A Modern Instance
William Dean Howells
Part 5 out of 9
done the very most offensive thing I could, when I meant to be the most
"These country people don't like to be appreciated down to the quick, in
that way," said Olive. "I should think Mrs. Hubbard was rather a proud
"I know! I know!" moaned Miss Kingsbury. 'It was ghastly."
"_I_ don't suppose she's ashamed of her nose--"
"Olive!" cried her friend, "be still! Why, I can't _bear_ it! Why, you
"I dare say all the ladies in Equity make up their own carpets, and put
them down, and she thought you were laughing at her."
"_Will_ you be still, Olive Halleck?" Miss Kingsbury was now a large,
blonde mass of suffering, "Oh, dear, dear! What shall I do? It was
sacrilege--yes, it was nothing less than sacrilege--to go on as I did. And
I meant so well! I did so admire, and respect, and revere her!" Olive burst
out laughing. "You wicked girl!" whimpered Clara. "Should you--should you
write to her?"
"And tell her you didn't mean her nose? Oh, by all means, Clara,--by all
means! Quite an inspiration. Why not make her an evening party?"
"Olive," said Clara, with guilty meekness, "I have been thinking of that."
"_No_, Clara! Not seriously!" cried Olive, sobered at the idea.
"Yes, seriously. Would it be so very bad? Only just a _little_ party,"
she pleaded. "Half a dozen people or so; just to show them that I really
feel--friendly. I know that he's told her all about meeting me here, and
I'm not going to have her think I want to drop him because he's married,
and lives in a little house on Clover Street."
"Noble Clara! So you wish to bring them out in Boston society? What will
you do with them after you've got them there?" Miss Kingsbury fidgeted in
her chair a little. "Now, look me in the eye, Clara! Whom were you going to
ask to meet them? Your unfashionable friends, the Hallecks?"
"My friends, the Hallecks, of course."
"And Mr. Atherton, your legal adviser?"
"I had thought of asking Mr. Atherton. You needn't say what he is, if you
please, Olive; you know that there's no one I prize so much."
"Very good. And Mr. Cameron?"
"He has got back,--yes. He's very nice."
"A Cambridge tutor; very young and of recent attachment to the College,
with no local affiliations, yet. What ladies?"
"Miss Strong is a nice girl; she is studying at the Conservatory."
"Yes. Poverty-stricken votary of Miss Kingsbury. Well?"
"Unfashionable sister of fashionable artist. Yes?"
"Young radical clergyman, and his wife, without a congregation, and hoping
for a pulpit in Billerica. Parlor lectures on German literature in the mean
"And Mrs. Savage, I thought."
"Well-preserved young widow of uncertain antecedents tending to grassiness;
out-door _protegee_ of the hostess. Yes, Clara, go on and give your party.
It will be _perfectly safe_! But do you think it will _deceive_ anybody?"
"Now, Olive Halleck!" cried Clara, "I am not going to have you talking to
me in that way! You have no right to do it, and you have no business to do
it," she added, trying to pluck up a spirit. "Is there anybody that I value
more than I do you and your sisters, and Ben?"
"No. But you don't value us _just in that way_, and you know it. Don't you
be a humbug, Clara. Now go on with your excuses."
"I'm not making excuses! Isn't Mr. Atherton in the most fashionable
"Yes. Why don't you ask some other fashionable people?"
"Olive, this is all nonsense,--perfect nonsense! I can invite any one I
like to meet any one I like, and if I choose to show Mr. Hubbard's wife a
little attention, I can do it, can't I?"
"Oh, of course!"
"And what would be the use of inviting fashionable people--as you call
them--to meet them? It would just embarrass them, all round."
"Perfectly correct, Miss Kingsbury. All that want you to do is to face the
facts of the case. I want you to realize that, in showing Mr. Hubbard's
wife this little attention, you're not doing it because you scorn to drop
an old friend, and want to do him the highest honor; but because you think
you can palm off your second-class acquaintance on them for first-class,
and try to make up in that way for telling her she had a hooked nose!"
"You _know_ that I didn't tell her she had a hooked nose."
"You told her that she was a Roman matron,--it's the same thing," said
Miss Kingsbury bit her lip and tried to look a dignified resentment. She
ended by saying, with feeble spite, "I shall have the little evening for
all you say. I suppose you won't refuse to come because I don't ask the
whole Blue Book to meet them."
"Of course we shall come! I wouldn't miss it for anything. I always like to
see how you manage your pieces of social duplicity, Clara. But you needn't
expect that I will be a party to the swindle. No, Clara! I shall go to
these poor young people and tell them plainly, 'This is not the _best_
society; Miss Kingsbury keeps that for--'"
"Olive! I think I never saw even you in such a teasing humor." The tears
came into Clara's large, tender blue eyes, and she continued with an appeal
that had no effect, "I'm sure I don't see why you should make it a question
of anything of the sort. It's simply a wish to--to have a little company of
no particular kind, for no partic--Because I want to."
"Oh, that's it, is it? Then I highly approve of it," said Olive. "When is
it to be?"
"I sha'n't tell you, now! You may wait till I'm ready," pouted Clara, as
she rose to go.
"Don't go away thinking I'm enough to provoke a saint because _you've_ got
mad at me, Clara!"
"Mad? You know I'm not mad! But I think you might be a _little_ sympathetic
_some_times, Olive!" said her friend, kissing her.
"Not in cases of social duplicity, Clara. My wrath is all that saves you.
If you were not afraid of me, you would have been a lost worldling long
"I know you always really love me," said Miss Kingsbury, tenderly.
"No, I don't," retorted her friend, promptly. "Not when you're humbugging.
Don't expect it, for you won't get it." She followed Clara with a
triumphant laugh as she went out of the door; and except for this parting
taunt Clara might have given up her scheme. She first ordered her _coupe_
driven home, in fact, and then lowered the window to countermand the
direction, and drove to Bartley's door on Clover Street.
It was a very handsome equipage, and was in keeping with all the outward
belongings of Miss Kingsbury, who mingled a sense of duty and a love of
luxury in her life in very exact proportions. When her _coupe_ was not
standing before some of the wretchedest doors in the city, it was waiting
at the finest; and Clara's days were divided between the extremes of
squalor and of fashion.
She was the only child of parents who had early left her an orphan. Her
father, who was much her mother's senior, was an old friend of Olive's
father, and had made him his executor and the guardian of his daughter.
Mr. Halleck had taken her into his own family, and, in the conscientious
pursuance of what he believed would have been her father's preference, he
gave her worldly advantages which he would not have desired for one of his
own children. But the friendship that grew up between Clara and Olive
was too strong for him in some things, and the girls went to the same
fashionable school together.
When his ward came of age he made over to her the fortune, increased by his
careful management, which her father had left her, and advised her to put
her affairs in the hands of Mr. Atherton. She had shown a quite ungirlish
eagerness to manage them for herself; in the midst of her profusion she had
odd accesses of stinginess, in which she fancied herself coming to poverty;
and her guardian judged it best that she should have a lawyer who could
tell her at any moment just where she stood. She hesitated, but she did as
he advised; and having once intrusted her property to Atherton's care, she
added her conscience and her reason in large degree, and obeyed him
with embarrassing promptness in matters that did not interfere with her
pleasures. Her pleasures were of various kinds. She chose to buy herself a
fine house, and, having furnished it luxuriously and unearthed a cousin of
her father's in Vermont and brought her to Boston to matronize her, she
kept house on a magnificent scale, pinching, however, at certain points
with unexpected meanness. When she was alone, her table was of a Spartan
austerity; she exacted a great deal from her servants, and paid them as
small wages as she could. After that she did not mind lavishing money upon
them in kindness. A seamstress whom she had once employed fell sick, and
Miss Kingsbury sent her to the Bahamas and kept her there till she was
well, and then made her a guest in her house till the girl could get back
her work. She watched her cook through the measles, caring for her like a
mother; and, as Olive Halleck said, she was always portioning or burying
the sisters of her second-girls. She was in all sorts of charities, but she
was apt to cut her charities off with her pleasures at any moment, if she
felt poor. She was fond of dress, and went a great deal into society: she
suspected men generally of wishing to marry her for her money, but with
those whom she did not think capable of aspiring to her hand, she was
generously helpful with her riches. She liked to patronize; she had long
supported an unpromising painter at Rome, and she gave orders to desperate
artists at home.
The world had pretty well hardened one half of her heart, but the other
half was still soft and loving, and into this side of her mixed nature she
cowered when she believed she had committed some blunder or crime, and came
whimpering to Olive Halleck for punishment. She made Olive her discipline
partly in her lack of some fixed religion. She had not yet found a religion
that exactly suited her, though she had many times believed herself about
to be anchored in some faith forever.
She was almost sorry that she had put her resolution in effect when she
rang at the door, and Marcia herself answered the bell, in place of the one
servant who was at that moment hanging out the wash. It seemed wicked to
pretend to be showing this pretty creature a social attention, when she
meant to palm off a hollow imitation of society upon her. Why should she
not ask the very superfinest of her friends to meet such a brilliant
beauty? It would serve Olive Halleck right if she should do this, and leave
the Hallecks out; and Marcia would certainly be a sensation. She half
believed that she meant to do it when she quitted the house with Marcia's
promise that she would bring her husband to tea on Wednesday evening, at
eight; and she drove away so far penitent that she resolved at least to
make her company distinguished, if not fashionable. She said to herself
that she would make it fashionable yet, if she chose, and as a first move
in this direction she easily secured Mr. Atherton: he had no engagements,
so few people had got back to town. She called upon Mrs. Witherby,
needlessly reminding her of the charity committees they had served on
together; and then she went home and actually sent out notes to the
plainest daughter and the maiden aunt of two of the most high-born families
of her acquaintance. She added to her list an artist and his wife, ("Now
I shall _have_ to let him paint me!" she reflected,) a young author whose
book had made talk, a teacher of Italian with whom she was pretending to
read Dante, and a musical composer.
Olive came late, as if to get a whole effect of the affair at once; and her
smile revealed Clara's failure to her, if she had not realized it before.
She read there that the aristocratic and aesthetic additions which she had
made to the guests Olive originally divined had not sufficed; the party
remained a humbug. It had seemed absurd to invite anybody to meet two such
little, unknown people as the Hubbards; and then, to avoid marking them as
the subjects of the festivity by the precedence to be observed in going out
to supper, she resolved to have tea served in the drawing-room, and to make
it literally tea, with bread and butter, and some thin, ascetic cakes.
