated of those who are
familiar only with the great masterpieces of literature, for if they are
masterpieces, little or great, they exhibit human nature in all its
aspects. And, further than this, it ought to be demonstrable, a priori,
that a mind fed on the best and not confused by the weak and diluted, or
corrupted by images of the essentially vulgar and vile, would be morally
healthy and best fitted to cope with the social problems of life. The
Testaments reveal about everything that is known about human nature, but
such is their clear, high spirit, and their quality, that no one ever
traced mental degeneration or low taste in literature, or want of
virility in judgment, to familiarity with them. On the contrary, the
most vigorous intellects have acknowledged their supreme indebtedness to
It is not likely that Philip made any such elaborate analysis of the girl
with whom he was in love, or attempted, except by a general reference to
the method of her training, to account for the purity of her mind and her
vigorous discernment. He was in love with her more subtle and hidden
personality, with the girl just becoming a woman, with the mysterious sex
that is the inspiration of most of the poetry and a good part of the
heroism in the world. And he would have been in love with her, let her
education have been what it might. He was in love before he heard her
speak. And whatever she would say was bound to have a quality of
interest and attraction that could be exercised by no other lips. It
might be argued—a priori again, for the world is bound to go on in its
own way—that there would be fewer marriages if the illusion of the sex
did not suffice for the time to hide intellectual poverty, and, what is
worse, ignobleness of disposition.
It was doubtless fortunate for this particular lovemaking, though it did
not seem so to Philip, that it was very much obstructed by lack of
opportunities, and that it was not impaired in its lustre by too much
familiarity. In truth, Philip would have said that he saw very little of
Evelyn, because he never saw her absolutely alone. To be sure he was
much in her presence, a welcome member of the group that liked to idle on
the veranda of the inn, and in the frequent excursions, in which Philip
seemed to be the companion of Mrs. Mavick rather than of her daughter.
But she was never absent from his thought, his imagination was wholly
captive to her image, and the passion grew in these hours of absence
until she became an indispensable associate in all that he was or could
ever hope to be. Alice, who discerned very clearly Mrs. Mavick and her
ambition, was troubled by Philip's absorption and the cruel
disappointment in store for him. To her he was still the little boy, and
all her tenderness for him was stirred to shield him from the suffering
But what could she do? Philip liked to talk about Evelyn, to dwell upon
her peculiarities and qualities, to hear her praised; to this extent he
was confidential with his cousin, but never in regard to his own feeling.
That was a secret concerning which he was at once too humble and too
confident to share with any other. None knew better than he the absurd
presumption of aspiring to the hand of such a great heiress, and yet he
nursed the vanity that no other man could ever appreciate and love her as
Alice was still more distracted and in sympathy with Philip's evident
aspirations by her own love for Evelyn and her growing admiration for the
girl's character. It so happened that mutual sympathy—who can say how
it was related to Philip?—had drawn them much together, and chance had
given them many opportunities for knowing each other. Alice had so far
come out of her shell, and broken the reserve of her life, as to make
frequent visits at the inn, and Mrs. Mavick and Evelyn found it the most
natural and agreeable stroll by the river-side to the farmhouse,
where naturally, while the mother amused herself with the original
eccentricities of Patience, her daughter grew into an intimacy with
As for the feelings of Evelyn in these days—her first experience of
something like freedom in the world—the historian has only universal
experience to guide him. In her heart was working the consciousness that
she had been singled out as worthy to share the confidence of a man in
his most secret ambitions and aspirations, in the dreams of youth which
seemed to her so noble. For these aspirations and dreams concerned the
world in which she had lived most and felt most.
If Philip had talked to her as he had to Celia about his plans for
success in life she would have been less interested. But there was
nothing to warn her personally in these unworldly confessions. Nor did
Philip ever seem to ask anything of her except sympathy in his ideas.
And then there was the friendship of Alice, which could not but influence
the girl. In the shelter of that the intercourse of the summer took on
natural relations. For some natures there is no nurture of love like the
security of family protection, under cover of which there is so little to
excite the alarm of a timid maiden.
It was fortunate for Philip that Miss McDonald took a liking to him.
They were thrown much together. They were both good walkers, and liked
to climb the hills and explore the wild mountain streams. Philip would
have confessed that he was fond of nature, and fancied there was a sort
of superiority in his attitude towards it to that of his companion, who
was merely interested in plants-just a botanist. This attitude, which
she perceived, amused Miss McDonald.
"If you American students," she said one day when they were seated on a
fallen tree in the forest, and she was expatiating on a rare plant she
had found, "paid no more attention to the classics than to the world you
live in, few of you would get a degree."
"Oh, some fellows go in for that sort of thing," Philip replied.
"But I have noticed that all English women have some sort of fad—plants,
shells, birds, something special."
"Fad!" exclaimed the Scotchwoman. "Yes, I suppose it is, if reading is a
fad. It is one way of finding out about things. You admire what the
Americans call scenery; we, since you provoke me to say it, love nature
—I mean its individual, almost personal manifestations. Every plant has a
distinct character of its own. I saw the other day an American landscape
picture with a wild, uncultivated foreground. There was not a botanical
thing in it. The man who painted it didn't know a sweetbrier from a
"Just a confused mass of rubbish. It was as if an animal painter should
compose a group and you could not tell whether it was made up of sheep or
rabbits or dogs or foxes or griffins."
"So you want things picked out like a photograph?"
"I beg your pardon, I want nature. You cannot give character to a bit of
ground in a landscape unless you know the characters of its details. A
man is no more fit to paint a landscape than a cage of monkeys, unless he
knows the language of the nature he is dealing with down to the alphabet.
The Japanese know it so well that they are not bothered with minutia, but
give you character."
"And you think that science is an aid to art?"
"Yes, if there is genius to transform it into art. You must know the
intimate habits of anything you paint or write about. You cannot even
caricature without that. They talk now about Dickens being just a
caricaturist. He couldn't have been that if he hadn't known the things
he caricatured. That is the reason there is so little good caricature."
"Isn't your idea of painting rather anatomical?" Philip ventured to ask.
"Do you think that if Raphael had known nothing of anatomy the world
would have accepted his Sistine Madonna for the woman she is?" was the
"I see it is interesting," said Philip, shifting his ground again, "but
what is the real good of all these botanical names and classifications?"
Miss McDonald gave a weary sigh. "Well, you must put things in order.
You studied philology in Germany? The chief end of that is to trace the
development, migration, civilization of the human race. To trace the
distribution of plants is another way to find out about the race. But
let that go. Don't you think that I get more pleasure in looking at all
the growing things we see, as we sit here, than you do in seeing them and
knowing as little about them as you pretend to?"
Philip said that he could not analyze the degree of pleasure in such
things, but he seemed to take his ignorance very lightly. What
interested him in all this talk was that, in discovering the mind of the
governess, he was getting nearer to the mind of her pupil. And finally
he asked (and Miss McDonald smiled, for she knew what this conversation,
like all others with him, must ultimately come to):
"Does the Mavick family also take to botany?"
"Oh yes. Mrs. Mavick is intimate with all the florists in New York. And
Miss Evelyn, when I take home these specimens, will analyze them and tell
all about them. She is very sharp about such things. You must have
noticed that she likes to be accurate?"
"But she is fond of poetry."
"Yes, of poetry that she understands. She has not much of the emotional
vagueness of many young girls."
All this was very delightful for Philip, and for a long time, on one
pretext or another, he kept the conversation revolving about this point.
He fancied he was very deep in doing this. To his interlocutor he was,
however, very transparent. And the young man would have been surprised
and flattered if he had known how much her indulgence of him in this talk
was due to her genuine liking for him.
When they returned to the inn, Mrs. Mavick began to rally Philip about
his feminine taste in woodsy things. He would gladly have thrown botany
or anything else overboard to win the good opinion of Evelyn's mother,
but botany now had a real significance and a new meaning for him.
Therefore he put in a defense, by saying:
"Botany, in the hands of Miss McDonald, cannot be called very feminine;
it is a good deal more difficult to understand and master than law."
"Maybe that's the reason," said Mrs. Mavick, "why so many more girls are
eager to study law now than botany."
"Law?" cried Evelyn; "and to practice?"
"Certainly. Don't you think that a bright, clever woman, especially if
she were pretty, would have an advantage with judge and jury?"
"Not if judge and jury were women," Miss McDonald interposed.
"And you remember Portia?" Mrs. Mavick continued.
"Portia," said Evelyn; "yes, but that is poetry; and, McDonald, wasn't it
a kind of catch? How beautifully she talked about mercy, but she turned
the sharp edge of it towards the Jew. I didn't like that."
"Yes," Miss McDonald replied, "it was a kind of trick, a poet's law.
What do you say, Mr. Burnett?"
"Why," said Philip, hesitating, "usually it is understood when a man buys
or wins anything that the appurtenances necessary to give him full
possession go with it. Only in this case another law against the Jew was
understood. It was very clever, nothing short of woman's wit."
"Are there any women in your firm, Mr. Burnett?" asked Mrs. Mavick.
"Not yet, but I think there are plenty of lawyers who would be willing to
take Portia for a partner."
"Make her what you call a consulting partner. That is just the way with
you men—as soon as you see women succeeding in doing anything
independently, you head them off by matrimony."
"Not against their wills," said the governess, with some decision.
"Oh, the poor things are easily hypnotized. And I'm glad they are. The
funniest thing is to hear the Woman's Rights women talk of it as a state
of subjection," and Mrs. Mavick laughed out of her deep experience.
"Rights, what's that?" asked Evelyn.
"Well, child, your education has been neglected. Thank McDonald for
"Don't you know, Evelyn," the governess explained, "that we have always
said that women had a right to have any employment, or do anything they
were fitted to do?"
"Oh, that, of course; I thought everybody said that. That is natural.
But I mean all this fuss. I guess I don't understand what you all are
talking about." And her bright face broke out of its look of perplexity
into a smile.
"Why, poor thing," said her mother, "you belong to the down-trodden sex.
Only you haven't found it out."
"But, mamma," and the girl seemed to be turning the thing over in her
mind, as was her wont with any new proposition, "there seem to be in
history a good many women who never found it out either."
"It is not so now. I tell you we are all in a wretched condition."
"You look it, mamma," replied Evelyn, who perfectly understood when her
mother was chaffing.
"But I think I don't care so much for the lawyers," Mrs. Mavick
continued, with more air of conviction; "what I can't stand are the
doctors, the female doctors. I'd rather have a female priest about me
than a female doctor."
This was not altogether banter, for there had been times in Carmen's
career when the externals of the Roman Church attracted her, and she
wished she had an impersonal confidant, to whom she could confess—well,
not everything-and get absolution. And she could make a kind of
confidant of a sympathetic doctor. But she went on:
"To have a sharp woman prying into all my conditions and affairs! No,
I thank you. Don't you think so, McDonald?"
"They do say," the governess admitted, "that women doctors haven't as
much consideration for women's whims as men." And, after a moment, she
"But, for all that, women ought to understand about women better than men
can, and be the best doctors for them."
"So it seems to me," said Evelyn, appealing to her mother. "Don't you
remember that day you took me down to the infirmary in which you are
interested, and how nice it was, nobody but women for doctors and nurses
and all that? Would you put that in charge of men?"
"Oh, you child!" cried Mrs. Mavick, turning to her daughter and patting
her on the head. "Of course there are exceptions. But I'm not going to
be one of the exceptions. Ah, well, I suppose I am quite behind the age;
but the conduct of my own sex does get on my nerves sometimes."
Evelyn was silent. She was often so when discussions arose. They were
apt to plunge her into deep thought. To those who knew her history,
guarded from close contact with anything but the world of ideas, it was
very interesting to watch her mental attitude as she was day by day
emerging into a knowledge of the actual world and encountering its
crosscurrents. To Philip, who was getting a good idea of what her
education had been, an understanding promoted by his knowledge of the
character and attainments of her governess, her mental processes, it may
be safely said, opened a new world of thought. Not that mental processes
made much difference to a man in his condition, still, they had the
effect of setting her personality still further apart from that of other
women. One day when they happened to be tete-a-tete in one of their
frequent excursions—a rare occasion—Evelyn had said:
"How strange it is that so many things that are self-evident nobody seems
to see, and that there are so many things that are right that can't be
"That is the way the world is made," Philip had replied. She was
frequently coming out with the sort of ideas and questions that are often
proposed by bright children, whose thinking processes are not only fresh
but undisturbed by the sophistries or concessions that experience has
woven into the thinking of our race. "Perhaps it hasn't your faith in
"Faith? I wonder. Do you mean that people do not dare go ahead and do
"Well, partly. You see, everybody is hedged in by circumstances."
"Yes. I do begin to see circumstances. I suppose I'm a sort of a goose
—in the abstract, as you say." And Evelyn laughed. It was the
spontaneous, contagious laugh of a child. "You know that Miss McDonald
says I'm nothing but a little idealist."
"Did you deny it?"
"Oh, no. I said, so were the Apostles, all save one—he was a realist."
It was Philip's turn to laugh at this new definition, and upon this the
talk had drifted into the commonplaces of the summer situation and about
Rivervale and its people. Philip regretted that his vacation would so
soon be over, and that he must say good-by to all this repose and beauty,
and to the intercourse that had been so delightful to him.
"But you will write," Evelyn exclaimed.
Philip was startled.
"Yes, your novel."
"Oh, I suppose so," without any enthusiasm.
"You must. I keep thinking of it. What a pleasure it must be to create
a real drama of life."
So this day on the veranda of the inn when Philip spoke of his hateful
departure next day, and there was a little chorus of protest, Evelyn was
silent; but her silence was of more significance to him than the
protests, for he knew her thoughts were on the work he had promised to go
"It is too bad," Mrs. Mavick exclaimed; "we shall be like a lot of sheep
without a shepherd."
"That we shall," the governess joined in. "At any rate, you must make us
out a memorandum of what is to be seen and done and how to do it."
"Yes," said Philip, gayly, "I'll write tonight a complete guide to
"We are awfully obliged to you for what you have done." Mrs. Mavick was
no doubt sincere in this. And she added, "Well, we shall all be back in
the city before long."
It was a natural thing to say, and Philip understood that there was no
invitation in it, more than that of the most conventional acquaintance.
For Mrs. Mavick the chapter was closed.
There were the most cordial hand-shakings and good-bys, and Philip said
good-by as lightly as anybody. But as he walked along the road he knew,
or thought he was sure, that the thoughts of one of the party were going
along with him into his future, and the peaceful scene, the murmuring
river, the cat-birds and the blackbirds calling in the meadow, and the
spirit of self-confident youth in him said not good-by, but au revoir.
Of course Philip wrote to Celia about his vacation intimacy with the
Mavicks. It was no news to her that the Mavicks were spending the summer
there; all the world knew that, and society wondered what whim of
Carmen's had taken her out of the regular summer occupations and immured
her in the country. Not that it gave much thought to her, but, when her
name was mentioned, society resented the closing of the Newport house and
the loss of her vivacity in the autumn at Lenox. She is such a hand to
set things going, don't you know? Mr. Mavick never made a flying visit
to his family—and he was in Rivervale twice during the season—that the
newspapers did not chronicle his every movement, and attribute other
motives than family affection to these excursions into New England. Was
the Central system or the Pennsylvania system contemplating another raid?
It could not be denied that the big operator's connection with any great
interest raised suspicion and often caused anxiety.
Naturally, thought Celia, in such a little village, Philip would fall in
with the only strangers there, so that he was giving her no news in
saying so. But there was a new tone in his letters; she detected an
unusual reserve that was in itself suspicious. Why did he say so much
about Mrs. Mavick and the governess, and so little about the girl?
"You don't tell me," she wrote, "anything about the Infant Phenomenon.
And you know I am dying to know."
This Philip resented. Phenomenon! The little brown girl, with eyes that
saw so much and were so impenetrably deep, and the mobile face, so alert
and responsive. If ever there was a natural person, it was Evelyn. So
"There is nothing to tell; she is not an infant and she is not a
phenomenon. Only this: she has less rubbish in her mind than any person
you ever saw. And I guess the things she does not know about life are
not worth knowing."
"I see," replied Celia; "poor boy! it's the moth and the star. [That's
just like her, muttered Philip, she always assumed to be the older.] But
don't mind. I've come to the conclusion that I am a moth myself, and
some of the lights I used to think stars have fallen. And, seriously,
dear friend, I am glad there is a person who does not know the things not
worth knowing. It is a step in the right direction. I have been this
summer up in the hills, meditating. And I am not so sure of things as I
was. I used to think that all women needed was what is called education
—science, history, literature—and you could safely turn them loose on
the world. It certainly is not safe to turn them loose without
education—but I begin to wonder what we are all coming to. I don't mind
telling you that I have got into a pretty psychological muddle, and I
don't see much to hold on to.
"I suppose that Scotch governess is pious; I mean she has a backbone of
what they call dogma; things are right or wrong in her mind—no haziness.
Now, I am going to make a confession. I've been thinking of religion.
Don't mock. You know I was brought up religious, and I am religious. I
go to church—well, you know how I feel and especially the things I don't
believe. I go to church to be entertained. I read the other day that
Cardinal Manning said: 'The three greatest evils in the world today are
French devotional books, theatrical music, and the pulpit orator. And
the last is the worst.' I wonder. I often feel as if I had been to a
performance. No. It is not about sin that I am especially thinking, but
the sinner. One ought to do something. Sometimes I think I ought to go
to the city. You know I was in a College Settlement for a while. Now I
mean something permanent, devoted to the poor as a life occupation, like
a nun or something of that sort. You think this is a mood? Perhaps.
There have always been so many things before me to do, and I wanted to do
them all. And I do not stick to anything? You must not presume to say
that, because I confide to you all my errant thoughts. You have not
confided in me—I don't insinuate that you have anything to confide but I
cannot help saying that if you have found a pure and clear-minded girl
—Heaven knows what she will be when she is a woman I—I am sorry she is
But if Philip did not pour out his heart to his old friend, he did open a
lively and frequent correspondence with Alice. Not about the person who
was always in his thoughts—oh, no—but about himself, and all he was
doing, in the not unreasonable expectation that the news would go where
he could not send it directly—so many ingenious ways has love of
attaining its object. And if Alice, no doubt, understood all this, she
was nevertheless delighted, and took great pleasure in chronicling the
news of the village and giving all the details that came in her way about
the millionaire family. This connection with the world, if only by
correspondence, was an outlet to her reserved and secluded life. And her
letters recorded more of her character, of her feeling, than he had known
in all his boyhood. When Alice mentioned, as it were by chance, that
Evelyn had asked, more than once, when she had spoken of receiving
letters, if her cousin was going on with his story, Philip felt that
the connection was not broken.
Going on with his story he was, and with good heart. The thought that
"she" might some day read it was inspiration enough. Any real creation,
by pen or brush or chisel, must express the artist and be made in
independence of the demands of a vague public. Art is vitiated when the
commercial demand, which may be a needed stimulus, presides at the
creation. But it is doubtful if any artist in letters, or in form or
color, ever did anything well without having in mind some special person,
whose approval was desired or whose criticism was feared. Such is the
universal need of human sympathy. It is, at any rate, true that Philip's
story, recast and reinspired, was thenceforth written under the spell of
the pure divining eyes of Evelyn Mavick. Unconsciously this was so. For
at this time Philip had not come to know that the reason why so many
degraded and degrading stories and sketches are written is because the
writers' standard is the approval of one or two or a group of persons of
vitiated tastes and low ideals.
The Mavicks did not return to town till late in the autumn. By this time
Philip's novel had been submitted to a publisher, or, rather, to state
the exact truth, it had begun to go the rounds of the publishers. Mr.
Brad, to whose nineteenth-century and newspaper eye Philip had shrunk
from confiding his modest creation, but who was consulted in the
business, consoled him with the suggestion that this was a sure way of
getting his production read. There was already in the city a
considerable body of professional "readers," mostly young men and women,
to whom manuscripts were submitted by the publishers, so that the author
could be sure, if he kept at it long enough, to get a pretty fair
circulation for his story. They were selected because they were good
judges of literature and because they had a keen appreciation of what the
public wanted at the moment. Many of them are overworked, naturally so,
in the mass of manuscripts turned over to their inspection day after day,
and are compelled often to adopt the method of tea-tasters, who sip but
do not swallow, for to drink a cup or two of the decoction would spoil
their taste and impair their judgment, especially on new brands. Philip
liked to imagine, as the weeks passed away—the story is old and need not
be retold here—that at any given hour somebody was reading him. He did
not, however, dwell with much delight upon this process, for the idea
that some unknown Rhadamanthus was sitting in judgment upon him much more
wounded his 'amour propre', and seemed much more like an invading of his
inner, secret life and feeling, than would be an instant appeal to the
general public. Why, he thought, it is just as if I had shown it to Brad
himself—apiece of confidence that he could not bring himself to. He did
not know that Brad himself was a reader for a well-known house—which had
employed him on the strength of his newspaper notoriety—and that very
likely he had already praised the quality of the work and damned it as
It was, however, weary waiting, and would have been intolerable if his
duties in the law office had not excluded other thoughts from his mind a
good part of the time. There were days when he almost resolved to
confine himself to the solid and remunerative business of law, and give
up the vague aspirations of authorship. But those vague aspirations were
in the end more enticing than the courts. Common-sense is not an
antidote to the virus of the literary infection when once a young soul
has taken it. In his long walks it was not on the law that Philip was
ruminating, nor was the fame of success in it occupying his mind.
Suppose he could write one book that should touch the heart of the world.
Would he exchange the sweetness of that for the fleeting reputation of
the most brilliant lawyer? In short, he magnified beyond all reason the
career and reputation of the author, and mistook the consideration he
occupies in the great world. And what a world it would be if there had
not been a continuous line of such mistaken fools as he!
That it was not literature alone that inflated his dreams was evidenced
by the direction his walks took. Whatever their original destination or
purpose, he was sure to pass through upper Fifth Avenue, and walk by the
Mavick mansion. And never without a lift in his spirits. What comfort
there is to a lover in gazing at the blank and empty house once occupied
by his mistress has never been explained; but Philip would have counted
the day lost in which he did not see it.
After he heard from Alice that the Mavicks had returned, the house had
still stronger attractions for him, for there was added the chance of a
glimpse of Evelyn or one of the family. Many a day passed, however,
before he mustered up courage to mount the steps and touch the button.
"Yes, sir," said the servant, "the family is returned, but they is
Philip left his card. But nothing came of it, and he did not try again.
In fact, he was a little depressed as the days went by. How much doubt
and anxiety, even suffering, might have been spared him if the historian
at that moment could have informed him of a little shopping incident at
Tiffany's a few days after the Mavicks' return.
A middle-aged lady and a young girl were inspecting some antiques. The
girl, indeed, had been asking for ancient coins, and they were shown two
superb gold staters with the heads of Alexander and Philip.
"Aren't they beautiful?" said the younger. "How lovely one would be for
"Yes, indeed," replied the elder, "and quite in the line of our Greek
The girl held them in her hand and looked at one and the other with a
"Which would you choose?"
"Oh, both are fine. Philip of Macedon has a certain youthful freshness,
in the curling hair and uncovered head. But, of course, Alexander the
Great is more important, and then there is the classic casque. I should
take the Alexander." The girl still hesitated, weighing the choice in
her mind from the classic point of view.
"Doubtless you are right. But"—and she held up the lovely head—"this
is not quite so common, and—and—I think I'll take the Macedon one.
Yes, you may set that for me," turning to the salesman.
"Diamonds or pearls?" asked the jeweler.
"Oh, dear, no!" exclaimed the girl; "just the head."
Evelyn's education was advancing. For the first time in her life she had
something to conceal. The privilege of this sort of secret is, however,
an inheritance of Eve. The first morning she wore it at breakfast Mrs.
Mavick asked her what it was.
"It's a coin, antique Greek," Evelyn replied, passing it across the
"How pretty it is; it is very pretty. Ought to have pearls around it.
Seems to be an inscription on it."
"Yes, it is real old. McDonald says it is a stater, about the same as a
Persian daric-something like the value of a sovereign."
"Oh, indeed; very interesting."
To give Evelyn her due, it must be confessed that she blushed at this
equivocation about the inscription, and she got quite hot with shame
thinking what would become of her if Philip should ever know that she was
regarding him as a stater and wearing his name on her breast.
One can fancy what philosophical deductions as to the education of women
Celia Howard would have drawn out of this coin incident; one of them
doubtless being that a classical education is no protection against love.
But for Philip's connection with the thriving firm of Hunt, Sharp &
Tweedle, it is safe to say that he would have known little of the world
of affairs in Wall Street, and might never have gained entrance into that
other world, for which Wall Street exists, that society where its wealth
and ambitious vulgarity are displayed. Thomas Mavick was a client of the
firm. At first they had been only associated with his lawyer, and
consulted occasionally. But as time went on Mr. Mavick opened to them
his affairs more and more, as he found the advantage of being represented
to the public by a firm that combined the highest social and
professional standing with all the acumen and adroitness that his
complicated affairs required.
It was a time of great financial feverishness and uncertainty, and of
opportunity for the most reckless adventurers. Houses the most solid
were shaken and crippled, and those which were much extended in a variety
of adventures were put to their wits' ends to escape shipwreck.
Financial operations are perpetual war. It is easy to calculate about
the regular forces, but the danger is from the unexpected "raids" and the
bushwhackers and guerrillas. And since politics has become inextricably
involved in financial speculations (as it has in real war), the
excitement and danger of business on a large scale increase.
Philip as a trusted clerk, without being admitted into interior secrets,
came to know a good deal about Mavick's affairs, and to be more than ever
impressed with his enormous wealth and the magnitude of his operations.
From time to time he was sent on errands to Mavick's office, and
gradually, as Mavick became accustomed to him as a representative of the
firm, they came on a somewhat familiar footing, and talked of other
things than business. And Mavick, who was not a bad judge of the
capacities of men, conceived a high idea of Philip's single-mindedness,
of his integrity and general culture, and, as well, of his agreeableness
(for Philip had a certain charm where he felt at ease), while at the same
time he discovered that his mind was more upon something else than law,
and that, if his success in his profession depended upon his adoption of
the business methods of the Street, he could not go very far.
Consequently he did not venture upon the same confidences with him that
he habitually did with Mr. Sharp. Yet, business aside, he had an
intellectual pleasure in exchanging views with Philip which Mr. Sharp's
conversation did not offer him.
When, therefore, Mrs. Mavick came to consult her husband about the list
for the coming-out reception of Evelyn, Philip found a friend at court.
"It is all plain enough," said Carmen, as she sat down with book and
pencil in hand, "till you come to the young men, the unattached young
men. Here is my visiting-list, that of course. But for the young ladies
we must have more young men. Can't you suggest any?"
"Perhaps. I know a lot of young fellows."
"But I mean available young men, those that count socially. I don't want
a broker's board or a Chamber of Commerce here."
Mr. Mavick named half a dozen, and Carmen looked for their names in the
social register. "Any more?"
"Why, you forgot young Burnett, who was with you last summer at
Rivervale. I thought you liked him."
"So I did in Rivervale. Plain farmer people. Yes, he was very nice to
us. I've been thinking if I couldn't send him something Christmas and
pay off the debt."
"He'd think a great deal more of an invitation to your reception."
"But you don't understand. You never think of Evelyn's future. We are
asking people that we think she ought to know."
"Well, Burnett is a very agreeable fellow."
"Fiddlesticks! He is nothing but a law clerk. Worse than that, he is a
"I thought you liked his essays and stories."
"So I do. But you don't want to associate with everybody you like that
way. I am talking about society. You must draw the line somewhere. Oh,
I forgot Fogg—Dr. LeRoy Fogg, from Pittsburg." And down went the name
"You mean that young swell whose business it is to drive a four-in-hand
to Yonkers and back, and toot on a horn?"
"Well, what of that? Everybody who is anybody, I mean all the girls,
want to go on his coach."
"Oh, Lord! I'd rather go on the Elevated." And Mavick laughed very
heartily, for him. "Well, I'll make a compromise. You take Fogg and
I'll take Burnett. He is in a good firm, he belongs to a first-rate
club, he goes to the Hunts' and the Scammels', I hear of him in good
"Well, if you make a point of it. I've nothing against him. But if you
knew the feelings of a mother about her only daughter you would know,
that you cannot be too careful."
When, several days after this conversation, Philip received his big
invitation, gorgeously engraved on what he took to be a sublimated sort
of wrapping-paper, he felt ashamed that he had doubted the sincere
friendship and the goodness of heart of Mrs. Mavick.
