A Modern Instance
William Dean Howells
Part 4 out of 9
Anything on that point?"
"That's the very point I touch on first," said Bartley.
The editor stopped turning over his manuscript. "Let's see," he said,
holding out his hand for Bartley's article. He looked at the first
head-line, "What I Know about Logging," and smiled. "Old, but good." Then
he glanced at the other headings, and ran his eye down the long strips on
which Bartley had written; nibbled at the text here and there a little;
returned to the first paragraph, and read that through; looked back at
something else, and then read the close.
"I guess you can leave it," he said, laying the manuscript on the table.
"No, I guess not," said Bartley, with equal coolness, gathering it up.
The editor looked fairly at him for the first time, and smiled. Evidently
he liked this. "What's the reason? Any particular hurry?"
"I happen to know that the Events is going to send a man down East to write
up this very subject. And I don't propose to leave this article here till
they steal my thunder, and then have it thrown back on my hands not worth
the paper it's written on."
The editor tilted himself back in his chair and braced his knees against
his table. "Well, I guess you're right," he said. "What do you want for
This was a terrible question. Bartley knew nothing about the prices that
city papers paid; he feared to ask too much, but he also feared to cheapen
his wares by asking too little. "Twenty-five dollars," he said, huskily.
"Let's look at it," said the editor, reaching out his hand for the
manuscript again. "Sit down." He pushed a chair toward Bartley with his
foot, having first swept a pile of newspapers from it to the floor. He now
read the article more fully, and then looked up at Bartley, who sat still,
trying to hide his anxiety. "You're not quite a new hand at the bellows,
"I've edited a country paper."
"Down in Maine."
The editor bent forward and took out a long, narrow blank-book. "I guess we
shall want your article What name?"
"Bartley J. Hubbard." It sounded in his ears like some other name.
"Going to be in Boston some time?"
"All the time," said Bartley, struggling to appear nonchalant. The
revulsion from the despair into which he had fallen after his interview
with Witherby was still very great. The order on the counting-room which
the editor had given him shook in his hand. He saw his way before him
clearly now; he wished to propose some other things that he would like
to write; but he was saved from this folly for the time by the editor's
saying, in a tone of dismissal: "Better come in to-morrow and see a proof.
We shall put you into the Wednesday supplement."
"Thanks," said Bartley. "Good day."
The editor did not hear him, or did not think it necessary to respond from
behind the newspaper which he had lifted up between them, and Bartley went
out. He did not stop to cash his order; he made boyish haste to show it to
Marcia, as something more authentic than the money itself, and more sacred.
As he hurried homeward he figured Marcia's ecstasy in his thought. He saw
himself flying up the stairs to their attic three steps at a bound, and
bursting into the room, where she sat eager and anxious, and flinging the
order into her lap; and then, when she had read it with rapture at the sum,
and pride in the smartness with which he had managed the whole affair,
he saw himself catching her up and dancing about the floor with her. He
thought how fond of her he was, and he wondered that he could ever have
been cold or lukewarm.
She was standing at the window of Mrs. Nash's little reception-room when he
reached the house. It was not to be as he had planned, but he threw her a
kiss, glad of the impatience which would not let her wait till he could
find her in their own room, and he had the precious order in his hand to
dazzle her eyes as soon as he should enter. But, as he sprang into the
hall, his foot struck against a trunk and some boxes.
"Hello!" he cried, "Your things have come!"
Marcia lingered within the door of the reception-room; she seemed afraid to
come out. "Yes," she said, faintly; "father brought them. He has just been
He seemed there still, and the vision unnerved her as if Bartley and he had
been confronted there in reality. Her husband had left her hardly a quarter
of an hour, when a hack drove up to the door, and her father alighted. She
let him in herself, before he could ring, and waited tremulously for what
he should do or say. But he merely took her hand, and, stooping over, gave
her the chary kiss with which he used to greet her at home when he returned
from an absence.
She flung her arms around his neck. "Oh, father!"
"Well, well! There, there!" he said, and then he went into the
reception-room with her; and there was nothing in his manner to betray that
anything unusual had happened since they last met. He kept his hat on, as
his fashion was, and he kept on his overcoat, below which the skirts of his
dress-coat hung an inch or two; he looked old, and weary, and shabby.
"I can't leave Bartley, father," she began, hysterically.
"I haven't come to separate you from your husband, Marcia. What made you
think so? It's your place to stay with him."
"He's out, now," she answered, in an incoherent hopefulness. "He's just
gone. Will you wait and see him, father?"
"No, I guess I can't wait," said the old man. "It wouldn't do any good for
us to meet now."
"Do you think he coaxed me away? He didn't. He took pity on me,--he forgave
me. And I didn't mean to deceive you when I left home, father. But I
couldn't help trying to see Bartley again."
"I believe you, Marcia. I understand. The thing had to be. Let me see your
She ran up to her room and fetched it.
Her father read it carefully. "Yes, that is all right," he said, and
returned it to her. He added, after an absent pause: "I have brought your
things, Marcia. Your mother packed all she could think of."
"How _is_ mother?" asked Marcia, as if this had first reminded her of her
"She is usually well," replied her father.
"Won't you--won't you come up and see our room, father?" Marcia asked,
after the interval following this feint of interest in her mother.
"No," said the old man, rising restlessly from his chair, and buttoning at
his coat, which was already buttoned. "I guess I sha'n't have time. I guess
I must be going."
Marcia put herself between him and the door. "Won't you let me tell you
about it, father?"
"How--I came to go off with Bartley. I want you should know."
"I guess I know all I want to know about it, Marcia. I accept the facts.
I told you how I felt. What you've done hasn't changed me toward you. I
understand you better than you understand yourself; and I can't say that
I'm surprised. Now I want you should make the best of it."
"You don't forgive Bartley!" she cried, passionately. "Then I don't want
you should forgive me!"
"Where did you pick up this nonsense about forgiving?" said her father,
knitting his shaggy brows. "A man does this thing or that, and the
consequence follows. I couldn't forgive Bartley so that he could escape any
consequence of what he's done; and you're not afraid I shall hurt him?"
"Stay and see him!" she pleaded. "He is so kind to me! He works night and
day, and he has just gone out to sell something he has written for the
"I never said he was lazy," returned her father. "Do you want any money,
"No, we have plenty. And Bartley is earning it all the time. I _wish_ you
would stay and see him!"
"No, I'm glad he didn't happen to be in," said the Squire. "I sha'n't wait
for him to come back. It wouldn't do any good, just yet, Marcia; it would
only do harm. Bartley and I haven't had time to change our minds about each
other yet. But I'll say a good word for him to you. You're his wife, and
it's your part to help him, not to hinder him. You can make him worse by
being a fool; but you needn't be a fool. Don't worry him about other women;
don't be jealous. He's your husband, now: and the worst thing you can do is
to doubt him."
"I won't, father, I won't, indeed! I will be good, and I will try to be
sensible. Oh, I _wish_ Bartley could know how you feel!"
"Don't tell him from _me_," said her father. "And don't keep making
promises and breaking them. I'll help the man in with your things."
He went out, and came in again with one end of a trunk, as if he had been
giving the man a hand with it into the house at home, and she suffered him
as passively as she had suffered him to do her such services all her life.
Then he took her hand laxly in his, and stooped down for another chary
kiss. "Good by, Marcia."
"Why, father! Are you going to _leave_ me?" she faltered.
He smiled in melancholy irony at the bewilderment, the childish
forgetfulness of all the circumstances, which her words expressed. "Oh, no!
I'm going to take you with me."
His sarcasm restored her to a sense of what she had said, and she ruefully
laughed at herself through her tears. "What am I talking about? Give my
love to mother. When will you come again?" she asked, clinging about him
almost in the old playful way.
"When you want me," said the Squire, freeing himself.
"I'll write!" she cried after him, as he went down the steps; and if there
had been, at any moment, a consciousness of her cruelty to him in her
heart, she lost it, when he drove away, in her anxious waiting for
Bartley's return. It seemed to her that, though her father had refused to
see him, his visit was of happy augury for future kindness between them,
and she was proudly eager to tell Bartley what good advice her father had
given her. But the sight of her husband suddenly turned these thoughts to
fear. She trembled, and all that she could say was, "I know father will be
all right, Bartley."
"How?" he retorted, savagely. "By the way he abused me to you? Where is
"He's gone,--gone back."
"I don't care where he's gone, so he's gone. Did he come to take you home
with him? Why didn't you go?--Oh, Marcia!" The brutal words had hardly
escaped him when he ran to her as if he would arrest them before their
sense should pierce her heart.
She thrust him back with a stiffly extended arm. "Keep away! Don't touch
me!" She walked by him up the stairs without looking round at him, and he
heard her close their door and lock it.
Bartley stood for a moment, and then went out and wandered aimlessly about
till nightfall. He went out shocked and frightened at what he had done,
and ready for any reparation. But this mood wore away, and he came back
sullenly determined to let her make the advances toward reconciliation, if
there was to be one. Her love had already made his peace, and she met
him in the dimly lighted little hall with a kiss of silent penitence and
forgiveness. She had on her hat and shawl, as if she had been waiting for
him to come and take her out to tea; and on their way to the restaurant she
asked him of his adventure among the newspapers. He told her briefly, and
when they sat down at their table he took out the precious order and showed
it to her. But its magic was gone; it was only an order for twenty-five
dollars, now; and two hours ago it had been success, rapture, a common
hope and a common joy. They scarcely spoke of it, but talked soberly of
She could not recur to her father's visit at once, and he would not be
the first to mention it. He did nothing to betray his knowledge of her
intention, as she approached the subject through those feints that women
use, and when they stood again in their little attic room she was obliged
to be explicit.
"What hurt me, Bartley," she said, "was that you should think for an
instant that I would let father ask me to leave you, or that he would ask
such a thing. He only came to tell me to be good to you, and help you, and
trust you; and not worry you with my silliness and--and--jealousy. And I
don't ever mean to. And I know he will be good friends with you yet. He
praised you for working so hard;"--she pushed it a little beyond the bare
fact;--"he always did that; and I know he's only waiting for a good chance
to make it up with you."
She lifted her eyes, glistening with tears, and it touched his peculiar
sense of humor to find her offering him reparation, when he had felt
himself so outrageously to blame; but he would not be outdone in
magnanimity, if it came to that.
"It's all right, Marsh. I was a furious idiot, or I should have let you
explain at once. But you see I had only one thought in my mind, and that
was my luck, which I wanted to share with you; and when your father seemed
to have come in between us again--"
"Oh, yes, yes!" she answered. "I understand." And she clung to him in
the joy of this perfect intelligence, which she was sure could never be
When Bartley's article came out, she read it with a fond admiration which
all her praises seemed to leave unsaid. She bought a scrap-book, and pasted
the article into it, and said that she was going to keep everything he
wrote. "What are you going to write the next thing?" she asked.
"Well, that's what I don't know," he answered. "I can't find another
subject like that, so easily."
"Why, if people care to read about a logging-camp, I should think they
would read about almost anything. Nothing could be too common for them.