However sharp he was in business, Mr. Witherby was socially a dull man; and
his wife and daughter seemed to partake of his qualities by affinition and
heredity. They tried to make something of Marcia, but they failed through
their want of art. Mrs. Witherby, finding the wife of her husband's
assistant in Miss Kingsbury's house, conceived an awe of her, which Marcia
would not have known how to abate if she had imagined it; and in a little
while the Witherby family segregated themselves among the photograph albums
and the bricabrac, from which Clara seemed to herself to be fruitlessly
detaching them the whole evening. The plainest daughter and the maiden aunt
of the patrician families talked to each other with unavailing intervals of
the painter and the author, and the radical clergyman and his wife were
in danger of a conjugal devotion which society does not favor; the
unfashionable sister of the fashionable artist conversed with the young
tutor and the Japanese law-student whom he had asked leave to bring with
him, and whose small, mouse-like eyes continually twinkled away in pursuit
of the blonde beauty of his hostess. The widow was winningly attentive,
with a tendency to be confidential, to everybody. The Italian could not
disabuse himself of the notion that he was expected to be light and
cheerful, and when the pupil of the Conservatory sang, he abandoned himself
to his error, and clapped and cried bravo with unseemly vivacity. But he
was restored to reason when the composer sat down at the piano and
played, amid the hush that falls on society at such times, something from
Beethoven, and again something of his own, which was so like Beethoven that
Beethoven himself would not have known the difference.
Mr. Atherton and Halleck moved about among the guests, and did their best
to second Clara's efforts for their encouragement; but it was useless. In
the desperation which owns defeat, she resolved to devote herself for the
rest of the evening to trying to make at least the Hubbards have a good
time; and then, upon the dangerous theory, of which young and pretty
hostesses cannot be too wary, that a wife is necessarily flattered by
attentions to her husband, she devoted herself exclusively to Bartley, to
whom she talked long and with a reckless liveliness of the events of his
former stay in Boston. Their laughter and scraps of their reminiscence
reached Marcia where she sat in a feint of listening to Ben Halleck's
perfunctory account of his college days with her husband, till she could
bear it no longer. She rose abruptly, and, going to him, she said that it
was time to say good-night. "Oh, so soon!" cried Clara, mystified and a
little scared at the look she saw on Marcia's face. "Good night," she added
The assembly hailed this first token of its disintegration with relief; it
became a little livelier; there was a fleeting moment in which it seemed as
if it might yet enjoy itself; but its chance passed; it crumbled rapidly
away, and Clara was left looking humbly into Olive Halleck's pitiless eyes.
"Thank you for a _delightful_ evening, Miss Kingsbury! Congratulate you!"
she mocked, with an unsparing laugh. "Such a success! But why didn't you
give them something to eat, Clara? Those poor Hubbards have a one-o'clock
dinner, and I famished for them. I wasn't hungry myself,--_we_ have a
Bartley came home elate from Miss Kingsbury's entertainment. It was
something like the social success which he used to picture to himself. He
had been flattered by the attention specially paid him, and he did not
detect the imposition. He was half starved, but he meant to have up some
cold meat and bottled beer, and talk it all over with Marcia.
She did not seem inclined to talk it over on their way home, and when they
entered their own door, she pushed in and ran up-stairs. "Why, where are
you going, Marcia?" he called after her.
"To bed!" she replied, closing the door after her with a crash of
Bartley stood a moment in the fury that tempted him to pursue her with a
taunt, and then leave her to work herself out of the transport of senseless
jealousy she had wrought herself into. But he set his teeth, and, full of
inward cursing, he followed her up-stairs with a slow, dogged step. He took
her in his arms without a word, and held her fast, while his anger changed
to pity, and then to laughing. When it came to that, she put up her arms,
which she had kept rigidly at her side, and laid them round his neck, and
began softly to cry on his breast.
"Oh, I'm not myself at all, any more!" she moaned penitently.
"Then this is very improper--for me," said Bartley.
The helpless laughter broke through her lamentation, but she cried a little
more to keep herself in countenance.
"But I guess, from a previous acquaintance with the party's character,
that it's really all you, Marcia. I don't blame you. Miss Kingsbury's
hospitality has left me as hollow as if I'd had nothing to eat for a week;
and I know you're perishing from inanition. Hence these tears."
It delighted her to have him make fun of Miss Kingsbury's tea, and she
lifted her head to let him see that she was laughing for pleasure now,
before she turned away to dry her eyes.
"Oh, poor fellow!" she cried. "I did pity you so when I saw those mean
little slices of bread and butter coming round!"
"Yes," said Bartley, "I felt sorry myself. But don't speak of them any
"And I suppose," pursued Marcia, "that all the time she was talking to you
there, you were simply ravening."
"I was casting lots in my own mind to see which of the company I should
His drollery appeared to Marcia the finest that ever was; she laughed and
laughed again; when he made fun of the conjecturable toughness of the
elderly aristocrat, she implored him to stop if he did not want to kill
her. Marcia was not in the state in which woman best convinces her enemies
of her fitness for empire, though she was charming in her silly happiness,
and Bartley felt very glad that he had not yielded to his first impulse to
deal savagely with her. "Come," he said, "let us go out somewhere, and get
She began at once to take out her ear-rings and loosen her hair. "No,
I'll get something here in the house; I'm not very hungry. But _you_ go,
Bartley, and have a good supper, or you'll be sick to-morrow, and not fit
to work. Go," she added to his hesitating image in the glass, "I insist
upon it. I won't _have_ you stay." His reflected face approached from
behind; she turned hers a little, and their mirrored lips met over her
shoulder. "Oh, how _sweet_ you are, Bartley!" she murmured.
"Yes, you will always find me obedient when commanded to go out and repair
my wasted tissue."
"I don't mean _that_, dear," she said softly. "I mean--your not quarrelling
with me when I'm unreasonable. Why can't we always do so!"
"Well, you see," said Bartley, "it throws the whole burden on the fellow in
his senses. It doesn't require any great degree of self-sacrifice to fly
off at a tangent, but it's rather a maddening spectacle to the party that
"Now I will show you," said Marcia, "that I can be reasonable too: I shall
let you go alone to make our party call on Miss Kingsbury." She looked at
"Marcia," said Bartley, "you're such a reasonable person when you're the
most unreasonable, that I wonder I _ever_ quarrel with you. I rather think
I'll let _you_ call on Miss Kingsbury alone. I shall suffer agonies of
suspicion, but it will prove that I have perfect confidence in you." He
threw her a kiss from the door, and ran down the stairs. When he returned,
an hour later, he found her waiting up for him. "Why, Marcia!" he
"Oh! I just wanted to say that we will both go to call on her _very soon_.
If I sent you, she might think I was mad, and I won't give her that
"Noble girl!" cried Bartley, with irony that pleased her better than
praise. Women like to be understood, even when they try not to be
When Marcia went with Bartley to call, Miss Kingsbury received her with
careful, perhaps anxious politeness, but made no further effort to take her
up. Some of the people whom Marcia met at Miss Kingsbury's called; and the
Witherbys came, father, mother, and daughter together; but between the
evident fact that the Hubbards were poor, and the other evident fact that
they moved in the best society, the Witherbys did not quite know what to do
about them. They asked them to dinner, and Bartley went alone; Marcia was
not well enough to go.
He was very kind and tractable, now, and went whenever she bade him go
without her, though tea at the Hallecks was getting to be an old story with
him, and it was generally tea at the Hallecks to which she sent him. The
Halleck ladies came faithfully to see her, and she got on very well with
the two older sisters, who gave her all the kindness they could spare from
their charities, and seemed pleased to have her so pretty and conjugal,
though these things were far from them. But she was afraid of Olive
at first, and disliked her as a friend of Miss Kingsbury. This rather
attracted the odd girl. What she called Marcia's snubs enabled her to
declare in her favor with a sense of disinterestedness, and to indulge her
repugnance for Bartley with a good heart. She resented his odious good
looks, and held it a shame that her mother should promote his visible
tendency to stoutness by giving him such nice things for tea.
"Now, I like Mr. Hubbard," said her mother placidly. "It's very kind of him
to come to such plain folks as we are, whenever we ask him; now that his
wife can't come, I know he does it because he likes us."
"Oh, he comes for the eating," said Olive, scornfully. Then another phase
of her mother's remark struck her: "Why, mother!" she cried, "I do believe
you think Bartley Hubbard's a distinguished man somehow!"
"Your father says it's very unusual for such a young man to be in a place
like his. Mr. Witherby really leaves everything to him, he says."
"Well, I think he'd better not, then! The Events has got to be perfectly
horrid, of late. It's full of murders and all uncleanness."
"That seems to be the way with the papers, nowadays. Your father hears that
the Events is making money."
"Why, mother! What a corrupt old thing you are! I believe you've been
bought up by that disgusting interview with father. Nestor of the Leather
Interest! Father ought to have turned him out of doors. Well, this family
is getting a little _too_ good, for me! And Ben's almost as bad as any of
you, of late,--I haven't a bit of influence with him any more. He seems
determined to be friendlier with that _person_ than ever; he's always
trying to do him good,--I can see it, and it makes me sick. One thing I
know: I'm going to stop Mr. Hubbard's calling me Olive. Impudent!"
Mrs. Halleck shifted her ground with the pretence which women use, even
amongst themselves, of having remained steadfast. "He is a very good
"Oh, because he likes to be!" retorted her daughter. "Nothing is easier
than to be a good husband."
"Ah, my dear," said Mrs. Halleck, "wait till you have tried."
This made Olive laugh; but she answered with an argument that always had
weight with her mother, "Ben doesn't think he's a good husband."
"What makes you think so, Olive?" asked her mother.
"I know he dislikes him intensely."
"Why, you just said yourself, dear, that he was friendlier with him than
"Oh, that's nothing. The more he disliked him the kinder he would be to
"That's true," sighed her mother. "Did he ever say anything to you about
"No," cried Olive, shortly; "he never speaks of people he doesn't like."
The mother returned, with logical severity, "All that doesn't prove that
Ben thinks he isn't a good husband."
"He dislikes him. Do you believe a bad man can be a good husband, then?"
"No," Mrs. Halleck admitted, as if confronted with indisputable proof of
In the mean time the peace between Bartley and Marcia continued unbroken,
and these days of waiting, of suffering, of hoping and dreading, were the
happiest of their lives. He did his best to be patient with her caprices
and fretfulness, and he was at least manfully comforting and helpful, and
instant in atonement for every failure. She said a thousand times that she
should die without him; and when her time came, he thought that she was
going to die before he could tell her of his sorrow for all that he had
ever done to grieve her. He did not tell her, though she lived to give him
the chance; but he took her and her baby both into his arms, with tears of
as much fondness as ever a man shed. He even began his confession; but she
said, "Hush! you never did a wrong thing yet that I didn't drive you to."