One morning in December, Philip was sent down to Mr. Mavick's office with
some important papers. He was kept waiting a considerable time in the
outer room where the clerks were at work. A couple of clerks at desks
near the chair he occupied were evidently discussing some one and he
overheard fragments of sentences—"Yes, that's he." "Well, I guess the
old man's got his match this time."
When he was admitted to the private office, he encountered coming out in
the anteroom a man of striking appearance. For an instant they were face
to face, and then bowed and passed on. The instant seemed to awaken some
memory in Philip which greatly puzzled him.
The man had closely cropped black hair, black Whiskers, a little curling,
but also closely trimmed, piercing black eyes, and the complexion of a
Spaniard. The nose was large but regular, the mouth square-cut and firm,
and the powerful jaw emphasized the decision of the mouth. The frame
corresponded with the head. It was Herculean, and yet with no
exaggerated developments. The man was over six feet in height, the
shoulders were square, the chest deep, the hips and legs modeled for
strength, and with no superfluous flesh. Philip noticed, as they fronted
each other for an instant and the stranger raised his hat, that his hands
and feet were smaller than usually accompany such a large frame. The
impression was that of great physical energy, self-confidence, and
determined will. The face was not bad, certainly not in detail, and even
the penetrating eyes seemed at the moment capable of a humorous
expression, but it was that of a man whom you would not like to have your
enemy. He wore a business suit of rough material and fashionable cut,
but he wore it like a man who did not give much thought to his clothes.
"What a striking-looking man," said Philip, motioning with his hand
towards the anteroom as he greeted Mr. Mavick.
"Who, Ault?" answered Mavick, indifferently.
"Ault! What, Murad Ault?"
"Is it possible? I thought I saw a resemblance. Several times I have
wondered, but I fancied it only a coincidence of names. It seemed
absurd. Why, I used to know Murad Ault when we were boys. And to think
that he should be the great Murad Ault."
"He hasn't been that for more than a couple of years," Mavick answered,
with a smile at the other's astonishment, and then, with more interest,
"What do you know about him?"
"If this is the same person, he used to live at Rivervale. Came there,
no one knew where from, and lived with his mother, a little withered old
woman, on a little cleared patch up in the hills, in a comfortable sort
of shanty. She used to come to the village with herbs and roots to sell.
Nobody knew whether she was a gypsy or a decayed lady, she had such an
air, and the children were half afraid of her, as a sort of witch. Murad
went to school, and occasionally worked for some farmer, but nobody knew
him; he rarely spoke to any one, and he had the reputation of being a
perfect devil; his only delight seemed to be in doing some dare-devil
feat to frighten the children. We used to say that Murad Ault would
become either a pirate or—"
"Broker," suggested Mr. Mavick, with a smile.
"I didn't know much about brokers at that time," Philip hastened to say,
and then laughed himself at his escape from actual rudeness.
"What became of him?"
"Oh, he just disappeared. After I went away to school I heard that his
mother had died, and Murad had gone off—gone West it was said. Nothing
was ever heard of him."
The advent and rise of Murad Ault in New York was the sort of phenomenon
to which the metropolis, which picks up its great men as Napoleon did his
marshals, is accustomed. The mystery of his origin, which was at first
against him, became at length an element of his strength and of the fear
he inspired, as a sort of elemental force of unknown power. Newspaper
biographies of him constantly appeared, but he had evaded every attempt
to include him and his portrait in the Lives of Successful Men. The
publishers of these useful volumes for stimulating speculation and
ambition did not dare to take the least liberties with Murad Ault.
The man was like the boy whom Philip remembered. Doubtless he
appreciated now as then the value of the mystery that surrounded his name
and origin; and he very soon had a humorous conception of the situation
that made him decline to be pilloried with others in one of those
volumes, which won from a reviewer the confession that "lives of great
men all remind us we may make our lives sublime." One of the legends
current about him was that he first appeared in New York as a "hand" on a
canal-boat, that he got employment as a check-clerk on the dock, that he
made the acquaintance of politicians in his ward, and went into politics
far enough to get a city contract, which paid him very well and showed
him how easily a resolute man could get money and use it in the city. He
was first heard of in Wall Street as a curbstone broker, taking enormous
risks and always lucky. Very soon he set up an office, with one clerk or
errand-boy, and his growing reputation for sagacity and boldness began to
attract customers; his ventures soon engaged the attention of guerrillas
like himself, who were wont to consult him. They found that his advice
was generally sound, and that he had not only sensitiveness but
prescience about the state of the market. His office was presently
enlarged, and displayed a modest sign of "Murad Ault, Banker and Broker."
Mr. Ault's operations constantly enlarged, his schemes went beyond the
business of registering other people's bets and taking a commission on
them; he was known as a daring but successful promoter, and he had a
visible ownership in steamships and railways, and projected such vast
operations as draining the Jersey marshes. If he had been a citizen of
Italy he would have attacked the Roman Campagna with the same confidence.
At any rate, he made himself so much felt and seemed to command so many
resources that it was not long before he forced his way into the Stock
Exchange and had a seat in the Board of Brokers. He was at first an odd
figure there. There was something flash about his appearance, and his
heavy double watch-chain and diamond shirt-studs gave him the look of an
ephemeral adventurer. But he soon took his cue, the diamonds
disappeared, and the dress was toned down. There seemed to be two models
in the Board, the smart and neat, and the hayseed style adopted by some
of the most wily old operators, who posed as honest dealers who retained
their rural simplicity. Mr. Ault adopted a middle course, and took the
respectable yet fashionable, solid dress of a man of affairs.
There is no other place in the world where merit is so quickly recognized
as in the Stock Exchange, especially if it is backed by brass and a good
head. Ault's audacity made him feared; he was believed to be as
unscrupulous as he was reckless, but this did not much injure his
reputation when it was seen that he was marvelously successful. That
Ault would wreck the market, if he could and it was to his advantage, no
one doubted; but still he had a quality that begot confidence. He kept
his word. Though men might be shy of entering into a contract with Ault,
they learned that what he said he would do he would do literally. He was
not a man of many words, but he was always decided and apparently open,
and, as whatever he touched seemed to thrive, his associates got the
habit of saying, "What Ault says goes."
Murad Ault had married, so it was said, the daughter of a boarding-house
keeper on the dock. She was a pretty girl, had been educated in a
convent (perhaps by his aid after he was engaged to marry her), and was a
sweet mother to a little brood of charming children, and a devout member
of her parish church. Those who had seen Mrs. Ault when her carriage
took her occasionally to Ault's office in the city were much impressed by
her graceful manner and sweet face, and her appearance gave Ault a sort
of anchorage in the region of respectability. No one would have accused
Ault of being devoted to any special kind of religious worship; but he
was equally tolerant of all religions, and report said was liberal in his
wife's church charities. Besides the fact that he owned a somewhat
pretentious house in Sixtieth Street, society had very little knowledge
It was, however, undeniable that he was a power in the Street. No other
man's name was oftener mentioned in the daily journals in connection with
some bold and successful operation. He seemed to thrive on panics, and
to grow strong and rich with every turn of the wheel. There is only one
stock expression in America for a man who is very able and unscrupulous,
and carries things successfully with a high hand—he is Napoleonic. It
needed only a few brilliant operations, madly reckless in appearance but
successful, to give Ault the newspaper sobriquet of the Young Napoleon.
"Papa, what does he mean?" asked the eldest boy. "Jim Dustin says the
papers call you Napoleon."
"It means, my boy," said Ault, with a grim smile, that I am devoted to
your mother, St. Helena."
"Don't say that, Murad," exclaimed his wife; I'm far enough from a saint,
and your destiny isn't the Island."
"What's the Island, mamma?"
"It's a place people are sent to for their health."
"In a boat? Can I go?"
"You ask too many questions, Sinclair," said Mr. Ault; "it's time you
were off to school."
There seems to have been not the least suspicion in this household that
the head of it was a pirate.
It must be said that Mavick still looked upon Ault as an adventurer, one
of those erratic beings who appear from time to time in the Street, upset
everything, and then disappear. They had been associated occasionally in
small deals, and Ault had more than once appealed to Mavick, as a great
capitalist, with some promising scheme. They had, indeed, co-operated in
reorganizing a Western railway, but seemed to have come out of the
operation without increased confidence in each other. What had occurred
nobody knew, but thereafter there developed a slight antagonism between
the two operators. Ault went no more to consult the elder man, and they
had two or three little bouts, in which Mavick did not get the best of
it. This was not an unusual thing in the Street. Mr. Ault never
expressed his opinion of Mr. Mavick, but it became more and more apparent
that their interests were opposed. Some one who knew both men, and said
that the one was as cold and selfish as a pike, and the other was a most
unscrupulous dare-devil, believed that Mavick had attempted some sort of
a trick on Ault, and that it was the kind of thing that the Spaniard (his
complexion had given him this nickname) never forgot.
It is not intended to enter into a defense of the local pool known as the
New York Stock Exchange. It needs none. Some regard it as a necessary
standpipe to promote and equalize distribution, others consult it as a
sort of Nilometer, to note the rise and fall of the waters and the
probabilities of drought or flood. Everybody knows that it is full of
the most gamy and beautiful fish in the world—namely, the speckled
trout, whose honest occupation it is to devour whatever is thrown into
the pool—a body governed by the strictest laws of political economy in
guarding against over-population, by carrying out the Malthusian idea, in
the habit the big ones have of eating the little ones. But occasionally
this harmonious family, which is animated by one of the most conspicuous
traits of human nature—to which we owe very much of our progress
—namely, the desire to get hold of everything within reach, and is such a
useful object-lesson of the universal law of upward struggle that results
in the survival of the fittest, this harmonious family is disturbed by
the advent of a pickerel, which makes a raid, introduces confusion into
all the calculations of the pool, roils the water, and drives the trout
into their holes.
The presence in the pool of a slimy eel or a blundering bullhead or a
lethargic sucker is bad enough, but the rush in of the pickerel is the
advent of the devil himself. Until he is got rid of, all the delicate
machinery for the calculation of chances is hopelessly disturbed; and no
one could tell what would become of the business of the country if there
were not a considerable number of devoted men engaged in registering its
fluctuations and the change of values, and willing to back their opinions
by investing their own capital or, more often, the capital of others.
This somewhat mixed figure cannot be pursued further without losing its
analogy, becoming fantastic, and violating natural law. For it is matter
of observation that in this arena the pickerel, if he succeeds in
clearing out the pool, suddenly becomes a trout, and is respected as the
biggest and most useful fish in the pond.
What is meant is simply that Murad Ault was fighting for position, and
that for some reason, known to himself, Thomas Mavick stood in his way.
Mr. Mavick had never been under the necessity of making such a contest.
He stepped into a commanding position as the manager if not the owner of
the great fortune of Rodney Henderson. His position was undisputed, for
the Street believed with the world in the magnitude of that fortune,
though there were shrewd operators who said that Mavick had more chicane
but not a tenth part of the ability of Rodney Henderson. Mr. Ault had
made the fortune the object of keen scrutiny, when his antagonism was
aroused, and none knew better than he its assailable points. Henderson
had died suddenly in the midst of vast schemes which needed his genius to
perfect. Apparently the Mavick estate was second to only a few fortunes
in the country. Mr. Ault had set himself to find out whether this vast
structure stood upon rock foundations. The knowledge he acquired about
it and his intentions he communicated to no one. But the drift of his
mind might be gathered from a remark he made to his wife one day, when
some social allusion was made to Mavick: "I'll bring down that snob."
The use of such men as Ault in the social structure is very doubtful, as
doubtful as that of a summer tempest or local cyclone, which it is said
clears the air and removes rubbish, but is a scourge that involves the
innocent as often as the guilty. It is popularly supposed that the
disintegration and distribution of a great fortune, especially if it has
been accumulated by doubtful methods, is a benefit to mankind. Mr. Ault
may have shared this impression, but it is unlikely that he philosophized
on the subject. No one, except perhaps his own family, had ever
discovered that he had any sensibilities that could be appealed to, and,
if he had known the ideas beginning to take shape in the mind of the
millionaire heiress in regard to this fortune, he would have approved or
comprehended them as little as did her mother.
Evelyn had lived hitherto with little comprehension of her peculiar
position. That the world went well with her, and that no obstacle was
opposed to the gratification of her reasonable desires, or to her
impulses of charity and pity, was about all she knew of her power. But
she was now eighteen and about to appear in the world. Her mother,
therefore, had been enlightening her in regard to her expectations and
the career that lay open to her. And Carmen thought the girl a little
perverse, in that this prospect, instead of exciting her worldly
ambition, seemed to affect her only seriously as a matter of
In their talks Mrs. Mavick was in fact becoming acquainted with the mind
of her daughter, and learning, somewhat to her chagrin, the limitations
of her education produced by the policy of isolation.
To her dismay, she found that the girl did not care much for the things
that she herself cared most for. The whole world of society, its
strifes, ambitions, triumphs, defeats, rewards, did not seem to Evelyn so
real or so important as that world in which she had lived with her
governess and her tutors. And, worse than this, the estimate she placed
upon the values of material things was shockingly inadequate to her
That her father was a very great man was one of the earliest things
Evelyn began to know, exterior to herself. This was impressed upon her
by the deference paid to him not only at home but wherever they went, and
by the deference shown to her as his daughter. And she was proud of
this. He was not one of the great men whose careers she was familiar
with in literature, not a general or a statesman or an orator or a
scientist or a poet or a philanthropist she never thought of him in
connection with these heroes of her imagination—but he was certainly a
great power in the world. And she had for him a profound admiration,
which might have become affection if Mavick had ever taken the pains to
interest himself in the child's affairs. Her mother she loved, and
believed there could be no one in the world more sweet and graceful and
attractive, and as she grew up she yearned for more of the motherly
companionship, for something more than the odd moments of petting that
were given to her in the whirl of the life of a woman of the world. What
that life was, however, she had only the dimmest comprehension, and it
was only in the last two years, since she was sixteen, that she began to
understand it, and that mainly in contrast to her own guarded life. And
she was now able to see that her own secluded life had been unusual.
Not till long after this did she speak to any one of her experience as a
child, of the time when she became conscious that she was never alone,
and that she was only free to act within certain limits.
To McDonald, indeed, she had often shown her irritation, and it was only
the strong good sense of the governess that kept her from revolt. It was
not until very recently that it could be explained to her, without
putting her in terror hourly, why she must always be watched and guarded.
It had required all the tact and sophistry of her governess to make her
acquiesce in a system of education—so it was called-that had been
devised in order to give her the highest and purest development. That
the education was mainly left to McDonald, and that her parents were
simply anxious about her safety, she did not learn till long afterwards.
In the first years Mrs. Mavick had been greatly relieved to be spared all
the care of the baby, and as the years went on, the arrangement seemed
more and more convenient, and she gave little thought to the character
that was being formed. To Mr. Mavick, indeed, as to his wife, it was
enough to see that she was uncommonly intelligent, and that she had a
certain charm that made her attractive. Mrs. Mavick took it for granted
that when it came time to introduce her into the world she would be like
other girls, eager for its pleasures and susceptible to all its
allurements. Of the direction of the undercurrents of the girl's life
she had no conception, until she began to unfold to her the views of the
world that prevailed in her circle, and what (in the Carmen scheme of
life) ought to be a woman's ambition.
That she was to be an heiress Evelyn had long known, that she would one
day have a great fortune at her disposal had indeed come into her serious
thought, but the brilliant use of it in relation to herself, at which her
mother was always lately hinting, came to her as a disagreeable shock.
For the moment the fortune seemed to her rather a fetter than an
opportunity, if she was to fulfill her mother's expectations. These
hints were conveyed with all the tact of which her mother was master, but
the girl was nevertheless somewhat alarmed, and she began to regard the
"coming out" as an entrance into servitude rather than an enlargement of
liberty. One day she surprised Miss McDonald by asking her if she didn't
think that rich people were the only ones not free to do as they pleased?
"Why, my dear, it is not generally so considered. Most people fancy that
if they had money enough they could do anything."
"Yes, of course," said the girl, putting down her stitching and looking
up; "that is not exactly what I mean. They can go in the current, they
can do what they like with their money, but I mean with themselves.
Aren't they in a condition that binds them half the time to do what they
don't wish to do?"
"It's a condition that all the world is trying to get into."
"I know. I've been talking with mamma about the world and about society,
and what is expected and what you must live up to."
"But you have always known that you must one day go into the world and
take your share in life."
"That, yes. But I would rather live up to myself. Mamma seems to think
that society will do a great deal for me, that I will get a wider view of
life, that I can do so much for society, and, with my position, mamma
says, have such a career. McDonald, what is society for?"
That was such a poser that the governess threw up her hands, and then
laughed aloud, and then shook her head. "Wiser people than you have
asked that question."
"I asked mamma that, for she is in it all the time. She didn't like it
much, and asked, 'What is anything for?' You see, McDonald, I've been
with mamma many a time when her friends came to see her, and they never
have anything to say, never—what I call anything. I wonder if in
society they go about saying that? What do they do it for?"
Miss McDonald had her own opinion about what is called society and its
occupations and functions, but she did not propose to encourage this
girl, who would soon take her place in it, in such odd notions.
"Don't you know, child, that there is society and society? That it is
all sorts of a world, that it gets into groups and circles about, and
that is the way the world is stirred up and kept from stagnation. And,
my dear, you have just to do your duty where you are placed, and that is
all there is about it."
"Don't be cross, McDonald. I suppose I can think my thoughts?"
"Yes, you can think, and you can learn to keep a good deal that you think
to yourself. Now, Evelyn, haven't you any curiosity to see what this
world we are talking about is like?"
"Indeed I have," said Evelyn, coming out of her reflective mood into a
girlish enthusiasm. "And I want to see what I shall be like in it.
Only—well, how is that?" And she held out the handkerchief she had been
plying her needle on.
Miss McDonald looked at the stitches critically, at the letters T.M.
enclosed in an oval.
"That is very good, not too mechanical. It will please your father. The
oval makes a pretty effect; but what are those signs between the
"Don't you see? It is a cartouche, and those are hieroglyphics—his name
in Egyptian. I got it out of Petrie's book."
"It certainly is odd."
"And every one of the twelve is going to be different. It is so
interesting to hunt up the signs for qualities. If papa can read it he
will find out a good deal that I think about him."
The governess only smiled for reply. It was so like Evelyn, so different
from others even in the commonplace task of marking handkerchiefs, to
work a little archaeology into her expression of family affection.
Mrs. Mavick's talks with her daughter in which she attempted to give
Evelyn some conception of her importance as the heiress of a great
fortune, of her position in society, what would be expected of her, and
of the brilliant social career her mother imagined for her, had an effect
opposite to that intended. There had been nothing in her shielded life,
provided for at every step without effort, that had given her any idea of
the value and importance of money.
To a girl in her position, educated in the ordinary way and mingling with
school companions, one of the earliest lessons would be a comprehension
of the power that wealth gave her; and by the time that she was of
Evelyn's age her opinion of men would begin to be colored by the notion
that they were polite or attentive to her on account of her fortune and
not for any charm of hers, and so a cruel suspicion of selfishness would
have entered her mind to poison the very thought of love.
No such idea had entered Evelyn's mind. She would not readily have
understood that love could have any sort of relation to riches or
poverty. And if, deep down in her heart, not acknowledged, scarcely
recognized, by herself, there had begun to grow an image about which she
had sweet and tender thoughts, it certainly did not occur to her that her
father's wealth could make any difference in the relations of friendship
or even of affection. And as for the fortune, if she was, as her mother
said, some day to be mistress of it, she began to turn over in her mind
objects quite different from the display and the career suggested by her
mother, and to think how she could use it.
In her ignorance of practical life and of what the world generally
values, of course the scheme that was rather hazy in her mind was simply
Quixotic, as appeared in a conversation with her father one evening while
he smoked his cigar. He had called Evelyn to the library, on the
suggestion of Carmen that he should "have a little talk with the girl."
Mr. Mavick began, when Evelyn was seated beside him, and he had drawn her
close to him and she had taken possession of his big hand with both her
little hands, about the reception and about balls to come, and the opera,
and what was going on in New York generally in the season, and suddenly
"My dear, if you had a lot of money, what would you do with it?"
"What would you?" said the girl, looking up into his face. "What do
people generally do?"
"Why," and Mavick hesitated, "they use it to add more to it."
"And then?" pursued the girl.
"I suppose they leave it to somebody. Suppose it was left to you?"
"Don't think me silly, papa; I've thought a lot about it, and I shall do
something quite different."
"Different from what?"
"You know mamma is in the Orthopedic Hospital, and in the Ragged Schools,
and in the Infirmary, and I don't know what all."
"And wouldn't you help them?"
"Of course, I would help. But everybody does those things, the practical
things, the charities; I mean to do things for the higher life."
Mr. Mavick took his cigar from his mouth and looked puzzled. "You want
to build a cathedral?"
"No, I don't mean that sort of higher life, I mean civilization, the
things at the top. I read an essay the other day that said it was easy
to raise money for anything mechanical and practical in a school, but
nobody wanted to give for anything ideal."
"Quite right," said her father; "the world is full of cranks. You seem
as vague as your essayist."
"Don't you remember, papa, when we were in Oxford how amused you were
with the master, or professor, who grumbled because the college was full
of students, and there wasn't a single college for research?
"I asked McDonald afterwards what he meant; that is how I first got my
idea, but I didn't see exactly what it was until recently. You've got to
cultivate the high things—that essay says—the abstract, that which does
not seem practically useful, or society will become low and material."
"By George!" cried Mavick, with a burst of laughter, "you've got the
lingo. Go on, I want to see where you are going to light."
"Well, I'll tell you some more. You know my tutor is English. McDonald
says she believes he is the most learned man in eighteenth-century
literature living, and his dream is to write a history of it. He is
poor, and engaged all the time teaching, and McDonald says he will die,
no doubt, and leave nothing of his investigations to the world."
"And you want to endow him?"
"He is only one. There is the tutor of history. Teach, teach, teach,
and no time or strength left for investigation. You ought to hear him
tell of the things just to be found out in American history. You see
what I mean? It is plainer in the sciences. The scholars who could
really make investigations, and do something for the world, have to earn
their living and have no time or means for experiments. It seems foolish
as I say it, but I do think, papa, there is something in it."
"And what would you do?"
Evelyn saw that she was making no headway, and her ideas, exposed to so
practical a man as her father, did seem rather ridiculous. But she
struck out boldly with the scheme that she had been evolving.
"I'd found Institutions of Research, where there should be no teaching,
and students who had demonstrated that they had anything promising in
them, in science, literature, languages, history, anything, should have
the means and the opportunity to make investigations and do work. See
what a hard time inventors and men of genius have; it is pitiful."
"And how much money do you want for this modest scheme of yours?"
"I hadn't thought," said Evelyn, patting her father's hand. And then, at
a venture, "I guess about ten millions."
"Whew! Have you any idea how much ten millions are, or how much one
"Why, ten millions, if you have a hundred, is no more than one million if
you have only ten. Doesn't it depend?"
"If it depends upon you, child, I don't think money has any value for you
whatever. You are a born financier for getting rid of a surplus. You
ought to be Secretary of the Treasury."
Mavick rose, lifted up his daughter, and, kissing her with more than
usual tenderness, said, "You'll learn about the world in time," and bade
Law and love go very well together as occupations, but, when literature
is added, the trio is not harmonious. Either of the two might pull
together, but the combination of the three is certainly disastrous.
It would be difficult to conceive of a person more obviously up in the
air than Philip at this moment. He went through his office duties
intelligently and perfunctorily, but his heart was not in the work, and
reason as he would his career did not seem to be that way. He was lured
too strongly by that siren, the ever-alluring woman who sits upon the
rocks and sings so deliciously to youth of the sweets of authorship. He
who listens once to that song hears it always in his ears, through
disappointment and success—and the success is often the greatest
disappointment—through poverty and hope deferred and heart-sickness for
recognition, through the hot time of youth and the creeping incapacity of
old age. The song never ceases. Were the longing and the hunger it
arouses ever satisfied with anything, money for instance, any more than
And if the law had a feeble hold on him, how much more uncertain was his
grasp on literature. He had thrown his line, he had been encouraged by
nibbles, but publishers were too wary to take hold. It seemed to him
that he had literally cast his bread upon the waters, and apparently at
an ebb tide, and his venture had gone to the fathomless sea. He had put
his heart into the story, and, more than that, his hope of something
dearer than any public favor. As he went over the story in his mind,
scene after scene, and dwelt upon the theme that held the whole in unity,
he felt that Evelyn would be touched by the recognition of her part in
the inspiration, and that the great public must give some heed to it.
Perhaps not the great public—for its liking now ran in quite another
direction, but a considerable number of people like Celia, who were
struggling with problems of life, and the Alices in country homes who
still preserved in their souls a belief in the power of a noble life, and
perhaps some critics who had not rid themselves of the old traditions.
If the publishers would only give him a chance!
But if law and literature were to him little more than unsubstantial
dreams, the love he cherished was, in the cool examination of reason,
preposterous. What! the heiress of so many millions, brought up
doubtless in the expectation of the most brilliant worldly alliance, the
heiress with the world presently at her feet, would she look at a
lawyer's clerk and an unsuccessful scribbler? Oh, the vanity of youth
and the conceit of intellect!
Down in his heart Philip thought that she might. And he went on nursing
this vain passion, knowing as well as any one can know the social code,
that Mr. Mavick and Mrs. Mavick would simply laugh in his face at such a
preposterous idea. And yet he knew that he had her sympathy in his
ambition, that to a certain extent she was interested in him. The girl
was too guileless to conceal that. And then suppose he should become
famous—well, not exactly famous, but an author who was talked about, and
becoming known, and said to be promising? And then he could fancy Mavick
weighing this sort of reputation in his office scales against money, and
Mrs. Mavick weighing it in her boudoir against social position. He was a
fool to think of it. And yet, suppose, suppose the girl should come to
love him. It would not be lightly. He knew that, by looking into her
deep, clear, beautiful eyes. There were in them determination and
tenacity of purpose as well as the capability of passion. Heavens and
earth, if that girl once loved, there was a force that no opposition
could subdue! That was true. But what had he to offer to evoke such a
In those days Philip saw much of Celia, who at length had given up
teaching, and had come to the city to try her experiment, into which she
was willing to embark her small income. She had taken a room in the
midst of poverty and misery on the East Side, and was studying the
"I am not certain," she said, "whether I or any one else can do anything,
or whether any organization down there can effect much.
But I will find out."
"Aren't you lonesome—and disgusted?" asked Philip.
"Disgusted? You might as well be disgusted with one thing as another. I
am generally disgusted with the way things go. But, lonely? No, there
is too much to do and to learn. And do you know, Philip, that people are
more interesting over there, more individual, have more queer sorts of
character. I begin to believe, with a lovely philanthropist I know, who
had charge of female criminals, that 'wicked women are more interesting
than good women.'"
"You have struck a rich mine of interest in New York, then."
"Don't be cynical, Phil. There are different kinds of interest. Stuff!
But I won't explain." And then, abruptly changing the subject, "Seems to
me you have something on your mind lately. Is it the novel?"
"The publishers haven't decided?"
"I am afraid they have."
"Well, Philip, do you know that I think the best thing that could happen
to you would be to have the story rejected."
"It has been rejected several times," said Philip. "That didn't seem to
do me any good."
"But finally, so that you would stop thinking about it, stop expecting
anything that way, and take up your profession in earnest."
"You are a nice comforter!" retorted Philip, with a sort of smirking grin
and a look of keen inspection, as if he saw something new in the
character of his adviser. "What has come over you? Suppose I should
give you that sort of sympathy in the projects you set your heart on?"
"It does seem hard and mean, doesn't it? I knew you wouldn't like it.
That is, not now. But it is for your lifetime. As for me, I've wanted
so many things and I've tried so many things. And do you know, Phil,
that I have about come to the conclusion that the best things for us in
this world are the things we don't get."
"You are always coming to some new conclusion."
"Yes, I know. But just look at it rationally. Suppose your story is
published, cast into the sea of new books, and has a very fair sale.
What will you get out of it? You can reckon how many copies at ten cents
a copy it will need to make as much as some writers get for a trivial
magazine paper. Recognition? Yes, from a very few people. Notoriety?
You would soon find what that is. Suppose you make what is called a
'hit.' If you did not better that with the next book, you would be
called a failure. And you must keep at it, keep giving the public
something new all the time, or you will drop out of sight. And then the
anxiety and the strain of it, and the temptation, because you must live,
to lower your ideal, and go down to what you conceive to be the buying
public. And if your story does not take the popular fancy, where will
you be then?"