You might even write about the trouble of getting cheap enough rooms in
"Marcia," cried Bartley, "you're a treasure! I'll write about that very
thing! I know the Chronicle-Abstract will be glad to get it."
She thought he was joking, till he came to her after a while for some
figures which he did not remember. He had the true newspaper instinct,
and went to work with a motive that was as different as possible from the
literary motive. He wrote for the effect which he was to make, and not
from any artistic pleasure in the treatment. He did not attempt to give it
form,--to imagine a young couple like himself and Marcia coming down from
the country to place themselves in the city; he made no effort to throw
about it the poetry of their ignorance and their poverty, or the pathetic
humor of their dismay at the disproportion of the prices to their means.
He set about getting all the facts he could, and he priced a great many
lodgings in different parts of the city; then he went to a number
of real-estate agents, and, giving himself out as a reporter of the
Chronicle-Abstract, he interviewed them as to house-rents, past and
present. Upon these bottom facts, as he called them, he based a "spicy"
sketch, which had also largely the character of an _expose_. There is
nothing the public enjoys so much as an _expose_: it seems to be made in
the reader's own interest; it somehow constitutes him a party to the attack
upon the abuse, and its effectiveness redounds to the credit of all the
newspaper's subscribers. After a week's stay in Boston, Bartley was able
to assume the feelings of a native who sees his city falling into decay
through the rapacity of its landladies. In the heading of ten or fifteen
lines which he gave his sketch, the greater number were devoted to this
feature of it; though the space actually allotted to it in the text was
comparatively small. He called his report "Boston's Boarding-Houses," and
he spent a paragraph upon the relation of boarding-houses to civilization,
before detailing his own experience and observation. This part had many of
those strokes of crude picturesqueness and humor which he knew how to give,
and was really entertaining; but it was when he came to contrast the rates
of house-rent and the cost of provisions with the landladies'
that Bartley showed all the virtue of a born reporter. The sentences were
vivid and telling; the _ensemble_ was very alarming; and the conclusion was
inevitable, that, unless this abuse could somehow be reached, we should
lose a large and valuable portion of our population,--especially those
young married people of small means with whom the city's future prosperity
so largely rested, and who must drift away to find homes in rival
communities if the present exorbitant demands were maintained.
As Bartley had foretold, he had not the least trouble in selling this
sketch to the Chronicle-Abstract. The editor probably understood its
essential cheapness perfectly well; but he also saw how thoroughly readable
it was. He did not grumble at the increased price which Bartley put
upon his work; it was still very far from dear; and he liked the young
Downeaster's enterprise. He gave him as cordial a welcome as an overworked
man may venture to offer when Bartley came in with his copy, and he felt
like doing him a pleasure. Some things out of the logging-camp sketch had
been copied, and people had spoken to the editor about it, which was a
still better sign that it was a hit.
"Don't you want to come round to our club to-night?" asked the editor, as
he handed Bartley the order for his money across the table. "We have a bad
dinner, and we try to have a good time. We're all newspaper men together."
"Why, thank you," said Bartley, "I guess I should like to go."
"Well, come round at half-past five, and go with me."
Bartley walked homeward rather soberly. He had meant, if he sold this
article, to make amends for the disappointment they had both suffered
before, and to have a commemorative supper with Marcia at Parker's: he had
ignored a little hint of hers about his never having taken her there yet,
because he was waiting for this chance to do it in style. He resolved that,
if she did not seem to like his going to the club, he would go back and
withdraw his acceptance. But when he told her he had been invited,--he
thought he would put the fact in this tentative way,--she said, "I hope you
"Would you have liked me to?" he asked with relief.
"Why, of course! It's a great honor. You'll get acquainted with all those
editors, and perhaps some of them will want to give you a regular place." A
salaried employment was their common ideal of a provision for their future.
"Well, that's what I was thinking myself," said Bartley.
"Go and accept at once," she pursued.
"Oh, that isn't necessary. If I get round there by half-past five, I can
go," he answered.
His lurking regret ceased when he came into the reception-room, where the
members of the club were constantly arriving, and putting off their hats
and overcoats, and then falling into groups for talk. His friend of the
Chronicle-Abstract introduced him lavishly, as our American custom is.
Bartley had a little strangeness, but no bashfulness, and, with his
essentially slight opinion of people, he was promptly at his ease. These
men liked his handsome face, his winning voice, the good-fellowship of his
instant readiness to joke; he could see that they liked him, and that his
friend Ricker was proud of the impression he made; before the evening was
over he kept himself with difficulty from patronizing Ricker a little.
The club has grown into something much more splendid and expensive; but it
was then content with a dinner certainly as bad as Ricker promised, but
fabulously modest in price, at an old-fashioned hotel, whose site was long
ago devoured by a dry-goods palace. The drink was commonly water or beer;
occasionally, if a great actor or other distinguished guest honored the
board, some spendthrift ordered champagne. But no one thought fit to go to
this ruinous extreme for Bartley. Ricker offered him his choice of beer or
claret, and Bartley temperately preferred water to either; he could see
that this raised him in Ricker's esteem.
No company of men can fail to have a good time at a public dinner, and the
good time began at once with these journalists, whose overworked week ended
in this Saturday evening jollity. They were mostly young men, who found
sufficient compensation in the excitement and adventure of their underpaid
labors, and in the vague hope of advancement; there were grizzled beards
among them, for whom neither the novelty nor the expectation continued, but
who loved the life for its own sake, and would hardly have exchanged it for
prosperity. Here and there was an old fellow, for whom probably all the
illusion was gone; but he was proud of his vocation, proud even of the
changes that left him somewhat superannuated in his tastes and methods.
None, indeed, who have ever known it, can wholly forget the generous rage
with which journalism inspires its followers. To each of those young men,
beginning the strangely fascinating life as reporters and correspondents,
his paper was as dear as his king once was to a French noble; to serve it
night and day, to wear himself out for its sake, to merge himself in its
glory, and to live in its triumphs without personal recognition from the
public, was the loyal devotion which each expected his sovereign newspaper
to accept as its simple right. They went and came, with the prompt and
passive obedience of soldiers, wherever they were sent, and they struggled
each to "get in ahead" of all the others with the individual zeal of
heroes. They expanded to the utmost limits of occasion, and they submitted
with an anguish that was silent to the editorial excision, compression, and
mutilation of reports that were vitally dear to them. What becomes of these
ardent young spirits, the inner history of journalism in any great city
might pathetically show; but the outside world knows them only in the fine
frenzy of interviewing, or of recording the midnight ravages of what they
call the devouring element, or of working up horrible murders or tragical
accidents, or of tracking criminals who have baffled all the detectives.
Hearing their talk Bartley began to realize that journalism might be a very
different thing from what he had imagined it in a country printing-office,
and that it might not be altogether wise to consider it merely as a
stepping-stone to the law.
With the American eagerness to recognize talent, numbers of good fellows
spoke to him about his logging sketch; even those who had not read it
seemed to know about it as a hit. They were all delighted to be able to
say, "Ricker tells me that you offered it to old Witherby, and he wouldn't
look at it!" He found that this fact, which he had doubtfully confided to
Ricker, was not offensive to some of the Events people who were there; one
of them got him aside, and darkly owned to him that Witherby was doing
everything that any one man could to kill the Events, and that in fact the
counting-room was running the paper.
All the club united in abusing the dinner, which in his rustic ignorance
Bartley had not found so infamous; but they ate it with perfect appetite
and with mounting good spirits. The president brewed punch in a great bowl
before him, and, rising with a glass of it in his hand, opened a free
parliament of speaking, story-telling, and singing. Whoever recollected a
song or a story that he liked, called upon the owner of it to sing it or
tell it; and it appeared not to matter how old the fun or the music was:
the company was resolved to be happy; it roared and clapped till the
glasses rang. "You will like this song," Bartley's neighbors to right and
left of him prophesied; or, "Just listen to this story of Mason's,--it's
capital,"--as one or another rose in response to a general clamor. When
they went back to the reception-room they carried the punch-bowl with them,
and there, amid a thick cloud of smoke, two clever amateurs took their
places at the piano, and sang and played to their heart's content, while
the rest, glass in hand, talked and laughed, or listened as they chose.
Bartley had not been called upon, but he was burning to try that song in
which he had failed so dismally in the logging-camp. When the pianist rose
at last, he slipped down into the chair, and, striking the chords of the
accompaniment, he gave his piece with brilliant audacity. The room silenced
itself and then burst into a roar of applause, and cries of "Encore!" There
could be no doubt of the success. "Look here, Ricker," said a leading
man at the end of the repetition, "your friend must be one of us!"--and,
rapping on the table, he proposed Bartley's name. In that simple time the
club voted _viva voce_ on proposed members, and Bartley found himself
elected by acclamation, and in the act of paying over his initiation fee to
the treasurer, before he had well realized the honor done him. Everybody
near him shook his hand, and offered to be of service to him. Much of this
cordiality was merely collective good feeling; something of it might be
justly attributed to the punch; but the greater part was honest. In this
civilization of ours, grotesque and unequal and imperfect as it is in many
things, we are bound together in a brotherly sympathy unknown to any other.
We new men have all had our hard rubs, but we do not so much remember them
in soreness or resentment as in the wish to help forward any other who is
presently feeling them. If he will but help himself too, a hundred hands
are stretched out to him.
Bartley had kept his head clear of the punch, but he left the club drunk
with joy and pride, and so impatient to be with Marcia and tell her of his
triumphs that he could hardly wait to read the proof of his boarding-house
article which Ricker had put in hand at once for the Sunday edition. He
found Marcia sitting up for him, and she listened with a shining face while
he hastily ran over the most flattering facts of the evening. She was not
so much surprised at the honors done him as he had expected but she was
happier, and she made him repeat it all and give her the last details. He
was afraid she would ask him what his initiation had cost; but she seemed
to have no idea that it had cost anything, and though it had swept away a
third of the money he had received for his sketch, he still resolved that
she should have that supper at Parker's.
"I consider my future made," he said aloud, at the end of his swift
cogitation on this point.
"Oh, yes!" she responded rapturously. "We needn't have a moment's anxiety.
But we must be very saving still till you get a place."
"Oh, certainly," said Bartley.
During several months that followed, Bartley's work consisted of
interviewing, of special reporting in all its branches, of correspondence
by mail and telegraph from points to which he was sent; his leisure
he spent in studying subjects which could be treated like that of
the boarding-houses. Marcia entered into his affairs with the keen
half-intelligence which characterizes a woman's participation in business;
whatever could be divined, she was quickly mistress of; she vividly
sympathized with his difficulties and his triumphs; she failed to follow
him in matters of political detail, or of general effect; she could not be
dispassionate or impartial; his relation to any enterprise was always more
important than anything else about it. On some of his missions he took her
with him, and then they made it a pleasure excursion; and if they came home
late with the material still unwritten, she helped him with his notes,
wrote from his dictation, and enabled him to give a fuller report than
his rivals. She caught up with amusing aptness the technical terms of the
profession, and was voluble about getting in ahead of the Events and the
other papers; and she was indignant if any part of his report was cut out
or garbled, or any feature was spoiled.