Pale and faint, she smiled joyfully upon him, and put her hand on his head
when he hid his face against hers on the pillow, and put her lips against
his cheek. His heart was full; he was grateful for the mercy that had
spared him; he was so strong in his silent repentance that he felt like a
"Bartley," she said, "I'm going to ask a great favor of you."
"There's nothing that I can do that _I_ shall think a favor, darling!" he
cried, lifting his face to look into hers.
"Write for mother to come. I want her!"
"Why, of course." Marcia continued to look at him, and kept the quivering
hold she had laid of his hand when he raised his head. "Was that all?"
She was silent, and he added, "I will ask your father to come with her."
She hid her face for the space of one sob. "I wanted you to offer."
"Why, of course! of course!" he replied.
She did not acknowledge his magnanimity directly, but she lifted the
coverlet and showed him the little head on her arm, and the little creased
and crumpled face.
"Pretty?" she asked. "Bring me the letter before you send it.--Yes, that is
just right,--perfect!" she sighed, when he came back and read the letter to
her; and she fell away to happy sleep.
Her father answered that he would come with her mother as soon as he got
the better of a cold he had taken. It was now well into the winter, and
the journey must have seemed more formidable in Equity than in Boston. But
Bartley was not impatient of his father-in-law's delay, and he set himself
cheerfully about consoling Marcia for it. She stole her white, thin hand
into his, and now and then gave it a little pressure to accent the points
she made in talking.
"Father was the first one I thought of--after you, Bartley. It seems to me
as if baby came half to show me how unfeeling I had been to him. Of course,
I'm not sorry I ran away and asked you to take me back, for I couldn't have
had you if I hadn't done it; but I never realized before how cruel it was
to father. He always made such a pet of me; and I know that he thought he
was acting for the best."
"I knew that _you_ were," said Bartley, fervently.
"What sweet things you always say to me!" she murmured. "But don't you see,
Bartley, that I didn't think enough of him? That's what baby seems to have
come to teach me." She pulled a little away on the pillow, so as to fix him
more earnestly with her eyes. "If baby should behave so to _you_ when she
grew up, I should hate her!"
He laughed, and said, "Well, perhaps your mother hates you."
"No, they don't--either of them," answered Marcia, with a sigh. "And I
behaved very stiffly and coldly with him when he came up to see me,--more
than I had any need to. I did it for your sake; but he didn't mean any harm
to you, he just wanted to make sure that I was safe and well."
"Oh, that's all right, Marsh."
"Yes, I know. But what if he had died!"
"Well, he didn't die," said Bartley, with a smile. "And you've corresponded
with them regularly, ever since, and you know they've been getting along
all right. And it's going to be altogether different from this out," he
added, leaning back a little weary with a matter in which he could not be
expected to take a very cordial interest.
"Truly?" she asked, with one of the eagerest of those hand-pressures.
"It won't be my fault if it isn't," he replied, with a yawn.
"How good you are, Bartley!" she said, with an admiring look, as if it were
the goodness of God she was praising.
Bartley released himself, and went to the new crib, in which the baby lay,
and with his hands in his pockets stood looking down at it with a curious
"Is it pretty?" she asked, envious of his bird's-eye view of the baby.
"Not definitively so," he answered. "I dare say she will smooth out in
time; but she seems to be considerably puckered yet."
"Well," returned Marcia, with forced resignation, "I shouldn't let any one
else say so."
Her husband set up a soft, low, thoughtful whistle. "I'll tell you what,
Marcia," he said presently. "Suppose we name this baby after your father?"
She lifted herself on her elbow, and stared at him as if he must be making
fun of her. "Why, how could we?" she demanded. Squire Gaylord's parents
had called his name Flavius Josephus, in a superstition once cherished
by old-fashioned people, that the Jewish historian was somehow a sacred
"We can't name her Josephus, but we can call her Flavia," said Bartley.
"And if she makes up her mind to turn out a blonde, the name will just fit.
Flavia,--it's a very pretty name." He looked at his wife, who suddenly
turned her face down on the pillow.
"Bartley Hubbard," she cried, "you're the best man in the world!"
"Oh, no! Only the second-best," suggested Bartley.
In these days they took their fill of the delight of young fatherhood and
motherhood. After its morning bath Bartley was called in, and allowed to
revere the baby's mottled and dimpled back as it lay face downward on
the nurse's lap, feebly wiggling its arms and legs, and responding with
ineffectual little sighs and gurgles to her acceptable rubbings with warm
flannel. When it was fully dressed, and its long clothes pulled snugly
down, and its limp person stiffened into something tenable, he was suffered
to take it into his arms, and to walk the room with it. After all, there
is not much that a man can actually do with a small baby, either for its
pleasure or his own, and Barkley's usefulness had its strict limitations.
He was perhaps most beneficial when he put the child in its mother's arms,
and sat down beside the bed, and quietly talked, while Marcia occasionally
put up a slender hand, and smoothed its golden brown hair, bending her neck
over to look at it where it lay, with the action of a mother bird. They
examined with minute interest the details of the curious little creature:
its tiny finger-nails, fine and sharp, and its small queer fist doubled so
tight, and closing on one's finger like a canary's claw on a perch; the
absurdity of its foot, the absurdity of its toes, the ridiculous inadequacy
of its legs and arms to the work ordinarily expected of legs and arms, made
them laugh. They could not tell yet whether its eyes would be black like
Marcia's, or blue like Bartley's; those long lashes had the sweep of hers,
but its mop of hair, which made it look so odd and old, was more like his
"She will be a dark-eyed blonde," Bartley decided.
"Is that nice?" asked Marcia.
"With the telescope sight, they're warranted to kill at five hundred
"Oh, for shame, Bartley! To talk of baby's ever killing!"
"Why, that's what they all come to. It's what you came to yourself."
"Yes, I know. But it's quite another thing with baby." She began to mumble
it with her lips, and to talk baby-talk to it. In their common interest in
this puppet they already called each other papa and mamma.
Squire Gaylord came alone, and when Marcia greeted him with "Why, father!
Where's mother?" he asked, "Did you expect her? Well, I guess your mother's
feeling rather too old for such long winter journeys. You know she don't
go out a great deal _I_ guess she expects your family down there in the
The old man was considerably abashed by the baby when it was put into his
arms, and being required to guess its name he naturally failed.
"Flavia!" cried Marcia, joyfully. "Bartley named it after you."
This embarrassed the Squire still more. "Is that so?" he asked, rather
sheepishly. "Well, it's quite a compliment."
Marcia repeated this to her husband as evidence that her father was all
right now. Bartley and the Squire were in fact very civil to each other;
and Bartley paid the old man many marked attentions. He took him to the
top of the State House, and walked him all about the city, to show him its
points of interest, and introduced him to such of his friends as they met,
though the Squire's dresscoat, whether fully revealed by the removal of his
surtout, or betraying itself below the skirt of the latter, was a trial
to a fellow of Bartley's style. He went with his father-in-law to see Mr.
Warren in Jefferson Scattering Batkins, and the Squire grimly appreciated
the burlesque of the member from Cranberry Centre; but he was otherwise
not a very amusable person, and off his own ground he was not conversable,
while he refused to betray his impressions of many things that Bartley
expected to astonish him. The Events editorial rooms had no apparent
effect upon him, though they were as different from most editorial dens as
tapestry carpets, black-walnut desks, and swivel chairs could make them.
Mr. Witherby covered him with urbanities and praises of Bartley that ought
to have delighted him as a father-in-law; but apparently the great man of
the Events was but a strange variety of the type with which he was familiar
in the despised country editors. He got on better with Mr. Atherton,
who was of a man's profession. The Squire wore his hat throughout their
interview, and everywhere except at table and in bed; and as soon as he
rose front either, he put it on.
Bartley tried to impress him with such novel traits of cosmopolitan life as
a _table d'hote_ dinner at a French restaurant; but the Squire sat through
the courses, as if his barbarous old appetite had satisfied itself in
that manner all his life. After that, Bartley practically gave him up; he
pleaded his newspaper work, and left the Squire to pass the time as he
could in the little house on Clover Street, where he sat half a day at a
stretch in the parlor, with his hat on, reading the newspapers, his legs
sprawled out towards the grate. In this way he probably reconstructed for
himself some image of his wonted life in his office at home, and was for
the time at peace; but otherwise he was very restless, except when he was
with Marcia. He was as fond of her in his way as he had ever been, and
though he apparently cared nothing for the baby, he enjoyed Marcia's pride
in it; and he bore to have it thrust upon him with the surly mildness of an
old dog receiving children's caresses. He listened with the same patience
to all her celebrations of Bartley, which were often tedious enough, for
she bragged of him constantly, of his smartness and goodness, and of the
great success that had crowned the merit of both in him.
Mr. Halleck had called upon the Squire the morning after his arrival, and
brought Marcia a note from his wife, offering to have her father stay with
them if she found herself too much crowded at this eventful time. "There!
That is just the sort of people the Hallecks are!" she cried, showing the
letter to her father. "And to think of our not going near them for months
and mouths after we came to Boston, for fear they were stuck up! But
Bartley is always just so proud. Now you must go right in, father, and not
keep Mr. Halleck waiting. Give me your hat, or you'll be sure to wear it
in the parlor." She made him stoop down to let her brush his coat-collar a
little. "There! Now you look something like."
Squire Gaylord had never received a visit except on business in his life,
and such a thing as one man calling socially upon another, as women did,
was unknown to the civilization of Equity. But, as he reported to Marcia,
he got along with Mr. Halleck; and he got along with the whole family when
he went with Bartley to tea, upon the invitation Mr. Halleck made him that
morning. Probably it appeared to him an objectless hospitality; but he
spent as pleasant an evening as he could hope to spend with his hat off
and in a frock-coat, which he wore as a more ceremonious garment than the
dress-coat of his every-day life. He seemed to take a special liking to
Olive Halleck, whose habit of speaking her mind with vigor and directness
struck him as commendable. It was Olive who made the time pass for him;
and as the occasion was not one for personal sarcasm or question of the
Christian religion, her task in keeping the old pagan out of rather abysmal
silences must have had its difficulties.
"What did you talk about?" asked Marcia, requiring an account of his
enjoyment from him the next morning, after Bartley had gone down to his
"Mostly about you, I guess," said the Squire, with a laugh. "There was a
large sandy-haired young woman there--"
"Miss Kingsbury," said Marcia, with vindictive promptness. Her eyes
kindled, and she began to grow rigid under the coverlet. "Whom did _she_
"Well, she talked a little with me; but she talked most of the time to the
young man. She engaged to him?"