"Celia, you have become a perfect materialist. You don't allow anything
for the joy of creation, for the impulse of a man's mind, for the delight
in fighting for a place in the world of letters."
"So it seems to you now. If you have anything that must be said, of
course you ought to say it, no matter what comes after. If you are
looking round for something you can say in order to get the position you
covet, that is another thing. People so deceive themselves about this.
I know literary workers who lead a dog's life and are slaves to their
pursuit, simply because they have deceived themselves in this. I want
you to be free and independent, to live your own life and do what work
you can in the world. There, I've said it, and of course you will go
right on. I know you. And maybe I am all wrong. When I see the story I
may take the other side and urge you to go on, even if you are as poor as
a church-mouse, and have to be under the harrow of poverty for years."
"Then you have some curiosity to see the story?"
"You know I have. And I know I shall like it. It isn't that, Phil; it
is what is the happiest career for you."
"Well, I will send it to you when it comes back."
But the unexpected happened. It did not come back. One morning Philip
received a letter from the publishers that set his head in a whirl. The
story was accepted. The publisher wrote that the verdict of the readers
was favorable, and he would venture on it, though he cautioned Mr.
Burnett not to expect a great commercial success. And he added, as to
terms, it being a new name, though he hoped one that would become famous,
that the copyright of ten per cent. would not begin until after the sale
of the first thousand copies.
The latter part of the letter made no impression on Philip. So long as
the book was published, and by a respectable firm, he was indifferent as
a lord to the ignoble details of royalty. The publisher had recognized
the value of the book, and it was accepted on its merits. That was
enough. The first thing he did was to enclose the letter to Celia, with
the simple remark that he would try to sympathize with her in her
Philip would have been a little less jubilant if he had known how the
decision of the publishing house was arrived at. It was true that the
readers had reported favorably, but had refused to express any opinion on
the market value. The manuscript had therefore been put in the
graveyard of manuscripts, from which there is commonly no resurrection
except in the funeral progress of the manuscript back to the author. But
the head of the house happened to dine at the house of Mr. Hunt, the
senior of Philip's law firm. Some chance allusion was made by a lady to
an article in a recent magazine which had pleased her more than anything
she had seen lately. Mr. Hunt also had seen it, for his wife had insisted
on reading it to him, and he was proud to say that the author was a clerk
in his office—a fine fellow, who, he always fancied, had more taste for
literature than for law, but he had the stuff in him to succeed in
anything. The publisher pricked up his ears and asked some questions. He
found that Mr. Burnett stood well in the most prominent law firm in the
city, that ladies of social position recognized his talent, that he dined
here and there in a good set, and that he belonged to one of the best
clubs. When he went to his office the next morning he sent for the
manuscript, looked it over critically, and then announced to his partners
that he thought the thing was worth trying.
In a day or two it was announced in the advertising lists as forthcoming.
There it stared Philip in the face and seemed to be the only conspicuous
thing in the journal. He had not paid much attention before to the
advertisements, but now this department seemed the most interesting part
of the paper, and he read every announcement, and then came back and read
his over and over. There it stood:—"On Saturday, The Puritan Nun. An
Idyl. By Philip Burnett."
The naming of the book had been almost as difficult as the creation. His
first choice had been "The Lily of the Valley," but Balzac had pre-empted
that. And then he had thought of "The Enclosed Garden" (Hortus Clausus),
the title of a lovely picture he had seen. That was Biblical, but in the
present ignorance of the old scriptures it would be thought either
agricultural or sentimental. It is not uncommon that a book owes its
notoriety and sale to its title, and it is not easy to find a title that
will attract attention without being too sensational. The title chosen
was paradoxical, for while a nun might be a puritan, it was unthinkable
that a Puritan should be a nun.
Mr. Brad said he liked it, because it looked well and did not mean
anything; he liked all such titles, the "Pious Pirate," the "Lucid
Lunatic," the "Sympathetic Siren," the "Guileless Girl," and so on.
The announcement of publication had the effect of putting Philip in high
spirits for the Mavick reception-spirits tempered, however, by the
embarrassment natural to a modest man that he would be painfully
conspicuous. This first placarding of one's name is a peculiar and mixed
sensation. The letters seem shamefully naked, and the owner seems
exposed and to have parted with a considerable portion of his innate
privacy. His first fancy is that everybody will see it. But this fancy
only comes once. With experience he comes to doubt if anybody except
himself will see it.
To those most concerned the Mavick reception was the event of a lifetime.
To the town—that is, to a thousand or two persons occupying in their own
eyes an exclusive position it was one of the events of the season, and,
indeed, it was the sensation for a couple of days. The historian of
social life formerly had put upon him the task of painfully describing
all that went to make such an occasion brilliant—the house itself, the
decorations, the notable company, men distinguished in the State or the
Street, women as remarkable for their beauty as for their courage in its
exhibition, the whole world of fashion and of splendid extravagance upon
which the modiste and the tailor could look with as much pride as the
gardener does upon a show of flowers which his genius has brought to
The historian has no longer this responsibility. It is transferred to a
kind of trust. A race of skillful artists has arisen, who, in
combination with the caterers, the decorators, and the milliners, produce
a composite piece of literature in which all details are woven into a
splendid whole—a composition rhetorical, humorous, lyrical, a noble
apotheosis of wealth and beauty which carefully satisfies individual
vanity and raises in the mind a noble picture of modern civilization.
The pen and the pencil contribute to this splendid result in the daily
chronicle of our life. Those who are not present are really witnesses of
the scene, and this pictorial and literary triumph is justified in the
fact that no other effort of the genius of reproduction is so eagerly
studied by the general public. Not only in the city, but in the remote
villages, these accounts are perused with interest, and it must be taken
as an evidence of the new conception of the duties of the favored of
fortune to the public pleasure that the participants in these fetes
overcome, though reluctantly, their objection to notoriety.
No other people in the world are so hospitable as the Americans, and so
willing to incur discomfort in showing hospitality. No greater proof of
this can be needed than the effort to give princely entertainments in
un-princely houses, where opposing streams of guests fight for progress
in scant passages and on narrow stairways, and pack themselves in
stifling rooms. The Mavick house, it should be said, was perfectly
adapted to the throng that seemed to fill but did not crowd it. The
spacious halls, the noble stairways, the ample drawing-rooms, the
ballroom, the music-room, the library, the picture-gallery, the
dining-room, the conservatory—into these the crowd flowed or lingered
without confusion or annoyance and in a continual pleasure of surprise.
"The best point of view," said an artist of Philip's acquaintance, "is
just here." They were standing in the great hall looking up at that noble
gallery from which flowed down on either hand a broad stairway.
"I didn't know there was so much beauty in New York. It never before had
such an opportunity to display itself. There is room for the exhibition
of the most elaborate toilets, and the costumes really look regal in such
When Philip was shown to the dressing-room, conscious that the servant
was weighing him lightly in the social scale on account of his early
arrival, he found a few men who were waiting to make their appearance
more seasonable. They were young men, who had the air of being bored by
this sort of thing, and greeted each other with a look of courteous
surprise, as much as to say, "Hello! you here?" One of them, whom Philip
knew slightly, who had the reputation of being the distributer if not the
fountain of social information, and had the power of attracting gossip as
a magnet does iron filings, gave Philip much valuable information
concerning the function.
"Mrs. Mavick has done it this time. Everybody has tumbled in.
Washington is drained of its foreign diplomats, the heavy part of the
cabinet is moved over to represent the President, who sent a gracious
letter, the select from Boston, the most ancient from Philadelphia, and I
know that Chicago comes in a special train. Oh, it's the thing. I
assure you there was a scramble for invitations in the city. Lots of
visiting nobility—Count de l'Auney, I know, and that little snob, Lord
"Who is he?"
"Lord Crewe Monmouth Fitzwilliam, the Marquis of Montague, eldest son of
the Duke of Tewkesbury. He's a daisy.
"They say he is over here looking for capital to carry on his peer
business when he comes into it. Don't know who put up the money for the
trip. These foreigners keep a sharp eye on our market, I can tell you.
They say she is a nice little girl, rather a blue-stocking, face rather
intelligent than pretty, but Montague won't care for that—excuse the old
joke, but it is the figure Monte is after. He hasn't any manners, but
he's not a bad sort of a fellow, generally good-natured, immensely
pleased with New York, and an enthusiastic connoisseur in club drinks."
At the proper hour—the hour, it came into, his mind, when the dear ones
at Rivervale had been long in sleep, lulled by the musical flow of the
Deerfield—Philip made his way to the reception room, where there
actually was some press of a crowd, in lines, to approach the attraction
of the evening, and as he waited his turn he had leisure to observe the
brilliant scene. There was scarcely a person in the room he knew. One
or two ladies gave him a preoccupied nod, a plain little woman whom he
had talked with about books at a recent dinner smiled upon him
encouragingly. But what specially impressed him at the moment was the
seriousness of the function, the intentness upon the presentation, and
the look of worry on the faces of the women in arranging trains and
As he approached he fancied that Mr. Mavick looked weary and bored, and
that a shade of abstraction occasionally came over his face as if it were
difficult to keep his thoughts on the changing line.
But his face lighted up a little when he took Philip's hand and exchanged
with him the commonplaces of the evening. But before this he had to wait
a moment, for he was preceded by an important personage. A dapper little
figure, trim, neat, at the moment drew himself up before Mrs. Mavick,
brought his heels together with a click, and made a low bow. Doubtless
this was the French count. Mrs. Mavick was radiant. Philip had never
seen her in such spirits or so fascinating in manner.
"It is a great honor, count."
"It ees to me," said the count, with a marked accent; "I assure you it is
like Paris in ze time of ze monarchy. Ah, ze Great Republic, madame—so
it was in France in ze ancien regime. Ah, mademoiselle! Permit me," and
he raised her hand to his lips; "I salute—is it not" (turning to Mrs.
Mavick)—"ze princess of ze house?"
The next man who shook hands with the host, and then stood in an easy
attitude before the hostess, attracted Philip's attention strongly, for
he fancied from the deference shown him it must be the lord of whom he
had heard. He was a short, little man, with heavy limbs and a clumsy
figure, reddish hair, very thin on the crown, small eyes that were not
improved in expression by white eyebrows, a red face, smooth shaven and
freckled. It might have been the face of a hostler or a billiard-marker.
"I am delighted, my lord, that you could make room in your engagements to
"Ah, Mrs. Mavick, I wouldn't have missed it," said my lord, with easy
assurance; "I'd have thrown over anything to have come. And, do you
know" (looking about him coolly), "it's quite English, 'pon my honor,
quite English—St. James and that sort of thing."
"You flatter me, my lord," replied the lady of the house, with a winning
"No, I do assure you, it's bang-up. Ah, Miss Mavick, delighted,
delighted. Most charming. Lucky for me, wasn't it? I'm just in time."
"You've only recently come over, Lord Montague?" asked Evelyn.
"Been here before—Rockies, shooting, all that. Just arrived now
—beastly trip, beastly."
"And so you were glad to land?"
"Glad to land anywhere. But New York suits me down to the ground.
It goes, as you say over here. You know Paris?"
"We have been in Paris. You prefer it?"
"For some thing. Paris as it was in the Empire. For sport, no.
For horses, no. And" (looking boldly into her face) "when you speak of
American women, Paris ain't in it, as you say over here."
And the noble lord, instead of passing on, wheeled about and took a
position near Evelyn, so that he could drop his valuable observations
into her ear as occasion offered.
To Philip Mrs. Mavick was civil, but she did not beam upon him, and she
did not detain him longer than to say, "Glad to see you." But Evelyn
—could Philip be deceived?—she gave him her hand cordially and looked
into his eyes trustfully, as she had the habit of doing in the country,
and as if it were a momentary relief to her to encounter in all this
parade a friend.
"I need not say that I am glad you could come. And oh" (there was time
only for a word), "I saw the announcement. Later, if you can, you will
tell me more about it."
Lord Montague stared at him as if to say, "Who the deuce are you?" and as
Philip met his gaze he thought, "No, he hasn't the manner of a stable
boy; no one but a born nobleman could be so confident with women and so
supercilious to men."
But my lord, was little in his thought. It was the face of Evelyn that
he saw, and the dainty little figure; the warmth of the little hand still
thrilled him. So simple, and only a bunch of violets in her corsage for
all ornament! The clear, dark complexion, the sweet mouth, the wonderful
eyes! What could Jenks mean by intimating that she was plain?
Philip drifted along with the crowd. He was very much alone. And he
enjoyed his solitude. A word and a smile now and then from an
acquaintance did not tempt him to come out of his seclusion. The gay
scene pleased him. He looked for a moment into the ballroom. At another
time he would have tried his fortune in the whirl. But now he looked on
as at a spectacle from which he was detached. He had had his moment and
he waited for another. The voluptuous music, the fascinating toilets,
the beautiful faces, the graceful forms that were woven together in this
shifting kaleidoscope, were, indeed, a part of his beautiful dream. But
how unreal they all were! There was no doubt that Evelyn's eyes had
kindled for him as for no one else whom she had greeted. She singled him
out in all this crush, her look, the cordial pressure of her hand,
conveyed the feeling of comradeship and understanding. This was enough
to fill his thought with foolish anticipations. Is there any being quite
so happy, quite so stupid, as a lover? A lover, who hopes everything and
fears everything, who goes in an instant from the heights of bliss to the
depths of despair.
When the "reception" was over and the company was breaking up into groups
and moving about, Philip again sought Evelyn. But she was the centre of
a somewhat noisy group, and it was not easy to join it.
Yet it was something that he could feast his eyes on her and was rewarded
by a look now and then that told him she was conscious of his presence.
Encouraged by this, he was making his way to her, when there was a
movement towards the supper-room, and Mrs. Mavick had taken the arm of
the Count de l'Auney, and the little lord was jauntily leading away
Evelyn. Philip had a pang of disgust and jealousy. Evelyn was actually
chatting with him and seemed amused. Lord Montague was evidently laying
himself out to please and exerting all the powers of his subtle humor and
exploiting his newly acquired slang. That Philip could hear as they
moved past him. "The brute!" Philip said to himself, with the injustice
which always clouds the estimate of a lover of a rival whose
accomplishments differ from his own.
In the supper-room, however, in the confusion and crowding of it, Philip
at length found his opportunity to get to the side of Evelyn, whose smile
showed him that he was welcome. It was in that fortunate interval when
Lord Montague was showing that devotion to women was not incompatible
with careful attention to terrapin and champagne. Philip was at once
inspired to say:
"How lovely it is! Aren't you tired?"
"Not at all. Everybody is very kind, and some are very amusing. I am
learning a great deal," and there was a quizzical look in her eyes,
"about the world."
"Well," said Philip, "t's all here."
"I suppose so. But do you know," and there was quite an ingenuous blush
in her cheeks as she said it, "it isn't half so nice, Mr. Burnett, as a
picnic in Zoar."
"So you remember that?" Philip had not command of himself enough not to
attempt the sentimental.
"You must think I have a weak memory," she replied, with a laugh.
"And the story? When shall we have it?"
"Soon, I hope. And, Miss Mavick, I owe so much of it to you that I hope
you will let me send you the very first copy from the press."
"Will you? And do you Of course I shall be pleased and" (making him a
little curtsy) "honored, as one ought to say in this company."
Lord Montague was evidently getting uneasy, for his attention was
distracted from the occupation of feeding.
"No, don't go Lord Montague, an old friend, Mr. Burnett."
"Much pleased," said his lordship, looking round rather inquiringly at
the intruder. "I can't say much for the champagne—ah, not bad, you
know—but I always said that your terrapin isn't half so nasty as it
looks." And his lordship laughed most good-humoredly, as if he were
paying the American nation a deserved compliment.
"Yes," said Philip, "we have to depend upon France for the champagne, but
the terrapin is native."
"Quite so, and devilish good! That ain't bad, 'depend upon France for
the champagne!' There is nothing like your American humor, Miss Mavick."
"It needs an Englishman to appreciate it," replied Evelyn, with a twinkle
in her eyes which was lost upon her guest.
In the midst of these courtesies Philip bowed himself away. The party
was over for him, though he wandered about for a while, was attracted
again by the music to the ballroom, and did find there a dinner
acquaintance with whom he took a turn. The lady must have thought him a
very uninteresting or a very absent-minded companion.
As for Lord Montague, after he had what he called a "go" in the
dancing-room, he found his way back to the buffet in the supper-room, and
the historian says that he greatly enjoyed himself, and was very amusing,
and that he cultivated the friendship of an obliging waiter early in the
morning, who conducted his lordship to his cab.
The morning after The Puritan Nun was out, as Philip sat at his office
desk, conscious that the eyes of the world were on him, Mr. Mavick
entered, bowed to him absent-mindedly, and was shown into Mr. Hunt's
Philip had dreaded to come to the office that morning and encounter the
inquisition and perhaps the compliments of his fellow-clerks.
He had seen his name in staring capitals in the book-seller's window as
he came down, and he felt that it was shamefully exposed to the public
gaze, and that everybody had seen it. The clerks, however, gave no sign
that the event had disturbed them. He had encountered many people he
knew on the street, but there had been no recognition of his leap into
notoriety. Not a fellow in the club, where he had stopped a moment, had
treated him with any increased interest or deference. In the office only
one person seemed aware of his extraordinary good fortune. Mr. Tweedle
had come to the desk and offered his hand in his usual conciliatory and
"I see by the paper, Mr. Burnett, that we are an author. Let me
congratulate you. Mrs. Tweedle told me not to come home without bringing
your story. Who publishes it?"
"I shall be much honored," said Philip, blushing, "if Mrs. Tweedle will
accept a copy from me."
"I didn't mean that, Mr. Burnett; but, of course, gift of the author
—Mrs. Tweedle will be very much pleased."
In half an hour Mr. Mavick came out, passed him without recognition, and
hurried from the office, and Philip was summoned to Mr. Hunt's room.
"I want you to go to Washington immediately, Mr. Burnett. Return by the
night train. You can do without your grip? Take these papers to
Buckston Higgins—you see the address—who represents the British
Argentine syndicate. Wait till he reads them and get his reply. Here is
the money for the trip. Oh, after Mr. Higgins writes his answer, ask him
if you can telegraph me 'yes' or 'no.' Good-morning."
While Philip was speeding to Washington, an important conference was
taking place in Murad Ault's office. He was seated at his desk, and
before him lay two despatches, one from Chicago and a cable from London.
Opposite him, leaning forward in his chair, was a lean, hatchet-faced
man, with keen eyes and aquiline nose, who watched his old curbstone
confidant like a cat.
"I tell you, Wheatstone," said Mr. Ault, with an unmoved face, bringing
his fist down on the table, "now is the time to sell these three stocks."
"Why," said Mr. Wheatstone, with a look of wonder, "they are about the
strongest on the list. Mavick controls them."
"Does he?" said Ault. "Then he can take care of them."
"Have you any news, Mr. Ault?"
"Nothing to speak of," replied Ault, grimly. "It just looks so to me.
All you've got to do is to sell. Make a break this afternoon, about two
or three points off."
"They are too strong," protested Mr. Wheatstone.
"That is just the reason. Everybody will think something must be the
matter, or nobody would be fool enough to sell. You keep your eye on the
Spectrum this afternoon and tomorrow morning. About Organization and one
or two other matters."
"Ah, they do say that Mavick is in Argentine up to his neck," said the
broker, beginning to be enlightened.
"Is he? Then you think he would rather sell than buy?"
Mr. Wheatstone laughed and looked admiringly at his leader. "He may have
Mr. Ault took up the cable cipher and read it to himself again. If Mr.
Hunt had known its contents he need not have waited for Philip to
telegraph "no" from Washington.
"It's all right, Wheatstone. It's the biggest thing you ever struck.
Pitch 'em overboard in the morning. The Street is shaky about Argentine.
There'll be h—-to pay before half past twelve. I guess you can safely
go ten points. Lower yet, if Mavick's brokers begin to unload. I guess
he will have to unless he can borrow. Rumor is a big thing, especially
in a panic, eh? Keep your eye peeled. And, oh, won't you ask Babcock to
step round here?"
Mr. Babcock came round, and had his instructions when to buy. He had the
reputation of being a reckless broker, and not a safe man to follow.
The panic next day, both in London and New York, was long remembered. In
the unreasoning scare the best stocks were sacrificed. Small country
"investors" lost their stakes. Some operators were ruined. Many men
were poorer at the end of the scrimmage, and a few were richer. Murad
Ault was one of the latter. Mavick pulled through, though at an enormous
cost, and with some diminution of the notion of his solidity. The wise
ones suspected that his resources had been overestimated, or that they
were not so well at his command as had been supposed.
When he went home that night he looked five years older, and was too worn
and jaded to be civil to his family. The dinner passed mostly in
silence. Carmen saw that something serious had happened. Lord Montague
"Eh, what did he want?" said Mavick, surlily.
Carmen looked up surprised. "What does anybody after a reception call
"The Lord only knows."
"He is the funniest little man," Evelyn ventured to say.
"That is no way, child, to speak of the son of a duke," said Mavick,
relaxing a little.
Carmen did not like the tone in which this was said, but she prudently
kept silent. And presently Evelyn continued:
"He asked for you, papa, and said he wanted to pay his respects."
"I am glad he wants to pay anything," was the ungracious answer. Still
Evelyn was not to be put down.
"It was such a bright day in the Park. What were you doing all day,
"Why, my dear, I was engaged in Research; you will be pleased to know.
Looking after those ten millions."
When the dinner was over, Carmen followed Mr. Mavick to his study.
"What is the matter, Tom?"
"Nothing uncommon. It's a beastly hole down there. The Board used
to be made up of gentlemen. Now there are such fellows as Ault, a
"But he has no influence. He is nothing socially," said Carmen.
"Neither is a wolf or a cyclone. But I don't care to talk about him.
Don't you see, I don't want to be bothered?"
While these great events were taking place Philip was enjoying all the
tremors and delights of expectation which attend callow authorship. He
did not expect much, he said to himself, but deep down in his heart there
was that sweet hope, which fortunately always attends young writers, that
his would be an exceptional experience in the shoal of candidates for
fame, and he was secretly preparing himself not to be surprised if he
should "awake one morning and find himself famous."
The first response was from Celia. She wrote warm-heartedly. She wrote
at length, analyzing the characters, recalling the striking scenes, and
praising without stint the conception and the working out of the
character of the heroine. She pointed out the little faults of
construction and of language, and then minimized them in comparison with
the noble motive and the unity and beauty of the whole. She told Philip
that she was proud of him, and then insisted that, when his biography,
life, and letters was published, it would appear, she hoped, that his
dear friend had just a little to do with inspiring him. It was exactly
the sort of letter an author likes to receive, critical, perfectly
impartial, and with entire understanding of his purpose. All the author
wants is to be understood.
The letter from Alice was quite of another sort, a little shy in speaking
of the story, but full of affection. "Perhaps, dear Phil," she wrote, "I
ought not to tell you how much I like it, how it quite makes me blush in
its revelation of the secrets of a New England girl's heart. I read it
through fast, and then I read it again slowly. It seemed better even the
second time. I do think, Phil, it is a dear little book. Patience says
she hopes it will not become common; it is too fine to be nosed about by
the ordinary. I suppose you had to make it pathetic. Dear me! that is
just the truth of it. Forgive me for writing so freely. I hope it will
not be long before we see you. To think it is done by little Phil!"
The most eagerly expected acknowledgment was, however, a disappointment.
Philip knew Mrs. Mavick too well by this time to expect a letter from her
daughter, but there might have been a line. But Mrs. Mavick wrote
herself. Her daughter, she said, had asked her to acknowledge the
receipt of his very charming story. When he had so many friends it was
very thoughtful in him to remember the acquaintances of last summer. She
hoped the book would have the success it deserved.
This polite note was felt to be a slap in the face, but the effect of it
was softened a little later by a cordial and appreciative letter from
Miss McDonald, telling the author what great delight and satisfaction
they had had in reading it, and thanking him for a prose idyl that showed
in the old-fashioned way that common life was not necessarily vulgar.
The critics seemed to Philip very slow in letting the public know of the
birth of the book. Presently, however, the little notices, all very much
alike, began to drop along, longer or shorter paragraphs, commonly in
undiscriminating praise of the beauty of the story, the majority of them
evidently written by reviewers who sat down to a pile of volumes to be
turned off, and who had not more than five or ten minutes to be lost.
Rarely, however, did any one condemn it, and that showed that it was
harmless. Mr. Brad had given it quite a lift in the Spectrum. The
notice was mainly personal—the first work of a brilliant young man at
the bar who was destined to go high in his profession, unless literature
should, fortunately for the public, have stronger attractions for him.
That such a country idyl should be born amid law-books was sufficiently
remarkable. It was an open secret that the scene of the story was the
birthplace of the author—a lovely village that was brought into notice a
summer ago as the chosen residence of Thomas Mavick and his family.
Eagerly looked for at first, the newspaper notices soon palled upon
Philip, the uniform tone of good-natured praise, unanimous in the
extravagance of unmeaning adjectives. Now and then he welcomed one that
was ill-natured and cruelly censorious. That was a relief. And yet
there were some reviews of a different sort, half a dozen in all, and
half of them from Western journals, which took the book seriously, saw
its pathos, its artistic merit, its failure of construction through
inexperience. A few commended it warmly to readers who loved ideal
purity and could recognize the noble in common life. And some, whom
Philip regarded as authorities, welcomed a writer who avoided
sensationalism, and predicted for him an honorable career in letters, if
he did not become self-conscious and remained true to his ideals.
The book clearly had not made a hit, the publishers had sold one edition
and ordered half another, and no longer regarded the author as a risk.
But, better than this, the book had attracted the attention of many
lovers of literature. Philip was surprised day after day by meeting
people who had read it. His name began to be known in a small circle who
are interested in the business, and it was not long before he had offers
from editors, who were always on the lookout for new writers of promise,
to send something for their magazines. And, perhaps more flattering than
all, he began to have society invitations to dine, and professional
invitations to those little breakfasts that publishers give to old
writers and to young whose names are beginning to be spoken of. All this
was very exhilarating and encouraging. And yet Philip was not allowed to
be unduly elated by the attention of his fellow-craftsmen, for he soon
found that a man's consequence in this circle, as well as with the great
public, depended largely upon the amount of the sale of his book. How
else should it be rated, when a very popular author, by whom Philip sat
one day at luncheon, confessed that he never read books?
"So," said Mr. Sharp, one morning, "I see you have gone into literature,
"Not very deep," replied Philip with a smile, as he rose from his desk.
"Going to drop law, eh?"
"I haven't had occasion to drop much of anything yet," said Philip, still
"Oh well, two masters, you know," and Mr. Sharp passed on to his room.
It was not, however, Mr. Sharp's opinion that Philip was concerned about.
The polite note from Mrs. Mavick stuck in his mind. It was a civil way
of telling him that all summer debts were now paid, and that his
relations with the house of Mavick were at an end. This conclusion was
forced upon him when he left his card, a few days after the reception,
and had the ill luck not to find the ladies at home. The situation had
no element of tragedy in it, but Philip was powerless. He could not
storm the house. He had no visible grievance. There was nothing to
fight. He had simply run against one of the invisible social barriers
that neither offer resistance nor yield. No one had shown him any
discourtesy that society would recognize as a matter of offense. Nay,
more than that, it could have no sympathy with him. It was only the case
of a presumptuous and poor young man who was after a rich girl. The
position itself was ignoble, if it were disclosed.
Yet fortune, which sometimes likes to play the mischief with the best
social arrangements, did give Philip an unlooked-for chance. At a dinner
given by the lady who had been Philip's only partner at the Mavick
reception, and who had read his story and had written to "her partner" a
most kind little note regretting that she had not known she was dancing
with an author, and saying that she and her husband would be delighted to
make his acquaintance, Philip was surprised by the presence of the
Mavicks in the drawing-room. Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Mavick seemed
especially pleased when they encountered him, and in fact his sole
welcome from the family was in the eyes of Evelyn.
The hostess had supposed that the Mavicks would be pleased to meet the
rising author, and in still further carrying out her benevolent purpose,
and with, no doubt, a sympathy in the feelings of the young, Mrs. Van
Cortlandt had assigned Miss Mavick to Mr. Burnett. It was certainly a
natural arrangement, and yet it called a blank look to Mrs. Mavick's
face, that Philip saw, and put her in a bad humor which needed an effort
for her to conceal it from Mr. Van Cortlandt. The dinner-party was
large, and her ill-temper was not assuaged by the fact that the young
people were seated at a distance from her and on the same side of the
"How charming your daughter is looking, Mrs. Mavick!" Mr. Van Cortlandt
began, by way of being agreeable. Mrs. Mavick inclined her head. "That
young Burnett seems to be a nice sort of chap; Mrs. Van Cortlandt says he
is very clever."