He made a "card" of grouping and treating with picturesque freshness the
spring openings of the milliners and dry-goods people; and when he brought
his article to Ricker, the editor ran it over, and said, "Guess you took
your wife with you, Hubbard."
"Yes, I did," Bartley owned. He was always proud of her looks, and it
flattered him that Ricker should see the evidences of her feminine taste
and knowledge in his account of the bonnets and dress goods. "You don't
suppose I could get at all these things by inspiration, do you?"
Marcia was already known to some of his friends whom he had introduced to
her in casual encounters. They were mostly unmarried, or if married they
lived at a distance, and they did not visit the Hubbards at their lodgings.
Marcia was a little shy, and did not quite know whether they ought to call
without being asked, or whether she ought to ask them; besides, Mrs. Nash's
reception-room was not always at her disposal, and she would not have liked
to take them all the way up to her own room. Her social life was therefore
confined to the public places where she met these friends of her husband's.
They sometimes happened together at a restaurant, or saw one another
between the acts at the theatre, or on coming out of a concert. Marcia was
not so much admired for her conversation by her acquaintance, as for her
beauty and her style; a rustic reluctance still lingered in her; she was
thin and dry in her talk with any one but Bartley, and she could not help
letting even men perceive that she was uneasy when they interested him in
matters foreign to her.
Bartley did not see why they could not have some of these fellows up
in their room for tea; but Marcia told him it was impossible. In fact,
although she willingly lived this irregular life with him, she was at heart
not at all a Bohemian. She did not like being in lodgings or dining at
restaurants; on their horse-car excursions into the suburbs, when the
spring opened, she was always choosing this or that little house as the
place where she would like to live, and wondering if it were within their
means. She said she would gladly do all the work herself; she hated to be
idle so much as she now must. The city's novelty wore off for her sooner
than for him: the concerts, the lectures, the theatres, had already lost
their zest for her, and she went because he wished her to go, or in order
to be able to help him with what he was always writing about such things.
As the spring advanced, Bartley conceived the plan of a local study,
something in the manner of the boarding-house article, but on a much vaster
scale: he proposed to Ricker a timely series on the easily accessible
hot-weather resorts, to be called "Boston's Breathing-Places," and to
relate mainly to the seaside hotels and their surroundings. His idea was
encouraged, and he took Marcia with him on most of his expeditions for its
realization. These were largely made before the regular season had well
begun; but the boats were already running, and the hotels were open, and
they were treated with the hospitality which a knowledge of Bartley's
mission must invoke. As he said, it was a matter of business, give and
take on both sides, and the landlords took more than they gave in any such
On her part Marcia regarded dead-heading as a just and legitimate privilege
of the press, if not one of its chief attributes; and these passes on boats
and trains, this system of paying hotel-bills by the presentation of a
card, constituted distinguished and honorable recognition from the public.
To her simple experience, when Bartley told how magnificently the reporters
had been accommodated, at some civic or commercial or professional banquet,
with a table of their own, where they were served with all the wines and
courses, he seemed to have been one of the principal guests, and her fear
was that his head should be turned by his honors. But at the bottom of her
heart, though she enjoyed the brilliancy of Bartley's present life, she did
not think his occupation comparable to the law in dignity. Bartley called
himself a journalist now, but his newspaper connection still identified him
in her mind with those country editors of whom she had always heard her
father speak with such contempt: men dedicated to poverty and the despite
of all the local notables who used them. She could not shake off the
old feeling of degradation, even when she heard Bartley and some of his
fellow-journalists talking in their boastfulest vein of the sovereign
character of journalism; and she secretly resolved never to relinquish her
purpose of having him a lawyer. Till he was fairly this, in regular and
prosperous practice, she knew that she should not have shown her father
that she was right in marrying Bartley.
In the mean time their life went ignorantly on in the obscure channels
where their isolation from society kept it longer than was natural. Three
or four months after they came to Boston, they were still country people,
with scarcely any knowledge of the distinctions and differences so
important to the various worlds of any city. So far from knowing that they
must not walk in the Common, they used to sit down on a bench there, in the
pleasant weather, and watch the opening of the spring, among the lovers
whose passion had a publicity that neither surprised nor shocked them.
After they were a little more enlightened, they resorted to the Public
Garden, where they admired the bridge, and the rock-work, and the statues.
Bartley, who was already beginning to get up a taste for art, boldly
stopped and praised the Venus, in the presence of the gardeners planting
They went sometimes to the Museum of Fine Arts, where they found a pleasure
in the worst things which the best never afterwards gave them; and where
she became as hungry and tired as if it were the Vatican. They had a pride
in taking books out of the Public Library, where they walked about on
tiptoe with bated breath; and they thought it a divine treat to hear the
Great Organ play at noon. As they sat there in the Music Hall, and let the
mighty instrument bellow over their strong young nerves, Bartley whispered
Marcia the jokes he had heard about the organ; and then, upon the wave of
aristocratic sensation from this experience, they went out and dined at
Copeland's, or Weber's, or Fera's, or even at Parker's: they had long since
forsaken the humble restaurant with its doilies and its ponderous crockery,
and they had so mastered the art of ordering that they could manage a
dinner as cheaply at these finer places as anywhere, especially if Marcia
pretended not to care much for her half of the portion, and connived at its
transfer to Bartley's plate.
In his hours of leisure, they were so perpetually together that it became a
joke with the men who knew them to say, when asked if Bartley were married,
"Very _much_ married." It was not wholly their inseparableness that gave
the impression of this extreme conjugality; as I said, Marcia's uneasiness
when others interested Bartley in things alien to her made itself felt even
by these men. She struggled against it because she did not wish to put him
to shame before them, and often with an aching sense of desolation she sent
him off with them to talk apart, or left him with them if they met on the
street, and walked home alone, rather than let any one say that she kept
her husband tied to her apron-strings. His club, after the first sense of
its splendor and usefulness wore away, was an ordeal; she had failed to
conceal that she thought the initiation and annual fees extravagant. She
knew no other bliss like having Bartley sit down in their own room with
her; it did not matter whether they talked; if he were busy, she would as
lief sit and sew, or sit and silently look at him as he wrote. In these
moments she liked to feign that she had lost him, that they had never been
married, and then come back with a rush of joy to the reality. But on his
club nights she heroically sent him off, and spent the evening with Mrs.
Nash. Sometimes she went out by day with the landlady, who had a passion
for auctions and cemeteries, and who led Marcia to an intimate acquaintance
with such pleasures. At Mount Auburn, Marcia liked the marble lambs, and
the emblematic hands pointing upward with the dexter finger, and the
infants carved in stone, and the angels with folded wings and lifted eyes,
better than the casts which Bartley said were from the antique, in the
Museum; on this side her mind was as wholly dormant as that of Mrs. Nash
herself. She always came home feeling as if she had not seen Bartley for a
year, and fearful that something had happened to him.
The hardest thing about their irregular life was that he must sometimes be
gone two or three days at a time, when he could not take her with him. Then
it seemed to her that she could not draw a full breath in his absence; and
once he found her almost wild on his return: she had begun to fancy that
he was never coming back again. He laughed at her when she betrayed her
secret, but she was not ashamed; and when he asked her, "Well, what if I
hadn't come back?" she answered passionately, "It wouldn't have made much
difference to me: I should not have lived."
The uncertainty of his income was another cause of anguish to her. At times
he earned forty or fifty dollars a week; oftener he earned ten; there was
now and then a week when everything that he put his hand to failed, and he
earned nothing at all. Then Marcia despaired; her frugality became a
mania, and they had quarrels about what she called his extravagance. She
embittered his daily bread by blaming him for what he spent on it; she wore
her oldest dresses, and would have had him go shabby in token of their
adversity. Her economies were frantic child's play,--methodless,
inexperienced, fitful; and they were apt to be followed by remorse in which
she abetted him in some wanton excess.
The future of any heroic action is difficult to manage; and the sublime
sacrifice of her pride and all the conventional proprieties which Marcia
had made in giving herself to Bartley was inevitably tried by the same
sordid tests that every married life is put to.
That salaried place which he was always seeking on the staff of some
newspaper, proved not so easy to get as he had imagined in the flush of
his first successes. Ricker willingly included him among the
Chronicle-Abstract's own correspondents and special reporters; and he held
the same off-and-on relation to several other papers; but he remained
without a more definite position. He earned perhaps more money than a
salary would have given him, and in their way of living he and Marcia laid
up something out of what he earned. But it did not seem to her that he
exerted himself to get a salaried place; she was sure that, if so many
others who could not write half so well had places, he might get one if he
only kept trying. Bartley laughed at these business-turns of Marcia's as
he called them; but sometimes they enraged him, and he had days of sullen
resentment when he resisted all her advances towards reconciliation. But he
kept hard at work, and he always owned at last how disinterested her most
ridiculous alarm had been.
Once, when they had been talking as usual about that permanent place on
some newspaper, she said, "But I should only want that to be temporary,
if you got it. I want you should go on with the law, Bartley. I've been
thinking about that. I don't want you should always be a journalist."
Bartley smiled. "What could I do for a living, I should like to know, while
I was studying law?"
"You could do some newspaper work,--enough to support us,--while you were
studying. You said when we first came to Boston that you should settle down
to the law."
"I hadn't got my eyes open, then. I've got a good deal longer row to hoe
than I supposed, before I can settle down to the law."
"Father said you didn't need to study but a little more."
"Not if I were going into the practice at Equity. But it's a very different
thing, I can tell you, in Boston: I should have to go in for a course in
the Harvard Law School, just for a little start-off."
Marcia was silenced, but she asked, after a moment, "Then you're going to
give up the law, altogether?"
"I don't know what I'm going to do; I'm going to do the best I can for the
present, and trust to luck. I don't like special reporting, for a finality;
but I shouldn't like shystering, either."
"What's shystering?" asked Marcia.
"It's pettifogging in the city courts. Wait till I can get my basis,--till
I have a fixed amount of money for a fixed amount of work,--and then I'll
talk to you about taking up the law again. I'm willing to do it whenever
it seems the right thing. I guess I should like it, though I don't see
why it's any better than journalism, and I don't believe it has any more
"But you've been a long time trying to get your basis on a newspaper," she
reasoned. "Why don't you try to get it in some other way? Why don't you try
to get a clerk's place with some lawyer?"
"Well, suppose I was willing to starve along in that way, how should I go
about to get such a place?" demanded Bartley, with impatience.
"Why don't you go to that Mr. Halleck you visited here? You used to tell me
he was going to be a lawyer."
"Well, if you remember so distinctly what I said about going into the law
when I first came to Boston," said her husband angrily, "perhaps you'll
remember that I said I shouldn't go to Halleck until I didn't need his
help. I shall not go to him _for_ his help."
Marcia gave way to spiteful tears. "It seems as if you were ashamed to
let them know that you were in town. Are you afraid I shall want to get
acquainted with them? Do you suppose I shall want to go to their parties,
and disgrace you?"
Bartley took his cigar out of his mouth, and looked blackly at her. "So,
that's what you've been thinking, is it?"