"No," said Marcia, relaxing. "She's a great friend of the whole family. I
don't know what they meant by telling you it was to be just a family party,
when they were going to have strangers in," she pouted.
"Perhaps they didn't count her."
"No." But Marcia's pleasure in the affair was tainted, and she began to
talk of other things.
Her father stayed nearly a week, and they all found it rather a long week.
After showing him her baby, and satisfying herself that he and Bartley were
on good terms again, there was not much left for Marcia. Bartley had been
banished to the spare room by the presence of the nurse; and he gave up his
bed there to the Squire, and slept on a cot in the unfurnished attic room;
the cook and a small girl got in to help, had the other. The house that had
once seemed so vast was full to bursting.
"I never knew how little it was till I saw your father coming down stairs,"
said Bartley. "He's too tall for it. When he sits on the sofa, and
stretches out his legs, his boots touch the mop-board on the other side of
the room. Fact!"
"He won't stay over Sunday," began Marcia, with a rueful smile.
"Why, Marcia, you don't think I want him to go!"
"No, you're as good as can be about it. But I hope he won't stay over
"Haven't you enjoyed his visit?" asked Bartley.
"Oh, yes, I've enjoyed it." The tears came into her eyes. "I've made it all
up with father; and he doesn't feel hard to me. But, Bartley--Sit down,
dear, here on the bed!" She took his hand and gently pulled him down. "I
see more and more that father and mother can never be what they used to be
to me,--that you're all the world to me. Yes, my life is broken off from
theirs forever. Could anything break it off from yours? You'll always be
patient with me, won't you? and remember that I'd always rather be good
when I'm behaving the worst?"
He rose, and went over to the crib, and kissed the head of their little
girl. "Ask Flavia," he said from the door.
"Bartley!" she cried, in utter fondness, as he vanished from her happy
The next morning they heard the Squire moving about in his room, and he was
late in coming down to breakfast, at which he was ordinarily so prompt.
"He's packing," said Marcia, sadly. "It's dreadful to be willing to have
Bartley went out and met him at his door, bag in hand. "Hollo!" he cried,
and made a decent show of surprise and regret.
"M-yes!" said the old man, as they went down stairs. "I've made out a
visit. But I'm an old fellow, and I ain't easy away from home. I shall tell
Mis' Gaylord how you're gettin' along, and she'll be pleased to hear
it. Yes, she'll be pleased to hear it. I guess I shall get off on the
The conversation between Bartley and his father-in-law was perfunctory. Men
who have dealt so plainly with each other do not assume the conventional
urbanities in their intercourse without effort. They had both been growing
more impatient of the restraint; they could not have kept it up much
"Well, I suppose it's natural you should want to be home again, but I
can't understand how any one can want to go back to Equity when he has the
privilege of staying in Boston."
"Boston will do for a young man," said the Squire, "but I'm too old for
it. The city cramps me; it's too tight a fit; and yet I can't seem to find
myself in it."
He suffered from the loss of identity which is a common affliction with
country people coming to town. The feeling that they are of no special
interest to any of the thousands they meet bewilders and harasses them;
after the searching neighborhood of village life, the fact that nobody
would meddle in their most intimate affairs if they could, is a vague
distress. The Squire not only experienced this, but, after reigning so long
as the censor of morals and religion in Equity, it was a deprivation for
him to pass a whole week without saying a bitter thing to any one. He was
tired of the civilities that smoothed him down on every side.
"Well, if you must go," said Bartley, "I'll order a hack."
"I guess I can walk to the depot," returned the old man.
"Oh, no, you can't." Bartley drove to the station with him, and they bade
each other adieu with a hand-shake. They were no longer enemies, but they
liked each other less than ever.
"See you in Equity next summer, I suppose?" suggested the Squire.
"So Marcia says," replied Bartley. "Well, take care of yourself.--You
confounded, tight-fisted old woodchuck!" he added under his breath, for the
Squire had allowed him to pay the hack fare.
He walked home, composing variations on his parting malison, to find that
the Squire had profited by his brief absence while ordering the hack, to
leave with Marcia a silver cup, knife, fork, and spoon, which Olive Halleck
had helped him choose, for the baby. In the cup was a check for five
hundred dollars. The Squire was embarrassed in presenting the gifts, and
when Marcia turned upon him with, "Now, look here, father, what do you
mean?" he was at a loss how to explain.
"Well, it's what I always meant to do for you."
"Baby's things are all right," said Marcia. "But I'm not going to let
Bartley take any money from you, unless you think as well of him as I do,
and say so, right out."
The Squire laughed. "You couldn't quite expect me to do that, could you?"
"No, of course not. But what I mean is, do you think _now_ that I did right
to marry him?"
"Oh, _you're_ all right, Marcia. I'm glad you're getting along so well."
"No, no! Is Bartley all right?"
The Squire laughed again, and rubbed his chin in enjoyment of her
persistence. "You can't expect me to own up to everything all at once."
"So you see, Bartley," said Marcia, in repeating these words to him, "it
was quite a concession."
"Well, I don't know about the concession, but I guess there's no doubt
about the check," replied Bartley.
"Oh, don't say that, dear!" protested his wife. "I think father was pleased
with his visit every way. I know he's been anxious about me, all the time;
and yet it was a good deal for him to do, after what he had said, to come
down here and as much as take it all back. Can't you look at it from his
"Oh, I dare say it was a dose," Bartley admitted. The money had set several
things in a better light. "If all the people that have abused me would take
it back as handsomely as your father has,"--he held the check up,--"why, I
wish there were twice as many of them."
She laughed for pleasure in his joke. "I think father was impressed by
everything about us,--beginning with baby," she said, proudly.
"Well, he kept his impressions to himself."
"Oh, that's nothing but his way. He never was demonstrative,--like me."
"No, he has his emotions under control,--not to say under lock and
key,--not to add, in irons."
Bartley went on to give some instances of the Squire's fortitude when
apparently tempted to express pleasure or interest in his Boston
They both undeniably felt freer now that he was gone. Bartley stayed
longer than he ought from his work, in tacit celebration of the Squire's
departure, and they were very merry together; but when he left her, Marcia
called for her baby, and, gathering it close to her heart, sighed over it,
"Poor father! poor father!"
When the spring opened, Bartley pushed Flavia about the sunny pavements in
a baby carriage, while Marcia paced alongside, looking in under the calash
top from time to time, arranging the bright afghan, and twitching
the little one's lace hood into place. They never noticed that other
perambulators were pushed by Irish nurse-girls or French _bonnes_; they had
paid somewhat more than they ought for theirs, and they were proud of it
merely as a piece of property. It was rather Bartley's ideal, as it is that
of most young American fathers, to go out with his wife and baby in that
way; he liked to have his friends see him; and he went out every afternoon
he could spare. When he could not go, Marcia went alone. Mrs. Halleck had
given her a key to the garden, and on pleasant mornings she always found
some of the family there, when she pushed the perambulator up the path, to
let the baby sleep in the warmth and silence of the sheltered place. She
chatted with Olive or the elder sisters, while Mrs. Halleck drove Cyrus
on to the work of tying up the vines and trimming the shrubs, with the
pitiless rigor of women when they get a man about some outdoor labor.
Sometimes, Ben Halleck was briefly of the party; and one morning when
Marcia opened the gate, she found him there alone with Cyrus, who was
busy at some belated tasks of horticulture. The young man turned at the
unlocking of the gate, and saw Marcia lifting the front wheels of the
perambulator to get it over the steps of the pavement outside. He limped
hastily down the walk to help her, but she had the carriage in the path
before he could reach, her, and he had nothing to do but to walk back at
its side, as she propelled it towards the house. "You see what a useless
creature a cripple is," he said.
Marcia did not seem to have heard him. "Is your mother at home?" she asked.
"I think she is," said Halleck. "Cyrus, go in and tell mother that Mrs.
Hubbard is here, won't you?"
Cyrus went, after a moment of self-respectful delay, and Marcia sat down
on a bench under a pear-tree beside the walk. Its narrow young leaves and
blossoms sprinkled her with shade shot with vivid sunshine, and in her
light dress she looked like a bright, fresh figure from some painter's
study of spring. She breathed quickly from her exertion, and her cheeks had
a rich, dewy bloom. She had pulled the perambulator round so that she might
see her baby while she waited, and she looked at the baby now, and not at
Halleck, as she said, "It is quite hot in the sun to-day." She had a way of
closing her lips, after speaking, in that sweet smile of hers, and then of
glancing sidelong at the person to whom she spoke.
"I suppose it is," said Halleck, who remained on foot. "But I haven't been
out yet. I gave myself a day off from the Law School, and I hadn't quite
decided what to do with it."
Marcia leaned forward, and brushed a tendril of the baby's hair out of its
eye. "She's the greatest little sleeper that ever was when she gets into
her carriage," she half mused, leaning back with her hands folded in her
lap, and setting her head on one side for the effect of the baby without
the stray ringlet. "She's getting so fat!" she said, proudly.
Halleck smiled. "Do you find it makes a difference in pushing her carriage,
from day to day?"
Marcia took his question in earnest, as she must take anything but the most
obvious pleasantry concerning her baby. "The carriage runs very easily; we
picked out the lightest one we could, and I never have any trouble with it,
except getting up curbstones and crossing Cambridge Street. I don't like to
cross Cambridge Street, there are always so many horse-cars. But it's all
down-hill coming here: that's one good thing."
"That makes it a very bad thing going home, though," said Halleck.
"Oh, I go round by Charles Street, and come up the hill from the other
side; it isn't so steep there."
There was no more to be said upon this point, and in the lapse of their
talk Halleck broke off some boughs of the blooming pear, and dropped them
on the baby's afghan.
"Your mother won't like your spoiling her pear-tree," said Marcia,
"She will when she knows that I did it for Miss Hubbard."
"Miss Hubbard!" repeated the young mother, and she laughed in fond
derision. "How funny to hear you saying that! I thought you hated babies!"
Halleck looked at her with strong self-disgust, and he dropped the bough
which he had in his hand upon the ground. There is something in a young
man's ideal of women, at once passionate and ascetic, so fine that any
words are too gross for it. The event which intensified the interest of his
mother and sisters in Marcia had abashed Halleck; when she came so proudly
to show her baby to them all, it seemed to him like a mockery of his pity
for her captivity to the love that profaned her. He went out of the room in
angry impatience, which he could hardly hide, when one of his sisters tried
to make him take the baby. Little by little his compassion adjusted itself
to the new conditions; it accepted the child as an element of her misery in
the future, when she must realize the hideous deformity of her marriage.