"I haven't read his book. They say he is a lawyer."
"Lawyer's clerk, I believe," said Mrs. Mavick, indifferently.
"Authors are pretty plenty nowadays."
"That's a fact. Everybody writes. I don't see how all the poor devils
live." Mr. Van Cortlandt had now caught the proper tone, and the
conversation drifted away from personalities.
It was a very brilliant dinner, but Philip could not have given much
account of it. He made an effort to be civil to his left-hand neighbor,
and he affected an ease in replying to cross-table remarks. He fancied
that he carried himself very well, and so he did for a man unexpectedly
elevated to the seventh heaven, seated for two hours beside the girl
whose near presence filled him with indescribable happiness. Every look,
every tone of her voice thrilled him. How dear she was! how adorable she
was! How radiantly happy she seemed to be whenever she turned her face
towards him to ask a question or to make a reply!
At moments his passion seemed so overmastering that he could hardly
restrain himself from whispering, "Evelyn, I love you." In a hundred
ways he was telling her so. And she must understand. She must know that
this was not an affair of the moment, but that there was condensed in it
all the constant devotion of months and months.
A woman, even any girl with the least social experience, would have seen
this. Was Evelyn's sympathetic attention, her evident enjoyment in
talking with him, any evidence of a personal interest, or only a young
girl's enjoyment of her new position in the world? That she liked him he
was sure. Did she, was she beginning in any degree to return his
passion? He could not tell, for guilelessness in a woman is as
impenetrable as coquetry.
Of what did they talk? A stenographer would have made a meagre report of
it, for the most significant part of this conversation of two fresh,
honest natures was not in words. One thing, however, Philip could bring
away with him that was not a mere haze of delicious impressions. She had
been longing, she said, to talk to him about his story. She told him how
eagerly she had read it, and in talking about its meaning she revealed to
him her inner thought more completely than she could have done in any
other way, her sympathy with his mind, her interest in his work.
"Have you begun another?" she asked, at last.
"No, not on paper."
"But you must. It must be such a world to you. I can't imagine anything
so fine as that. There is so much about life to be said.
To make people see it as it is; yes, and as it ought to be. Will you?"
"You forget that I am a lawyer."
"And you prefer to be that, a lawyer, rather than an author?"
"It is not exactly what I prefer, Miss Mavick."
"Why not? Does anybody do anything well if his heart is not in it?"
"But circumstances sometimes compel a man."
"I like better for men to compel circumstances," the girl exclaimed, with
that disposition to look at things in the abstract that Philip so well
"Perhaps I do not make myself understood. One must have a career."
"A career?" And Evelyn looked puzzled for a moment. "You mean for
himself, for his own self?" There is a lawyer who comes to see papa.
I've been in the room sometimes, when they don't mind. Such talk about
schemes, and how to do this and that, and twisting about. And not a word
about anything any of the time. And one day when he was waiting for papa
I talked with him. You would have been surprised.
I told papa that I could not find anything to interest him. Papa laughed
and said it was my fault, he was one of the sharpest lawyers in the city.
Would you rather be that than to write?"
"Oh, all lawyers are not like that. And, don't you know, literature
"Yes, I have heard that." And then she thought a minute and with a
quizzical look continued: "That is such a queer word, 'pay.' McDonald
says that it pays to be good. Do you think, Mr. Burnett, that law would
Evidently the girl had a standard of judging people that was not much in
Before they rose from the table, Philip asked, speaking low, "Miss
Mavick, won't you give me a violet from your bunch in memory of this
Evelyn hesitated an instant, and then, without looking up, disengaged
three, and shyly laid them at her left hand. "I like the number three
Philip covered the flowers with his hand, and said, "I will keep them
"That is a long time," Evelyn answered, but still without looking up.
But when they rose the color mounted to her cheeks, and Philip thought
that the glorious eyes turned upon him were full of trust.
"It is all your doing," said Carmen, snappishly, when Mavick joined her
in the drawing-room.
"You insisted upon having him at the reception."
"Burnett? Oh, stuff, he isn't a fool!"
There was not much said as the three drove home. Evelyn, flushed with
pleasure and absorbed in her own thoughts, saw that something had gone
wrong with her mother and kept silent. Mr. Mavick at length broke the
"Did you have a good time, child?"
"Oh, yes," replied Evelyn, cheerfully, "and Mrs. Van Cortlandt was very
sweet to me. Don't you think she is very hospitable, mamma?"
"Tries to be," Mrs. Mavick replied, in no cordial tone. "Good-natured
and eccentric. She picks up the queerest lot of people. You can never
know whom you will not meet at her house. Just now she goes in for being
Evelyn was not so reticent with McDonald. While she was undressing she
disclosed that she had had a beautiful evening, that she was taken out by
Mr. Burnett, and talked about his story.
"And, do you know, I think I almost persuaded him to write another."
"It's an awful responsibility," dryly said the shrewd Scotch woman,
"advising young men what to do."
Upon the recollection of this dinner Philip maintained his hope and
courage for a long time. The day after it, New York seemed more
brilliant to him than it had ever been. In the afternoon he rode down to
the Battery. It was a mild winter day, with a haze in the atmosphere
that softened all outlines and gave an enchanting appearance to the
harbor shores. The water was silvery, and he watched a long time the
craft plying on it—the businesslike ferry-boats, the spiteful tugs, the
great ocean steamers, boldly pushing out upon the Atlantic through the
Narrows or cautiously drawing in as if weary with the buffeting of the
waves. The scene kindled in him a vigorous sense of life, of prosperity,
of longing for the activity of the great world.
Clearly he must do something and not be moping in indecision.
Uncertainty is harder to bear than disaster itself. When he thought of
Evelyn, and he always thought of her, it seemed cowardly to hesitate.
Celia, after her first outburst of enthusiasm, had returned to her
cautious advice. The law was much surer. Literature was a mere chance.
Why not be content with his little success and buckle down to his
profession? Perhaps by-and-by he would have leisure to indulge his
inclination. The advice seemed sound.
But there was Evelyn, with her innocent question.
"Would the law pay you?" Evelyn? Would he be more likely to win her by
obeying the advice of Celia, or by trusting to Evelyn's inexperienced
discernment? Indeed, what chance was there to win her at all? What had
he to offer her?
His spirits invariably fell when he thought of submitting his pretensions
to the great man of Wall Street or to his worldly wife. Already it was
the gossip of the clubs that Lord Montague was a frequent visitor at the
Mavicks', that he was often seen in their box at the opera, and that Mrs.
Mavick had said to Bob Shafter that it was a scandal to talk of Lord
Montague as a fortune-hunter. He was a most kind-hearted, domestic man.
She should not join in the newspaper talk about him. He belonged to an
old English family, and she should be civil to him. Generally she did
not fancy Englishmen, and this one she liked neither better nor worse
because he had a title. And when you came to that, why shouldn't any
American girl marry her equal?
As to Montague, he was her friend, and she knew that he had not the least
intention at present of marrying anybody. And then the uncharitable
gossip went on, that there was the Count de l'Auney, and that Mrs. Mavick
was playing the one off against the other.
As the days went on and spring began to appear in the light, fleeting
clouds in the blue sky and in the greening foliage in the city squares,
Philip became more and more restless. The situation was intolerable.
Evelyn he could never see. Perhaps she wondered that he made no effort
to see her. Perhaps she never thought of him at all, and simply, like an
obedient child, accepted her mother's leading, and was getting to like
that society life which was recorded in the daily journals. What did it
matter to him whether he stuck to the law or launched himself into the
Bohemia of literature, so long as doubt about Evelyn haunted him day and
night? If she was indifferent to him, he would know the worst, and go
about his business like a man. Who were the Mavicks, anyway?
Alice had written him once that Evelyn was a dear girl, no one could help
loving her; but she did not like the blood of father and mother. "And
remember, Phil—you must let me say this—there is not a drop of mean
blood in your ancestors."
Philip smiled at this. He was not in love with Mrs. Mavick nor with her
husband. They were for him simply guardians of a treasure he very much
coveted, and yet they were to a certain extent ennobled in his mind as
the authors of the being he worshiped. If it should be true that his
love for her was returned, it would not be possible even for them to
insist upon a course that would make their daughter unhappy for life.
They might reject him—no doubt he was a wholly unequal match for the
heiress—but could they, to the very end, be cruel to her?
Thus the ingenuous young man argued with himself, until it seemed plain
to him that if Evelyn loved him, and the conviction grew that she did,
all obstacles must give way to this overmastering passion of his life.
If he were living in a fool's paradise he would know it, and he ventured
to put his fortune to the test of experiment. The only manly course was
to gain the consent of the parents to ask their daughter to marry him; if
not that, then to be permitted to see her. He was nobly resolved to
pledge himself to make no proposals to her without their approval.
This seemed a very easy thing to do until he attempted it. He would
simply happen into Mr. Mavick's office, and, as Mr. Mavick frequently
talked familiarly with him, he would contrive to lead the conversation to
Evelyn, and make his confession. He mapped out the whole conversation,
and even to the manner in which he would represent his own prospects and
ambitions and his hopes of happiness. Of course Mr. Mavick would evade,
and say that it would be a long time before they should think of
disposing of their daughter's hand, and that—well, he must see himself
that he was in no position to support a wife accustomed to luxury;
in short, that one could not create situations in real life as he could
in novels, that personally he could give him no encouragement,
but that he would consult his wife.
This dream got no further than a private rehearsal. When he called at
Mr. Mavick's office he learned that Mr. Mavick had gone to the Pacific
coast, and that he would probably be absent several weeks. But Philip
could not wait. He resolved to end his torture by a bold stroke.
He wrote to Mrs. Mavick, saying that he had called at Mr. Mavick's
office, and, not finding him at home, he begged that she would give him
an interview concerning a matter of the deepest personal interest to
Mrs. Mavick understood in an instant what this meant. She had feared it.
Her first impulse was to write him a curt note of a character that would
end at once all intercourse. On second thought she determined to see
him, to discover how far the affair had gone, and to have it out with him
once for all. She accordingly wrote that she would have a few minutes at
half past five the next day.
As Philip went up the steps of the Mavick house at the appointed hour, he
met coming out of the door—and it seemed a bad omen—Lord Montague, who
seemed in high spirits, stared at Philip without recognition, whistled
for his cab, and drove away.
Mrs. Mavick received him politely, and, without offering her hand, asked
him to be seated. Philip was horribly embarrassed. The woman was so
cool, so civil, so perfectly indifferent. He stammered out something
about the weather and the coming spring, and made an allusion to the
dinner at Mrs. Van Cortlandt's. Mrs. Mavick was not in the mood to help
him with any general conversation, and presently said, looking at her
"You wrote me that you wanted to consult me. Is there anything I can do
"It was a personal matter," said Philip, getting control of himself.
"So you wrote. Mr. Mavick is away, and if it is in regard to anything in
your office, any promotion, you know, I don't understand anything about
business." And Mrs. Mavick smiled graciously.
"No, it is not about the office. I should not think of troubling my
friends in that way. It is just that—"
"Oh, I see," Mrs. Mavick interrupted, with good-humor, "it's about the
novel. I hear that it has sold very well. And you are not certain
whether its success will warrant your giving up your clerkship. Now as
for me," and she leaned back in her chair, with the air of weighing the
chances in her mind, "it doesn't seem to me that a writer—"
"No, it is not that," said Philip, leaning forward and looking her full
in the face with all the courage he could summon, "it is your daughter."
"What!" cried Mrs. Mavick, in a tone of incredulous surprise.
"I was afraid you would think me very presumptuous."
"Presumptuous! Why, she is a child. Do you know what you are talking
"My mother married at eighteen," said Philip, gently.
"That is an interesting piece of information, but I don't see its
bearing. Will you tell me, Mr. Burnett, what nonsense you have got into
"I want," and Philip spoke very gently—"I want, Mrs. Mavick, permission
to see your daughter."
"Ah! I thought in Rivervale, Mr. Burnett, that you were a gentleman.
You presume upon my invitation to this house, in an underhand way,
to—What right have you?"
Mrs. Mavick was so beside herself that she could hardly speak. The lines
in her face deepened into wrinkles and scowls. There was something
malevolent and mean in it. Philip was astonished at the transformation.
And she looked old and ugly in her passion.
"You!" she repeated.
"It is only this, Mrs. Mavick," and Philip spoke calmly, though his blood
was boiling at her insulting manner—"it is only this—I love your
"And you have told her this?"
"No, never, never a word."
"Does she know anything of this absurd, this silly attempt?"
"I am afraid not."
"Ah! Then you have spared yourself one humiliation. My daughter's
affections are not likely to be placed where her parents do not approve.
Her mother is her only confidante. I can tell you, Mr. Burnett, and when
you are over this delusion you will thank me for being so plain with you,
my daughter would laugh at the idea of such a proposal. But I will not
have her annoyed by impecunious aspirants."
"Madam!" cried Philip, rising, with a flushed face, and then he
remembered that he was talking to Evelyn's mother, and uttered no other
"This is ended." And then, with a slight change of manner, she went on:
"You must see how impossible it is. You are a man of honor.
"I should like to think well of you. I shall trust to your honor that
you will never try, by letter or otherwise, to hold any communication
"I shall obey you," said Philip, quite stiffly, "because you are her
mother. But I love her, and I shall always love her."
Mrs. Mavick did not condescend to any reply to this, but she made a cold
bow of dismissal and turned away from him. He left the house and walked
away, scarcely knowing in which direction he went, anger for a time being
uppermost in his mind, chagrin and defeat following, and with it the
confused feeling of a man who has passed through a cyclone and been
landed somewhere amid the scattered remnants of his possessions.
As he strode away he was intensely humiliated. He had been treated like
an inferior. He had voluntarily put himself in a position to be
insulted. Contempt had been poured upon him, his feelings had been
outraged, and there was no way in which he could show his resentment.
Presently, as his anger subsided, he began to look at the matter more
sanely. What had happened? He had made an honorable proposal. But what
right had he to expect that it would be favorably considered?
He knew all along that it was most unlikely that Mrs. Mavick would
entertain for a moment idea of such a match. He knew what would be the
unanimous opinion of society about it. In the case of any other young
man aspiring to the hand of a rich girl, he knew very well what he should
Well, he had done nothing dishonorable. And as he reviewed the bitter
interview he began to console himself with the thought that he had not
lost his temper, that he had said nothing to be regretted, nothing that
he should not have said to the mother of the girl he loved. There was an
inner comfort in this, even if his life were ruined.
Mrs. Mavick, on the contrary, had not so good reason to be satisfied with
herself. It was a principle of her well-ordered life never to get into a
passion, never to let herself go, never to reveal herself by intemperate
speech, never to any one, except occasionally to her husband when his
cold sarcasm became intolerable. She felt, as soon as the door closed on
Philip, that she had made a blunder, and yet in her irritation she
committed a worse one. She went at once to Evelyn's room, resolved to
make it perfectly sure that the Philip episode was ended. She had had
suspicions about her daughter ever since the Van Cortlandt dinner. She
would find out if they were justified, and she would act decidedly before
any further mischief was done. Evelyn was alone, and her mother kissed
her fondly several times and then threw herself into an easy-chair and
declared she was tired.
"My dear, I have had such an unpleasant interview."
"I am sorry," said Evelyn, seating herself on the arm of the chair and
putting her arm round her mother's neck. "With whom, mamma?"
"Oh, with that Mr. Burnett." Mrs. Mavick felt a nervous start in the arm
that caressed her.
"Yes, he came to see your father, I fancy, about some business. I think
he is not getting on very well."
"Why, his book—"
"I know, but that amounts to nothing. There is not much chance for a
lawyer's clerk who gets bitten with the idea that he can write."
"If he was in trouble, mamma," said Evelyn, softly, "then you were good
"I tried to be," Mrs. Mavick half sighed, "but you can't do anything with
such people" (by 'such people' Mrs. Mavick meant those who have no money)
"when they don't get on. They are never reasonable. And he was in such
an awful bad temper. You cannot show any kindness to such people without
exposing yourself. I think he presumes upon his acquaintance with your
father. It was most disagreeable, and he was so rude" (a little thrill
in the arm again)—"well, not exactly rude, but he was not a bit nice to
me, and I am afraid I showed by my looks that I was irritated. He was
just as disagreeable as he could be.
"He met Lord Montague on the steps, and he had something spiteful to say
about him. I had to tell him he was presuming a good deal on his
acquaintance, and that I considered his manner insulting. He flung out
of the house very high and mighty."
"That was not a bit like him, mamma."
"We didn't know him. That is all. Now we do, and I am thankful we do.
He will never come here again."
Evelyn was very still for a moment, and then she said: "I'm very sorry
for it all. It must be some misunderstanding."
"Of course, it is dreadful to be so disappointed in people. But we have
to learn. I don't know anything about his misunderstanding, but I did
not misunderstand what he said. At any rate, after such an exposition we
can have no further intercourse with him. You will not care to see any
one who treated your mother in this way? If you love me, you cannot be
friendly with him. I know you would not like to be."
Evelyn did not reply for a moment. Her silence revealed the fact to the
shrewd woman that she had not intervened a day too soon.
"You promise me, dear, that you will put the whole thing out of your
mind?" and she drew her daughter closer to her and kissed her.
And then Evelyn said slowly: "I shall not have any friends whom you do
not approve, but, mamma, I cannot be unjust in my mind."
And Mrs. Mavick had the good sense not to press the question further.
She still regarded Evelyn as a child. Her naivete, her simplicity, her
ignorance of social conventions and of the worldly wisdom which to Mrs.
Mavick was the sum of all knowledge misled her mother as to her power of
discernment and her strength of character. Indeed, Mrs. Mavick had only
the slightest conception of that range of thought and feeling in which
the girl habitually lived, and of the training which at the age of
eighteen had given her discipline, and great maturity of judgment as
well. She would be obedient, but she was incapable of duplicity, and
therefore she had said as plainly as possible that whatever the trouble
might be she would not be unjust to Philip.
The interview with her mother left her in a very distressed state of
mind. It is a horrible disillusion when a girl begins to suspect that
her mother is not sincere, and that her ideals of life are mean. This
knowledge may exist with the deepest affection—indeed, in a noble mind,
with an inward tenderness and an almost divine pity. How many times have
we seen a daughter loyal to a frivolous, worldly-minded, insincere
mother, shielding her and exhibiting to the censorious world the utmost
love and trust!
Evelyn was far from suspecting the extent of her mother's duplicity, but
her heart told her that an attempt had been made to mislead her, and that
there must be some explanation of Philip's conduct that would be
consistent with her knowledge of his character. And, as she endeavored
to pierce this mystery, it dawned upon her that there had been a method
in throwing her so much into the society of Lord Montague, and that it
was unnatural that such a friend as Philip should be seen so seldom—only
twice since the days in Rivervale. Naturally the very reverse of
suspicious, she had been dreaming on things to come in the seclusion of
her awakening womanhood, without the least notion that the freedom of her
own soul was to be interfered with by any merely worldly demands. But
now things that had occurred, and that her mother had said, came back to
her with a new meaning, and her trustful spirit was overwhelmed. And
there, in the silence of her chamber, began the fierce struggle between
desire and what she called her duty—a duty imposed from without.
She began to perceive that she was not free, that she was a part of a
social machine, the power of which she had not at all apprehended, and
that she was powerless in its clutch. She might resist, but peace was
gone. She had heretofore found peace in obedience, but when she
consulted her own heart she knew that she could not find peace in
obedience now. To a girl differently reared, perhaps, subterfuge, or
some manoeuvring justified by the situation, might have been resorted to.
But such a thing never occurred to Evelyn. Everything looked
dark before her, as she more clearly understood her mother's attitude,
and for the first time in years she could do nothing but give way to
"Why, Evelyn, you have been crying!" exclaimed the governess, who came to
seek her. "What is the matter?"
Evelyn arose and threw herself on her friend's neck for a moment, and
then, brushing away the tears, said, with an attempt to smile, "Oh,
nothing; I got thinking, thinking, thinking, and Don't you ever get blue,
"Not often," said the Scotchwoman, gravely. "But, dear, you have nothing
in the world to make you so."
"No, no, nothing;" and then she broke down again, and threw herself upon
McDonald's bosom in a passion of sobbing. "I can't help it. Mamma says
Phil—Mr. Burnett—is never to come to this house again. What have I
done? And he will think—he will think that I hate him."
McDonald drew the girl into her lap, and with uncommon gentleness
comforted her with caresses.
"Dear child," she said, "crosses must come into our lives; we cannot
help that. Your mother is no doubt doing what she thinks best for your
own happiness. Nothing can really hurt us for long, you know that well,
except what we do to ourselves. I never told you why I came to this
country—I didn't want to sadden you with my troubles—but now I want you
to understand me better. It is a long story."
But it was not very long in the telling, for the narrator found that what
seemed to her so long in the suffering could be conveyed to another in
only a few words. And the story was not in any of its features new,
except to the auditor. There had been a long attachment, passionate love
and perfect trust, long engagement, marriage postponed because both were
poor, and the lover struggling into his profession, and then, it seemed
sudden and unaccountable, his marriage with some one else. "It was not
like him," said the governess in conclusion; "it was his ambition to get
on that blinded him."
"And he, was he happy?" asked Evelyn.
"I heard that he was not" (and she spoke reluctantly); "I fear not. How
could he be?" And the governess seemed overwhelmed in a flood of tender
and painful memories. "That was over twenty years ago. And I have been
happy, my darling, I have had such a happy life with you.
"I never dreamed I could have such a blessing. And you, child, will be
happy too; I know it."
And the two women, locked in each other's arms, found that consolation in
sympathy which steals away half the grief of the world. Ah! who knows a
For Philip there was in these days no such consolation. It was a man's
way not to seek any, to roll himself up in his trouble like a hibernating
bear. And yet there were times when he had an intolerable longing for a
confidant, for some one to whom he could relieve himself of part of his
burden by talking. To Celia he could say nothing. Instinct told him
that he should not go to her. Of the sympathy of Alice he was sure, but
why inflict his selfish grief on her tender heart? But he was writing to
her often, he was talking to her freely about his perplexities, about
leaving the office and trusting himself to the pursuit of literature in
some way. And, in answer to direct questions, he told her that he had
seen Evelyn only a few times, and, the fact was, that Mrs. Mavick had cut
him dead. He could not give to his correspondent a very humorous turn to
this situation, for Alice knew—had she not seen them often together, and
did she not know the depths of Philip's passion? And she read between
the lines the real state of the case. Alice was indignant, but she did
not think it wise to make too much of the incident. Of Evelyn she wrote
affectionately—she knew she was a noble and high-minded girl. As to her
mother, she dismissed her with a country estimate. "You know, Phil,
that I never thought she was a lady."
But the lover was not to be wholly without comfort. He met by chance one
day on the Avenue Miss McDonald, and her greeting was so cordial that he
knew that he had at least one friend in the house of Mavick.
It was a warm spring day, a stray day sent in advance, as it were, to
warn the nomads of the city that it was time to move on. The tramps in
Washington Square felt the genial impulse, and, seeking the shaded
benches, began to dream of the open country, the hospitable farmhouses,
the nooning by wayside springs, and the charm of wandering at will among
a tolerant and not too watchful people. Having the same abundant
leisure, the dwellers up-town—also nomads—were casting in their minds
how best to employ it, and the fortunate ones were already gathering
together their flocks and herds and preparing to move on to their camps
at Newport or among the feeding-hills of the New-England coast.
The foliage of Central Park, already heavy, still preserved the freshness
of its new birth, and invited the stroller on the Avenue to its
protecting shade. At Miss McDonald's suggestion they turned in and found
a secluded seat.
"I often come here," she said to Philip; "it is almost as peaceful as the
To Philip also it seemed peaceful, but the soothing influence he found in
it was that he was sitting with the woman who saw Evelyn hourly, who had
been with her only an hour ago.
"Yes," she said, in reply to a question, "everybody is well. We are
going to leave town earlier than usual this summer, as soon as Mr. Mavick
returns. Mrs. Mavick is going to open her Newport house; she says she
has had enough of the country. It is still very amusing to me to see how
you Americans move about with the seasons, just like the barbarians of
Turkestan, half the year in summer camps and half the year in winter
"Perhaps," said Philip, "it is because the social pasturage gets poor."
"Maybe," replied the governess, continuing the conceit, "only the horde
keeps pretty well together, wherever it is. I know we are to have a very
gay season. Lots of distinguished foreigners and all that."
"But," said Philip, "don't England and the Continent long for the
presence of Americans in the season in the same way?"
"Not exactly. It is the shop-keepers and hotels that sigh for the
Americans. I don't think that American shop-keepers expect much of
"And you are going soon? I suppose Miss Mavick is eager to go also,"
said Philip, trying to speak indifferently.
Miss McDonald turned towards him with a look of perfect understanding,
and then replied, "No, not eager; she hasn't been in her usual spirits
lately—no, not ill—and probably the change will be good for her.
It is her first season, you know, and that is always exciting to a girl.
Perhaps it is only the spring weather."
It was some moments before either of them spoke again, and then Miss
McDonald looked up—"Oh, Mr. Burnett, I have wanted to see you and have
a talk with you about your novel. I could say so little in my note. We
read it first together and then I read it alone, rather to sit in
judgment on it, you know. I liked it better the second time, but I could
see the faults of construction, and I could see, too, why it will be more
popular with a few people than with the general public. You don't mind
"Go on, the words of a friend."
"Yes, I know, are sometimes hardest to bear. Well, it is lovely, ideal,
but it seems to me you are still a little too afraid of human nature.
You are afraid to say things that are common. And the deep things of
life are pretty much all common. No, don't interrupt me. I love the
story just as it is. I am glad you wrote it as you did. It was natural,
in your state of experience, that you should do it. But in your next,
having got rid of what was on top of your mind, so to speak, you will
take a firmer, more confident hold of life. You are not offended?"
"No, indeed," cried Philip. "I am very grateful. No doubt you are
right. It seems to me, now that I am detached from it, as if it were
only a sort of prelude to something else."
"Well, you must not let my single opinion influence you too much, for I
must in honesty tell you another thing. Evelyn will not have a word of
criticism of it. She says it is like a piece of music, and the impudent
thing declares that she does not expect a Scotchwoman to understand
anything but ballad music."
Philip laughed at this, such a laugh as he had not indulged in for many
days. "I hope you don't quarrel about such a little thing."
"Not seriously. She says I may pick away at the story—and I like to see
her bristle up—but that she looks at the spirit."
"God bless her," said Philip under his breath.
Miss McDonald rose, and they walked out into the Avenue again. How
delightful was the genial air, the light, the blue sky of spring!
How the brilliant Avenue, now filling up with afternoon equipages,
sparkled in the sunshine!
When they parted, Miss McDonald gave him her hand and held his a moment,
looking into his eyes. "Mr. Burnett, authors need some encouragement.
When I left Evelyn she was going to her room with your book in her hand."
Why should not Philip trust the future? He was a free man. He had given
no hostages to fortune. Even if he did not succeed, no one else would be
involved in his failure. Why not follow his inclination, the dream of
He was at liberty to choose for himself. Everybody in America is; this
is the proclamation of its blessed independence. Are we any better off
for the privilege of following first one inclination and then another,
which is called making a choice? Are they not as well off, and on the
whole as likely to find their right place, who inherit their callings in
life, whose careers are mapped out from the cradle by circumstance and
convention? How much time do we waste in futile experiment? Freedom to
try everything, which is before the young man, is commonly freedom to
excel in nothing.
There are, of course, exceptions. The blacksmith climbs into a city
pulpit. The popular preacher becomes an excellent insurance agent. The
saloon-keeper develops into the legislator, and wears the broadcloth and
high hat of the politician. The brakeman becomes the railway magnate,
and the college graduate a grocer's clerk, and the messenger-boy, picking
up by chance one day the pen, and finding it run easier than his legs,
becomes a power on a city journal, and advises society how to conduct
itself and the government how to make war and peace. All this adds to
the excitement and interest of life. On the whole, we say that people
get shaken into their right places, and the predetermined vocation is
often a mistake. There is the anecdote of a well-known clergyman who,
being in a company with his father, an aged and distinguished doctor of
divinity, raised his monitory finger and exclaimed, "Ah, you spoiled a
first-rate carpenter when you made a poor minister of me."