She threw herself upon his neck. "No! no, it isn't!" she cried,
hysterically. "You know that I never thought it till this instant; you know
I didn't think it at all; I just _said_ it. My nerves are all gone; I don't
know _what_ I'm saying half the time, and you're as strict with me as if
I were as well as ever! I may as well take off my things,--I'm not well
enough to go with you, to-day, Bartley."
She had been dressing while they talked for an entertainment which Bartley
was going to report for the Chronicle-Abstract; and now she made a feint of
wishing to remove her hat. He would not let her. He said that if she did
not go, he should not; he reproached her with not wishing to go with him
any more; he coaxed her laughingly and fondly.
"It's only because I'm not so strong, now," she said in a whisper that
ended in a kiss on his cheek. "You must walk very slowly, and not hurry
The entertainment was to be given in aid of the Indigent Children's
Surf-Bathing Society, and it was at the end of June, rather late in the
season. But the society itself was an afterthought, not conceived till a
great many people had left town on whose assistance such a charity
must largely depend. Strenuous appeals had been made, however: it was
represented that ten thousand poor children could be transported to
Nantasket Beach, and there, as one of the ladies on the committee said,
bathed, clam-baked, and lemonaded three times during the summer at a cost
so small that it was a saving to spend the money. Class Day falling about
the same time, many exiles at Newport and on the North Shore came up and
down; and the affair promised to be one of social distinction, if not
pecuniary success. The entertainment was to be varied: a distinguished poet
was to read an old poem of his, and a distinguished poetess was to read
a new poem of hers; some professional people were to follow with comic
singing; an elocutionist was to give impressions of noted public speakers;
and a number of vocal and instrumental amateurs were to contribute their
Bartley had instructions from Ricker to see that his report was very
full socially. "We want something lively, and at the same time nice and
tasteful, about the whole thing, and I guess you're the man to do it. Get
Mrs. Hubbard to go with you, and keep you from making a fool of yourself
about the costumes." He gave Bartley two tickets. "Mighty hard to get, I
can tell you, for _love_ or money,--especially love," he said; and Bartley
made much of this difficulty in impressing Marcia's imagination with the
uncommon character of the occasion. She had put on a new dress which
she had just finished for herself, and which was a marvel not only of
cheapness, but of elegance; she had plagiarized the idea from the costume
of a lady with whom she stopped to look in at a milliner's window where she
formed the notion of her bonnet. But Marcia had imagined the things anew in
relation to herself, and made them her own; when Bartley first saw her in
them, though he had witnessed their growth from the germ, he said that he
was afraid of her, she was so splendid, and he did not quite know whether
he felt acquainted. When they were seated at the concert, and had time to
look about them, he whispered, "Well, Marsh, I don't see anything here that
comes near you in style," and she flung a little corner of her drapery out
over his hand so that she could squeeze it: she was quite happy again.
After the concert, Bartley left her for a moment, and went up to a group
of the committee near the platform, to get some points for his report.
He spoke to one of the gentlemen, note-book and pencil in hand, and the
gentleman referred him to one of the ladies of the committee, who, after a
moment of hesitation, demanded in a rich tone of injury and surprise, "Why!
Isn't this Mr. Hubbard?" and, indignantly answering herself, "Of _course_
it is!" gave her hand with a sort of dramatic cordiality, and flooded him
with questions: "When did you come to Boston? Are you at the Hallecks'? Did
you come--Or no, you're _not_ Harvard. You're not _living_ in Boston? And
what in the world are _you_ getting items for? Mr. Hubbard, Mr. Atherton."
She introduced him in a breathless climax to the gentleman to whom he had
first spoken, and who had listened to her attack on Bartley with a smile
which he was at no trouble to hide from her. "Which question are you going
to answer first, Mr. Hubbard?" he asked quietly, while his eyes searched
Bartley's for an instant with inquiry which was at once kind and keen. His
face had the distinction which comes of being clean-shaven in our bearded
"Oh, the last," said Bartley. "I'm reporting the concert for the
Chronicle-Abstract, and I want to interview some one in authority about
"Then interview _me_, Mr. Hubbard," cried the young lady. "_I'm_ in
authority about this affair,--it's my own invention, as the White Knight
says,--and then I'll interview you afterwards. And you've gone into
journalism, like all the Harvard men! So glad it's you, for you can be a
perfect godsend to the cause if you will. The entertainment hasn't given us
all the money we shall want, by any means, and we shall need all the help
the press can give us. Ask me any questions you please, Mr. Hubbard:
there isn't a soul here that I wouldn't sacrifice to the last personal
particular, if the press will only do its duty in return. You've no idea
how we've been working during the last fortnight since this Old Man of the
Sea-Bathing sprang upon us. I was sitting quietly at home, thinking of
anything else in the world, I can assure you, when the atrocious idea
occurred to me." She ran on to give a full sketch of the inception and
history of the scheme up to the present time. Suddenly she arrested herself
and Bartley's flying pencil: "Why, you're not putting all that nonsense
"Certainly I am," said Bartley, while Mr. Atherton, with a laugh, turned
and walked away to talk with some other ladies. "It's the very thing I
want. I shall get in ahead of all the other papers on this; they haven't
had anything like it, yet."
She looked at him for a moment in horror. Then, "Well, go on; I would do
anything for the cause!" she cried.
"Tell me who's been here, then," said Bartley.
She recoiled a little. "I don't like giving names."
"But I can't say who the people were, unless you do."
"That's true," said the young lady thoughtfully. She prided herself on her
thoughtfulness, which sometimes came before and sometimes after the fact.
"You're not obliged to say who told you?"
"Of course not."
She ran over a list of historical and distinguished names, and he slyly
asked if this and that lady were not dressed so, and so, and worked in
the costumes from her unconsciously elaborate answers; she was afterwards
astonished that he should have known what people had on. Lastly, he asked
what the committee expected to do next, and was enabled to enrich his
report with many authoritative expressions and intimations. The lady became
all zeal in these confidences to the public, at last; she told everything
she knew, and a great deal that she merely hoped.
"And now come into the committee-room and have a cup of coffee; I know you
must be faint with all this talking," she concluded. "I want to ask
you something about yourself." She was not older than Bartley, but she
addressed him with the freedom we use in encouraging younger people.
"Thank you," he said coolly; "I can't, very well. I must go back to my
wife, and hurry up this report."
"Oh! is Mrs. Hubbard here?" asked the young lady with well-controlled
surprise. "Present me to her!" she cried, with that fearlessness of social
consequences for which she was noted: she believed there were ways of
getting rid of undesirable people without treating them rudely.
The audience had got out of the hall, and Marcia stood alone near one of
the doors waiting for Bartley. He glanced proudly toward her, and said, "I
shall be very glad."
Miss Kingsbury drifted by his side across the intervening space, and was
ready to take Marcia impressively by the hand when she reached her; she had
promptly decided her to be very beautiful and elegantly simple in dress,
but she found her smaller than she had looked at a distance. Miss Kingsbury
was herself rather large,--sometimes, she thought, rather too large:
certainly too large if she had not had such perfect command of every inch
of herself. In complexion she was richly blonde, with beautiful fair hair
roughed over her forehead, as if by a breeze, and apt to escape in sunny
tendrils over the peachy tints of her temples. Her features were massive
rather than fine; and though she thoroughly admired her chin and respected
her mouth, she had doubts about her nose, which she frankly referred to
friends for solution: had it not _too_ much of a knob at the end? She
seemed to tower over Marcia as she took her hand at Bartley's introduction,
and expressed her pleasure at meeting her.
"I don't know why it need be such a surprise to find one's gentlemen
friends married, but it always is, somehow. I don't think Mr. Hubbard would
have known me if I hadn't insisted upon his recognizing me; I can't blame
him: it's three years since we met. Do you help him with his reports? I
know you do! You _must_ make him lenient to our entertainment,--the cause
is so good! How long have you been in Boston? Though I don't know why I
should ask that,--you may have always been in Boston! One used to know
everybody; but the place _is_ so large, now. I should like to come and see
you; but I'm going out of town to-morrow, for the summer. I'm not really
here, now, except _ex officio_; I ought to have been away weeks ago,
but this Indigent Surf-Bathing has kept me. You've no idea what such an
undertaking is. But you _must_ let me have your address, and as soon as I
get back to town in the fall, I shall insist upon looking you up. _Good_
by! I must run away, now, and leave you; there are a thousand things for
me to look after yet to-day." She took Marcia again by the hand, and
superadded some bows and nods and smiles of parting, after she released
her, but she did not ask her to come into the committee-room and have some
coffee; and Bartley took his wife's hand under his arm and went out of the
"Well," he said, with a man's simple pleasure in Miss Kingsbury's
friendliness to his wife, "that's the girl I used to tell you about,--the
rich one with the money in her own right, whom I met at the Hallecks'. She
seemed to think you were about the thing, Marsh! I saw her eyes open as she
came up, and I felt awfully proud of you; you never looked half so well.
But why didn't you _say_ something?"
"She didn't give me any chance," said Marcia, "and I had nothing to say,
anyway. I thought she was very disagreeable."
"Disagreeable!" repeated Bartley in amaze.
Miss Kingsbury went back to the committee-room, where one of the amateurs
had been lecturing upon her: "Clara Kingsbury can say and do, from the best
heart in the world, more offensive things in ten minutes than malice could
invent in a week. Somebody ought to go out and drag her away from that
reporter by main force. But I presume it's too late already; she's had time
to destroy us all. You'll see that there won't be a shred left of us in
_his_ paper at any rate. Really, I wonder that, in a city full of nervous
and exasperated people like Boston, Clara Kingsbury has been suffered to
live. She throws her whole soul into everything she undertakes, and she has
gone so _en masse_ into this Indigent Bathing, and splashed about in it so,
that _I_ can't understand how we got anybody to come to-day. Why, I haven't
the least doubt that she's offered that poor man a ticket to go down to
Nantasket and bathe with the other Indigents; she's treated _me_ as if I
ought to be personally surf-bathed for the last fortnight; and if there's
any chance for us left by her tactlessness, you may be sure she's gone at
it with her conscience and simply swept it off the face of the earth."
One hot day in August, when Bartley had been doing nothing for a week, and
Marcia was gloomily forecasting the future when they would have to begin
living upon the money they had put into the savings bank, she reverted to
the question of his taking up the law again. She was apt to recur to this
in any moment of discouragement, and she urged him now to give up his
newspaper work with that wearisome persistence with which women torment the
men they love.
"My newspaper work seems to have given me up, my dear," said Bartley. "It's
like asking a fellow not to marry a girl that won't have him." He laughed
and then whistled; and Marcia burst into fretful, futile tears, which he
did not attempt to assuage.
They had been all summer in town; the country would have been no change
to them; and they knew nothing of the seaside except the crowded, noisy,
expensive resorts near the city. Bartley wished her to go to one of these
for a week or two, at any rate, but she would not; and in fact neither of
them had the born citizen's conception of the value of a summer vacation.
But they had found their attic intolerable; and, the single gentlemen
having all given up their rooms by this time, Mrs. Nash let Marcia have one
lower down, where they sat looking out on the hot street.
"Well," cried Marcia at last, "you don't care for my feelings, or you would
take up the law again."