His prophetic feeling of this, and of her inaccessibility to human help
here and hereafter, made him sometimes afraid of her; but all the more
severely he exacted of his ideal of her that she should not fall beneath
the tragic dignity of her fate through any levity of her own. Now, at her
innocent laugh, a subtile irreverence, which he was not able to exorcise,
infused itself into his sense of her.
He stood looking at her, after he dropped the pear-bough, and seeing
her mere beauty as he had never seen it before. The bees hummed in the
blossoms, which gave out a dull, sweet smell; the sunshine had the
luxurious, enervating warmth of spring. He started suddenly from his
reverie: Marcia had said something. "I beg your pardon?" he queried.
"Oh, nothing. I asked if you knew where I went to church yesterday?"
Halleck flushed, ashamed of the wrong his thoughts, or rather his emotions,
had done. "No, I don't," he answered.
"I was at your church."
"I ought to have been there myself," he returned, gravely, "and then I
should have known."
She took his self-reproach literally. "You couldn't have seen me. I was
sitting pretty far back, and I went out before any of your family saw me.
Don't you go there?"
"Not always, I'm sorry to say. Or, rather, I'm sorry not to be sorry. What
church do you generally go to?"
"Oh, I don't know. Sometimes to one, and sometimes to another. Bartley used
to report the sermons, and we went round to all the churches then. That is
the way I did at home, and it came natural to me. But I don't like it very
well. I want Flavia should belong to some particular church."
"There are enough to choose from," said Halleck, with pensive sarcasm.
"Yes, that's the difficulty. But I shall make up my mind to one of them,
and then I shall always keep to it. What I mean is that I should like to
find out where most of the good people belong, and then have her be with
them," pursued Marcia. "I think it's best to belong to some church, don't
There was something so bare, so spiritually poverty-stricken, in these
confessions and questions, that Halleck found nothing to say to them.
He was troubled, moreover, as to what the truth was in his own mind. He
answered, with a sort of mechanical adhesion to the teachings of his youth,
"I should be a recreant not to think so. But I'm not sure that I know what
you mean by belonging to some church," he added. "I suppose you would want
to believe in the creed of the church, whichever it was."
"I don't know that I should be particular," said Marcia, with perfect
Halleck laughed sadly. "I'm afraid _they_ would, then, unless you joined
the Broad Church."
"What is that?" He explained as well as he could. At the end she repeated,
as if she had not followed him very closely: "I should like her to belong
to the church where most of the good people went. I think that would be the
right one, if you could only find which it is." Halleck laughed again. "I
suppose what I say must sound very queer to you; but I've been thinking a
good deal about this lately."
"I beg your pardon," said Halleck. "I had no reason to laugh, either on
your account or my own. It's a serious subject." She did not reply, and he
asked, as if she had left the subject, "Do you intend to pass the summer in
"No; I'm going down home pretty early, and I wanted to ask your mother what
is the best way to put away my winter things."
"You'll find my mother very good authority on such matters," said Halleck.
Through an obscure association with moths that corrupt, he added, "She's a
good authority on church matters, too."
"I guess I shall talk with her about Flavia," said Marcia.
Cyrus came out of the house. "Mis' Halleck will be here in a minute. She's
got to get red of a lady that's calling, first," he explained.
"I will leave you, then," said Halleck, abruptly.
"Good by," answered Marcia, tranquilly. The baby stirred; she pushed the
carriage to and fro, without glancing after him as he walked away.
His mother came down the steps from the house, and kissed Marcia for
welcome, and looked under the carriage-top at the sleeping baby. "How she
_does_ sleep!" she whispered.
"Yes," said Marcia, with the proud humility of a mother, who cannot deny
the merit of her child, "and she sleeps the whole night through. I'm
_never_ up with her. Bartley says she's a perfect Seven-Sleeper. It's a
regular joke with him,--her sleeping."
"Ben was a good baby for sleeping, too," said Mrs. Halleck, retrospectively
emulous. "It's one of the best signs. It shows that the child is strong and
healthy." They went on to talk of their children, and in their community of
motherhood they spoke of the young man as if he were still an infant. "He
has never been a moment's care to me," said Mrs. Halleck. "A well baby will
be well even in teething."
"And I had somehow thought of him as sickly!" said Marcia, in
Tears of instant intelligence sprang into his mother's eyes. "And did you
suppose he was _always_ lame?" she demanded, with gentle indignation. "He
was the brightest and strongest boy that ever was, till he was twelve years
old. That's what makes it so hard to bear; that's what makes me wonder at
the way the child bears it! Did you never hear how it happened? One of the
big boys, as he called him, tripped him up at school, and he fell on his
hip. It kept him in bed for a year, and he's never been the same since;
he will always be a cripple," grieved the mother. She wiped her eyes; she
never could think of her boy's infirmity without weeping. "And what seemed
the worst of all," she continued, "was that the boy who did it never
expressed any regret for it, or acknowledged it by word or deed, though
he must have known that Ben knew who hurt him. He's a man here, now; and
sometimes Ben meets him. But Ben always says that he can stand it, if the
other one can. He was always just so from the first! He wouldn't let us
blame the boy; he said that he didn't mean any harm, and that all was fair
in play. And now he says he knows the man is sorry, and would own to what
he did, if he didn't have to own to what came of it. Ben says that very few
of us have the courage to face the consequences of the injuries we do, and
that's what makes people seem hard and indifferent when they are really not
so. There!" cried Mrs. Halleck. "I don't know as I ought to have told you
about it; I know Ben wouldn't like it. But I can't bear to have any one
think he was always lame, though I don't know why I shouldn't: I'm prouder
of him since it happened than ever I was before. I thought he was here with
you," she added, abruptly.
"He went out just before you came," said Marcia, nodding toward the gate.
She sat listening to Mrs, Halleck's talk about Ben; Mrs. Halleck took
herself to task from time to time, but only to go on talking about him
again. Sometimes Marcia commented on his characteristics, and compared them
with Bartley's, or with Flavia's, according to the period of Ben's life
At the end Mrs. Halleck said: "I haven't let you get in a word! Now you
must talk about _your_ baby. Dear little thing! I feel that she's been
neglected. But I'm always just so selfish when I get to running on about
Ben. They all laugh at me."
"Oh, I like to hear about other children," said Marcia, turning the
perambulator round. "I don't think any one can know too much that has the
care of children of their own." She added, as if it followed from something
they had been saying of vaccination, "Mrs. Halleck, I want to talk with you
about getting Flavia christened. You know I never was christened."
"Weren't you?" said Mrs. Halleck, with a dismay which she struggled to
"No," said Marcia, "father doesn't believe in any of those things, and
mother had got to letting them go, because he didn't take any interest in
them. They did have the first children christened, but I was the last."
"I didn't speak with your father on the subject," faltered Mrs. Halleck. "I
didn't know what his persuasion was."
"Why, father doesn't belong to _any_ church! He believes in a God, but he
doesn't believe in the Bible." Mrs. Halleck sank down on the garden seat
too much shocked to speak, and Marcia continued. "I don't know whether the
Bible is true or not; but I've often wished that I belonged to church."
"You couldn't, unless you believed in the Bible," said Mrs. Halleck.
"Yes, I know that. Perhaps I should, if anybody proved it to me. I presume
it could be explained. I never talked much with any one about it. There
must be a good many people who don't belong to church, although they
believe in the Bible. I should be perfectly willing to try, if I only knew
how to begin."
In view of this ruinous open-mindedness, Mrs. Halleck could only say, "The
way to begin is to read it."
"Well, I will try. How do you know, after you've become so that you believe
the Bible, whether you're fit to join the church?"
"It's hard to tell you, my dear. You have to feel first that you have a
Saviour,--that you've given your whole heart to him,--that he can save you,
and that no one else can,--that all you can do yourself won't help you.
It's an experience."
Marcia looked at her attentively, as if this were all a very hard saying.
"Yes, I've heard of that. Some of the girls had it at school. But I never
did. Well," she said at last, "I don't feel so anxious about myself, just
at present, as I do about Flavia. I want to do everything I can for Flavia,
Mrs. Halleck. I want her to be christened,--I want her to be baptized into
some church. I think a good deal about it. I think sometimes, what if she
should die, and I hadn't done that for her, when may be it was one of
the most important things--" Her voice shook, and she pressed her lips
"Of course," said Mrs. Halleck, tenderly, "I think it is the _most_
"But there are so many churches," Marcia resumed. "And I don't know about
any of them. I told Mr. Halleck just now, that I should like her to belong
to the church where the best people went, if I could find it out. Of
course, it was a ridiculous way to talk; I knew he thought so. But what I
meant was that I wanted she should be with good people all her life; and I
didn't care what she believed."
"It's very important to believe the truth, my dear," said Mrs. Halleck.
"But the truth is so hard to be certain of, and you know goodness as soon
as you see it. Mrs. Halleck, I'll tell you what I want: I want Flavia
should be baptized into your church. Will you let her?"
"_Let_ her? O my dear child, we shall be humbly thankful that it has been
put into your heart to choose for her what _we_ think is the true church,"
said Mrs. Halleck, fervently.
"I don't know about that," returned Marcia. "I can't tell whether it's the
true church or not, and I don't know that I ever could; but I shall be
satisfied--if it's made you what you are," she added, simply.
Mrs. Halleck did not try to turn away her praise with vain affectations of
humility. "We try to do right, Marcia," she said. "Whenever we do it, we
must be helped to it by some power outside of ourselves. I can't tell you
whether it's our church; I'm not so sure of that as I used to be. I once
thought that there could be no real good out of it; but I _can't_ think
that, any more. Olive and Ben are as good children as ever lived; I _know_
they won't be lost; but neither of them belongs to our church."
"Why, what church does he belong to?"
"He doesn't belong to any, my dear," said Mrs. Halleck, sorrowfully.
Marcia looked at her absently. "I knew Olive was a Unitarian; but I
thought--I thought he--"
"No, he doesn't," returned Mrs. Halleck. "It has been a great cross to
his father and me. He is a good boy; but we think the _truth_ is in our
Marcia was silent a moment. Then she said, decisively, "Well, I should like
Flavia to belong to your church."
"She couldn't belong to it now," Mrs. Halleck explained. "That would have
to come later, when she could understand. But she could be christened in
it--dear little thing!"
"Well, christened, then. It must be the training he got in it. I've thought
a great deal about it, and I think my worst trouble is that I've been left
too free in everything. One mustn't be left too free. I've never had any
one to control me, and now I can't control myself at the very times when I
need to do it the most, with--with--When I 'in in danger of vexing--When
Bartley and I--"
"Yes," said Mrs. Halleck, sympathetically.