Philip thought he was calmly arguing the matter with himself. How often
do we deliberately weigh such a choice as we would that of another
person, testing our inclination by solid reason? Perhaps no one could
have told Philip what he ought to do, but every one who knew him, and the
circumstances, knew what he would do. He was, in fact, already doing it
while he was paltering with his ostensible profession. But he never
would have confessed, probably he would then have been ashamed to
confess, how much his decision to break with the pretense of law was
influenced by the thought of what a certain dark little maiden, whose
image was always in his mind, would wish him to do, and by the very
remarkable fact that she was seen going to her room with his well-read
story in her hand. Perhaps it was under her pillow at night!
Good-luck seemed to follow his decision—as it often does when a man
makes a questionable choice, as if the devil had taken an interest in his
downward road to prosperity. But Philip really gained a permanent
advantage. The novel had given him a limited reputation and very little
money. Yet it was his stepping-stone, and when he applied to his
publishers and told them of his decision, they gave him some work as a
reader for the house. At first this was fitful and intermittent, but as
he showed both literary discrimination and tact in judging of the market,
his services were more in request, and slowly he acquired confidential
relations with the house. Whatever he knew, his knowledge of languages
and his experience abroad, came into play, and he began to have more
confidence in himself, as he saw that his somewhat desultory education
had, after all, a market value.
The rather long period of his struggle, which is a common struggle, and
often disheartening, need not be dwelt on here. We can anticipate by
saying that he obtained in the house a permanent and responsible
situation, with an income sufficient for a bachelor without habits of
self-indulgence. It was not the crowning of a noble ambition, it was not
in the least the career he had dreamed of, but it gave him support and a
recognized position, and, above all, did not divert him from such
creative work as he was competent to do. Nay, he found very soon that
the feeling of security, without any sordid worry, gave freedom to his
imagination. There was something stimulating in the atmosphere of books
and manuscripts and in that world of letters which seems so large to
those who live in it. Fortunately, also, having a support, he was not
tempted to debase his talent by sensational ventures. What he wrote for
this or that magazine he wrote to please himself, and, although he saw no
fortune that way, the little he received was an encouragement as well as
an appreciable addition to his income.
There are two sorts of success in letters as in life generally.
The one is achieved suddenly, by a dash, and it lasts as long as the
author can keep the attention of the spectators upon his scintillating
novelties. When the sparks fade there is darkness. How many such
glittering spectacles this century has witnessed!
There is another sort of success which does not startlingly or at once
declare itself. Sometimes it comes with little observation. The
reputation is slowly built up, as by a patient process of nature.
It is curious, as Philip wrote once in an essay, to see this unfolding in
Lowell's life. There was no one moment when he launched into great
popularity—nay, in detail, he seemed to himself not to have made the
strike that ambition is always expecting. But lo! the time came when, by
universal public consent, which was in the nature of a surprise to him,
he had a high and permanent place in the world of letters.
In anticipating Philip's career, however, it must not be understood that
he had attained any wide public recognition. He was simply enrolled in
the great army of readers and was serving his apprenticeship. He was
recognized as a capable man by those who purvey in letters to the
entertainment of the world. Even this little foothold was not easily
gained in a day, as the historian discovered in reading some bundles of
old letters which Philip wrote in this time of his novitiate to Celia and
to his cousin Alice.
It was against Celia's most strenuous advice that he had trusted himself
to a literary career. "I see, my dear friend," she wrote,
in reply to his announcement that he was going that day to Mr. Hunt to
resign his position, "that you are not happy, but whatever your
disappointment or disillusion, you will not better yourself by
surrendering a regular occupation. You live too much in the imagination
Philip fancied, with that fatuity common to his sex, that he had worn an
impenetrable mask in regard to his wild passion for Evelyn, and did not
dream that, all along, Celia had read him like an open book. She judged
Philip quite accurately. It was herself that she did not know, and she
would have repelled as nonsense the suggestion that her own restlessness
and her own changing experiments in occupation were due to the
unsatisfied longings of a woman's heart.
"You must not think," the letter went on, "that I want to dictate, but I
have noticed that men—it may be different with women—only succeed by
taking one path and diligently walking in it. And literature is not a
career, it is just a toss up, a lottery, and woe to you if you once draw
a lucky number—you will always be expecting another . . . You say
that I am a pretty one to give advice, for I am always chopping and
changing myself. Well, from the time you were a little boy, did I ever
give you but one sort of advice? I have been constant in that. And as
to myself, you are unjust. I have always had one distinct object in
life, and that I have pursued. I wanted to find out about life, to have
experience, and then do what I could do best, and what needed most to be
done. Why did I not stick to teaching in that woman's college? Well, I
began to have doubts, I began to experiment on my pupils. You will
laugh, but I will give you a specimen. One day I put a question to my
literature class, and I found out that not one of them knew how to boil
potatoes. They were all getting an education, and hardly one of them
knew how much the happiness of a home depends upon having the potatoes
mealy and not soggy. It was so in everything. How are we going to live
when we are all educated, without knowing how to live? Then I found that
the masses here in New York did not know any better than the classes how
to live. Don't think it is just a matter of cooking. It is knowing how,
generally, to make the most of yourself and of your opportunities, and
have a nice world to live in, a thrifty, self-helpful, disciplined world.
Is education giving us this? And then we think that organization will do
it, organization instead of self-development. We think we can organize
life, as they are trying to organize art. They have organized art as
they have the production of cotton.
"Did I tell you I was in that? No? I used to draw in school, and after
I had worked in the Settlement here in New York, and while I was working
down on the East Side, it came over me that maybe I had one talent
wrapped in a napkin; and I have been taking lessons in Fifty-seventh
Street with the thousand or two young women who do not know how to boil
potatoes, but are pursuing the higher life of art. I did not tell you
this because I knew you would say that I am just as inconsistent as you
are. But I am not. I have demonstrated the fact that neither I nor one
in a hundred of those charming devotees to art could ever earn a living
by art, or do anything except to add to the mediocrity of the amazing art
product of this free country.
"And you will ask, what now? I am going on in the same way. I am going
to be a doctor. In college I was very well up in physiology and anatomy,
and I went quite a way in biology. So you see I have a good start. I am
going to attend lectures and go into a hospital, as soon as there is an
opening, and then I mean to practice. One essential for a young doctor I
have in advance. That is patients. I can get all I want on the East
Side, and I have already studied many of them. Law and medicine are what
I call real professions."
However Celia might undervalue the calling that Philip had now entered
on, he had about this time evidence of the growing appreciation of
literature by practical business men. He was surprised one day by a
brief note from Murad Ault, asking him to call at his office as soon as
Mr. Ault received him in his private office at exactly the hour named.
Evidently Mr. Ault's affairs were prospering. His establishment
presented every appearance of a high-pressure business perfectly
organized. The outer rooms were full of industrious clerks, messengers
were constantly entering and departing in a feverish rapidity, servants
moved silently about, conducting visitors to this or that waiting-room
and answering questions, excited speculators in groups were gesticulating
and vociferating, and in the anteroom were impatient clients awaiting
their turn. In the inner chamber, however, was perfect calm. There at
his table sat the dark, impenetrable operator, whose time was exactly
apportioned, serene, saturnine, or genial, as the case might be,
listening attentively, speaking deliberately, despatching the affair in
hand without haste or the waste of a moment.
Mr. Ault arose and shook hands cordially, and then went on, without delay
for any conventional talk.
"I sent for you, Mr. Burnett, because I wanted your help, and because I
thought I might do you a good turn. You see" (with a grim smile)
"I have not forgotten Rivervale days. My wife has been reading your
story. I don't have much time for such things myself, but her constant
talk about it has given me an idea. I want to suggest to you the scene
of a novel, one that would be bound to be a good seller.
"I could guarantee a big circulation. I have just become interested in
one of the great transcontinental lines." He named the most picturesque
of them—one that he, in fact, absolutely controlled. "Well, I want a
story, yes, I guess a good love-story—a romance of reality you might
call it—strung on that line. You take the idea?"
"Why," said Philip, half amused at the conceit and yet complimented by
the recognition of his talent, "I don't know anything about railroads
—how they are run, cost of building, prospect of traffic, engineering
difficulties, all that—nothing whatever."
"So much the better. It is a literary work I want, not a brag about the
road or a description of its enterprise. You just take the line as your
scene. Let the story run on that. The company, don't you see, must not
in any way be suspected with having anything to do with it, no mention of
its name as a company, no advertisement of the road on a fly-leaf or
cover. Just your own story, pure and simple."
"But," said Philip, more and more astonished at this unlooked-for
expansion of the literary field, "I could not embark on an enterprise of
"Oh," said Mr. Ault, complacently, "that will be all arranged. Just a
pleasure trip, as far as that goes. You will have a private car, well
stocked, a photographer will go along, and I think—don't you? a
water-color artist. You can take your own time, stop when and where you
choose—at the more stations the better. It ought to be profusely
illustrated with scenes on the line—yes, have colored plates, all that
would give life and character to your story. Love on a Special, some
such title as that. It would run like oil. I will arrange to have it as
a serial in one of the big magazines, and then the book would be bound to
go. The company, of course, can have nothing to do with it, but I can
tell you privately that it would rather distribute a hundred thousand
copies of a book of good literature through the country than to encourage
the railway truck that is going now.
"I shouldn't wonder, Mr. Burnett, if the public would be interested in
having the Puritan Nun take that kind of a trip." And Mr. Ault ended his
explanation with an interrogatory smile.
Philip hesitated a moment, trying to grasp the conception of this
business use of literature. Mr. Ault resumed:
"It isn't anything in the nature of an advertisement. Literature is a
power. Why, do you know—of course you did not intend it—your story has
encouraged the Peacock Inn to double its accommodations, and half the
farmhouses in Rivervale are expecting summer boarders. The landlord of
the Peacock came to see me the other day, and he says everything is
stirred up there, and he has already to enlarge or refuse application."
"It is very kind in you, Mr. Ault, to think of me in that connection, but
I fear you have over-estimated my capacity. I could name half a dozen
men who could do it much better than I could. They know how to do it,
they have that kind of touch. I have been surprised at the literary
ability engaged by the great corporations."
Mr. Ault made a gesture of impatience. "I wouldn't give a damn for that
sort of thing. It is money thrown away. If I should get one of the
popular writers you refer to, the public would know he was hired. If you
lay your story out there, nobody will suspect anything of the sort. It
will be a clean literary novel. Not travel, you understand, but a story,
and the more love in it the better. It will be a novelty. You can run
your car sixty miles an hour in exciting passages, everything will work
into it. When people travel on the road the pictures will show them the
scenes of the story. It is a big thing," said Mr. Ault in conclusion.
"I see it is," said Philip, rising at the hint that his time had expired.
"I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Ault, for your confidence in me. But
it is a new idea. I will have to think it over."
"Well, think it over. There is money in it. You would not start till
about midsummer. Good-day."
A private car! Travel like a prince! Certainly literature was looking
up in the commercial world. Philip walked back to his publishers with a
certain elasticity of step, a new sense of power. Yes, the power of the
pen. And why not? No doubt it would bring him money and spread his name
very widely. There was nothing that a friendly corporation could not do
for a favorite. He would then really be a part of the great, active,
enterprising world. Was there anything illegitimate in taking advantage
of such an opportunity? Surely, he should remain his own master, and
write nothing except what his own conscience approved. But would he not
feel, even if no one else knew it, that he was the poet-laureate of a
And suddenly, as he thought how the clear vision of Evelyn would plunge
to the bottom of such a temptation, he felt humiliated that such a
proposition should have been made to him. Was there nothing, nobody,
that commercialism did not think for sale and to be trafficked in?
Nevertheless, he wrote to Alice about it, describing the proposal as it
was made to him, without making any comment on it.
Alice replied speedily. "Isn't it funny," she wrote, "and isn't it
preposterous? I wonder what such people think? And that horrid young
pirate, Ault, a patron of literature! My dear, I cannot conceive of you
as the Pirate's Own. Dear Phil, I want you to succeed. I do want you to
make money, a lot of it. I like to think you are wanted and appreciated,
and that you can get paid better and better for what you do. Sell your
manuscripts for as good a price as you can get. Yes, dear, sell your
manuscripts, but don't sell your soul."
Did Miss McDonald tell Evelyn of her meeting with Philip in Central Park?
The Scotch loyalty to her service would throw a doubt upon this. At the
same time, the Scotch affection, the Scotch sympathy with a true and
romantic passion, and, above all, the Scotch shrewdness, could be trusted
to do what was best under the circumstances. That she gave the least
hint of what she said to Mr. Burnett concerning Evelyn is not to be
supposed for a moment. Certainly she did not tell Mrs. Mavick. Was she
a person to run about with idle gossip? But it is certain that Evelyn
knew that Philip had given up his situation in the office, that he had
become a reader for a publishing house, that he had definitely decided to
take up a literary career. And somehow it came into her mind that Philip
knew that this decision would be pleasing to her.
According to the analogy of other things in nature, it would seem that
love must have something to feed on to sustain it. But it is remarkable
upon how little it can exist, can even thrive and become strong, and
develop a power of resistance to hostile influences. Once it gets a
lodgment in a woman's heart, it is an exclusive force that transforms her
into a heroine of courage and endurance. No arguments, no reason, no
considerations of family, of position, of worldly fortune, no prospect of
immortal life, nothing but doubt of faith in the object can dislodge it.
The woman may yield to overwhelming circumstances, she may even by her
own consent be false to herself, but the love lives, however hidden and
smothered, so long as the vital force is capable of responding to a true
emotion. Perhaps nothing in human life is so pathetic as this survival
in old age of a youthful, unsatisfied love. It may cease to be a
passion, it may cease to be a misery, it may have become only a placid
sentiment, yet the heart must be quite cold before this sentiment can
cease to stir it on occasion—for the faded flower is still in the memory
the bloom of young love.
They say that in the New Education for women love is not taken into
account in the regular course; it is an elective study. But the immortal
principle of life does not care much for organization, and says, as of
old, they reckon ill who leave me out.
In the early season at Newport there was little to distract the attention
and much to calm the spirit. Mrs. Mavick was busy in her preparation for
the coming campaign, and Evelyn and her governess were left much alone,
to drive along the softly lapping sea, to search among the dells of the
rocky promontory for wild flowers, or to sit on the cliffs in front of
the gardens of bloom and watch the idle play of the waves, that chased
each other to the foaming beach and in good-nature tossed about the
cat-boats and schooners and set the white sails shimmering and dipping in
the changing lights. And Evelyn, drinking in the beauty and the peace of
it, no doubt, was more pensive than joyous. Within the last few months
life had opened to her with a suddenness that half frightened her.
It was a woman who sat on the cliffs now, watching the ocean of life, no
longer a girl into whose fresh soul the sea and the waves and the air,
and the whole beauty of the world, were simply responsive to her own
gayety and enjoyment of living. It was not the charming scene that held
her thought, but the city with its human struggle, and in that struggle
one figure was conspicuous. In such moments this one figure of youth
outweighed for her all that the world held besides. It was strange.
Would she have admitted this? Not in the least, not even to herself, in
her virgin musings; nevertheless, the world was changed for her, it was
more serious, more doubtful, richer, and more to be feared.
It was not too much to say that one season had much transformed her. She
had been so ignorant of the world a year ago. She had taken for granted
all that was abstractly right. Now she saw that the conventions of life
were like sand-dunes and barriers in the path she was expected to walk.
She had learned for one thing what money was. Wealth had been such an
accepted part of her life, since she could remember, that she had
attached no importance to it, and had only just come to see what
distinctions it made, and how it built a barrier round about her. She
had come to know what it was that gave her father position and
distinction; and the knowledge had been forced upon her by all the
obsequious flattery of society that she was, as a great heiress,
something apart from others. This position, so much envied, may be to a
sensitive soul an awful isolation.
It was only recently that Evelyn had begun to be keenly aware of the
circumstances that hedged her in. They were speaking one day as they sat
upon the cliffs of the season about to begin. In it Evelyn had always
had unalloyed, childish delight. Now it seemed to her something to be
"McDonald," the girl said, abruptly, but evidently continuing her line of
thought, "mamma says that Lord Montague is coming next week."
"To be with us?"
"Oh, no. He is to stay with the Danforth-Sibbs. Mamma says that as he
is a stranger here we must be very polite to him, and that his being here
will give distinction to the season. Do you like him?" There was in
Evelyn still, with the penetration of the woman, the naivete of the
"I cannot say that he is personally very fascinating, but then I have
never talked with him."
"Mamma says he is very interesting about his family, and their place in
England, and about his travels. He has been in the South Sea Islands. I
asked him about them. He said that the natives were awfully jolly, and
that the climate was jolly hot. Do you know, McDonald, that you can't
get anything out of him but exclamations and slang. I suppose he talks
to other people differently. I tried him. At the reception I asked him
who was going to take Tennyson's place. He looked blank, and then said,
'Er—I must have missed that. What place? Is he out?'"
Miss McDonald laughed, and then said, "You don't understand the classes
in English life. Poetry is not in his line. You see, dear, you couldn't
talk to him about politics. He is a born legislator, and when he is in
the House of Lords he will know right well who is in and who is out. You
mustn't be unjust because he seems odd to you and of limited
intelligence. Just that sort of youth is liable to turn up some day in
India or somewhere and do a mighty plucky thing, and become a hero. I
dare say he is a great sportsman."
"Yes, he quite warmed up about shooting. He told me about going for yak
in the snow mountains south of Thibet. Bloody cold it was. Nasty beast,
if you didn't bring him down first shot. No, I don't doubt his courage
nor his impudence. He looks at me so, that I can't help blushing. I
wish mamma wouldn't ask him."
"But, my dear, we must live in the world as it is. You are not
responsible for Lord Montague."
"And I know he will come," the girl persisted in her line of thought.
"When he called the day before we came away, he asked a lot of questions
about Newport, about horses and polo and golf, and all that, and were the
roads good. And then, 'Do you bike, Miss Mavick?'
"I pretended not to understand, and said I was still studying with my
governess and I hadn't got all the irregular verbs yet. For once, he
looked quite blank, and after a minute he said, 'That's very good, you
know!' McDonald, I just hate him. He makes me so uneasy."
"But don't you know, child," said Miss McDonald, laughing, "that we are
required to love our enemies?"
"So I would," replied the girl, quickly, "if he were an enemy and would
keep away. Ah, me! McDonald, I want to ask you something. Do you
suppose he would hang around a girl who was poor, such a sweet, pretty,
dear creature as Alice Maitland, who is a hundred times nicer than I am?"
"He might," said Miss McDonald, still quizzically. "They say that like
goes to like, and it is reported that the Duke of Tewkesbury is as good
"Do be serious, McDonald." The girl nestled up closer to her and took
her hand. "I want to ask you one question more. Do you think—no, don't
look at me, look away off at that sail do you-think that, if I had been
poor, Mr. Burnett would have seen me only twice, just twice, all last
Miss McDonald put her arm around Evelyn and clasped the little figure
tight. "You must not give way to fancies. We cannot, as life is
arranged, be perfectly happy, but we can be true to ourselves, and there
is scarcely anything that resolution and patience cannot overcome. I
ought not to talk to you about this, Evelyn. But I must say one thing: I
think I can read Philip Burnett. Oh, he has plenty of self-esteem, but,
unless I mistake him, nothing could so mortify him as to have it said
that he was pursuing a girl for the sake of her fortune."
"And he wouldn't!" cried the girl, looking up and speaking in an unsteady
"Let me finish. He is, so I think, the sort of man that would not let
any fortune, or anything else, stand in the way when his heart was
concerned. I somehow feel that he could not change—faithfulness, that
is his notion. If he only knew—"
"He never shall! he never shall!" cried the girl in alarm—"never!"
"And you think, child, that he doesn't know? Come! That sail has been
coming straight towards us ever since we sat here, never tacked once.
That is omen enough for one day. See how the light strikes it. Come!"
The Newport season was not, after all, very gay. Society has become so
complex that it takes more than one Englishman to make a season. Were it
the business of the chronicler to study the evolution of this lovely
watering-place from its simple, unconventional, animated days of natural
hospitality and enjoyment, to its present splendid and palatial isolation
of a society—during the season—which finds its chief satisfaction in
the rivalry of costly luxury and in an atmosphere of what is deemed
aristocratic exclusiveness, he would have a theme attractive to the
sociologist. But such a noble study is not for him. His is the humble
task of following the fortunes of certain individuals, more or less
conspicuous in this astonishing flowering of a democratic society, who
have become dear to him by long acquaintance.
It was not the fault of Mrs. Mavick that the season was so frigid, its
glacial stateliness only now and then breaking out in an illuminating
burst of festivity, like the lighting-up of a Montreal ice-palace. Her
spacious house was always open, and her efforts, in charity enterprises
and novel entertainments, were untiring to stimulate a circulation in the
languid body of society.
This clever woman never showed more courage or more tact than in this
campaign, and was never more agreeable and fascinating. She was even
popular. If she was not accepted as a leader, she had a certain standing
with the leaders, as a person of vivacity and social influence. Any
company was eager for her presence. Her activity, spirit, and affability
quite won the regard of the society reporters, and those who know Newport
only through the newspapers would have concluded that the Mavicks were on
the top of the wave. She, however, perfectly understood her position,
and knew that the sweet friends, who exchanged with her, whenever they
met, the conventional phrases of affection commented sarcastically upon
her ambitions for her daughter. It was, at the same time, an ambition
that they perfectly understood, and did not condemn on any ethical
grounds. Evelyn was certainly a sweet girl, rather queerly educated, and
never likely to make much of a dash, but she was an heiress, and why
should not her money be put to the patriotic use of increasing the
growing Anglo-American cordiality?
Lord Montague was, of course, a favorite, in demand for all functions,
and in request for the private and intimate entertainments. He was an
authority in the stables and the kennels, and an eager comrade in all the
sports of the island. His easy manner, his self-possession everywhere,
even his slangy talk, were accepted as evidence that he was above
conventionalities. "The little man isn't a beauty," said Sally McTabb,
"but he shows 'race.'" He might be eccentric, but when you came to know
him you couldn't help liking the embryo duke in him.
In fact, things were going very well with Mrs. Mavick, except in her own
household. There was something there that did not yield, that did not
flow with her plans. With Lord Montague she was on the most intimate and
confidential relations. He was almost daily at the house. Often she
drove with him; frequently Evelyn was with them. Indeed, the three came
to be associated in the public mind. There could be no doubt of the
intentions of the young nobleman. That he could meet any opposition was
The noble lord, since they had been in Newport, had freely opened his
mind to Mrs. Mavick, and on a fit occasion had formally requested her
daughter's hand. Needless to say that he was accepted. Nay, more,
he felt that he was trusted like a son. He was given every opportunity
to press his suit. Somewhat to his surprise, he did not appear to make
much headway. He was rarely able to see her alone, even for a moment.
Such evasiveness in a young girl to a man of his rank astonished him.
There could be no reason for it in himself; there must be some influence
at work unknown to his social experience.
He did not reproach Mrs. Mavick with this, but he let her see that he was
very much annoyed.
"If I had not your assurance to the contrary, Mrs. Mavick," he said one
day in a pet, "I should think she shunned me."
"Oh, no, Lord Montague, that could not be. I told you that she had had a
peculiar education; she is perfectly ignorant of the world, she is shy,
and—well, for a girl in her position, she is unconventional. She is so
young that she does not yet understand what life is."
"You mean she does not know what I offer her?"
"Why, my dear Lord Montague, did you ever offer her anything?"
"Not flat, no," said my lord, hesitating. "Every time I approach her she
shies off like a young filly. There is something I don't understand."
"Evelyn," and Mrs. Mavick spoke with feeling, "is an affectionate and
dutiful child. She has never thought of marriage. The prospect is all
new to her. But I am sure she would learn to love you if she knew you
and her mind were once turned upon such a union. My lord, why not say to
her what you feel, and make the offer you intend? You cannot expect a
young girl to show her inclination before she is asked." And Mrs. Mavick
laughed a little to dispel the seriousness.
"By Jove! that's so, good enough. I'll do it straight out. I'll tell
her to take it or leave it. No, I don't mean that, of course. I'll tell
her that I can't live without her—that sort of thing, you know. And I
can't, that's just the fact."
"You can leave it confidently to her good judgment and to the friendship
of the family for you."
Lord Montague was silent for a moment, and seemed to be looking at a
problem in his shrewd mind. For he had a shrewd mind, which took in the
whole situation, Mrs. Mavick and all, with a perspicacity that would have
astonished that woman of the world.
"There is one thing, perhaps I ought not to say it, but I have seen it,
and it is in my head that it is that—I beg your pardon, madam—that
The shot went home. The suggestion, put into language that could be more
easily comprehended than defended, illuminated Mrs. Mavick's mind in a
flash, seeming to disclose the source of an opposition to her purposes
which secretly irritated her. Doubtless it was the governess. It was
her influence that made Evelyn less pliable and amenable to reason than a
young girl with such social prospects as she had would naturally be.
Besides, how absurd it was that a young lady in society should still have
a governess. A companion? The proper companion for a girl on the edge
of matrimony was her mother!
This idea, once implanted in Mrs. Mavick's mind, bore speedy fruit. No
one would have accused her of being one of those uncomfortable persons
who are always guided by an inflexible sense of justice, nor could it be
said that she was unintelligently unjust. Facile as she was, in all her
successful life she had never acted upon impulse, but from a conscience
keenly alive to what was just to herself. Miss McDonald was in the way.
And Mrs. Mavick had one quality of good generalship—she acted promptly
on her convictions.
When Mr. Mavick came over next day to spend Sunday in what was called in
print the bosom of his family, he looked very much worn and haggard and
was in an irritated mood. He had been very little in Newport that
summer, the disturbed state of business confining him to the city. And
to a man of his age, New York in midsummer in a panicky season is not a
The moment Mrs. Mavick got her husband alone she showed a lively
solicitude about his health.
"I suppose it has been dreadfully hot in the city?"
"Hot enough. Everything makes it hot."
"Has anything gone wrong? Has that odious Ault turned up again?"
"Turned up is the word. Half the time that man is a mole, half the time
a bull in a china-shop. He sails up to you bearing your own flag, and
when he gets aboard he shows the skull and cross-bones."
"Is it so bad as that?"
"As bad as what? He is a bad lot, but he is just an adventurer—a
Napoleon who will get his Waterloo before fall. Don't bother about
things you don't understand. How are things down here?"
"Going swimmingly." "So I judged by the bills. How is the lord?"
"Now don't be vulgar, Tom. You must keep up your end. Lord Montague is
very nice; he is a great favorite here."
"Does Evelyn like him?"
"Yes, she likes him; she likes him very much."
"She didn't show it to me."
"No, she is awfully shy. And she is rather afraid of him, the big title
and all that. And then she has never been accustomed to act for herself.
She is old enough to be independent and to take her place in the world.
At her age I was not in leading-strings."
"I should say not," said Mavick.
"Except in obedience to my mother," continued Carmen, not deigning to
notice the sarcasm. "And I've been thinking that McDonald—"
"So you want to get rid of her?"
"What a brutal way of putting it! No. But if Evelyn is ever to be
self-reliant it is time she should depend more on herself. You know I am
devoted to McDonald. And, what is more, I am used to her. I wasn't
thinking of her. You don't realize that Evelyn is a young lady in
society, and it has become ridiculous for her to still have a governess.
Everybody would say so."
"Well, call her a companion."
"Ah, don't you see it would be the same? She would still be under her
influence and not able to act for herself."
"What are you going to do? Turn her adrift after eighteen—what is it,
seventeen?—years of faithful service?"
"How brutally you put it. I'm going to tell McDonald just how it is.
She is a sensible woman, and she will see that it is for Evelyn's good.
And then it happens very luckily. Mrs. Van Cortlandt asked me last
winter if I wouldn't let her have McDonald for her little girl when we
were through with her. She knew, of course, that we couldn't keep a
governess much longer for Evelyn. I am going to write to her. She will
jump at the chance."
"Oh, she likes Mrs. Van Cortlandt. It will just suit her."
"And Evelyn? That will be another wrench." Men are so foolishly
tender-hearted about women.
"Of course, I know it seems hard, and will be for a little. But it is
for Evelyn's good, I am perfectly sure."
Mr. Mavick was meditating. It was a mighty unpleasant business. But he
was getting tired of conflict. There was an undercurrent in the lives of
both that made him shrink from going deep into any domestic difference.
It was best to yield.
"Well, Carmen, I couldn't have the heart to do it. She has been Evelyn's
constant companion all the child's life. Ah, well, it's your own affair.