Her husband rose with a sigh that was half a curse, and went out. After
what she had said, he would not give her the satisfaction of knowing what
he meant to do; but he had it in his head to go to that Mr. Atherton to
whom Miss Kingsbury had introduced him, and ask his advice; he had found
out that Mr. Atherton was a lawyer, and he believed that he would tell him
what to do. He could at least give him some authoritative discouragement
which he might use in these discussions with Marcia.
Mr. Atherton had his office in the Events building, and Bartley was on his
way thither when he met Ricker.
"Seen Witherby?" asked his friend. "He was round looking for you."
"What does Witherby want with me?" asked Bartley, with a certain
"Wants to give you the managing-editorship of the Events," said Ricker,
"Pshaw! Well, he knows where to find me, if he wants me very badly."
"Perhaps he doesn't," suggested Ricker. "In that case, you'd better look
"Why, you don't advise--"
"Oh, _I_ don't advise anything! But if _he_ can let bygones be bygones, I
guess _you_ can afford to! I don't know just what he wants with you, but if
he offers you anything like a basis, you'd better take it."
Bartley's basis had come to be a sort of by-word between them; Ricker
usually met him with some such demand as, "Well, what about the basis?" or,
"How's your poor basis?" Bartley's ardor for a salaried position amused
him, and he often tried to argue him out of it. "You're much better off as
a free lance. You make as much money as most of the fellows in places, and
you lead a pleasanter life. If you were on any one paper, you'd have to
be on duty about fifteen hours out of the twenty-four; you'd be out every
night till three or four o'clock; you'd have to do fires, and murders,
and all sorts of police business; and now you work mostly on fancy
jobs,--something you suggest yourself, or something you're specially asked
to do. That's a kind of a compliment, and it gives you scope."
Nevertheless, if Bartley had his heart set upon a basis, Ricker wanted him
to have it. "Of course," he said, "I was only joking about the basis. But
if Witherby should have something permanent to offer, don't quarrel with
your bread and butter, and don't hold yourself _too_ cheap. Witherby's
going to get all he can, for as little as he can, every time."
Ricker was a newspaper man in every breath. His great interest in life was
the Chronicle-Abstract, which paid him poorly and worked him hard. To
get in ahead of the other papers was the object for which he toiled with
unremitting zeal; but after that he liked to see a good fellow prosper,
and he had for Bartley that feeling of comradery which comes out among
journalists when their rivalries are off. He would hate to lose Bartley
from the Chronicle-Abstract; if Witherby meant business, Bartley and
he might be excoriating each other before a week passed in sarcastic
references to "our esteemed contemporary of the Events," and "our esteemed
contemporary of the Chronicle-Abstract"; but he heartily wished him luck,
and hoped it might be some sort of inside work.
When Ricker left him Bartley hesitated. He was half minded to go home and
wait for Witherby to look him up, as the most dignified and perhaps the
most prudent course. But he was curious and impatient, and he was afraid
of letting the chance, whatever it might be, slip through his fingers. He
suddenly resolved upon a little ruse, which would still oblige Witherby
to make the advance, and yet would risk nothing by delay. He mounted to
Witherby's room in the Events building, and pushed open the door. Then he
drew back, embarrassed, as if he had made a mistake. "Excuse me," he said,
"isn't Mr. Atherton's office on this floor?"
Witherby looked up from the papers on his desk, and cleared his throat.
When he overreached himself he was apt to hold any party to the transaction
accountable for his error. Ever since he refused Bartley's paper on the
logging-camp, he had accused him in his heart of fraud because he had sold
the rejected sketch to another paper, and anticipated Witherby's tardy
enterprise in the same direction. Each little success that Bartley made
added to Witherby's dislike; and whilst Bartley had written for all the
other papers, he had never got any work from the Events. Witherby had the
guilty sense of having hated him as he looked up, and Bartley on his part
was uneasily sensible of some mocking paragraphs of a more or less personal
cast, which he had written in the Chronicle-Abstract, about the enterprise
of the Events.
"Mr. Atherton is on the floor above," said Witherby. "But I'm very glad
you happened to look in, Mr. Hubbard. I--I was just thinking about you.
Ah--wont you take a chair?"
"Thanks," said Bartley, non-committally; but he sat down in the chair which
the other rose to offer him.
Witherby fumbled about among the things on his desk before he resumed his
own seat. "I hope you have been well since I saw you?"
"Oh, yes, I'm always well. How have you been?" Bartley wondered whither
this exchange of civilities tended; but he believed he could keep it up as
long as old Witherby could.
"Why, I have not been very well," said Witherby, getting into his chair,
and taking up a paper-weight to help him in talk. "The fact is, I find that
I have been working too hard. I have undertaken to manage the editorial
department of the Events in addition to looking after its business, and the
care has been too great. It has told upon me. I flatter myself that I have
not allowed either department to suffer--"
He referred this point so directly to him, that Bartley made a murmur of
assent, and Witherby resumed.
"But the care has told upon me. I am not so well as I could wish. I need
rest, and I need help," he added.
Bartley had by this time made up his mind that, if Witherby had anything to
say to him, he should say it unaided.
Witherby put down the paper-weight, and gave his attention for a moment to
a paper-cutter. "I don't know whether you have heard that Mr. Clayton is
going to leave us?"
"No," Bartley said, "I hadn't heard that."
"Yes, he is going to leave us. Mr. Clayton and I have not agreed upon some
points, and we have both judged it best that we should part."
Witherby paused again, and changed the positions of his inkstand and
mucilage-bottle. "Mr. Clayton has failed me, as I may say, at the
last moment, and we have been compelled to part. I found Mr.
He looked again at Bartley, who said, "Yes?"
"Yes. I found Mr. Clayton so much at variance in his views with--with my
own views--that I could do nothing with him. He has used language to me
which I am sure he will regret. But that is neither here nor there; he
is going. I have had my eye on you, Mr. Hubbard, ever since you came to
Boston, and have watched your career with interest. But I thought of Mr.
Clayton, in the first instance, because he was already attached to the
Events, and I wished to promote him. Office during good behavior, and
promotion in the direct line: I'm _that_ much of a civil-service reformer,"
"Certainly," said Bartley.
"But of course my idea in starting the Events was to make money."
"I hold that the first duty of a public journal is to make money for the
owner; all the rest follows naturally."
"You're quite right, Mr. Witherby," said Bartley. "Unless it makes money,
there can be no enterprise about it, no independence,--nothing. That was
the way I did with my little paper down in Maine. The first thing--I told
the committee when I took hold of the paper--is to keep it from losing
money; the next is to make money with it. First peaceable, then pure:
that's what I told them."
"Precisely so!" Witherby was now so much at his ease with Bartley that
he left off tormenting the things on his desk, and used his hands in
gesticulating. "Look at the churches themselves! No church can do any good
till it's on a paying basis. As long as a church is in debt, it can't
secure the best talent for the pulpit or the choir, and the members go
about feeling discouraged and out of heart. It's just so with a newspaper.
I say that a paper does no good till it pays; it has no influence, its
motives are always suspected, and you've got to make it pay by hook or by
crook, before you can hope to--to--forward any good cause by it. That's
what _I_ say. Of course," he added, in a large, smooth way, "I'm not going
to contend that a newspaper should be run _solely_ in the interest of the
counting-room. Not at all! But I do contend that, when the counting-room
protests against a certain course the editorial room is taking, it ought to
be respectfully listened to. There are always two sides to every question.
Suppose all the newspapers pitch in--as they sometimes do--and denounce a
certain public enterprise: a projected scheme of railroad legislation, or
a peculiar system of banking, or a co-operative mining interest, and the
counting-room sends up word that the company advertises heavily with us;
shall _we_ go and join indiscriminately in that hue and cry, or shall we
give our friends the benefit of the doubt?"
"Give them the benefit of the doubt," answered Bartley. "That's what I
"And so would any other practical man!" said Witherby. "And that's just
where Mr. Clayton and I differed. Well, I needn't allude to him any
more," he added leniently. "What I wish to say is this, Mr. Hubbard. I am
overworked, and I feel the need of some sort of relief. I know that I have
started the Events in the right line at last,--the only line in which it
can be made a great, useful, and respectable journal, efficient in
every good cause,--and what I want now is some sort of assistant in the
management who shall be in full sympathy with my own ideas. I don't want a
mere slave,--a tool; but I do want an independent, right-minded man, who
shall be with me for the success of the paper the whole time and every
time, and shall not be continually setting up his will against mine on all
sorts of _doctrinaire_ points. That was the trouble with Mr. Clayton. I
have nothing against Mr. Clayton personally; he is an excellent young man
in very many respects; but he was all wrong about journalism, all wrong,
Mr. Hubbard. I talked with him a great deal, and tried to make him see
where his interest lay. He had been on the paper as a reporter from the
start, and I wished very much to promote him to this position; which he
could have made the best position in the country. The Events is an evening
paper; there is no night-work; and the whole thing is already thoroughly
systematized. Mr. Clayton had plenty of talent, and all he had to do was to
step in under my direction and put his hand on the helm. But, no! I should
have been glad to keep him in a subordinate capacity; but I had to let him
go. He said that he would not report the conflagration of a peanut-stand
for a paper conducted on the principles I had developed to him. Now, that
is no way to talk. It's absurd."
"Perfectly." Bartley laughed his rich, caressing laugh, in which there
was the insinuation of all worldly-wise contempt for Clayton and all
worldly-wise sympathy with Witherby. It made Witherby feel good,--better
perhaps than he had felt at any time since his talk with Clayton.
"Well, now, what do you say, Mr. Hubbard? Can't we make some arrangement
with you?" he asked, with a burst of frankness.
"I guess you can," said Bartley. The fact that Witherby needed him was so
plain that he did not care to practise any finesse about the matter.
"What are your present engagements?"
"I haven't any."
"Then you can take hold at once?"
"That's good!" Witherby now entered at large into the nature of the
position which he offered Bartley. They talked a long time, and in becoming
better acquainted with each other's views, as they called them, they became
better friends. Bartley began to respect Witherby's business ideas, and
Witherby in recognizing all the admirable qualities of this clear-sighted
and level-headed young man began to feel that he had secretly liked him
from the first, and had only waited a suitable occasion to unmask his
affection. It was arranged that Bartley should come on as Witherby's
assistant, and should do whatever he was asked to do in the management of
the paper; he was to write on topics as they occurred to him, or as they
were suggested to him. "I don't say whether this will lead to anything
more, Mr. Hubbard, or not; but I do say that you will be in the direct line
"Yes, I understand that," said Bartley.
"And now as to terms," continued Witherby, a little tremulously.
"And now as to terms," repeated Bartley to himself; but he said nothing
aloud. He felt that Witherby had cut out a great deal of work for him, and
work of a kind that he could not easily find another man both willing and
able to do. He resolved that he would have all that his service was worth.
"What should you think of twenty dollars a week?" asked Witherby.