"And Bartley is just so, too. He's always been left to himself. And Flavia
will need all the control we can give her,--I know she will. And I shall
have her christened in your church, and I shall teach her all about it. She
shall go to the Sunday school, and I will go to church, so that she can
have an example. I told father I should do it when he was up here, and he
said there couldn't be any harm in it. And I've told Bartley, and _he_
They were both far too single-minded and too serious to find anything droll
in the terms of the adhesion of Marcia's family to her plan, and Mrs.
Halleck entered into its execution with affectionate zeal.
"Ben, dear," she said, tenderly, that evening, when they were all talking
it over in the family council, "I hope you didn't drop anything, when that
poor creature spoke to you about it this morning, that could unsettle her
mind in any way?"
"No, mother," said Halleck, gently.
"I was sure you didn't," returned his mother, repentantly.
They had been talking a long time of the matter, and Halleck now left the
"Mother! How could you say such a thing to Ben?" cried Olive, in a quiver
of indignant sympathy. "Ben say anything to unsettle anybody's religious
purposes! He's got more religion now than all the rest of the family put
"Speak for yourself, Olive," said one of the intermediary sisters.
"Why, Olive, I spoke because I thought she seemed to place more importance
on Ben's belonging to the church than anything else, and she seemed so
surprised when I told her he didn't belong to any."
"I dare say she thinks Ben is good when she compares him with that mass of
selfishness of a husband of hers," said Olive. "But I will thank her," she
added, hotly, "not to compare Ben with Bartley Hubbard, even to Bartley
Hubbard's disadvantage. I don't feel flattered by it."
"Of course she thinks all the world of her husband," said Mrs. Halleck.
"And I know Ben is good; and, as you say, he is religious; I feel that,
though I don't understand how, exactly. I wouldn't hurt his feelings for
the world, Olive, you know well enough. But it was a stumbling-block when I
had to tell that poor, pretty young thing that Ben didn't belong to church;
and I could see that it puzzled her. I couldn't have believed," continued
Mrs. Halleck, "that there was any person in a Christian land, except among
the very lowest, that seemed to understand so little about the Christian
religion, or any scheme of salvation. Really, she talked to me like a
pagan. She sat there much better dressed and better educated than I was;
but I felt like a missionary talking to a South Sea Islander."
"I wonder the old Bartlett pear didn't burst into a palm-tree over your
heads," said Olive. Mrs. Halleck looked grieved at her levity, and Olive
hastened to add: "Don't take it to heart, mother! I understood just what
you meant, and I can imagine just how shocking Mrs. Hubbard's heathen
remarks must have been. We should all be shocked if we knew how many people
there were like her, and we should all try to deny it, and so would they. I
guess Christianity is about as uncommon as civilization,--and that's _very_
uncommon. If her poor, feeble mind was such a chaos, what do you suppose
her husband's is?"
This would certainly not have been easy for Mrs. Halleck to say then, or
to say afterward, when Bartley walked up to the font in her church, with
Marcia at his side, and Flavia in his arms, and a faintly ironical smile on
his face, as if he had never expected to be got in for this, but was going
to see it through now. He had, in fact, said, "Well, let's go the whole
figure," when Marcia had expressed a preference for having the rite
performed in church, instead of in their own house.
He was unquestionably growing stout, and even Mrs. Halleck noticed that
his blonde face was unpleasantly red that day. He was, of course, not
intemperate. He always had beer with his lunch, which he had begun to take
down town since the warm weather had come on and made the walk up the hill
to Clover Street irksome: and he drank beer at his dinner,--he liked a late
dinner, and they dined at six, now,--because it washed away the fatigues
of the day, and freshened you up. He was rather particular about his beer,
which he had sent in by the gross,--it came cheaper that way; after trying
both the Cincinnati and the Milwaukee lagers, and making a cursory test
of the Boston brand, he had settled down upon the American tivoli; it
was cheap, and you could drink a couple of bottles without feeling it.
Freshened up by his two bottles, he was apt to spend the evening in an
amiable drowse and get early to bed, when he did not go out on newspaper
duty. He joked about the three fingers of fat on his ribs, and frankly
guessed it was the beer that did it; at such times he said that perhaps he
should have to cut down on his tivoli.
Marcia and he had not so much time together as they used to have; she was a
great deal taken up with the baby, and he found it dull at home, not doing
anything or saying anything; and when he did not feel sleepy, he sometimes
invented work that took him out at night. But he always came upstairs after
putting his hat on, and asked Marcia if he could help her about anything.
He usually met other newspaper men on these excursions, and talked
newspaper with them, airing his favorite theories. He liked to wander
about with reporters who were working up cases; to look in at the police
stations, and go to the fires; and he was often able to give the Events men
points that had escaped the other reporters. If asked to drink, he always
said, "Thanks, no; I don't do anything in that way. But if you'll make it
beer, I don't mind." He took nothing but beer when he hurried out of the
theatre into one of the neighboring resorts, just as the great platters of
stewed kidneys and lyonnaise potatoes came steaming up out of the kitchen,
prompt to the drop of the curtain on the last act. Here; sometimes, he met
a friend, and shared with him his dish of kidneys and his schooner of beer;
and he once suffered himself to be lured by the click of the balls into the
back room. He believed that he played a very good game of billiards; but he
was badly beaten that night. He came home at daylight, fifty dollars out.
But he had lost like a gentleman in a game with gentlemen; and he never
By day he worked hard, and since his expenses had been increased by
Flavia's coming, he had undertaken more work for more pay. He still
performed all the routine labor of a managing editor, and he now wrote the
literary notices of the Events, and sometimes, especially if there was
anything new, the dramatic criticisms; he brought to the latter task all
the freshness of a man who, till the year before, had not been half a dozen
times inside a theatre.
He attributed the fat on his ribs to the tivoli; perhaps it was also owing
in some degree to a good conscience, which is a much easier thing to keep
than people imagine. At any rate, he now led a tranquil, industrious, and
regular life, and a life which suited him so well that he was reluctant to
interrupt it by the visit to Equity, which he and Marcia had talked of in
the early spring. He put it off from time to time, and one day when she was
pressing him to fix some date for it he said, "Why can't you go, Marcia?"
"Alone?" she faltered.
"Well, no; take the baby, of course. And I'll run down for a day or two
when I get a chance."
Marcia seemed in these days to be schooling herself against the impulses
that once brought on her quarrels with Bartley. "A day or two--" she began,
and then stopped and added gravely, "I thought you said you were going to
have several weeks' vacation."
"Oh, don't tell me what I _said_!" cried Bartley. "That was before I
undertook this extra work, or before I knew what a grind it was going to
be. Equity is a good deal of a dose for me, any way. It's all well enough
for you, and I guess the change from Boston will do you good, and do the
baby good, but _I_ shouldn't look forward to three weeks in Equity with
"I know it will be stupid for you. But you need the rest. And the Hallecks
are going to be at North Conway, and they said they would come over," urged
Marcia. "I know we should have a good time."
Bartley grinned. "Is that your idea of a good time, Marsh? Three weeks of
Equity, relieved by a visit from such heavy weights as Ben Halleck and his
sisters? Not any in mine, thank you."
"How can you--how _dare_ you speak of them so!" cried Marcia lightening
upon him. "Such good friends of yours--such good people--" Her voice shook
with indignation and wounded feeling.
Bartley rose and took a turn about the room, pulling down his waistcoat and
contemplating its outward slope with a smile. "Oh, I've got more friends
than I can shake a stick at. And with pleasure at the helm, goodness is
a drug in the market,--if you'll excuse the mixed metaphor. Look here,
Marcia," he added, severely. "If you like the Hallecks, all well and good;
I sha'n't interfere with you; but they bore me. I outgrew Ben Halleck years
ago. He's duller than death. As for the old people, there's no harm in
them,--though _they're_ bores, too,--nor in the old girls; but Olive
Halleck doesn't treat me decently. I suppose that just suits you: I've
noticed that you never like the women that _do_ treat me decently."
"They don't treat _me_ decently!" retorted Marcia.
"Oh, Miss Kingsbury treated you very well that night. She couldn't imagine
your being jealous of her politeness to me."
Marcia's temper fired at his treacherous recurrence to a grievance which he
had once so sacredly and sweetly ignored. "If you wish to take up bygones,
why don't you go back to Hannah Morrison at once? She treated you even
better than Miss Kingsbury."
"I should have been very willing to do that," said Bartley, "but I thought
it might remind you of a disagreeable little episode in your own life, when
you flung me away, and had to go down on your knees to pick me up again."
These thrusts which they dealt each other in their quarrels, however blind
and misdirected, always reached their hearts: it was the wicked will that
hurt, rather than the words. Marcia rose, bleeding inwardly, and her
husband felt the remorse of a man who gets the best of it in such an
"Oh, I'm sorry I said that, Marcia! I didn't mean it; indeed I--" She
disdained to heed him, as she swept out of the room, and up the stairs; and
his anger flamed out again.
"I give you fair warning," he called after her, "not to try that trick of
locking the door, or I will smash it in."
Her answer was to turn the key in the door with a click which he could not
fail to hear.
The peace in which they had been living of late was very comfortable to
Bartley; he liked it; he hated to have it broken; he was willing to do what
he could to restore it at once. If he had no better motive than this, he
still had this motive; and he choked down his wrath, and followed Marcia
softly upstairs. He intended to reason with her, and he began, "I say,
Marsh," as he turned the door-knob. But you cannot reason through a
keyhole, and before he knew he found himself saying, "Will you open this?"
in a tone whose quiet was deadly. She did not answer; he heard her stop
in her movements about the room, and wait, as if she expected him to ask
again. He hesitated a moment whether to keep his threat of breaking the
door in; but he turned away and went down stairs, and so into the street.
Once outside, he experienced the sense of release that comes to a man from
the violation of his better impulses; but he did not know what to do or
where to go. He walked rapidly away; but Marcia's eyes and voice seemed to
follow him, and plead with him for his forbearance. But he answered his
conscience, as if it had been some such presence, that he had forborne too
much already, and that now he should not humble himself; that he was right
and should stand upon his right. There was not much comfort in it, and he
had to brace himself again and again with vindictive resolution.