Only don't stir it up till after I am gone. I must go to the city early
Because Mavick, amid all the demands of business and society, and his
ambitions for power in the world of finance and politics, had not had
much time to devote to his daughter, it must not be supposed that he did
not love her. In the odd moments at her service she had always been a
delight to him; and, in truth, many of his ambitions had centred in the
intelligent, affectionate, responsive child. But there had been no time
for much real comradeship.
This Sunday, however, and it was partly because of pity for the shock he
felt was in store for her, he devoted himself to her. They had a long
walk on the cliff, and he talked to her of his life, of his travels, and
his political experience. She was a most appreciative listener, and in
the warmth of his confidence she opened her mind to him, and rather
surprised him by her range of intelligence and the singular uprightness
of her opinions, and more still by her ready wit and playfulness. It was
the first time she had felt really free with her father, and he for the
first time seemed to know her as she was in her inner life. When they
returned to the house, and she was thanking him with a glow of enthusiasm
for such a lovely day, he lifted her up and kissed her, with an emotion
of affection that brought tears to her eyes.
A couple of days elapsed before Mrs. Mavick was ready for action. During
this time she had satisfied herself, by apparently casual conversation
with her daughter and Miss McDonald, that the latter would be wholly out
of sympathy with her intentions in regard to Evelyn. Left to herself she
judged that her daughter would look with more favor upon the brilliant
career offered to her by Lord Montague. When, therefore, one morning the
governess was summoned to her room, her course was decided on. She
received Miss McDonald with more than usual cordiality. She had in her
hand a telegram, and beamed upon her as the bearer of good news.
"I have an excellent offer for you, Miss McDonald."
"An offer for me?"
"Yes, from Mrs. Van Cortlandt, to be the governess of her daughter, a
sweet little girl of six. She has often spoken about it, and now I have
an urgent despatch from her. She is in need of some one at once, and she
greatly prefers you."
"Do you mean, Mrs. Mavick, that—you—want—that I am to leave Evelyn,
and you?" The room seemed to whirl around her.
"It is not what we want, McDonald," said Mrs. Mavick calmly and still
beaming, "but what is best. Your service as governess has continued much
longer than could have been anticipated, and of course it must come to an
end some time. You understand how hard this separation is for all of us.
Mr. Mavick wanted me to express to you his infinite obligation, and I am
sure he will take a substantial way of showing it. Evelyn is now a young
lady in society, and of course it is absurd for her to continue under
pupilage. It will be best for her, for her character, to be independent
and learn to act for herself in the world."
"Did she—has Evelyn—"
"No, I have said nothing to her of this offer, which is a most
advantageous one. Of course she will feel as we do, at first."
"Why, all these years, all her life, since she was a baby, not a day, not
a night, Evelyn, and now—so sweet, so dear—why Mrs. Mavick!"
And the Scotch woman, dazed, with a piteous appeal in her eyes, trying in
vain to control her face, looked at her mistress.
"My dear McDonald, you must not take it that way. It is only a change.
You are not going away really, we shall all be in the same city. I am
sure you will—like your new home. Shall I tell Mrs. Van Cortlandt?"
"Tell Mrs. Van Cortlandt? Yes, tell her, thanks. I will go—soon—at
once. In a little time, to get-ready. Thanks." The governess rose and
stood a moment to steady herself. All her life was in ruins. The blow
crushed her. And she had been so happy. In such great peace. It seemed
impossible. To leave Evelyn! She put out her hand as if to speak. Did
Mrs. Mavick understand what she was doing? That it was the same as
dragging a mother away from her child? But she said nothing. Words
would not come. Everything seemed confused and blank. She sank into her
"Excuse me, Mrs. Mavick, I think I am not very strong this morning." And
presently she stood on her feet again and steadied herself. "You will
please tell Evelyn before—before I see her." And she walked out of the
room as one in a trance.
The news was communicated to Evelyn, quite incidentally, in the manner
that all who knew Mrs. Mavick admired in her. Evelyn had just been in
and out of her mother's room, on one errand and another, and was going
out again, when her mother said:
"Oh, by-the-way, Evelyn, at last we have got a splendid place for
Evelyn turned, not exactly comprehending. "A place for McDonald? For
"As governess, of course. With Mrs. Van Cortlandt."
"What! to leave us?" The girl walked back to her mother's chair and
stood before her in an attitude of wonder and doubt. "You don't mean,
mamma, that she is going away for good?"
"It is a great chance for her. I have been anxious for some time about
employment for her, now that you do not need a governess—haven't really
for a year or two."
"But, mamma, it can't be. She is part of us. She belongs to the family;
she has been in it almost as long as I have. Why, I have been with her
every day of my life. To go away? To give her up? Does she know?"
"Does she know? What a child! She has accepted Mrs. Van Cortlandt's
offer. I telegraphed for her this morning. Tomorrow she goes to town to
get her belongings together. Mrs. Van Cortlandt needs her at once. I am
sorry to see, my dear, that you are thinking only of yourself."
"Of myself?" The girl had been at first confused, and, as the idea forced
itself upon her mind, she felt weak, and trembled, and was deadly pale.
But when the certainty came, the enormity and cruelty of the dismissal
aroused her indignation. "Myself!" she exclaimed again. Her eyes blazed
with a wrath new to their tenderness, and, stepping back and stamping her
foot; she cried out: "She shall not go! It is unjust! It is cruel!"
Her mother had never seen her child like that. She was revealing a
spirit of resistance, a temper, an independence quite unexpected.
And yet it was not altogether displeasing. Mrs. Mavick's respect for her
involuntarily rose. And after an instant, instead of responding with
severity, as was her first impulse, she said, very calmly:
"Naturally, Evelyn, you do not like to part with her. None of us do.
But go to your room and think it over reasonably. The relations of
childhood cannot last forever."
Evelyn stood for a moment undecided. Her mother's calm self-control had
not deceived her. She was no longer a child. It was a woman reading a
woman. All her lifetime came back to her to interpret this moment. In
the reaction of the second, the deepest pain was no longer for herself,
nor even for Miss McDonald, but for a woman who showed herself so
insensible to noble feeling. Protest was useless. But why was the
separation desired? She did not fully see, but her instinct told her
that it had a relation to her mother's plans for her; and as life rose
before her in the society, in the world, into which she was newly
launched, she felt that she was alone, absolutely alone. She tried to
speak, but before she could collect her thoughts her mother said:
"There, go now. It is useless to discuss the matter. We all have to
learn to bear things."
Evelyn went away, in a tumult of passion and of shame, and obeyed her
impulse to go where she had always found comfort.
Miss McDonald was in her own room. Her trunk was opened. She had taken
her clothes from the closet. She was opening the drawers and laying one
article here and another there. She was going from closet to bureau,
opening this door and shutting that in her sitting-room and bedroom, in
an aimless, distracted way. Out of her efforts nothing had so far come
but confusion. It seemed an impossible dream that she was actually
packing up to go away forever.
Evelyn entered in a haste that could not wait for permission.
"Is it true?" she cried.
McDonald turned. She could not speak. Her faithful face was gray with
suffering. Her eyes were swollen with weeping. For an instant she
seemed not to comprehend, and then a flood of motherly feeling overcame
her. She stretched out her arms and caught the girl to her breast in a
passionate embrace, burying her face in her neck in a vain effort to
subdue her sobbing.
What was there to say? Evelyn had come to her refuge for comfort, and to
Evelyn the comforter it was she herself who must be the comforter.
Presently she disengaged herself and forced the governess into an easy
chair. She sat down on the arm of the chair and smoothed her hair and
kissed her again and again.
"There. I'm going to help you. You'll see you have not taught me for
nothing." She jumped up and began to bustle about. "You don't know what
a packer I am."
"I knew it must come some time," she was saying, with a weary air, as she
followed with her eyes the light step of the graceful girl, who was
beginning to sort things and to bring order out of the confusion, holding
up one article after another and asking questions with an enforced
cheerfulness that was more pathetic than any burst of grief.
"Yes, I know. There, that is laid in smooth." She pretended to be
thinking what to put in next, and suddenly she threw herself into
McDonald's lap and began to talk gayly. "It is all my fault, dear; I
should have stayed little. And it doesn't make any difference.
I know you love me, and oh, McDonald, I love you more, a hundred times
more, than ever. If you did not love me! Think how dreadful that would
be. And we shall not be separated-only by streets, don't you know. They
can't separate us. I know you want me to be brave. And some day,
perhaps" (and she whispered in her ear—how many hundred times had she
told her girl secrets in that way!), "if I do have a home of my own,
It was not very cheerful talk, however it seemed to be, but it was better
than silence, and in the midst of it, with many interruptions, the
packing was over, and some sort of serenity was attained even by Miss
McDonald. "Yes, dear heart, we have love and trust and hope."
But when the preparations were all made, and Evelyn went to her own room,
there did not seem to be so much hope, nor any brightness in the midst of
this first great catastrophe of her life.
The great Mavick ball at Newport, in the summer long remembered for its
financial disasters, was very much talked about at the time. Long after,
in any city club, a man was sure to have attentive listeners if he, began
his story or his gossip with the remark that he was at the Mavick ball.
It attracted great attention, both on account of the circumstances that
preceded it and the events which speedily followed, and threw a light
upon it that gave it a spectacular importance. The city journals made a
feature of it. They summoned their best artists to illustrate it, and
illuminate it in pen-and-ink, half-tones, startling colors, and
photographic reproductions, sketches theatrical, humorous, and poetic,
caricatures, pictures of tropical luxury and aristocratic pretension; in
short, all the bewildering affluence of modern art which is brought to
bear upon the aesthetic cultivation of the lowest popular taste. They
summoned their best novelists to throw themselves recklessly upon the
English language, and extort from it its highest expression in color and
lyrical beauty, the novelists whose mission it is, in the newspaper
campaign against realism, to adorn and dramatize the commonest events of
life, creating in place of the old-fashioned "news" the highly spiced
"story," which is the ideal aspiration of the reporter.
Whatever may be said about the power of the press, it is undeniable
that it can set the entire public thinking and talking about any topic,
however insignificant in itself, that it may elect to make the
sensation of the day—a wedding, a murder, a political scandal, a
divorce, a social event, a defalcation, a lost child, an unidentified
victim of accident or crime, an election, or—that undefined quickener of
patriotism called a casus belli. It can impose any topic it pleases upon
the public mind. In case there is no topic, it is necessary to make one,
for it is an indefeasible right of the public to have news.
These reports of the Mavick ball had a peculiar interest for at least two
people in New York. Murad Ault read them with a sardonic smile and an
enjoyment that would not have been called altruistic. Philip
searched them with the feverish eagerness of a maiden who scans the
report of a battle in which her lover has been engaged.
All summer long he had lived upon stray bits of news in the society
columns of the newspapers. To see Evelyn's name mentioned, and only
rarely, as a guest at some entertainment, and often in connection with
that of Lord Montague, did not convey much information, nor was that
little encouraging. Was she well? Was she absorbed in the life of the
season? Did she think of him in surroundings so brilliant? Was she,
perhaps, unhappy and persecuted? No tidings came that could tell him the
things that he ached to know.
Only recently intelligence had come to him that at the same time wrung
his heart with pity and buoyed him up with hope. He had not seen Miss
McDonald since her dismissal, for she had been only one night in the
city, but she had written to him. Relieved by her discharge of all
obligations of silence, she had written him frankly about the whole
affair, and, indeed, put him in possession of unrecorded details and
indications that filled him with anxiety, to be sure, but raised his
courage and strengthened his determination. If Evelyn loved him, he had
faith that no manoeuvres or compulsion could shake her loyalty. And yet
she was but a girl; she was now practically alone, and could she resist
the family and the social pressure? Few women could, few women do,
effectively resist under such circumstances. With one of a tender heart,
duty often takes the most specious and deceiving forms. In yielding to
the impulses of her heart, which in her inexperience may be mistaken, has
a girl the right—from a purely rational point of view—to set herself
against, nay, to destroy, the long-cherished ambitions of her parents for
a brilliant social career for her, founded upon social traditions of
success? For what had Mr. Mavick toiled? For what had Mrs. Mavick
schemed all these years? Could the girl throw herself away? Such
disobedience, such disregard for social law, would seem impossible to her
Some of the events that preceded the Mavick ball throw light upon that
interesting function. After the departure of Miss McDonald, Mrs. Mavick,
in one of her confidential talks with her proposed son-in-law, confessed
that she experienced much relief. An obstacle seemed to be removed.
In fact, Evelyn rather surprised her mother by what seemed a calm
acceptance of the situation. There was no further outburst. If the girl
was often preoccupied and seemed listless, that was to be expected, on
the sudden removal of the companion of her lifetime.
But she did not complain. She ceased after a while to speak of McDonald.
If she showed little enthusiasm in what was going on around her, she was
compliant, she fell in at once with her mother's suggestions, and went
and came in an attitude of entire obedience.
"It isn't best for you to keep up a correspondence, my dear, now that you
know that McDonald is nicely settled—all reminiscent correspondence is
very wearing—and, really, I am more than delighted to see that you are
quite capable of walking alone. Do you know, Evelyn, that I am more and
more proud of you every day, as my daughter. I don't dare to tell you
half the nice things that are said of you. It would make you vain." And
the proud mother kissed her affectionately. The letters ceased. If the
governess wrote, Evelyn did not see the letters.
As the days went by, Lord Montague, in high and confident spirits, became
more and more a familiar inmate of the house. Daily he sent flowers to
Evelyn; he contrived little excursions and suppers; he was marked in his
attentions wherever they went. "He is such a dear fellow," said Mrs.
Mavick to one of her friends; "I don't know how we should get on without
Only, in the house, owing to some unnatural perversity of circumstances,
he did not see much of Evelyn, never alone for more than a moment. It is
wonderful what efficient, though invisible, defenses most women, when
they will, can throw about themselves.
That the affair was "arranged" Lord Montague had no doubt. It was not
conceivable that the daughter of an American stock-broker would refuse
the offer of a position so transcendent and so evidently coveted in a
democratic society. Not that the single-minded young man reasoned about
it this way. He was born with a most comfortable belief in himself and
the knowledge that when he decided to become a domestic man he had
simply, as the phrase is, to throw his handkerchief.
At home, where such qualities as distinguished him from the common were
appreciated without the need of personal exertion, this might be true;
but in America it did seem to be somehow different. American women, at
least some of them, did need to be personally wooed; and many of them had
a sort of independence in the bestowal of their affections or, what they
understood to be the same thing, themselves that must be taken into
account. And it gradually dawned upon the mind of this inheritor of
privilege that in this case the approval of the family, even the pressure
of the mother, was not sufficient; he must have also Evelyn's consent.
If she were a mature woman who knew and appreciated the world, she would
perceive the advantages offered to her without argument. But a girl,
just released from the care of her governess, unaccustomed to society,
might have notions, or, in the vernacular of the scion, might be
And then, again, to do the wooer entire justice, the dark little girl, so
much mistress of herself, so evidently spirited, with such an air of
distinction, began to separate herself in his mind as a good goer against
the field, and he had a real desire to win her affection. The more
indifferent she was to him, the keener was his desire to possess her.
His unsuccessful wooing had passed through several stages, first
astonishment, then pique, and finally something very like passion, or a
fair semblance of devotion, backed, of course, since all natures are more
or less mixed, by the fact that this attractive figure of the woman was
thrown into high relief by the colossal fortune behind her.
And Evelyn herself? Neither her mother nor her suitor appreciated the
uncommon circumstances that her education, her whole training in
familiarity with pure and lofty ideals, had rendered her measurably
insensible to the social considerations that seemed paramount to them, or
that there could be any real obstacle to the bestowal of her person.
where her heart was not engaged. Yet she perfectly understood her
situation, and, at times, deprived of her lifelong support, she felt
powerless in it, and she suffered as only the pure and the noble can
suffer. Day after day she fought her battle alone, now and then, as the
situation confronted her, assailed by a shudder of fear, as of one
awakening in the night from a dream of peril, the clutch of an assassin,
or the walking on an icy precipice. If McDonald were only with her! If
she could only hear from Philip! Perhaps he had lost hope and was
submitting to the inevitable.
The opportunity which Lord Montague had long sought came one day
unexpectedly, or perhaps it was contrived. They were waiting in the
drawing-room for an afternoon drive. The carriage was delayed, and Mrs.
Mavick excused herself to ascertain the cause of the delay. Evelyn and
her suitor were left alone. She was standing by a window looking out,
and he was standing by the fireplace watching the swing of the figure on
the pendulum of the tall mantelpiece clock. He was the first to break
"Your clock, Miss Mavick, is a little fast." No reply. "Or else I am
slow." Still no reply. "They say, you know, that I am a little slow,
over here." No reply. "I am not, really, you know. I know my mind.
And there was something, Miss Mavick, something particular, that I wanted
to say to you."
"Yes?" without turning round. "The carriage will be here in a minute."
"Never mind that," and Lord Montague moved away from the fireplace and
approached the girl; "take care of the minutes and the hours will take
care of themselves, as the saying is." At this unexpected stroke of
brilliancy Evelyn did turn round, and stood in an expectant attitude.
The moment had evidently come, and she would not meet it like a coward.
"We have been friends a long time; not so very long, but it seems to me
the best part of my life," he was looking down and speaking slowly, with
the modest deference of a gentleman, "and you must have seen, that is, I
wanted you to see, you know well, that is—er—what I was staying on here
"Because you like America, I suppose," said Evelyn, coolly.
"Because I like some things in America—that is just the fact," continued
the little lord, with more confidence. "And that is why I stayed. You
see I couldn't go away and leave what was best in the world to me."
There was an air of simplicity and sincerity about this that was
unexpected, and could not but be respected by any woman. But Evelyn
waited, still immovable.
"It wasn't reasonable that you should like a stranger right off," he went
on, "just at first, and I waited till you got to know me better. Ways
are different here and over there, I know that, but if you came to know
me, Miss Mavick, you would see that I am not such a bad sort of a
fellow." And a deprecatory smile lighted up his face that was almost
pathetic. To Evelyn this humility seemed genuine, and perhaps it was,
for the moment. Certainly the eyes she bent on, the odd little figure
were less severe.
"All this is painful to me, Lord Montague."
"I'm sorry," he continued, in the same tone. "I cannot help it.
I must say it. I—you must know that I love you." And then, not heeding
the nervous start the girl gave in stepping backward, "And—and, will you
be my wife?"
"You do me too much honor, Lord Montague," said Evelyn, summoning up all
"No, no, not a bit of it."
"I am obliged to you for your good opinion, but you know I am almost a
school-girl. My governess has just left me. I have never thought of
such a thing. And, Lord Montague, I cannot return your feeling. That is
all. You must see how painful this is to me."
"I wouldn't give you pain, Miss Mavick, not for the world. Perhaps when
you think it over it will seem different to you. I am sure it will.
Don't answer now, for good."
"No, no, it cannot be," said Evelyn, with something of alarm in her tone,
for the full meaning of it all came over her as she thought of her
"You are not offended?"
"No," said Evelyn.
"I couldn't bear to offend you. You cannot think I would. And you will
not be hard-hearted. You know me, Miss Mavick, just where I am. I'm
just as I said."
"The carriage is coming," said Mrs. Mavick, who returned at this moment.
The group for an instant was silent, and then Evelyn said:
"We have waited so long; mamma, that I am a little tired, and you will
excuse me from the drive this afternoon?"
"Certainly, my dear."
When the two were seated in the carriage, Mrs. Mavick turned to Lord
"No go," replied my lord, as sententiously, and in evident bad humor.
"What? And you made a direct proposal?"
"Showed her my whole hand. Made a square offer. Damme, I am not used to
this sort of thing."
"You don't mean that she refused you?"
"Don't know what you call it. Wouldn't start."
"She couldn't have understood you. What did she say?"
"Said it was too much honor, and that rot. By Jove, she didn't look it.
I rather liked her pluck. She didn't flinch."
"Oh, is that all?" And Mrs. Mavick spoke as if her mind were relieved.
"What could you expect from such a sudden proposal to a young girl,
almost a child, wholly unused to the world? I should have done the same
thing at her age. It will look different to her when she reflects, and
understands what the position is that is offered her. Leave that to me."
Lord Montague shook his head and screwed up his keen little eyes.
His mind was in full play. "I know women, Mrs. Mavick, and I tell you
there is something behind this. Somebody has been in the stable." The
noble lord usually dropped into slang when he was excited.
"I don't understand your language," said Mrs. Mavick, straightening
herself up in her seat.
"I beg pardon. It is just a way of speaking on the turf. When a
favorite goes lame the morning of the race, we know some one has been
tampering with him. I tell you there is some one else. She has some one
else in her mind. That's the reason of it."
"Nonsense." cried Mrs. Mavick, with the energy of conviction.
"It's impossible. There is nobody, couldn't be anybody. She has led a
secluded life till this hour. She hasn't a fancy, I know."
"I hope you are right," he replied, in the tone of a man wishing to take
a cheerful view. "Perhaps I don't understand American girls."
"I think I do," she said, smiling. "They are generally amenable to
reason. Evelyn now has something definite before her. I am glad you
And this was the truth. Mrs. Mavick was elated. So far her scheme was
completely successful. As to Evelyn, she trusted to various influences
she could bring to bear. Ultimate disobedience of her own wishes she did
not admit as a possible thing.
A part of her tactics was the pressure of public opinion, so far as
society represents it—that is, what society expects. And therefore it
happened in a few days that a strong suspicion got about that Lord
Montague had proposed formally to the heiress. The suspicion was
strengthened by appearances. Mrs. Mavick did not deny the rumor. That
there was an engagement was not affirmed, but that the honor had been or
would be declined was hardly supposable.
In the painful interview between mother and daughter concerning this
proposal, Evelyn had no reason to give for her opposition, except that
she did not love him. This point Mrs. Mavick skillfully evaded and
minimized. Of course she would love him in time. The happiest marriages
were founded on social fitness and the judgment of parents, and not on
the inexperienced fancies of young girls. And in this case things had
gone too far to retreat. Lord Montague's attentions had been too open
and undisguised. He had been treated almost as a son by the house.
Society looked upon the affair as already settled. Had Evelyn reflected
on the mortification that would fall upon her mother if she persisted in
her unreasonable attitude? And Mrs. Mavick shed actual tears in thinking
upon her own humiliation.
The ball which followed these private events was also a part of Mrs.
Mavick's superb tactics. It would be in a way a verification of the
public rumors and a definite form of pressure which public expectation
would exercise upon the lonely girl.
The splendor of this function is still remembered. There were, however,
features in the glowing descriptions of it which need to be mentioned.
It was assumed that it was for a purpose, that it was in fact, if not a
proclamation, at least an intimation of a new and brilliant Anglo-Saxon
alliance. No one asserted that an engagement existed. But the prominent
figures in the spectacle were the English lord and the young and
beautiful American heiress. There were portraits of both in half-tone.
The full names and titles expectant of Lord Montague were given, a
history of the dukedom of Tewkesbury and its ancient glory, with the long
line of noble names allied to the young lord, who was a social star of
the first magnitude, a great traveler, a sportsman of the stalwart race
that has the world for its field. ("Poor little Monte," said the
managing editor as he passed along these embellishments with his
On the other hand, the proposed alliance was no fall in dignity or family
to the English house. The heiress was the direct descendant of the
Eschelles, an old French family, distinguished in camp and court in the
glorious days of the Grand Monarch.
Probably no man ever wrote and published a book, a magazine story, or a
bit of verse without an instant decision to repeat the experiment. The
inclination once indulged becomes insatiable. It is not altogether the
gratified vanity of seeing one's self in print, for, before printing was,
the composers and reciters of romances and songs were driven along the
same path of unrest and anxiety, when once they had the least recognition
of their individual distinction. The impulse is more subtle than the
desire for wealth or the craving for political place. In some cases it
is in simple obedience to the longing to create; in others it is a lower
ambition for notoriety, for praise.
In any case the experiment of authorship, in however humble, a way, has
an analogy to that other tempting occupation of making "investments" in
the stock-market: the first trial is certain to lead to another. If the
author succeeds in any degree, his spirit rises to another attempt in the
hope of a wider recognition. If he fails, that is a reason why he should
convince his fellows that the failure was not inherent in himself, but in
ill-luck or a misdirection of his powers. And the experiment has another
analogy to the noble occupation of levying toll upon the change of
values—a first brilliant success is often a misfortune, inducing an
overestimate of capacity, while a very moderate success, recognized
indeed only as a trial, steadies a man, and sets him upon that serious
diligence upon which alone, either in art or business, any solid fortune
Philip was fortunate in that his first novel won him a few friends and a
little recognition, but no popularity. It excited neither envy nor
hostility. In the perfunctory and somewhat commercial good words it
received, he recognized the good-nature of the world. In the few short
reviews that dealt seriously with his work, he was able, when the
excitement of seeing himself discussed had subsided, to read between the
lines why The Puritan Nun had failed to make a larger appeal. It was
idyllic and poetic, but it lacked virility; it lacked also simplicity in
dealing with the simple and profound facts of life. He had been too
solicitous to express himself, to write beautifully, instead of letting
the human emotions with which he had to deal show themselves. One notice
had said that it was too "literary"; by which, of course, the critic
meant that he did not follow the solid traditions, the essential elements
in all the great masterpieces of literature that have been created. And
yet he had shown a quality, a facility, a promise, that had gained him a
foothold and a support in the world of books and of the making of books.
And though he had declined Mr. Ault's tempting offer to illuminate his
transcontinental road with a literary torch, he none the less was pleased
with this recognition of his capacity and the value of his name.
To say that Philip lived on hope during this summer of heat, suspensions,
and business derangement would be to allow him a too substantial
subsistence. Evelyn, indeed, seemed, at the distance of Newport, more
unattainable than ever, and the scant news he had of the drama enacted
there was a perpetual notice to him of the social gulf that lay between
them. And yet his dream was sustained by occasional assurances from Miss
McDonald of her confidence in Evelyn's belief in him, nay, of her trust,
and she even went so far as to say affection. So he went on building
castles in the air, which melted and were renewed day after day, like the
transient but unfailing splendor of the sunset.
There was a certain exaltation in this indulgence of his passion that
stimulated his creative faculties, and, while his daily tasks kept him
from being morbid, his imagination was free to play with the construction
of a new story, to which his recent experience would give a certain
solidity and a knowledge of the human struggle as it is.
He found himself observing character more closely than before, looking
for it not so much in books as in the people he met. There was Murad
Ault, for instance. How he would like to put him into a book!
Of course it would not do to copy a model, raw, like' that, but he fell
to studying his traits, trying to see the common humanity exhibited in
him. Was he a type or was he a freak? This was, however, too dangerous
ground until he knew more of life.
The week's vacation allowed him by his house was passed in Rivervale.
There, in the calmness of country life, and in the domestic atmosphere of
affection which believed in him, he was far enough removed from the scene
of the spectres of his imagination to see them in proper perspective, and
there the lines of his new venture were laid down, to be worked out
later on, he well knew, in the anxiety and the toil which should endue
the skeleton with life. Rivervale, to be sure, was haunted by the
remembrance of Evelyn; very often the familiar scenes filled him with an
intolerable longing to see again the eyes that had inspired him, to hear
the voice that was like no other in the world, to take the little hand
that had often been so frankly placed in his, and to draw to him the form
in which was embodied all the grace and tender witchery of womanhood.
But the knowledge of what she expected of him was an inspiration,
always present in his visions of her.
Something of his hopes and fears Alice divined, and he felt her sympathy,
although she did not intrude upon his reticence by any questions. They
talked about Evelyn, but it was Evelyn in Rivervale, not in Newport. In
fact, the sensible girl could regard her cousin's passion as nothing more
than a romance in a young author's life, and to her it was a sign of his
security that he had projected a new story.
With instinctive perception of his need, she was ever turning his
thoughts upon his literary career. Of course she and all the household
seemed in a conspiracy to flatter and encourage the vanity of authorship.
Was not all the village talking about the reputation he had conferred on
it? Was it not proud of him? Indeed, it did imagine that the world
outside of Rivervale was very much interested in him, and that he was
already an author of distinction. The county Gazette had announced, as
an important piece of news, that the author of The Puritan Nun was on a
visit to his relatives, the Maitlands. This paragraph seemed to stand
out in the paper as an almost immodest exposure of family life, read
furtively at first, and not talked of, and yet every member of the family
was conscious of an increase in the family importance. Aunt Patience
discovered, from her outlook on the road, that summer visitors had a
habit of driving or walking past the house and then turning back to look
at it again.