"I shouldn't think it was enough," said Bartley, amazed at his own
audacity, but enjoying it, and thinking how he had left Marcia with the
intention of offering himself to Mr. Atherton as a clerk for ten dollars a
week. "There is a great deal of labor in what you propose, and you command
my whole time. You would not like to have me do any work outside of the
"No," Witherby assented. "Would twenty-five be nearer the mark?" he
"It would be nearer, certainly," said Bartley. "But I guess you had better
make it thirty." He kept a quiet face, but his heart throbbed.
"Well, say thirty, then," replied Witherby so promptly that Bartley
perceived with a pang that he might as easily have got forty from him. But
it was now too late, and a salary of fifteen hundred a year passed the
wildest hopes he had cherished half an hour before.
"All right," he said quietly. "I suppose you want me to take hold at once?"
"Yes, on Monday. Oh, by the way," said Witherby, "there is one little piece
of outside work which I should like you to finish up for us; and we'll
agree upon something extra for it, if you wish. I mean our Solid Men
series. I don't know whether you've noticed the series in the Events?"
"Yes," said Bartley, "I have."
"Well, then, you know what they are. They consist of interviews--guarded
and inoffensive as respects the sanctity of private life--with our leading
manufacturers and merchant princes at their places of business and their
residences, and include a description of these, and some account of the
lives of the different subjects."
"Yes, I have seen them," said Bartley. "I've noticed the general plan."
"You know that Mr. Clayton has been doing them. He made them a popular
feature. The parties themselves were very much pleased with them."
"Oh, people are always tickled to be interviewed," said Bartley. "I know
they put on airs about it, and go round complaining to each other about
the violation of confidence, and so on; but they all like it. You know
I reported that Indigent Surf-Bathing entertainment in June for the
Chronicle-Abstract. I knew the lady who got it up, and I interviewed her
after the entertainment."
"Yes." Witherby made an inarticulate murmur of respect for Bartley in
his throat, and involuntarily changed toward him, but not so subtly that
Bartley's finer instinct did not take note of the change. "She was a fresh
subject, and she told me everything. Of course I printed it all. She
was awfully shocked,--or pretended to be,--and wrote me a very
O-dear-how-could-you note about it. But I went round to the office the next
day, and I found that nearly every lady mentioned in the interview had
ordered half a dozen copies of that issue sent to her seaside address, and
the office had been full of Beacon Street swells all the morning buying
Chronicle-Abstracts,--'the one with the report of the Concert in it.'"
These low views of high society, coupled with an apparent familiarity with
it, modified Witherby more and more. He began to see that he had got a
prize. "The way to do with such fellows as your Solid Men," continued
Bartley, "is to submit a proof to 'em. They never know exactly what to do
about it, and so you print the interview with their approval, and make 'em
_particeps criminis_. I'll finish up the series for you, and I won't make
any very heavy extra charge."
"I should wish to pay you whatever the work was worth," said Witherby, not
to be outdone in nobleness.
"All right; we sha'n't quarrel about that, at any rate."
Bartley was getting toward the door, for he was eager to be gone now to
Marcia, but Witherby followed him up as if willing to detain him. "My
wife," he said, "knows Miss Kingsbury. They have been on the same charities
"I met her a good while ago, when I was visiting a chum of mine at his
father's house here. I didn't suppose she'd know me; but she did at once,
and began to ask me if I was at the Hallecks'--as if I had never gone
"Mr. Ezra B. Halleck?" inquired Witherby reverently. "Leather trade?"
"Yes," said Bartley. "I believe his first name was Ezra. Ben Halleck was my
friend. Do you know the family?" asked Bartley.
"Yes, we have met them--in society. I hope you're pleasantly situated where
you are, Mr. Hubbard? Should be glad to have you call at the house."
"Thank you," said Bartley, "my wife will be glad to have Mrs. Witherby
"Oh!" cried Witherby. "I didn't know you were married! That's good! There's
nothing like marriage, Mr. Hubbard, to keep a man going in the right
direction. But you've begun pretty young."
"Nothing like taking a thing in time," answered Bartley. "But I haven't
been married a great while; and I'm not so young as I look. Well, good
afternoon, Mr. Witherby."
"_What_ did you say was your address?" asked Witherby, taking out his
note-book. "My wife will certainly call. She's down at Nantasket now, but
she'll be up the first part of September, and then she'll call. _Good_
They shook hands at last, and Bartley ran home to Marcia. He burst into the
room with a glowing face. "Well, Marcia," he shouted, "I've got my basis!"
"Hush! No! Don't be so loud! You haven't!" she answered, springing to her
feet. "I don't believe it! How hot you are!"
"I've been running--almost all the way from the Events office. I've got a
place on the Events,--assistant managing-editor,--thirty dollars a week,"
"I knew you would succeed yet,--I knew you would, if I could only have a
little patience. I've been scolding myself ever since you went. I thought
you were going to do something desperate, and I had driven you to it. But
Bartley, Bartley! It can't be true, is it? Here, here! Do take this fan. Or
no, I'll fan you, if you'll let me sit on your knee! O poor thing, how hot
you are! But I thought you wouldn't white for the Events; I thought you
hated that old Witherby, who acted so ugly to you when you first came."
"Oh, Witherby is a pretty good old fellow," said Bartley, who had begun to
get his breath again. He gave her a full history of the affair, and they
rejoiced together over it, and were as happy as if Bartley had been
celebrating a high and honorable good fortune. She was too ignorant to feel
the disgrace, if there were any, in the compact which Bartley had closed,
and he had no principles, no traditions, by which to perceive it. To them
it meant unlimited prosperity; it meant provision for the future, which was
to bring a new responsibility and a new care.
"We will take the parlor with the alcove, now," said Bartley. "Don't excite
yourself," he added, with tender warning.
"No, no," she said, pillowing her head on his shoulder, and shedding
"It doesn't seem as if we should ever quarrel again, does it?"
"No, no! We never shall," she murmured. "It has always come from my
worrying you about the law, and I shall never do that any more. If you like
journalism better, I shall not urge you any more to leave it, now you've
got your basis."
"But I'm going on with the law, now, for that very reason. I shall read law
all my leisure time. I feel independent, and I shall not be anxious about
the time I give, because I shall know that I can afford it."
"Well, only you mustn't overdo." She put her lips against his cheek.
"You're more to me than anything you can do for me."
Now that Bartley had got his basis and had no favors to ask of any one, he
was curious to see his friend Halleck again; but when, in the course of the
Solid Men Series, he went to interview A Nestor of the Leather Interest,
as he meant to call the elder Halleck, he resolved to let him make all
the advances. On a legitimate business errand it should not matter to him
whether Mr. Halleck welcomed him or not. The old man did not wait for
Bartley to explain why he came; he was so simply glad to see him that
Bartley felt a little ashamed to confess that he had been eight months in
Boston without making himself known. He answered all the personal questions
with which Mr. Halleck plied him; and in his turn he inquired after his
"Ben is in Europe," said his father. "He has been there all summer; but
we expect him home about the middle of September. He's been a good while
settling down," continued the old man, with an unconscious sigh. "He talked
of the law at first, and then he went into business with me; but he didn't
seem to find his calling in it; and now he's taken up the law again. He's
been in the Law School at Cambridge, and he's going back there for a year
or two longer. I thought you used to talk of the law yourself when you were
with us, Mr. Hubbard."
"Yes, I did," Bartley assented. "And I haven't given up the notion yet.
I've read a good deal of law already; but when I came up to Boston, I had
to go into newspaper work till I could see my way out of the woods."
"Well," said Mr. Halleck, "that's right. And you say you like the
arrangement you've made with Mr. Witherby?"
"It's ideal--for me," answered Bartley.
"Well, that's good," said the old man. "And you've come to interview me.
Well, that's all right. I'm not much used to being in print, but I shall be
glad to tell you all I know about leather."
"You may depend upon my not saying anything that will be disagreeable
to you, Mr. Halleck," said Bartley, touched by the old man's trusting
friendliness. When his inquisition ended, he slipped his notebook back into
his pocket, and said with a smile, "We usually say something about the
victim's private residence, but I guess I'll spare you that, Mr. Halleck."
"Why, we live in the old place, and I don't suppose there is much to say.
We are plain people, and we don't like to change. When I built there thirty
years ago, Rumford Street was one of the most desirable streets in Boston.
There was no Back Bay, then, you know, and we thought we were doing
something very fashionable. But fashion has drifted away, and left us high
and dry enough on Rumford Street; though we don't mind it. We keep the old
house and the old garden pretty much as you saw them. You can say whatever
you think best. There's a good deal of talk about the intrusiveness of the
newspapers; all I know is that they've never intruded upon me. We shall not
be afraid that you will abuse our house, Mr. Hubbard, because we expect you
to come there again. When shall it be? Mrs. Halleck and I have been at home
all summer; we find it the most comfortable place; and we shall be very
glad if you'll drop in any evening and take tea with us. We keep the old
hours; we've never taken kindly to the late dinners. The girls are off at
the mountains, and you'd see nobody but Mrs. Halleck. Come this evening!"
cried the old man, with mounting cordiality.
His warmth as he put his hand on Bartley's shoulder made the young man
blush again for the reserve with which he had been treating his own
affairs. He stammered out, hoping that the other would see the relevancy of
the statement, "Why, the fact is, Mr. Halleck, I--I'm married."
"Married?" said Mr. Halleck. "Why didn't you tell me before? Of course we
want Mrs. Hubbard, too. Where are you living? We won't stand upon ceremony
among old friends. Mrs. Halleck will come with the carriage and fetch Mrs.
Hubbard, and your wife must take that for a call. Why, you don't know how
glad we shall be to have you both! I wish Ben was married. You'll come?"
"Of course we will," said Bartley. "But you mustn't let Mrs. Halleck send
for us; we can walk perfectly well."
"_You_ can walk if you want, but Mrs. Hubbard shall ride," said the old
When Bartley reported this to Marcia, "Bartley!" she cried. "In her
carriage? I'm afraid!"
"Nonsense! She'll be a great deal more afraid than you are. She's the
bashfulest old lady you ever saw. All that I hope is that you won't
"Bartley, hush! Shall I wear my silk, or--"
"Oh, wear the silk, by all means. Crush them at a blow!"
Rumford Street is one of those old-fashioned thoroughfares at the West End
of Boston, which are now almost wholly abandoned to boarding-houses of the
poorer class. Yet they are charming streets, quiet, clean, and respectable,
and worthy still to be the homes, as they once were, of solid citizens. The
red brick houses, with their swell fronts, looking in perspective like a
succession of round towers, are reached by broad granite steps, and their
doors are deeply sunken within the wagon-roofs of white-painted Roman
arches. Over the door there is sometimes the bow of a fine transom, and the
parlor windows on the first floor of the swell front have the same azure
gleam as those of the beautiful old houses which front the Common on Beacon
When her husband bought his lot there, Mrs. Halleck could hardly believe
that a house on Rumford Street was not too fine for her. They had come to
the city simple and good young village people, and simple and good they
had remained, through the advancing years which had so wonderfully--Mrs.