Bartley walked about the streets for a long time, without purpose or
direction, brooding fiercely on his wrongs, and reminding himself how
Marcia had determined to have him, and had indeed flung herself upon his
mercy, with all sorts of good promises; and had then at once taken the
whip-hand, and goaded and tormented him ever since. All the kindness of
their common life counted for nothing in this furious reverie, or rather it
was never once thought of; he cursed himself for a fool that he had ever
asked her to marry him, and for doubly a fool that he had married her when
she had as good as asked him. He was glad, now, that he had taunted her
with that; he only regretted that he had told her he was sorry. He was
presently aware of being so tired that he could scarcely pull one leg after
another; and yet he felt hopelessly wide awake. It was in simple despair of
anything else to do that he climbed the stairs to Ricker's lofty perch
in the Chronicle-Abstract office. Ricker turned about as he entered, and
stared up at him from beneath the green pasteboard visor with which he was
shielding his eyes from the gas; his hair, which was of the harshness and
color of hay, was stiffly poked up and strewn about on his skull, as if it
were some foreign product.
"Hello!" he said. "Going to issue a morning edition of the Events?"
"What makes you think so?"
"Oh, I supposed you evening-paper gents went to bed with the hens. What
has kept you up, esteemed contemporary?" He went on working over some
despatches which lay upon his table.
"Don't you want to come out and have some oysters?" asked Bartley.
"Why this princely hospitality? I'll come with you in half a minute,"
Ricker said, going to the slide that carried up the copy to the
composing-room and thrusting his manuscript into the box.
"Where are you going?" he asked, when they found themselves out in the
soft starlit autumnal air; and Bartley answered with the name of an
oyster-house, obscure, but of singular excellence.
"Yes, that's the best place," Ricker commented. "What I always wonder at in
you is the rapidity with which you Ve taken on the city. You were quite
in the green wood when you came here, and now you know your Boston like a
little man. I suppose it's your newspaper work that's familiarized you with
the place. Well, how do you like your friend Witherby, as far as you've
"Oh, we shall get along, I guess," said Bartley. "He still keeps me in the
background, and plays at being editor, but he pays me pretty well."
"Not too well, I hope."
"I should like to see him try it."
"I shouldn't," said Ricker. "He'd expect certain things of you, if he did.
You'll have to look out for Witherby."
"You mean that he's a scamp?"
"No; there isn't a better conscience than Witherby carries in the whole
city. He's perfectly honest. He not only believes that he has a right to
run the Events in his way; but he sincerely believes that he is right in
doing it. There's where he has the advantage of you, if you doubt him. I
don't suppose he ever did a wrong thing in his life; he'd persuade himself
that the thing was right before he did it."
"That's a common phenomenon, isn't it?" sneered Bartley. "Nobody sins."
"You're right, partly. But some of us sinners have our misgivings, and
Witherby never has. You know he offered me your place?"
"No, I didn't," said Bartley, astonished and not pleased.
"I thought he might have told you. He made me inducements; but I was afraid
of him: Witherby is the counting-room incarnate. I talked you into him
for some place or other; but he didn't seem to wake up to the value of my
advice at once. Then I couldn't tell what he was going to offer you."
"Thank you for letting me in for a thing you were afraid of!"
"I didn't believe he would get you under his thumb, as he would me. You've
got more back-bone than I have. I have to keep out of temptation; you have
noticed that I never drink, and I would rather not look upon Witherby when
he is red and giveth his color in the cup. I'm sorry if I've let you in for
anything that you regret. But Witherby's sincerity makes him dangerous,--I
"I think he has some very good ideas about newspapers," said Bartley,
"Oh, very," assented Ricker. "Some of the very best going. He believes
that the press is a great moral engine, and that it ought to be run in the
interest of the engineer."
"And I suppose you believe that it ought to be run in the interest of the
"Exactly--after the public has paid."
"Well, I don't; and I never did. A newspaper is a private enterprise."
"It's private property, but it isn't a private enterprise, and in its very
nature it can't be. You know I never talk 'journalism' and stuff; it amuses
me to hear the young fellows at it, though I think they might be doing
something worse than magnifying their office; they might be decrying it.
But I've got a few ideas and principles of my own in my back pantaloons
"Haul them out," said Bartley.
"I don't know that they're very well formulated," returned Ricker, "and I
don't contend that they're very new. But I consider a newspaper a public
enterprise, with certain distinct duties to the public. It's sacredly bound
not to do anything to deprave or debauch its readers; and it's sacredly
bound not to mislead or betray them, not merely as to questions of morals
and politics, but as to questions of what we may lump as 'advertising.' Has
friend Witherby developed his great ideas of advertisers' rights to you?"
Bartley did not answer, and Ricker went on: "Well, then, you can understand
my position, when I say it's exactly the contrary."
"You ought to be on a religious newspaper, Ricker," said Bartley with a
"Thank you, a secular paper is bad enough for me."
"Well, I don't pretend that I make the Events just what I want," said
Bartley. "At present, the most I can do is to indulge in a few cheap dreams
of what I should do, if I had a paper of my own."
"What are your dreams? Haul out, as you say."
"I should make it pay, to begin with; and I should make it pay by making
it such a thorough newspaper that every class of people _must_ have it. I
should cater to the lowest class first, and as long as I was poor I would
have the fullest and best reports of every local accident and crime; that
would take all the rabble. Then, as I could afford it, I'd rise a little,
and give first-class non-partisan reports of local political affairs; that
would fetch the next largest class, the ward politicians of all parties.
I'd lay for the local religious world, after that;--religion comes right
after politics in the popular mind, and it interests the women like murder:
I'd give the minutest religious intelligence, and not only that, but the
religious gossip, and the religious scandal. Then I'd go in for fashion and
society,--that comes next. I'd have the most reliable and thorough-going
financial reports that money could buy. When I'd got my local ground
perfectly covered, I'd begin to ramify. Every fellow that could spell, in
any part of the country, should understand that, if he sent me an account
of a suicide, or an elopement, or a murder, or an accident, he should
be well paid for it; and I'd rise on the same scale through all the
departments. I'd add art criticisms, dramatic and sporting news, and book
reviews, more for the looks of the thing than for anything else; they don't
any of 'em appeal to a large class. I'd get my paper into such a shape
that people of every kind and degree would have to say, no matter what
particular objection was made to it, 'Yes, that's so; but it's the best
_news_paper in the world, _and we can't get along without it.'"_
"And then," said Ricker, "you'd begin to clean up, little by little,--let
up on your murders and scandals, and purge and live cleanly like a
gentleman? The trick's been tried before."
They had arrived at the oyster-house, and were sitting at their table,
waiting for the oysters to be brought to them. Bartley tilted his chair
back. "I don't know about the cleaning up. I should want to keep all my
audience. If I cleaned up, the dirty fellows would go off to some one else;
and the fellows that pretended to be clean would be disappointed."
"Why don't you get Witherby to put your ideas in force?" asked Ricker,
Bartley dropped his chair to all fours, and said with a smile, "He belongs
"Ah! he has his limitations. What a pity! He has the money to establish
this great moral engine of yours, and you haven't. It's a loss to
"One thing, I know," said Bartley, with a certain effect of virtue, "nobody
should buy or sell me; and the advertising element shouldn't spread beyond
the advertising page."
"Isn't that rather high ground?" inquired Ricker.
Bartley did not think it worth while to answer. "I don't believe that a
newspaper is obliged to be superior in tone to the community," he said.
"I quite agree with you."
"And if the community is full of vice and crime, the newspaper can't do
better than reflect its condition."
"Ah! there I should distinguish, esteemed contemporary. There are several
tones in every community, and it will keep any newspaper scratching to rise
above the highest. But if it keeps out of the mud at all, it can't help
rising above the lowest. And no community is full of vice and crime any
more than it is full of virtue and good works. Why not let your model
newspaper mirror these?"
"They're not snappy."
"No, that's true."
"You must give the people what they want."
"Are you sure of that?"
"Yes, I am."
"Well, it's a beautiful dream," said Ricker, "nourished on a youth sublime.
Why do not these lofty imaginings visit us later in life? You make me quite
ashamed of my own ideal newspaper. Before you began to talk, I had been
fancying that the vice of our journalism was its intense localism. I have
doubted a good while whether a drunken Irishman who breaks his wife's head,
or a child who falls into a tub of hot water, has really established a
claim on the public interest. Why should I be told by telegraph how three
negroes died on the gallows in North Carolina? Why should an accurate
correspondent inform me of the elopement of a married man with his
maid-servant in East Machias? Why should I sup on all the horrors of a
railroad accident, and have the bleeding fragments hashed up for me at
breakfast? Why should my newspaper give a succession of shocks to my
nervous system, as I pass from column to column, and poultice me between
shocks with the nastiness of a distant or local scandal? You reply, because
I like spice. But I don't. I am sick of spice; and I believe that most of
our readers are."
"Cater to them with milk-toast, then," said Bartley.
Ricker laughed with him, and they fell to upon their oysters.
When they parted, Bartley still found himself wakeful. He knew that he
should not sleep if he went home, and he said to himself that he could not
walk about all night. He turned into a gayly-lighted basement, and asked
for something in the way of a nightcap.
The bar-keeper said there was nothing like a hot-scotch to make you sleep;
and a small man with his hat on, who had been talking with the bar-keeper,
and coming up to the counter occasionally to eat a bit of cracker or a bit
of cheese out of the two bowls full of such fragments that stood at the end
of the counter, said that this was so.
It was very cheerful in the bar-room, with the light glittering on the rows
of decanters behind the bar-keeper, a large, stout, clean, pale man in his
shirt-sleeves, after the manner of his kind; and Bartley made up his mind
to stay there till he was drowsy, and to drink as many hot-scotches as were
necessary to the result. He had his drink put on a little table and sat
down to it easily, stirring it to cool it a little, and feeling its
flattery in his brain from the first sip.
The man who was munching cheese and crackers wore a hat rather large for
him, pulled down over his eyes. He now said that he did not care if he took
a gin-sling, and the bar-keeper promptly set it before him on the counter,
and saluted with "Good evening, Colonel," a large man who came in, carrying
a small dog in his arms. Bartley recognized him as the manager of a variety
combination playing at one of the theatres, and the manager recognized the
little man with the gin-sling as Tommy. He did not return the bar-keeper's
salutation, but he asked, as he sat down at a table, "What do I want for
The bar-keeper said, oracularly, as he leaned forward to wipe his counter
with a napkin, "Fricassee chicken."
"Fricassee devil," returned the manager. "Get me a Welsh rabbit."
The bar-keeper, unperturbed by this rejection, called into the tube behind
him, "One Welsh rabbit."
"I want some cold chicken for my dog," said the manager.
"One cold chicken," repeated the bar-keeper, in his tube.
"White meat," said the manager.
"White meat," repeated the bar-keeper.