So Philip was not only distinguished, but he had the power of conferring
distinction. No one can envy a young author this first taste of fame,
this home recognition. Whatever he may do hereafter, how much more
substantial rewards he may attain, this first sweetness of incense to his
ambition will never come to him again.
When Philip returned to town, the city was still a social desert,
and he plunged into the work piled up on his desk, the never-ceasing
accumulation of manuscripts, most of them shells which the workers have
dredged up from the mud of the literary ocean, in which the eager
publisher is always expecting to find pearls. Even Celia was still in
the country, and Philip's hours spared from drudgery were given to the
new story. His days, therefore, passed without incident, but not without
pleasure. For whatever annoyances the great city may have usually, it is
in the dull season—that is, the season of its summer out-of-doors
animation—a most attractive and, even stimulating place for the man who
has an absorbing pursuit, say a work in creative fiction. Undisturbed by
social claims or public interests, the very noise and whirl of the gay
metropolis seem to hem him in and protect the world of his own
The first disturbing event in this serenity was the report of the Mavick
ball, already referred to, and the interpretation put upon it by the
newspapers. In this light his plans seemed the merest moonshine. What
became of his fallacious hope of waiting when events were driving on at
this rate? What chance had he in such a social current? Would Evelyn be
strong enough to stem it and to wait also? And to wait for what? For
the indefinite and improbable event of a poor author, hardly yet
recognized as an author, coming into position, into an income (for that
was the weak point in his aspirations) that would not be laughed at by
the millionaire. When he coolly considered it, was it reasonable to
expect that Mr. and Mrs. Mavick would ever permit Evelyn to throw away
the brilliant opportunity for their daughter which was to be the crowning
end of their social ambition? The mere statement of the proposition was
enough to overwhelm him.
That this would be the opinion of the world he could not doubt.
He felt very much alone. It was not, however, in any resolve to make a
confidante of Celia, but in an absolute need of companionship, that he
went to see if she had returned. That he had any personal interest in
this ball he did not intend to let Celia know, but talk with somebody he
must. Of his deep affection for this friend of his boyhood, there was no
doubt, nor of his knowledge of her devotion to his interests. Why, then,
was he reserved with her upon the absorbing interest of his life?
Celia had returned, before the opening of the medical college, full of a
new idea. This was nothing new in her restless nature; but if Philip had
not been blinded by the common selfishness of his sex, he might have seen
in the gladness of her welcome of him something more than mere sisterly
"Are you real glad to see me, Phil? I thought you might be lonesome by
this time in the deserted city."
"I was, horribly." He was still holding her hand. "Without a chance to
talk with you or Alice, I am quite an orphan."
"Ah! You or Alice!" A shade of disappointment came over her face as she
dropped his hand. But she rallied in a moment.
"Poor boy! You ought to have a guardian. What heroine of romance are
you running after now?"
"In my new story?"
"She isn't very well defined in my mind yet. But a lovely girl, without
anything peculiar, no education to speak of, or career, fascinating in
her womanhood, such as might walk out of the Bible. Don't you think that
would be a novelty? But it is the most difficult to do."
"Negative. That sort has gone out. Philip, why don't you take the
heroine of the Mavick ball? There is a theme." She was watching him
shrewdly, and saw the flush in his face as he hurriedly asked,
"Did you ever see her?"
"Only at a distance. But you must know her well enough for a literary
purpose. The reports of the ball give you the setting of the drama."
"Did you read them?"
"I should say I did. Most amusing."
"Celia, don't you think it would be an ungentlemanly thing to take a
social event like that?"
"Why, you must take life as it is. Of course you would change the
details. You could lay the scene in Philadelphia. Nobody would suspect
Philip shook his head. The conversation was not taking the turn that was
congenial to him. The ball seemed to him a kind of maelstrom in which
all his hopes were likely to be wrecked. And here was his old friend,
the keenest-sighted woman he knew, looking upon it simply as literary
material—a ridiculous social event. He had better change the subject.
"So the college is not open yet?"
"No, I came back because I had a new idea, and wanted time to look
around. We haven't got quite the right idea in our city missions. They
have another side. We need country missions."
"Aren't they that now?"
"No, I mean for the country. I've been about a good deal all this
vacation, and my ideas are confirmed. The country towns and villages are
full of young hoodlums and toughs, and all sorts of wickedness. They
could be improved by sending city boys up there—yes, and girls of tender
age. I don't mean the worst ones, not altogether. The young of a
certain low class growing up in the country are even worse than the same
class in the city, and they lack a civility of manner which is pretty
sure to exist in a city-bred person."
"If the country is so bad, why send any more unregenerates into it?"
"How do you know that anybody is always to be unregenerate? But I
wouldn't send thieves and imbeciles. I would select children of some
capacity, whose circumstances are against them where they are, and I am
sure they would make better material than a good deal of the young
generation in country villages now. This is what I mean by a mission for
the country. We have been bending all our efforts to the reformation of
the cities. What we need to go at now is the reforming of the country."
"You have taken a big contract," said Philip, smiling at her enthusiasm.
"Don't you intend to go on with medicine?"
"Certainly. At least far enough to be of some use in breaking up
people's ignorance about their own bodies. Half the physical as well as
moral misery comes from ignorance. Didn't I always tell you that I want
to know? A good many of my associates pretend to be agnostics, neither
believe or disbelieve in anything. The further I go the more I am
convinced that there is a positive basis for things. They talk about the
religion of humanity. I tell you, Philip, that humanity is pretty poor
stuff to build a religion on."
The talk was wandering far away from what was in Philip's mind, and
presently Celia perceived his want of interest.
"There, that is enough about myself. I want to know all about you, your
visit to Rivervale, how the publishing house suits you, how the story is
And Philip talked about himself, and the rumors in Wall Street, and Mr.
Ault and his offer, and at last about the Mavicks—he could not help
that—until he felt that Celia was what she had always been to him, and
when he went away he held her hand and said what a dear, sweet friend she
And when he had gone, Celia sat a long time by the window, not seeing
much of the hot street into which she looked, until there were tears in
There was one man in New York who thoroughly enjoyed the summer. Murad
Ault was, as we say of a man who is free to indulge his natural powers,
in his element. There are ingenious people who think that if the
ordering of nature had been left to them, they could maintain moral
conditions, or at least restore a disturbed equilibrium, without
violence, without calling in the aid of cyclones and of uncontrollable
electric displays, in order to clear the air. There are people also who
hold that the moral atmosphere of the world does not require the
occasional intervention of Murad Ault.
The conceit is flattering to human nature, but it is not borne out by the
performance of human nature in what is called the business world, which
is in such intimate alliance with the social world in such great centres
of conflict as London, New York, or Chicago. Mr. Ault is everywhere an
integral and necessary part of the prevailing system—that is, the system
by which the moral law is applied to business. The system, perhaps,
cannot be defended, but it cannot be explained without Mr. Ault. We may
argue that such a man is a disturber of trade, of legitimate operations,
of the fairest speculations, but when we see how uniform he is as a
phenomenon, we begin to be convinced that he is somehow indispensable to
the system itself. We cannot exactly understand why a cyclone should
pick up a peaceful village in Nebraska and deposit it in Kansas, where
there, is already enough of that sort, but we cannot conceive of Wall
Street continuing to be Wall Street unless it were now and then visited
by a powerful adjuster like Mr. Ault.
The advent, then, of Murad Ault in New York was not a novelty, but a
continuation of like phenomena in the Street, ever since the day when
ingenious men discovered that the ability to guess correctly which of two
sparrows, sold for a farthing, lighting on the spire of Trinity Church,
will fly first, is an element in a successful and distinguished career.
There was nothing peculiar in kind in his career, only in the force
exhibited which lifted him among the few whose destructive energy the
world condones and admires as Napoleonic. He may have been an instrument
of Providence. When we do not know exactly what to do with an
exceptional man who is disagreeable, we call him an Instrument of
It is not, then, in anything exceptional that we are interested in the
operations of Murad Ault, but simply on account of his fortuitous
connection with a great fortune which had its origin in very much the
same cyclonic conditions that Mr. Ault reveled in. Those who know Wall
Street best, by reason of sad experience, say that the presiding deity
there is not the Chinese god, Luck, but the awful pagan deity, Nemesis.
Alas! how many innocent persons suffer in order to get justice done in
Those who have unimpaired memories may recollect the fortune amassed,
many years previous to this history, by one Rodney Henderson, gathered
and enlarged by means not indictable, but which illustrate the wide
divergence between the criminal code and the moral law. This fortune,
upon the sudden death of its creator, had been largely diverted from its
charitable destination by fraud, by a crime that would have fallen within
the code if it had been known. This fortune had been enjoyed by those
who seized it for many years of great social success, rising into
acknowledged respectability and distinction; and had become the basis of
the chance of social elevation, which is dear to the hearts of so many
excellent people, who are compelled to wander about in a chaotic society
that has no hereditary titles. It was this fortune, the stake in such an
ambition, or perhaps destined in a new possessor to a nobler one, that
came in the way of Mr. Ault's extensive schemes.
It is not necessary to infer that Mr. Ault was originally actuated by any
greed as to this special accumulation of property, or that he had any
malevolence towards Mr. Mavick; but the eagerness of his personal pursuit
led him into collisions. There were certain possessions of Mr. Mavick
that were desirable for the rounding-out of his plans—these graspings
were many of them understood by the public as necessary to the
"development of a system"—and in this collision of interests and fierce
strength a vindictive feeling was engendered, a feeling born, as has been
hinted, by Mr. Mavick's attempt to trick his temporary ally in a certain
operation, so that Mr. Ault's main purpose was to "down Mavick."
This was no doubt an exaggeration concerning a man with so many domestic
virtues as Mr. Ault, meaning by domestic virtues indulgence of his
family; but a fight for place or property in politics or in the Street
is pretty certain to take on a personal character.
We can understand now why Mr. Ault read the accounts of the Mavick ball
with a grim smile. In speaking of it he used the vulgar term "splurge,"
a word especially offensive to the refined society in which the Mavicks
had gained a foothold. And yet the word was on the lips of a great many
men on the Street. The shifting application of sympathy is a very queer
thing in this world. Mr. Ault was not a snob. Whatever else he was, he
made few pretensions. In his first advent he had been resisted as an
intruder and shunned as a vulgarian; but in time respect for his force
and luck mingled with fear of his reckless talent, and in the course of
events it began to be admitted that the rough diamond was being polished
into one of the corner-stones of the great business edifice. At the time
of this writing he did not altogether lack the sympathy of the Street,
and an increasing number of people were not sorry to see Mr. Mavick get
the worst of it in repeated trials of strength. And in each of these
trials it became increasingly difficult for Mr. Mavick to obtain the
assistance and the credit which are often indispensable to the strongest
men in a panic.
The truth was that there were many men in the Street who were not sorry
to see Mr. Mavick worried. They remembered perfectly well the omniscient
snobbishness of Thomas Mavick when he held a position in the State
Department at Washington and was at the same time a secret agent of
Rodney Henderson. They did not change their opinion of him when, by his
alliance with Mrs. Henderson, he stepped into control of Mr. Henderson's
property and obtained the mission to Rome; but later on he had been
accepted as one of the powers in the financial world. There were a few
of the old stagers who never trusted him. Uncle Jerry Hollowell, for
instance, used to say, "Mavick is smart, smart as lightnin'; I guess
he'll make ducks and drakes of the Henderson property." They are very
superficial observers of Wall Street who think that character does not
tell there. Mr. Mavick may have realized that when in his straits he
looked around for assistance.
The history of this panic summer in New York would not be worthy the
reader's attention were not the fortunes of some of his acquaintances
involved in it. It was not more intense than the usual panics, but it
lasted longer on account of the complications with uncertain government
policy, and it produced stagnation in social as well as business circles.
So quiet a place as Rivervale felt it in the diminution of city visitors,
and the great resorts showed it in increased civility to the small number
The summer at Newport, which had not been distinguished by many great
events, was drawing to a close—that is, it was in the period when those
who really loved the charming promenade which is so loved of the sea
began to enjoy themselves, and those who indulge in the pleasures of
hope, based upon a comfortable matrimonial establishment, are reckoning
up the results of the campaign.
Mrs. Mavick, according to her own assertion, was one of those who enjoy
nature. "Nature and a few friends, not too many, only those whom one
trusts and who are companionable," she had said to Lord Montague.
This young gentleman had found the pursuit of courtship in America
attended by a good many incidental social luxuries. It had been a wise
policy to impress him with the charm of a society which has unlimited
millions to make it attractive. Even to an impecunious noble there is a
charm in this, although the society itself has some of the lingering
conditions of its money origin. But since the great display of the ball,
and the legitimate inferences drawn from it by the press and the
fashionable world, Mrs. Mavick had endeavored to surround her intended
son-in-law with the toils of domestic peace.
He must be made to feel at home. And this she did. Mrs. Mavick was as
admirable in the role of a domestic woman as of a woman of the world.
The simple pleasures, the confidences, the intimacies of home life
surrounded him. His own mother, the aged duchess, could not have looked
upon him with more affection, and possibly not have pampered him with so
many luxuries. There was only one thing wanting to make this home
complete. In conventional Europe the contracting parties are not the
signers of the marriage contract. In the United States the parties most
interested take the initiative in making the contract.
Here lay the difficulty of the situation, a situation that puzzled Lord
Montague and enraged Mrs. Mavick. Evelyn maintained as much indifference
to the domestic as to the worldly situation. Her mother thought her
lifeless and insensible; she even went so far as to call her unwomanly in
her indifference to what any other woman would regard as an opportunity
for a brilliant career.
Lifeless indeed she was, poor child; physically languid and scarcely able
to drag herself through the daily demands upon her strength.
Her mother made it a reproach that she was so pale and unresponsive.
Apparently she did not resist, she did everything she was told to do.
She passed, indeed, hours with Lord Montague, occasions contrived when
she was left alone in the house with him, and she made heroic efforts to
be interested, to find something in his mind that was in sympathy with
her own thoughts. With a woman's ready instinct she avoided committing
herself to his renewed proposals, sometimes covert, sometimes direct, but
the struggle tired her. At the end of all such interviews she had to
meet her mother, who, with a smile of hope and encouragement, always
said, "Well, I suppose you and Lord Montague have made it up," and then
to encounter the contempt expressed for her as a "goose."
She was helpless in such toils. At times she felt actually abandoned of
any human aid, and in moods of despondency almost resolved to give up the
struggle. In the eyes of the world it was a good match, it would make
her mother happy, no doubt her father also; and was it not her duty to
put aside her repugnance, and go with the current of the social and
family forces that seemed irresistible?
Few people can resist doing what is universally expected of them. This
invisible pressure is more difficult to stand against than individual
tyranny. There are no tragedies in our modern life so pathetic as the
ossification of women's hearts when love is crushed under the compulsion
of social and caste requirements. Everybody expected that Evelyn would
accept Lord Montague. It could be said that for her own reputation the
situation required this consummation of the intimacy of the season. And
the mother did not hesitate to put this interpretation upon the events
which were her own creation.
But with such a character as Evelyn, who was a constant puzzle to her
mother, this argument had very little weight compared with her own sense
of duty to her parents. Her somewhat ideal education made worldly
advantages of little force in her mind, and love the one priceless
possession of a woman's heart which could not be bartered. And yet might
there not be an element of selfishness in this—might not its sacrifice
be a family duty? Mrs. Mavick having found this weak spot in her
daughter's armor, played upon it with all her sweet persuasive skill and
show of tenderness.
"Of course, dear," she said, "you know what would make me happy. But I
do not want you to yield to my selfishness or even to your father's
ambition to see his only child in an exalted position in life. I can
bear the disappointment. I have had to bear many. But it is your own
happiness I am thinking of. And I think also of the cruel blow your
refusal will inflict upon a man whose heart is bound up in you."
"But I don't love him." The girl was very pale, and she spoke with an
air of weariness, but still with a sort of dogged persistence.
"You will in time. A young girl never knows her own heart, any more than
she knows the world."
"Mother, that isn't all. It would be a sin to him to pretend to give him
a heart that was not his. I can't; I can't."
"My dear child, that is his affair. He is willing to trust you, and to
win your love. When we act from a sense of duty the way is apt to open
to us. I have never told you of my own earlier experience.
I was not so young as you are when I married Mr. Henderson, but I had not
been without the fancies and experiences of a young girl. I might have
yielded to one of them but for family reasons. My father had lost his
fortune and had died, disappointed and broken down. My mother, a lovely
woman, was not strong, was not capable of fighting the world alone, and
she depended upon me, for in those days I had plenty of courage and
spirit. Mr. Henderson was a widower whom we had known as a friend before
the death of his accomplished wife. In his lonesomeness he turned to me.
In our friendlessness I turned to him. Did I love him? I esteemed him,
I respected him, I trusted him, that was all. He did not ask more than
that. And what a happy life we had! I shared in all his great plans.
And when in the midst of his career, with such large ideas of public
service and philanthropy, he was stricken down, he left to me, in the
confidence of his love, all that fortune which is some day to be yours."
Mrs. Mavick put her handkerchief to her eyes. "Ah, well, our destiny is
not in our hands. Heaven raised up for me another protector, another
friend. Perhaps some of my youthful illusions have vanished, but should
I have been happier if I had indulged them? I know your dear father does
not think so."
"Mother," cried Evelyn, deeply moved by this unprecedented confidence, "I
cannot bear to see you suffer on my account. But must not every one
decide for herself what is right before God?"
At this inopportune appeal to a higher power Mrs. Mavick had some
difficulty in restraining her surprise and indignation at what she
considered her child's stubbornness. But she conquered the inclination,
and simply looked sad and appealing when she said:
"Yes, yes, you must decide for yourself. You must not consider your
mother as I did mine."
This cruel remark cut the girl to the heart. The world seemed to whirl
around her, right and wrong and duty in a confused maze. Was she, then,
such a monster of ingratitude? She half rose to throw herself at her
mother's feet, upon her mother's mercy. And at the moment it was not her
reason but her heart that saved her. In the moral confusion rose the
image of Philip. Suppose she should gain the whole world and lose him!
And it was love, simple, trusting love, that put courage into her sinking
"Mother, it is very hard. I love you; I could die for you. I am so
forlorn. But I cannot, I dare not, do such a thing, such a dreadful
She spoke brokenly, excitedly, she shuddered as she said the last words,
and her eyes were full of tears as she bent down and kissed her mother.
When she had gone, Mrs. Mavick sat long in her chair, motionless between
bewilderment and rage. In her heart she was saying, "The obstinate,
foolish girl must be brought to reason!"
A servant entered with a telegram. Mrs. Mavick took it, and held it
listlessly while the servant waited. "You can sign." After the door
closed—she was still thinking of Evelyn—she waited a moment before she
tore the envelope, and with no eagerness unfolded the official yellow
paper. And then she read:
"I have made an assignment. T. M."
A half-hour afterwards when a maid entered the room she found Mrs. Mavick
still seated in the armchair, her hands powerless at her side, her eyes
staring into space, her face haggard and old.
The action of Thomas Mavick in giving up the fight was as unexpected in
New York as it was in Newport. It was a shock even to those familiar
with the Street. It was known that he was in trouble, but he had been in
trouble before. It was known that there had been sacrifices, efforts at
extension, efforts at compromise, but the general public fancied that the
Mavick fortune had a core too solid to be washed away by any storm. Only
a very few people knew—such old hands as Uncle Jerry Hollowell, and such
inquisitive bandits as Murad Ault—that the house of Mavick was a house
of cards, and that it might go down when the belief was destroyed that it
was of granite.
The failure was not an ordinary sensation, and, according to the
excellent practices and differing humors of the daily newspapers,
it was made the most of, until the time came for the heavy weeklies
to handle it in its moral aspects as an illustration of modern
civilization. On the first morning there was substantial unanimity in
assuming the totality of the disaster, and the most ingenious artists in
headlines vied with each other in startling effects: "Crash in Wall
Street." "Mavick Runs Up the White Flag." "King of Wall Street Called
Down." "Ault Takes the Pot." "Dangerous to Dukes." "Mavick Bankrupt."
"The House of Mavick a Ruin." "Dukes and Drakes." "The Sea Goes Over
This, however, was only the beginning. The sensation must be prolonged.
The next day there were attenuating circumstances.
It might be only a temporary embarrassment. The assets were vastly
greater than the liabilities. There was talk in financial circles of an
adjustment. With time the house could go on. The next day it was made a
reproach to the house that such deceptive hopes were put upon the public.
Journalistic enterprise had discovered that the extent of the liabilities
had been concealed. This attempt to deceive the public, these defenders
of the public interest would expose. The next day the wind blew from
another direction. The alarmists were rebuked. The creditors were
disposed to be lenient. Doubtful securities were likely to realize more
than was expected. The assignees were sharply scored for not taking the
newspapers into their confidence.
And so for ten days the failure went on in the newspapers, backward and
forward, now hopeless, now relieved, now sunk in endless complications,
and fallen into the hands of the lawyers who could be trusted with the
most equitable distribution of the property involved, until the reading
public were glad to turn, with the same eager zest, to the case of the
actress who was found dead in a hotel in Jersey City. She was attended
only by her pet poodle, in whose collar was embedded a jewel of great
price. This jewel was traced to a New York establishment, whence it had
disappeared under circumstances that pointed to the criminality of a
scion of a well-known family—an exposure which would shake society to
Meantime affairs took their usual course. The downfall of Mavick is too
well known in the Street to need explanation here. For a time it was
hoped that sacrifices of great interests would leave a modest little
fortune, but under the pressure of liquidation these hopes melted away.
If anything could be saved it would be only comparatively valueless
securities and embarrassed bits of property that usually are only a
delusion and a source of infinite worry to a bankrupt. It seemed
incredible that such a vast fortune should so disappear; but there were
wise men who, so they declared, had always predicted this disaster. For
some years after Henderson's death the fortune had appeared to expand
marvelously. It was, however, expanded, and not solidified. It had been
risked in many gigantic speculations (such as the Argentine), and it had
been liable to collapse at any time if its central credit was doubted.
Mavick's combinations were splendidly conceived, but he lacked the power
of coordination. And great as were his admitted abilities, he had never
"And, besides," said Uncle Jerry, philosophizing about it in his homely
way, "there's that little devil of a Carmen, the most fascinating woman I
ever knew—it would take the Bank of England to run her. Why, when I see
that Golden House going up, I said I'd give 'em five years to balloon in
it. I was mistaken. They've floated it about eighteen. Some folks are
lucky—up to a certain point."
Grave history gives but a paragraph to a personal celebrity of this sort.
When a ship goes down in a tempest off the New England coast, there is a
brief period of public shock and sympathy, and then the world passes on
to other accidents and pleasures; but for months relics of the great
vessel float ashore on lonely headlands or are cast up on sandy beaches,
and for years, in many a home made forlorn by the shipwreck, are aching
hearts and an ever-present calamity.
The disaster of the house of Mavick was not accepted without a struggle,
lasting long after the public interest in the spectacle had abated—a
struggle to save the ship and then to pick up some debris from the great
wreck. The most pathetic sight in the business world is that of a
bankrupt, old and broken, pursuing with always deluded expectations the
remnants of his fortune, striving to make new combinations, involved in
lawsuits, alternately despairing, alternately hopeful in the chaos of his
affairs. This was the fate of Thomas Mavick.
The news was all over Newport in a few hours after it had stricken down
Mrs. Mavick. The newspaper details the morning after were read with that
eager interest that the misfortunes of neighbors always excite. After
her first stupor, Mrs. Mavick refused to believe it. It could not be,
and her spirit of resistance rose with the frantic messages she sent to
her husband. Alas, the cold fact of the assignment remained. Still her
courage was not quite beaten down. The suspension could only be
temporary. She would not have it otherwise. Two days she showed herself
as usual in Newport, and carried herself bravely. The sympathy looked or
expressed was wormwood to her, but she met it with a reassuring smile.
To be sure it was very hard to bear such a blow, the result of a stock
intrigue, but it would soon pass over—it was a temporary embarrassment
—that she said everywhere.
She had not, however, told the news to Evelyn with any such smiling
confidence. There was still rage in her heart against her daughter, as
if her obstinacy had some connection with this blow of fate, and she did
not soften the announcement. She expected to sting her, and she did
astonish and she did grieve her, for the breaking-up of her world could
not do otherwise; but it was for her mother and not for herself that
Evelyn showed emotion. If their fortune was gone, then the obstacle was
removed that separated her from Philip. The world well lost! This
flashed through her mind before she had fairly grasped the extent of
the fatality, and it blunted her appreciation of it as an unmixed ruin.
"Poor mamma!" was what she said.
"Poor me!" cried Mrs. Mavick, looking with amazement at her daughter,"
don't you understand that our life is all ruined?"
"Yes, that part of it, but we are left. It might have been so much
"Worse? You have no more feeling than a chip. You are a beggar! That
is all. What do you mean by worse?"
"If father had done anything dishonorable!" suggested the girl, timidly,
a little scared by her mother's outburst.
"Evelyn, you are a fool!"
And perhaps she was, with such preposterous notions of what is really
valuable in life. There could be no doubt of it from Mrs. Mavick's point
If Evelyn's conduct exasperated her, the non-appearance of Lord Montague
after the publication of the news seriously alarmed her.
No doubt he was shocked, but she could explain it to him, and perhaps he
was too much interested in Evelyn to be thrown off by this misfortune.
The third day she wrote him a note, a familiar, almost affectionate note,
chiding him for deserting them in their trouble. She assured him that
the news was greatly exaggerated, the embarrassment was only temporary,
such things were always happening in the Street. "You know," she said,
playfully, "it is our American way to be up in a minute when we seem to
be down." She asked him to call, for she had something that was
important to tell him, and, besides, she needed his counsel as a friend
of the house. The note was despatched by a messenger.
In an hour it was returned, unopened, with a verbal message from his
host, saying that Lord Montague had received important news from London,
and that he had left town the day before.
"Coward!" muttered the enraged woman, with closed teeth. "Men are all
cowards, put them to the test."
The energetic woman judged from a too narrow basis. Because Mavick was
weak—and she had always secretly despised him for yielding to her—weak
as compared with her own indomitable spirit, she generalized wildly. Her
opinion of men would have been modified if she had come in contact with
To one man in New York besides Mr. Ault the failure did not seem a
personal calamity. When Philip saw in the steamer departures the name of
Lord Montague, his spirits rose in spite of the thought that the heiress
was no longer an heiress. The sky lifted, there was a promise of fair
weather, the storm, for him, had indeed cleared the air.
"Dear Philip," wrote Miss McDonald, "it is really dreadful news, but
I cannot be so very downhearted. It is the least of calamities that
could happen to my dear child. Didn't I tell you that it is always
darkest just before the dawn?"
And Philip needed the hope of the dawn. Trial is good for any one, but
hopeless suffering for none. Philip had not been without hope, but it
was a visionary indulgence, against all evidence. It was the hope of
youth, not of reason. He stuck to his business doggedly,
he stuck to his writing doggedly, but over all his mind was a cloud, an
oppression not favorable to creative effort—that is, creative effort
sweet and not cynical, sunny and not morbid.
And yet, who shall say that this very experience, this oppression of
circumstance, was not the thing needed for the development of the best
that was in him? Thrown back upon himself and denied an airy soaring in
the heights of a prosperous fancy, he had come to know himself and his
limitations. And in the year he had learned a great deal about his art.
For one thing he had come to the ground. He was looking more at life as
it is. His experience at the publishers had taught him one important
truth, and that is that a big subject does not make a big writer, that
all that any mind can contribute to the general thought of the world in
literature is what is in itself, and if there is nothing in himself it is
vain for the writer to go far afield for a theme. He had seen the young
artists, fretting for want of subjects, wandering the world over in
search of an object fitted to their genius, setting up their easels in
front of the marvels of nature and of art, in the expectation that genius
would descend upon them.
If they could find something big enough to paint! And he had seen,
in exhibition after exhibition, that the artist who cannot paint a
rail-fence cannot paint a pyramid. A man does not become a good rider by
mounting an elephant; ten to one a donkey would suit him better. Philip
had begun to see that the life around him had elements enough of the
comic and the tragic to give full play to all his powers.
He began to observe human beings as he had never done before. There were
only two questions, and they are at the bottom of all creative
literature—could he see them, could he make others see them?
This was all as true before the Mavick failure as after; but, before,
what was the use of effort? Now there was every inducement to effort.