Halleck hoped, with a trembling heart, not wickedly--prospered them. They
were of faithful stock, and they had been true to their traditions in every
way. One of these was constancy to the orthodox religious belief in which
their young hearts had united, and which had blessed all their life; though
their charity now abounded perhaps more than their faith. They still
believed that for themselves there was no spiritual safety except in their
church; but since their younger children had left it they were forced
tacitly to own that this might not be so in all cases. Their last endeavor
for the church in Ben's case was to send him to the college where he and
Bartley met; and this was such a failure on the main point, that it left
them remorsefully indulgent. He had submitted, and had foregone his boyish
dreams of Harvard, where all his mates were going; but the sacrifice seemed
to have put him at odds with life. The years which had proved the old
people mistaken would not come back upon their recognition of their error.
He returned to the associations from which they had exiled him too much
estranged to resume them, and they saw, with the unavailing regrets which
visit fathers and mothers in such cases, that the young know their own
world better than their elders can know it, and have a right to be in it
and of it, superior to any theory of their advantage which their elders can
form. Ben was not the fellow to complain; in fact, after he came home from
college, he was allowed to shape his life according to his own rather
fitful liking. His father was glad now to content him in anything he could,
it was so very little that Ben asked. If he had suffered it, perhaps his
family would have spoiled him.
The Halleck girls went early in July to the Profile House, where they had
spent their summers for many years; but the old people preferred to stay
at home, and only left their large, comfortable house for short absences.
Their ways of life had been fixed in other times, and Mrs. Halleck liked
better than mountain or sea the high-walled garden that stretched back of
their house to the next street. They had bought through to this street when
they built, but they had never sold the lot that fronted on it. They
laid it out in box-bordered beds, and there were clumps of hollyhocks,
sunflowers, lilies, and phlox, in different corners; grapes covered the
trellised walls; there were some pear-trees that bore blossoms, and
sometimes ripened their fruit beside the walk. Mrs. Halleck used to work in
the garden; her husband seldom descended into it, but he liked to sit on
the iron-railed balcony overlooking it from the back parlor.
As for the interior of the house, it had been furnished, once for all,
in the worst style of that most tasteless period of household art, which
prevailed from 1840 to 1870; and it would be impossible to say which were
most hideous, the carpets or the chandeliers, the curtains or the chairs
and sofas; crude colors, lumpish and meaningless forms, abounded in a rich
and horrible discord. The old people thought it all beautiful, and those
daughters who had come into the new house as little girls revered it; but
Ben and his youngest sister, who had been born in the house, used the right
of children of their parents' declining years to laugh at it. Yet they
laughed with a sort of filial tenderness.
"I suppose you know how frightful you have everything about you, Olive,"
said Clara Kingsbury, one day after the Eastlake movement began, as she
took a comprehensive survey of the Halleck drawing-room through her
"Certainly," answered the youngest Miss Halleck. "It's a perfect chamber of
horrors. But I like it, because everything's so exquisitely in keeping."
"Really, I feel as if I had seen it all for the first time," said Miss
Kingsbury. "I don't believe I ever realized it before."
She and Olive Halleck were great friends, though Clara was fashionable and
Olive was not.
"It would all have been different," Ben used to say, in whimsical sarcasm
of what he had once believed, "if I had gone to Harvard. Then the fellows
in my class would have come to the house with me, and we should have got
into the right set naturally. Now, we're outside of everything, and it
makes me mad, because we've got money enough to be inside, and there's
nothing to prevent it. Of course, I'm not going to say that leather is
quite as blameless as cotton socially, but taken in the wholesale form it
isn't so very malodorous, and it's quite as good as other things that are
"It's not the leather, Ben," answered Olive, "and it's not your not going
to Harvard altogether, though that has something to do with it. The
trouble's in me. I was at school with all those girls Clara goes with, and
I could have been in that set if I'd wanted; but I didn't really want to. I
saw, at a very tender age, that it was going to be more trouble than it was
worth, and I just quietly kept out of it. Of course, I couldn't have gone
to Papanti's without a fuss, but mother would have let me go if I had made
the fuss; and I could be hand and glove with those girls now, if I tried.
They come here whenever I ask them; and when I meet them on charities, I'm
awfully popular. No, if I'm not fashionable, it's my own fault. But what
difference does it make to you, Ben? You don't want to marry any of those
girls as long as your heart's set on that unknown charmer of yours." Ben
had once seen his charmer in the street of a little Down East town, where
he met her walking with some other boarding-school girls; in a freak with
his fellow-students, he had bribed the village photographer to let him have
the picture of the young lady, which he had sent home to Olive, marked, "My
"No, I don't want to marry anybody," said Ben. "But I hate to live in a
town where I'm not first chop in everything."
"Pshaw!" cried his sister, "I guess it doesn't trouble you much."
"Well, I don't know that it does," he admitted.
Mrs. Halleck's black coachman drove her to Mrs. Nash's door on Canary
Place, where she alighted and rang with as great perturbation as if it had
been a palace, and these poor young people to whom she was going to be kind
were princes. It was sufficient that they were strangers; but Marcia's
anxiety, evident even to meekness like Mrs. Halleck's, restored her
somewhat to her self-possession; and the thought that Bartley, in spite of
his personal splendor, was a friend of Ben's, was a help, and she got home
with her guests without any great chasms in the conversation, though she
never ceased to twist the window-tassel in her embarrassment.
Mr. Halleck came to her rescue at her own door, and let them in. He shook
hands with Bartley again, and viewed Marcia with a fatherly friendliness
that took away half her awe of the ugly magnificence of the interior. But
still she admired that Bartley could be so much at his ease. He pointed to
a stick at the foot of the hat-rack, and said, "How much that looks like
Halleck!" which made the old man laugh, and clap him on the shoulder, and
cry: "So it does! so it does! Recognized it, did you? Well, we shall soon
have him with us again, now. Seems a long time to us since he went."
"Still limps a little?" asked Bartley.
"Yes, I guess he'll never quite get over that."
"I don't believe I should like him to," said Bartley. "He wouldn't seem
natural without a cane in his hand, or hanging by the crook over his left
elbow, while he stood and talked."
The old man clapped Bartley on the shoulder again, and laughed again at the
image suggested. "That's so! that's so! You're right, I _guess!"_
As soon as Marcia could lay off her things in the gorgeous chamber to
which Mrs. Halleck had shown her, they went out to tea in the dining-room
overlooking the garden.
"Seems natural, don't it?" asked the old man, as Bartley turned to one of
"Not changed a bit, except that I was here in winter, and I hadn't a chance
to see how pretty your garden was."
"It is pretty, isn't it?" said the old man. "Mother--Mrs. Halleck, I
mean--looks after it. She keeps it about right. Here's Cyrus!" he said, as
the serving-man came into the room with something from the kitchen in his
hands. "You remember Cyrus, I guess, Mr. Hubbard?"
"Oh, yes!" said Bartley, and when Cyrus had set down his dish, Bartley
shook hands with the New Hampshire exemplar of freedom and equality; he was
no longer so young as to wish to mark a social difference between himself
and the inside-man who had served Mr. Halleck with unimpaired self-respect
for twenty-five years.
There was a vacant place at table, and Mr. Halleck said he hoped it would
be taken by a friend of theirs. He explained that the possible guest was
his lawyer, whose office Ben was going into after he left the Law School;
and presently Mr. Atherton came. Bartley was prepared to be introduced
anew, but he was flattered and the Hallecks were pleased to find that he
and Mr. Atherton were already acquainted; the latter was so friendly, that
Bartley was confirmed in his belief that you could not make an interview
too strong, for he had celebrated Mr. Atherton among the other people
present at the Indigent Surf-Bathing entertainment.
He was put next to Marcia, and after a while he began to talk with her,
feeling with a tacit skill for her highest note, and striking that with
kindly perseverance. It was not a very high note, and it was not always a
certain sound. She could not be sure that he was really interested in the
simple matters he had set her to talking about, and from time to time she
was afraid that Bartley did not like it: she would not have liked him to
talk so long or so freely with a lady. But she found herself talking on,
about boarding, and her own preference for keeping house; about Equity, and
what sort of place it was, and how far from Crawford's; about Boston, and
what she had seen and done there since she had come in the winter. Most
of her remarks began or ended with Mr. Hubbard; many of her opinions,
especially in matters of taste, were frank repetitions of what Mr. Hubbard
thought; her conversation had the charm and pathos of that of the young
wife who devotedly loves her husband, who lives in and for him, tests
everything by him, refers everything to him. She had a good mind, though it
was as bare as it could well be of most of the things that the ladies of
Mr. Atherton's world put into their minds.
Mrs. Halleck made from time to time a little murmur of satisfaction in
Marcia's loyalty, and then sank back into the meek silence that she only
emerged from to propose more tea to some one, or to direct Cyrus about
offering this dish or that.
After they rose she took Marcia about, to show her the house, ending with
the room which Bartley had when he visited there. They sat down in this
room and had a long chat, and when they came back to the parlor they
found Mr. Atherton already gone. Marcia inferred the early habits of the
household from the departure of this older friend, but Bartley was in no
hurry; he was enjoying himself, and he could not see that Mr. Halleck
seemed at all sleepy.
Mrs. Halleck wished to send them home in her carriage, but they would not
hear of this; they would far rather walk, and when they had been followed
to the door, and bidden mind the steps as they went down, the wide open
night did not seem too large for their content in themselves and each
"Did you have a nice time?" asked Bartley, though he knew he need not.
"The best time I ever had in the world!" cried Marcia.
They discussed the whole affair; the two old people; Mr. Atherton, and how
pleasant he was; the house and its splendors, which they did not know were
hideous. "Bartley," said Marcia at last, "I _told_ Mrs. Halleck."
"Did you?" he returned, in trepidation; but after a while he laughed.
"Well, all right, if you wanted to."
"Yes, I did; and you can't think how kind she was. She says we must have a
house of our own somewhere, and she's going round with me in her carriage
to help me to find one."
"Well," said Bartley, and he fetched a sigh, half of pride, half of dismay.
"Yes, I long to go to housekeeping. We can afford it now. She says we can
get a cheap little house, or half a house, up at the South End, and it
won't cost us any more than to board, hardly; and that's what I think,
"Go ahead, if you can find the house. I don't object to my own fireside.
And I suppose we must."
"Yes, we must. Ain't you glad of it?"
They were in the shadow of a tall house, and he dropped his face toward the
face she lifted to his, and gave her a silent kiss that made her heart leap
With the other news that Halleck's mother gave him on his return, she told
him of the chance that had brought his old college comrade to them again,
and of how Bartley was now married, and was just settled in the little
house she had helped his wife to find. "He has married a very pretty girl,"
"Oh, I dare say!" answered her son. "He isn't the fellow to have married a
"Your father and I have been to call upon them in their new house, and they
seem very happy together. Mr. Hubbard wants you should come to see them. He
talks a great deal about you."
"I'll look them up in good time," said the young man. "Hubbard's ardor to
see me will keep."