"I went into the Parker House one night about midnight, and I saw four
doctors there eating lobster salad, and devilled crab, and washing it down
with champagne; and I made up my mind that the doctors needn't talk to me
any more about what was wholesome. I was going in for what was _good_. And
there aint anything better for supper than Welsh rabbit in _this_ world."
As the manager addressed this philosophy to the company at large, no one
commented upon it, which seemed quite the same to the manager, who hitched
one elbow over the back of his chair, and caressed with the other hand the
dog lying in his lap.
The little man in the large hat continued to walk up and down, leaving his
gin-sling on the counter, and drinking it between his visits to the cracker
"What's that new piece of yours, Colonel?" he asked, after a while. "I aint
seen it yet."
"Legs, principally," sighed the manager. "That's what the public wants. I
give the public what it wants. I don't pretend to be any better than the
public. Nor any worse," he added, stroking his dog.
These ideas struck Bartley in their accordance with his own ideas of
journalism, as he had propounded them to Ricker. He had drunk half of his
"That's what I say," assented the little man. "All that a theatre has got
to do is to keep even with the public."
"That's so, Tommy," said the manager of a school of morals, with wisdom
that impressed more and more the manager of a great moral engine.
"The same principle runs through everything," observed Bartley, speaking
for the first time.
The drink had stiffened his tongue somewhat, but it did not incommode his
utterance; it rather gave dignity to it, and his head was singularly clear.
He lifted his empty glass from the table, and, catching the bar-keeper's
eye, said, "Do it again." The man brought it back full.
"It runs through the churches as well as the theatres. As long as the
public wanted hell-fire, the ministers gave them hell-fire. But you
couldn't get hell-fire--not the pure, old-fashioned brimstone article--out
of a popular preacher now, for love or money."
The little man said, "I guess you've got about the size of it there"; and
the manager laughed.
"It's just so with the newspapers, too," said Bartley. "Some newspapers
used to stand out against publishing murders, and personal gossip, and
divorce trials. There ain't a newspaper that pretends to keep anyways up
with the times, now, that don't do it! The public want spice, and they will
"Well, sir," said the manager, "that's my way of looking at it. I say, if
the public don't want Shakespeare, give 'em burlesque till they're sick of
it. I believe in what Grant said: 'The quickest way to get rid of a bad law
is to enforce it.'"
"That's so," said the little man, "every time." He added, to the
bar-keeper, that he guessed he would have some brandy and soda, and
Bartley found himself at the bottom of his second tumbler. He ordered it
The little man seemed to be getting further away. He said, from the
distance to which he had withdrawn, "You want to go to bed with three
nightcaps on, like an old-clothes man."
Bartley felt like resenting the freedom, but he was anxious to pour his
ideas of journalism into the manager's sympathetic ear, and he began to
talk, with an impression that it behooved him to talk fast. His brain was
still very clear, but his tongue was getting stiffer. The manager now had
his Welsh rabbit before him; but Bartley could not make out how it had got
there, nor when. He was talking fast, and he knew, by the way everybody was
listening, that he was talking well. Sometimes he left his table, glass in
hand, and went and laid down the law to the manager, who smilingly assented
to all he said. Once he heard a low growling at his feet, and, looking
down, he saw the dog with his plate of cold chicken, that had also been
conjured into the room somehow.
"Look out," said the manager, "he'll nip you in the leg."
"Curse the dog! he seems to be on all sides of you," said Bartley. "I can't
"Better sit down, then," suggested the manager.
"Good idea," said the little man, who was still walking up and down. It
appeared as if he had not spoken for several hours; his hat was further
over his eyes. Bartley had thought he was gone.
"What business is it of yours?" he demanded, fiercely, moving towards the
"Come, none of that," said the bar-keeper, steadily.
Bartley looked at him in amazement. "Where's your hat?" he asked.
The others laughed; the bar-keeper smiled.
"Are you a married man?"
"Never mind!" said the bar-keeper, severely.
Bartley turned to the little man: "You married?"
"Not _much_," replied the other. He was now topping off with a
Bartley referred himself to the manager: "You?"
"_Pas si bete_," said the manager, who did his own adapting from the
"Well, you're scholar, and you're gentleman," said Bartley. The indefinite
articles would drop out, in spite of all his efforts to keep them in. "'N I
want ask you what you do--to--ask--you--what--would--you--do," he repeated,
with painful exactness, but he failed to make the rest of the sentence
perfect, and he pronounced it all in a word, "'fyour-wifelockyouout?"
"I'd take a walk," said the manager.
"I'd bu'st the door in," said the little man.
Bartley turned and gazed at him as if the little man were a much more
estimable person than he had supposed. He passed his arm through the little
man's, which the other had just crooked to lift his whiskey to his mouth.
"Look here," said Bartley, "tha's jus' what _I_ told her. I want you to go
home 'th me; I want t' introduce you to my wife."
"All right," answered the little man. "Don't care if I do." He dropped his
tumbler to the floor. "Hang it up, Charley, glass and all. Hang up this
gentleman's nightcaps--my account. Gentleman asks me home to his house,
I'll hang him--I'll get him hung,--well, fix it to suit yourself,--every
They got themselves out of the door, and the manager said to the
bar-keeper, who came round to gather up the fragments of the broken
tumbler, "Think his wife will be glad to see 'em, Charley?"
"Oh, they'll be taken care of before they reach his house."
When they were once out under the stars, Bartley, who still, felt his brain
clear, said that he would not take his friend home at once, but would show
him where he visited when he first came to Boston. The other agreed to
the indulgence of this sentiment, and they set out to find Rumford Street
"You've heard of old man Halleck,--Lestor Neather Interest? Tha's
place,--there's where I stayed. His son's my frien',--damn stuck-up,
supercilious beast he is, too! _I_ do' care f'r him! I'll show you place,
so's't you'll know it when you come to it,--'f I can ever find it."
They walked up and down the street, looking, while Bartley poured his
sorrows into the ear of his friend, who grew less and less responsive, and
at last ceased from his side altogether. Bartley then dimly perceived that
he was himself sitting on a door-step, and that his head was hanging far
down between his knees, as if he had been sleeping in that posture.
"Locked out,--locked out of my own door, and by my own wife!" He shed
tears, and fell asleep again. From time to time he woke, and bewailed
himself to Ricker as a poor boy who had fought his own way; he owned that
he had made mistakes, as who had not? Again he was trying to convince
Squire Gaylord that they ought to issue a daily edition of the Equity Free
Press, and at the same time persuading Mr. Halleck to buy the Events for
him, and let him put it on a paying basis. He shivered, sighed, hiccupped,
and was dozing off again, when Henry Bird knocked him down, and he fell
with a cry, which at last brought to the door the uneasy sleeper, who had
been listening to him within, and trying to realize his presence, catching
his voice in waking intervals, doubting it, drowsing when it ceased, and
then catching it and losing it again.
"Hello, here! What do you want? Hubbard! Is it you? What in the world are
you doing here?"
"Halleck," said Bartley, who was unsteadily straightening himself upon his
feet, "glad to find you at home. Been looking for your house all night.
Want to introduce you to partic-ic-ular friend of mine. Mr. Halleck, Mr.
----. Curse me if I know your name--"
"Hold on a minute," said Halleck.
He ran into the house for his hat and coat, and came out again, closing the
door softly after him. He found Bartley in the grip of a policeman, whom he
was asking his name, that he might introduce him to his friend Halleck.
"Do you know this man, Mr. Halleck?" asked the policeman.
"Yes,--yes, I know him," said Ben, in a low voice. "Let's get him away
quietly, please. He's all right. It's the first time I ever saw him so.
Will you help me with him up to Johnson's stable? I'll get a carriage there
and take him home."
They had begun walking Bartley along between them; he dozed, and paid no
attention to their talk.
The policeman laughed. "I was just going to run him in, when you came out.
You didn't come a minute too soon."
They got Bartley to the stable, and he slept heavily in one of the chairs
in the office, while the ostlers were putting the horses to the carriage.
The policeman remained at the office-door, looking in at Bartley, and
philosophizing the situation to Halleck. "Your speakin' about its bein' the
first time you ever saw him so made me think 't I rather help take home a
regular habitual drunk to his family, any day, than a case like this. They
always seem to take it so much harder the first time. Boards with his
mother, I presume?"
"He's married," said Halleck? sadly. "He has a house of his own."
"Well!" said the policeman.
Bartley slept all the way to Clover Street, and when the carriage stopped
at his door, they had difficulty in waking him sufficiently to get him out.
"Don't come in, please," said Halleck to the policeman, when this was done.
"The man will carry you back to your beat. Thank you, ever so much!"
"All right, Mr. Halleck. Don't mention it," said the policeman, and leaned
back in the hack with an air of luxury, as it rumbled softly away.
Halleck remained on the pavement with Bartley falling limply against him
in the dim light of the dawn. "What you want? What you doing with me?" he
demanded with sullen stupidity.
"I've got you home, Hubbard. Here we are at your house." He pulled him
across the pavement to the threshold, and put his hand on the bell, but the
door was thrown open before he could ring, and Marcia stood there, with her
face white, and her eyes red with watching and crying.
"Oh, Bartley! oh, Bartley!" she sobbed. "Oh, Mr. Halleck! what is it? Is
he hurt? I did it,--yes, I did it! It's my fault! Oh! will he die? Is he
"He isn't very well. He'd better go to bed," said Halleck.
"Yes, yes! I will help you upstairs with him."
"Do' need any help," said Bartley, sulkily. "Go upstairs myself."
He actually did so, with the help of the hand-rail, Marcia running before,
to open the door, and smooth the pillows which her head had not touched,
and Halleck following him to catch him if he should fall. She unlaced his
shoes and got them off, while Halleck removed his coat.
"Oh, Bartley! where do you feel badly, dear? Oh I what shall I do?" she
moaned, as he tumbled himself on the bed, and lapsed into a drunken stupor.
"Better--better come out, Mrs. Hubbard," said Halleck. "Better let him
alone, now. You only make him worse, talking to him."
Quelled by the mystery of his manner, she followed him out and down the
stairs. "Oh, _do_ tell me what it is," she implored, in a low voice, "or
I shall go wild! But tell me, and I can bear it! I can bear anything if I
know what it is!" She came close to him in her entreaty, and fixed her eyes
beseechingly on his, while she caught his hand in both of hers. "Is he--is
"He isn't quite in his right mind, Mrs. Hubbard," Halleck began, softly
releasing himself, and retreating a little from her; but she pursued him,
and put her hand on his arm.
"Oh, then go for the doctor,--go instantly! Don't lose a minute! I shall
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