Ambition to succeed had taken on him the hold of necessity. And with a
free mind as to the obstacles that lay between him and the realization of
the great dream of his life, the winning of the one woman who could make
his life complete, Philip set to work with an earnestness and a clearness
of vision that had never been given him before.
In the wreck of the Mavick estate, in its distribution, there are one or
two things of interest to the general reader. One of these was the fate
of the Golden House, as it was called. Mrs. Mavick had hurried back to
her town house, determined to save it at all hazard. The impossibility
of this was, however, soon apparent even to her intrepid spirit. She
would either sacrifice all else to save it, or—dark thoughts of ending
it in a conflagration entered her mind. This was only her first temper.
But to keep the house without a vast fortune to sustain it was an
impossibility, and, as it was the most conspicuous of Mavick's visible
possessions, perhaps the surrender of it, which she could not prevent,
would save certain odds and ends here and there. Whether she liked it or
not, the woman learned for once that her will had little to do with the
course of events.
Its destination was gall and wormwood both to Carmen and her husband.
For it fell into the hands of Murad Ault. He coveted it as the most
striking symbol of the position he had conquered in the metropolis. Its
semi-barbaric splendor appealed also to his passion for display. And it
was notable that the taste of the rude lad of poverty—this uncultivated
offspring of a wandering gypsy and herb—collector—perhaps she had
ancient and noble blood in her veins—should be the same for material
ostentation and luxury as that of the cultivated, fastidious Mavick and
his worldly-minded wife. So persistent is the instinct of barbarism in
our modern civilization.
When Ault told his wife what he had done, that sweet, domestic, and
sensible woman was very far from being elated.
"I am almost sorry," she said.
"Sorry for what?" asked Mr. Ault, gently, but greatly surprised.
"For the Mavicks. I don't mean for Mrs. Mavick—I hear she is a worldly
and revengeful woman—but for the girl. It must be dreadful to turn her
out of all the surroundings of her happy life. And I hear she is as good
as she is lovely. Think what it would be for our own girls."
"But it can't be helped," said Ault, persuasively. "The house had to be
sold, and it makes no difference who has it, so far as the girl is
"And don't you fear a little for our own girls, launching out that way?"
"You are afraid they will get lost in that big house?" And Mr. Ault
laughed. "It isn't a bit too big or too good for them. At any rate, my
dear, in they go, and you must get ready to move. The house will be
empty in a week."
"Murad," and Mrs. Ault spoke as if she were not thinking of the change
for herself, "there is one thing I wish you would do for me, dear."
"What is that?"
"Go to Mr. Mavick, or to Mrs. Mavick, or the assignees or whoever, and
have the daughter—yes, and her mother—free to take away anything they
want, anything dear to them by long association. Will you?"
"I don't see how. Mavick wouldn't do it for us, and I guess he is too
proud to accept anything from me. I don't owe him anything. And then
the property is in the assignment. Whatever is there I bought with the
"I should be so much happier if you could do something about it."
"Well, it don't matter much. I guess the assignees can make Mrs. Mavick
believe easy enough that certain things belong to her. But I would not
do it for any other living being but you."
"By-the-way," he added, "there is another bit of property that I didn't
take, the Newport palace."
"I should have dreaded that more than the other."
"So I thought. And I have another plan. It's long been in my mind, and
we will carry it out next summer. There is a little plateau on the side
of the East Mountain in Rivervale, where there used to stand a shack of a
cabin, with a wild sort of garden-patch about it, a tumble-down root
fence, all in the midst of brush and briers. Lord, what a habitation it
was! But such a view—rivers, mountains, meadows, and orchards in the
distance! That is where I lived with my mother. What a life!
I hated everything, everybody but her."
Mr. Ault paused, his strong, dark face working with passion, as the
memory of his outlawed boyhood revived. Is it possible that this pirate
of the Street had a bit of sentiment at the bottom of his heart? After a
moment he continued:
"That was the spot to which my mother took me when I was knee-high. I've
bought it, bought the whole hillside. Next summer we will put up a house
there, not a very big house, just a long, low sort of a Moorish pavilion,
the architect calls it. I wish she could see it."
Mrs. Ault rose, with tears in her gentle eyes, stood by her husband's
chair a moment, ran her fingers through his heavy black locks, bent down
and kissed him, and went away without a word.
There was another bit of property that was not included in the wreck.
It belonged to Mrs. Mavick. This was a little house in Irving Place, in
which Carmen Eschelle lived with her mother, in the days before the death
of Henderson's first wife, not very happy days for that wife. Carmen had
a fancy for keeping it after her marriage. Not from any sentiment, she
told Mr. Mavick on the occasion of her second marriage, oh, no, but
somehow it seemed to her, in all her vast possessions left to her by
Henderson, the only real estate she had. It was the only thing that had
not passed into the absolute possession and control of Mavick. The great
town house, with all the rest, stood in Mavick's name. What secret
influence had he over her that made her submit to such a foolish
It was in this little house that the reduced family stowed itself after
the downfall. The little house, had it been sentient, would have been
astonished at the entrance into it of the furniture and the remnants of
luxurious living that Mrs. Mavick was persuaded belonged to her
personally. These reminders of former days were, after all, a mockery in
the narrow quarters and the pinched economy of the bankrupt. Yet they
were, for a time useful in preserving to Mrs. Mavick a measure of
self-respect, her self-respect having always been based upon what she had
and not what she was. In truth, the change of lot was harder for Mrs.
Mavick than for Evelyn, since the world in which the latter lived had not
been destroyed. She still had her books, she still had a great love in
her heart, and hope, almost now a sure hope, that her love would blossom
into a great happiness.
But where was Philip? In all this time why did he make no sign?
At moments a great fear came over her. She was so ignorant of life.
Could he know what misery she was in, the daily witness of her father's
broken condition, of her mother's uncertain temper?
Is justice done in this world only by a succession of injustices?
Is there any law that a wrong must right a wrong? Did it rebuke the
means by which the vast fortune of Henderson was accumulated, that it was
defeated of any good use by the fraud of his wife? Was her action
punished by the same unscrupulous tactics of the Street that originally
made the fortune? And Ault? Would a stronger pirate arise in time to
despoil him, and so act as the Nemesis of all violation of the law of
honest relations between men?
The comfort is, in all this struggle of the evil powers, masked as
justice, that the Almighty Ruler of the world does not forget his own,
and shows them a smiling face in the midst of disaster. There is no
mystery in this. For the noble part in man cannot be touched in its
integrity by such vulgar disasters as we are considering. In those days
when Evelyn saw dissolving about her the material splendors of her old
life, while the Golden House was being dismantled, and she was taking sad
leave of the scenes of her girlhood, so vivid with memory of affection
and of intellectual activity, they seemed only the shell, the casting-off
of which gave her freedom. The sun never shone brighter, there was never
such singing in her heart, as on the morning when she was free to go to
Mrs. Van Cortlandt's and throw herself into the arms of her dear
governess and talk of Philip.
Why not? Perhaps she had not that kind of maidenly shyness, sometimes
called conventional propriety, sometimes described as 'mauvaise honte'
which a woman of the world would have shown. The impulses of her heart
followed as direct lines as the reasoning of her brain. Was it due to
her peculiar education, education only in the noblest ideas of the race,
that she should be a sort of reversion, in our complicated life, to the
type of woman in the old societies (we like to believe there was such a
type as the poets love, the Nausicaas), who were single-minded, as frank
to avow affection as opinion?
"Have you seen him?" she asked.
"No, but he has written."
"And you think he—" the girl had her arms around her friend's neck
again, and concealed her blushing face don't make me say it, McDonald."
"Yes, dear, I am sure—I know he does."
There was a little quiver in her form, but it was not of agony; then she
put her hands on the shoulders of her governess, and, looking in her
"When you did see him, how did he look—how did he look?—pretty sad?"
"How could he help it?"
"The dear! But was he well?"
"Splendidly, so he said. Like his old self."
"Tell me," said the girl.
And Miss McDonald went into delightful details, how he looked, how he
walked, how his voice sounded, how he talked, how melancholy he was, and
how full of determination he was, his eyes were so kindly, and his smile
was never so sweet as now when there was sadness in it.
"It is very long since," drearily murmured the girl. And then she
continued, partly to herself, partly to Miss McDonald: "He will come now,
can't he? Not to that house. Never would I wish him to set foot in it.
But he is not forbidden to come to the place where we are going. Soon,
you think? Perhaps you might hint—oh no, not from me—just your idea.
Wouldn't it be natural, after our misfortune? Perhaps mamma would feel
differently after what has happened. Oh, that Montague! that horrid
little man! I think—I think I shall receive him coolly at first, just
But it was not immediately that the chance for a guileless woman to show
her coolness to her lover was to occur. This postponement was not due to
the coolness or to the good sense of Philip. When the catastrophe came,
his first impulse was that of a fireman who plunges into a burning
building to rescue the imperiled inmates. He pictured in his mind a
certain nobility of action in going forward to the unfortunate family
with his sympathy, and appearing to them in the heroic attitude of a man
whose love has no alloy of self-interest. They should speedily
understand that it was not the heiress, but the woman, with whom he was
But Miss McDonald understood human nature better than that, at least the
nature of Mrs. Mavick. People of her temperament, humiliated and
enraged, are best left alone. The fierceness with which she would have
turned upon any of her society friends who should have presumed to offer
her condolence, however sweetly the condescension were concealed, would
have been vented without mercy upon the man whose presence would have
reminded her of her foolish rudeness to him, and of the bitter failure of
her schemes for her daughter. "Wait, wait," said the good counselor,
"until the turmoil has subsided, and the hard pressure of circumstances
compels her to look at things in their natural relations. She is too
sore now in—the wreck of all her hopes."
But, indeed, her hopes were not all surrendered in a moment. She had
more spirit than her husband in their calamity. She was, in fact, a born
gambler; she had the qualities of her temperament, and would not believe
that courage and luck could not retrieve, at least partially, their
fortune. It seemed incredible in the Street that the widow of Henderson
should have given over her property so completely to her second husband,
and it was a surprise to find that there was very little of value that
the assignment of Mavick did not carry with it. The Street did not know
the guilty secret between Mavick and his wife that made them cowards to
each other. Nor did it understand that Carmen was the more venturesome
gambler of the two, and that gradually, for the success of promising
schemes, she had thrown one thing after another into the common
speculation, until practically all the property stood in Mavick's name.
Was she a fool in this, as so many women are about their separate
property, or was she cheated?
The palace on Fifth Avenue was not even in her name. When she realized
that, there was a scene—but this is not a history of the quarrels of
Carmen and her husband after the break-down.
The reader would not be interested—the public of the time were not—in
the adjustment of Mavick and his wife to their new conditions.
The broken-down, defeated bankrupt is no novelty in Wall Street, the man
struggling to keep his foothold in the business of the Street, and
descending lower and lower in the scale. The shrewd curbstone broker may
climb to a seat in the Stock Exchange; quite as often a lord of the
Board, a commander of millions, may be reduced to the seedy watcher of
the bulletin-board in a bucket-shop.
At first, in the excitement and the confusion, amid the debris of so much
possible wealth, Mavick kept a sort of position, and did not immediately
feel the pinch of vulgar poverty. But the day came when all illusion
vanished, and it was a question of providing from day to day for the
small requirements of the house in Irving Place.
It was not a cheerful household; reproaches are hard to bear when
physical energy is wanting to resist them. Mavick had visibly aged
during the year. It was only in his office that he maintained anything
of the spruce appearance and 'sang froid' which had distinguished the
diplomatist and the young adventurer. At home he had fallen into the
slovenliness that marks a disappointed old age. Was Mrs. Mavick peevish
and unreasonable? Very likely. And had she not reason to be? Was she,
as a woman, any more likely to be reconciled to her fate when her mirror
told her, with pitiless reflection, that she was an old woman?
Philip waited. Under the circumstances would not both Philip and Evelyn
have been justified in disregarding the prohibition that forbade their
meeting or even writing to each other? It may be a nice question, but it
did not seem so to these two, who did not juggle with their consciences.
Philip had given his word. Evelyn would tolerate no concealments; she
was just that simple-minded in her filial notions.
The girl, however, had one comfort, and that was the knowledge of Philip
through Miss McDonald, whom she saw frequently, and to whom even Mrs.
Mavick was in a manner reconciled. She was often in the little house in
Irving Place. There was nothing in her manner to remind Mrs. Mavick that
she had done her a great wrong, and her cheerfulness and good sense made
her presence and talk a relief from the monotony of the defeated woman's
It came about, therefore, that one day Philip made his way down into the
city to seek an interview with Mr. Mavick. He found him, after some
inquiry, in a barren little office, occupying one of the rented desks
with three or four habitues of the Street, one of them an old man like
himself, the others mere lads who did not intend to remain long in such
Mr. Mavick arose when his visitor stood at his desk, buttoned up his
frock-coat, and extended his hand with a show of business cordiality, and
motioned him to a chair. Philip was greatly shocked at the change in Mr.
"I beg your pardon," he said, "for disturbing you in business hours."
"No disturbance," he answered, with something of the old cynical smile on
"Long ago I called to see you on the errand I have now, but you were not
in town. It was, Mr. Mavick," and Philip hesitated and looked down, "in
regard to your daughter."
"Ah, I did not hear of it."
"No? Well, Mr. Mavick, I was pretty presumptuous, for I had no foothold
in the city, except a law clerkship."
"I remember—Hunt, Sharp & Tweedle; why didn't you keep it?"
"I wasn't fitted for the law."
"Oh, literature? Does literature pay?"
"Not in itself, not for many," and Philip forced a laugh. "But it led to
a situation in a first-rate publishing house—an apprenticeship that has
now given me a position that seems to be permanent, with prospects
beyond, and a very fair salary. It would not seem much to you,
Mr. Mavick," and Philip tried to laugh again.
"I don't know," replied Mr. Mavick. "If a fellow has any sort of salary
these times, I should advise him to hold on to it. By-the-way,
Mr. Burnett, Hunt's a Republican, isn't he?"
"He was," replied Philip, "the last I knew."
"Do you happen to know whether he knows Bilbrick, the present Collector?"
"Mr. Bilbrick used to be a client of his."
"Just so. I think I'll see Hunt. A salary isn't a bad thing for a—for
a man who has retired pretty much from business. But you were saying,
"I was going to say, Mr. Mavick, that there was a little something more
than my salary that I can count on pretty regularly now from the
magazines, and I have had another story, a novel, accepted, and—you
won't think me vain—the publisher says it will go; if it doesn't have a
big sale he will—"
"Make it up to you?"
"Not exactly," and Philip laughed; "he will be greatly mistaken."
"I suppose it is a kind of lottery, like most things. The publishers
have to take risks. The only harm I wish them is that they were
compelled to read all the stuff they try to make us read. Ah, well. Mr.
Burnett, I hope you have made a hit. It is pretty much the same thing in
our business. The publisher bulls his own book and bears the other
fellow's. Is it a New York story?"
"Partly; things come to a focus here, you know."
"I could give you points. It's a devil of a place. I guess the
novelists are too near to see the romance of it. When I was in Rome I
amused myself by diving into the mediaeval records. Steel and poison
were the weapons then. We have a different method now, but it comes to
the same thing, and we say we are more civilized. I think our way is
more devilishly dramatic than the old brute fashion. Yes, I could give
"I should be greatly obliged," said Philip, seeing the way to bring the
conversation back to its starting point; "your wide experience of life
—if you had leisure at home some time."
"Oh," replied Mavick, with more good-humor in his laugh than he had shown
before, "you needn't beat about the bush. Have you seen Evelyn?"
"No, not since that dinner at the Van Cortlandts'."
"Huh! for myself, I should be pleased to see you any time, Mr. Burnett.
Mrs. Mavick hasn't felt like seeing anybody lately. But I'll see, I'll
The two men rose and shook hands, as men shake hands when they have an
"I'm glad you are doing well," Mr. Mavick added; "your life is before
you, mine is behind me; that makes a heap of difference."
Within a few days Philip received a note from Mrs. Mavick—not an
effusive note, not an explanatory note, not an apologetic note, simply a
note as if nothing unusual had happened—if Mr. Burnett had leisure,
would he drop in at five o'clock in Irving Place for a cup of tea?
Not one minute by his watch after the hour named, Philip rang the bell
and was shown into a little parlor at the front. There was only one
person in the room, a lady in exquisite toilet, who rose rather languidly
to meet him, exactly as if the visitor were accustomed to drop in to tea
at that hour.
Philip hesitated a moment near the door, embarrassed by a mortifying
recollection of his last interview with Mrs. Mavick, and in that moment
he saw her face. Heavens, what a change! And yet it was a smiling face.
There is a portrait of Carmen by a foreign artist, who was years ago the
temporary fashion in New York, painted the year after her second marriage
and her return from Rome, which excited much comment at the time. Philip
had seen it in more than one portrait exhibition.
Its technical excellence was considerable. The artist had evidently
intended to represent a woman piquant and fascinating, if not strictly
beautiful. Many persons said it was lovely. Other critics said that,
whether the artist intended it or not, he had revealed the real character
of the subject. There was something sinister in its beauty. One artist,
who was out of fashion as an idealist, said, of course privately, that
the more he looked at it the more hideous it became to him—like one of
Blake's objective portraits of a "soul"—the naked soul of an evil woman
showing through the mask of all her feminine fascinations—the possible
hell, so he put it, under a woman's charm.
It was this in the portrait that Philip saw in the face smiling a
welcome—like an old, sweetly smiling Lalage—from which had passed away
youth and the sustaining consciousness of wealth and of a place in the
great world. The smile was no longer sweet, though the words from the
lips were honeyed.
"It is very good of you to drop in in this way, Mr. Burnett," she said,
as she gave him her hand. "It is very quiet down here."
"It is to me the pleasantest part of the city."
"You think so now. I thought so once," and there was a note of sadness
in her voice. "But it isn't New York. It is a place for the people who
"But it has associations."
"Yes, I know. We pretend that it is more aristocratic. That means the
rents are lower. It is a place for youth to begin and for age to end.
We seem to go round in a circle. Mr. Mavick began in the service of the
government, now he has entered it again—ah, you did not know?—a place
in the Custom-House. He says it is easier to collect other people's
revenues than your own. Do you know, Mr. Burnett, I do not see much
use in collecting revenues anyway—so far as New York is concerned
the people get little good of them. Look out there at that cloud of dust
in the street."
Mrs. Mavick rambled on in the whimsical, cynical fashion of old ladies
when they cease to have any active responsibility in life and become
spectators of it. Their remaining enjoyment is the indulgence of frank
"But I thought," Philip interrupted, "that this part of the town was
specially New York."
"New York!" cried Carmen, with animation. "The New York of the
newspapers, of the country imagination; the New York as it is known in
Paris is in Wall Street and in the palaces up-town. Who are the kings of
Wall Street, and who build the palaces up-town? They say that there are
no Athenians in Athens, and no Romans in Rome. How many New-Yorkers are
there in New York? Do New-Yorkers control the capital, rule the
politics, build the palaces, direct the newspapers, furnish the
entertainment, manufacture the literature, set the pace in society? Even
the socialists and mobocrats are not native. Successive invaders, as in
Rome, overrun and occupy the town.
"No, Mr. Burnett, I have left the existing New York. How queer it is to
think about it. My first husband was from New Hampshire. My second
husband was from Illinois. And there is your Murad Ault. The Lord knows
where he came from.
"Talk about the barbarians occupying Rome! Look at that Ault in a
palace! Who was that emperor—Caligula?—I am like the young lady from a
finishing-school who said she never could remember which came first in
history, Greece or Rome—who stabled his horses with stalls and mangers
of gold? The Aults stable themselves that way. Ah, me! Let me give you
a cup of tea. Even that is English."
"It's an innocent pastime," she continued, as Philip stirred his tea, in
perplexity as to how he should begin to say what he had to say—"you
won't object if I light a cigarette? One ought to retain at least one
bad habit to keep from spiritual pride. Tea is an excuse for this. I
don't think it a bad habit, though some people say that civilization is
only exchanging one bad habit for another. Everything changes."
"I don't think I have changed, Mrs. Mavick," said Philip, with
"No? But you will. I have known lots of people who said they never
would change. They all did. No, you need not protest. I believe in you
now, or I should not be drinking tea with you. But you must be
tired of an old woman's gossip. Evelyn has gone out for a walk; she
didn't know. I expect her any minute. Ah, I think that is her ring. I
will let her in. There is nothing so hateful as a surprise."
She turned and gave Philip her hand, and perhaps she was sincere—she had
a habit of being so when it suited her interests—when she said, "There
are no bygones, my friend."
Philip waited, his heart beating a hundred to the minute. He heard
greetings and whisperings in the passage-way, and then—time seemed to
stand still—the door opened and Evelyn stood on the threshold, radiant
from her walk, her face flushed, the dainty little figure poised in timid
expectation, in maidenly hesitation, and then she stepped forward to meet
his advance, with welcome in her great eyes, and gave him her hand in the
"I am so glad to see you."
Philip murmured something in reply and they were seated.
That was all. It was so different from the meeting as Philip had a
hundred times imagined it.
"It has been very long," said Philip, who was devouring the girl with his
eyes very long to me."
"I thought you had been very busy," she replied, demurely. Her composure
was very irritating.
"If you thought about it at all, Miss Mavick."
"That is not like you, Mr. Burnett," Evelyn replied, looking up suddenly
with troubled eyes.
"I didn't mean that," said Philip, moving uneasily in his chair,
"I—so many things have happened. You know a person can be busy and not
"I know that. I was not always happy," said the girl, with the air of
making a confession. "But I liked to hear from time to time of the
success of my friends," she added, ingenuously. And then, quite
inconsequently, "I suppose you have news from Rivervale?"
Yes, Philip heard often from Alice, and he told the news as well as he
could, and the talk drifted along—how strange it seemed!—about things
in which neither of them felt any interest at the moment.
Was there no way to break the barrier that the little brown girl had
thrown around herself? Were all women, then, alike in parrying and
fencing? The talk went on, friendly enough at last, about a thousand
things. It might have been any afternoon call on a dear friend. And at
length Philip rose to go.
"I hope I may see you again, soon."
"Of course," said Evelyn, cheerfully. "I am sure father will be
delighted to see you. He enjoys so little now."
He had taken both her hands to say good-by, and was looking hungrily into
"I can't go so. Evelyn, you know, you must know, I love you."
And before the girl comprehended him he had drawn her to him and pressed
his lips upon hers.
The girl started back as if stung, and looked at him with flashing eyes.
"What have you done, what have you done to me?"
Her eyes were clouded, and she put her hands to her face, trembling, and
then with a cry, as of a soul born into the world, threw herself upon
him, her arms around his neck—
"Philip, Philip, my Philip!"
Perhaps Philip's announcement of his good-fortune to Alice and to Celia
was not very coherent, but his meaning was plain. Perhaps he was
conscious that the tidings would not increase the cheerfulness of Celia's
single-handed struggle for the ideal life; at least, he would rather
write than tell her face to face.
However he put the matter to her, with what protestations of affectionate
friendship and trust he wrapped up the statement that he made as matter
of fact as possible, he could not conceal the ecstatic state of his mind.
Nothing like it certainly had happened to anybody in the world before.
All the dream of his boyhood, romantic and rose-colored, all the
aspirations of his manhood, for recognition, honor, a place in the life
of his time, were mere illusions compared to this wonderful crown of
life—a woman's love. Where did it come from into this miserable world,
this heavenly ray, this pure gift out of the divine beneficence, this
spotless flower in a humanity so astray, this sure prophecy of the final
redemption of the world? The immeasurable love of a good woman! And to
him! Philip felt humble in his exaltation, charitable in his selfish
appropriation. He wanted to write to Celia—but he did not—that he
loved her more than ever. But to Alice he could pour out his wealth
of affection, quickened to all the world by this great love, for he knew
that her happiness would be in his happiness.
The response from Alice was what he expected, tender, sweet, domestic,
and it was full of praise of Evelyn, of love for her. "Perhaps, dear
Phil," she wrote, "I shall love her more than I do you. I almost think
—did I not remember what a bad boy you could be sometimes—that each one
of you is too good for the other. But, Phil, if you should ever come to
think that she is not too good for you, you will not be good enough for
her. I can't think she is perfect, any more than you are perfect—you
will find that she is just a woman—but there is nothing in all life so
precious as such a heart as hers. You will come here, of course, and at
once, whenever it is. You know that big, square, old-fashioned corner
chamber, with the high-poster. That is yours. Evelyn never saw it. The
morning and the evening sun shoot across it, and the front windows look
on the great green crown of Mount Peak. You know it. There is not such
a place in the world to hear the low and peaceful murmur of the river,
all night long, rushing, tumbling, crooning, I used to think when I was a
little girl and dreamed of things unseen, and still going on when the
birds begin to sing in the dawn. And with Evelyn! Dear Phil!"
It was in another strain, but not less full of real affection, that Celia
"I am not going to congratulate you. You are long past the need of that.
But you know that I am happy in having you happy. You thought I never
saw anything? I wonder if men are as blind as they seem to be? And I
had fears. Do you know a man ought to build his own monument. If he
goes into a monument built for him, that is the end of him. Now you can
work, and you will. I am so glad she isn't an heiress any more. I guess
there was a curse on that fortune. But she has eluded it. I believe all
you tell me about her. Perhaps there are more such women in the world
than you think. Some day I shall know her, and soon. I do long to see
her. Love her I feel sure I shall.
"You ask about myself. I am the same, but things change. When I get my
medical diploma I shall decide what to do. My little property just
suffices, with economy, and I enjoy economy. I doubt if I do any general
practice for pay. There are so many young doctors that need the money
for practice more than I do. And perhaps taking it up as a living would
make me sort of hard and perfunctory. And there is so much to do in this
great New York among the unfortunate that a woman who knows medicine can
do better than any one else.
"Ah, me, I am happy in a way, or I expect to be. Everybody—it isn't
because I am a woman I say this—needs something to lean on now and then.
There isn't much to lean on in the college, nor in many of my zealous and
ambitious companions there. There is more faith in the poor people down
in the wards where I go. They are kind to each other, and most of them,
not all, believe in something. They, have that, at any rate, in all
their trials and poverty. Philip, don't despise the invisible. I have
got into the habit of going into a Catholic church down there, when I am
tired and discouraged, and getting the peace of it. It is a sort of open
door! You need not jump to the conclusion that I am 'going over.' Maybe
I am going back. I don't know. I have always you know, been looking for
"I like to sit there in that dim quiet and think of things I can't think
of elsewhere. Do you think I am queer? Philip, all women are queer.
They haven't yet been explained. That is the reason why the novelists
find it next to impossible, with all the materials at hand, to make a
good woman—that is a woman. Do you know what it is to want what you
don't want? Longing is one thing and reason another.
"Perhaps I have depended too much on my reason. If you long to go to a
place where you will have peace, why should you let what you call your
reason stand in the way? Perhaps your reason is foolishness. You will
laugh a little at this, and say that I am tired. No. Only I am not so
sure of things as I used to be. Do you remember when we children used to
sit under that tree by the Deerfield, how confident I was that I
understood all about life, and my airs of superiority?
"Well, I don't know as much now. But there is one thing that has survived
and grown with the years, and that, Philip, is your dear friendship."
What was it in this unassuming, but no doubt sufficiently conceited and
ambitious, young fellow that he should have the affection, the love, of
three such women?
Is affection as whimsically, as blindly distributed as wealth? It is the
experience of life that it is rare to keep either to the end, but as a
man is judged not so much by his ability to make money as to keep it, so
it is fair to estimate his qualities by his power to retain friendship.
New York is full of failures, bankrupts in fortune and bankrupts in
affection, but this melancholy aspect of the town is on the surface, and
is not to be considered in comparison with the great body of moderately
contented, moderately successful, and on the whole happy households. In
this it is a microcosm of the world.
To Evelyn and Philip, judging the world a good deal by each other,
in those months before their marriage, when surprising perfection and new
tenderness were daily developed, the gay and busy city seemed a sort of
Mysterious things were going on in the weeks immediately preceding the
wedding. There was a conspiracy between Miss McDonald and Philip in the
furnishing and setting in order a tiny apartment on the Heights,
overlooking the city, the lordly Hudson, and its romantic hills.
And when, after the ceremony, on a radiant afternoon in early June, the
wedded lovers went to their new home, it was the housekeeper, the old
governess, who opened the door and took into her arms the child she had
loved and lost awhile.
This fragment of history leaves Philip Burnett on the threshold of his
career. Those who know him only by his books may have been interested in
his experiences, in the merciful interposition of disaster, before he
came into the great fortune of the love of Evelyn Mavick.