That evening Mr. Atherton came to tea, and Halleck walked home with him to
his lodgings, which were over the hill, and beyond the Public Garden. "Yes,
it's very pleasant, getting back," he said, as they sauntered down the
Common side of Beacon Street, "and the old town is picturesque after the
best they can do across the water." He halted his friend, and brought
himself to a rest on his cane, for a look over the hollow of the Common and
the level of the Garden where the late September dark was keenly spangled
with lamps. "'My heart leaps up,' and so forth, when I see that. Now that
Athens and Florence and Edinburgh are past, I don't think there is any
place quite so well worth being born in as Boston." He moved forward again,
gently surging with his limp, in a way that had its charm for those that
loved him. "It's more authentic and individual, more municipal, after
the old pattern, than any other modern city. It gives its stamp, it
characterizes. The Boston Irishman, the Boston Jew, is a quite different
Irishman or Jew from those of other places. Even Boston provinciality is
a precious testimony to the authoritative personality of the city.
Cosmopolitanism is a modern vice, and we're antique, we're classic, in the
other thing. Yes, I'd rather be a Bostonian, at odds with Boston, than one
of the curled darlings of any other community."
A friend knows how to allow for mere quantity in your talk, and only
replies to the quality, separates your earnest from your whimsicality, and
accounts for some whimsicality in your earnest. "I didn't know but you
might have got that bee out of your bonnet, on the other side," said
"No, sir; we change our skies, but not our bees. What should I amount to
without my grievance? You wouldn't have known me. This talk to-night about
Hubbard has set my bee to buzzing with uncommon liveliness; and the thought
of the Law School next week does nothing to allay him. The Law School isn't
Harvard; I realize that more and more, though I have tried to fancy that it
was. No, sir, my wrongs are irreparable. I had the making of a real Harvard
man in me, and of a Unitarian, nicely balanced between radicalism and
amateur episcopacy. Now, I am an orthodox ruin, and the undutiful stepson
of a Down East _alma mater_. I belong nowhere; I'm at odds.--Is Hubbard's
wife really handsome, or is she only country-pretty?"
"She's beautiful,--I assure you she's beautiful," said Atherton with such
earnestness that Halleck laughed.
"Well, that's right! as my father says. How's she beautiful?"
"That's difficult to tell. It's rather a superb sort of style; and--What
did you really use to think of your friend?" Atherton broke off to ask.
"He was a poor, cheap sort of a creature. Deplorably smart, and regrettably
handsome. A fellow that assimilated everything to a certain extent, and
nothing thoroughly. A fellow with no more moral nature than a base-ball The
sort of chap you'd expect to find, the next time you met him, in Congress
or the house of correction."
"Yes, that accounts for it," said Atherton, thoughtfully.
"Accounts for what?"
"The sort of look she had. A look as if she were naturally above him, and
had somehow fascinated herself with him, and were worshipping him in some
sort of illusion."
"Doesn't that sound a little like refining upon the facts? Recollect: I've
never seen her, and I don't say you're wrong."
"I'm not sure I'm not, though. I talked with her, and found her nothing
more than honest and sensible and good; simple in her traditions, of
course, and countrified yet, in her ideas, with a tendency to the intensely
practical. I don't see why she mightn't very well be his wife. I suppose
every woman hoodwinks herself about her husband in some degree."
"Yes; and we always like to fancy something pathetic in the fate of pretty
girls that other fellows marry. I notice that we don't sorrow much over the
plain ones. How's the divine Clara?"
"I believe she's well," said Atherton. "I haven't seen her, all summer.
She's been at Beverley."
"Why, I should have supposed she would have come up and surf-bathed those
indigent children with her own hand. She's equal to it. What made her
falter in well-doing?"
"I don't know that we can properly call it faltering. There was a deficit
in the appropriation necessary, and she made it up herself. After that,
she consulted me seriously as to whether she ought not to stay in town
and superintend the execution of the plan. But I told her she might fitly
delegate that. She was all the more anxious to perform her whole duty,
because she confessed that indigent children were personally unpleasant to
Halleck burst out laughing. "That's like Clara! How charming women are!
They're charming even in their goodness! I wonder the novelists don't take
a hint from that fact, and stop giving us those scaly heroines they've been
running lately. Why, a real woman can make righteousness delicious and
virtue piquant. I like them for that!"
"Do you?" asked Atherton, laughing in his turn at the single-minded
confession. He was some years older than his friend.
They had got down to Charles Street, and Halleck took out his watch at the
corner lamp. "It isn't at all late yet,--only half-past eight. The days are
"Suppose we go and call on Hubbard now? He's right up here on Clover
"I don't know," said Atherton. "It would do for you; you're an old friend.
But for me,--wouldn't it be rather unceremonious?"
"Oh, come along! They'll not be punctilious. They'll like our dropping in,
and I shall have Hubbard off my conscience. I must go to see him sooner or
later, for decency's sake."
Atherton suffered himself to be led away. "I suppose you won't stay long?"
"Oh, no; I shall cut it very short," said Halleck; and they climbed
the narrow little street where Marcia had at last found a house, after
searching the South End quite to the Highlands, and ransacking Charlestown
and Carnbridgeport. These points all seemed to her terribly remote from
where Bartley must be at work during the day, and she must be alone without
the sight of him from morning till night. The accessibility of Canary
Place had spoiled her for distances; she wanted Bartley at home for their
one-o'clock dinner; she wanted to have him within easy call at all times;
and she was glad when none of those far-off places yielded quite what they
desired in a house. They took the house on Clover Street, though it was a
little dearer than they expected, for two years, and they furnished it, as
far as they could, out of the three or four hundred dollars they had saved,
including the remaining hundred from the colt and cutter, kept sacredly
intact by Marcia. When you entered, the narrow staircase cramped you into
the little parlor opening out of the hall; and back of the parlor was
the dining-room. Overhead were two chambers, and overhead again were two
chambers more; in the basement was the kitchen. The house seemed absurdly
large to people who had been living for the last seven months in one room,
and the view of the Back Bay from the little bow-window of the front
chamber added all outdoors to their superfluous space.
Bartley came himself to answer Halleck's ring, and they met at once with
such a "Why, Halleck!" and "How do you do, Hubbard?" as restored something
of their old college comradery. Bartley welcomed Mr. Atherton under the
gas-light he had turned up, and then they huddled into the little parlor,
where Bartley introduced his old friend to his wife. Marcia wore a sort of
dark robe, trimmed with bows of crimson ribbon, which she had made
herself, and in which she looked a Roman patrician in an avatar of Boston
domesticity; and Bartley was rather proud to see his friend so visibly
dazzled by her beauty. It quite abashed Halleck, who limped helplessly
about, after his cane had been taken from him, before he sat down, while
Marcia, from the vantage of the sofa and the covert of her talk with
Atherton, was content that Halleck should be plain and awkward, with
close-cut drab hair and a dull complexion; she would not have liked even a
man who knew Bartley before she did to be very handsome.
Halleck and Bartley had some talk about college days, from which their eyes
wandered at times; and then Marcia excused herself to Atherton, and went
out, reappearing after an interval at the sliding doors, which she rolled
open between the parlor and dining-room. A table set for supper stood
behind her, and as she leaned a little forward with her hands each on
a leaf of the door, she said, with shy pride, "Bartley, I thought the
gentlemen would like to join you," and he answered, "Of course they would,"
and led the way out, refusing to hear any demur. His heart swelled with
satisfaction in Marcia; it was something like: having fellows drop in upon
you, and be asked out to supper in this easy way; it made Bartley feel
good, and he would have liked to give Marcia a hug on the spot. He could
not help pressing her foot, under the table, and exchanging a quiver of the
eyelashes with her, as he lifted the lid of the white tureen, and looked
at her across the glitter of their new crockery and cutlery. They made the
jokes of the season about the oyster being promptly on hand for the first
of the R months, and Bartley explained that he was sometimes kept at the
Events office rather late, and that then Marcia waited supper for him, and
always gave him an oyster stew, which she made herself. She could not
stop him, and the guests praised the oysters, and then they praised the
dining-room and the parlor; and when they rose from the table Bartley said,
"Now, we must show you the house," and persisted against her deprecations
in making her lead the way. She was in fact willing enough to show it; her
taste had made their money go to the utmost in furnishing it; and though
most people were then still in the period of green reps and tan terry, and
of dull black-walnut movables, she had everywhere bestowed little touches
that told. She had covered the marble parlor-mantel with cloth, and fringed
it; and she had set on it two vases in the Pompeiian colors then liked; her
carpet was of wood color and a moss pattern; she had done what could be
done with folding carpet chairs to give the little room a specious air
of luxury; the centre-table was heaped with her sewing and Bartley's
"We've just moved in, and we haven't furnished _all_ the rooms yet," she
said of two empty ones which Bartley perversely flung open.
"And I don't know that we shall. The house is much too big for us; but
we thought we'd better take it," he added, as if it were a castle for
Halleck and Atherton were silent for some moments after they came away, and
then, "_I_ don't believe he whips her," suggested the latter.
"No, I guess he's fond of her," said Halleck, gravely.
"Did you see how careful he was of her, coming up and down stairs? That was
very pretty; and it was pretty to see them both so ready to show off their
young housekeeping to us."
"Yes, it improves a man to get married," said Halleck, with a long, stifled
sigh. "It's improved the most selfish hound I ever knew."
The two elder Miss Hallecks were so much older than Olive, the youngest,
that they seemed to be of a sort of intermediary generation between her and
her parents, though Olive herself was well out of her teens, and was the
senior of her brother Ben by two or three years. The elder sisters were
always together, and they adhered in common to the religion of their father
and mother. The defection of their brother was passive, but Olive, having
conscientiously adopted an alien faith, was not a person to let others
imagine her ashamed of it, and her Unitarianism was outspoken. In her turn
she formed a kind of party with Ben inside the family, and would have led
him on in her own excesses of independence if his somewhat melancholy
indifferentism had consented. It was only in his absence that she had been
with her sisters during their summer sojourn in the White Mountains; when
they returned home, she vigorously went her way, and left them to go
theirs. She was fond of them in her defiant fashion; but in such a matter
as calling on Mrs. Hubbard she chose not to be mixed up with her family,
or in any way to countenance her family's prepossessions. Her sisters paid
their visit together, and she waited for Clara Kingsbury to come up from
the seaside. Then she went with her to call upon Marcia, sitting observant
and non-committal while Clara swooped through the little house, up stairs
and down, clamoring over its prettiness, and admiring the art with which so
few dollars could be made to go so far. "Think of finding such a bower on
Clover Street!" She made Marcia give her the cost of everything; and her
heart swelled with pride in her sex--when she heard that Marcia had put
down all the carpets herself. "I wanted to make them up," Marcia explained,
"but Mr. Hubbard wouldn't let me,--it cost so little at the store."
"Wouldn't let you!" cried Miss Kingsbury. "I should hope as much, indeed!
Why, my child, you're a Roman matron!"
She came away in agony lest Marcia might think she meant her nose. She
drove early the next morning to tell Olive Halleck that she had spent a
sleepless night from this cause, and to ask her what she _should_ do. "Do
you think she will be hurt, Olive? Tell me what led up to it. How did I
behave before that? The context is everything in such cases."
"Oh, you went about praising everything, and screaming and shouting, and
my-dearing and my-childing her, and patronizing--"
"There, there! say no more! That's sufficient! I see,--I see it all! I've
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