Entire PG Edition of The Works of William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells
Part 57 out of 78
"I think it is. The wrong is somewhere in me individually. I know it
Dr. Mulbridge, walking beside her, with his hands clasped behind him,
threw up his head and laughed. "Well, have it your own way, Miss Breen.
Only I don't agree with you. Why should you wish to spare your sex at
your own expense? But that's the way with some ladies, I've noticed.
They approve of what women attempt because women attempt it, and they
believe the attempt reflects honor on them. It's tremendous to think
what men could accomplish for their sex, if they only hung together as
women do. But they can't. They haven't the generosity."
"I think you don't understand me," said Grace, with a severity that
amused him. "I wished to regard myself, in taking up this profession,
entirely as I believed a man would have regarded himself."
"And were you able to do it?"
"No," she unintentionally replied to this unexpected question.
"Haw, haw, haw!" laughed Dr. Mulbridge at her helpless candor. "And are
you sure that you give it up as a man would?"
"I don't know how you mean," she said, vexed and bewildered.
"Do you do it fairly and squarely because you believe that you're a
failure, or because you partly feel that you have n't been fairly dealt
"I believe that if Mrs. Maynard had had the same confidence in me that
she would have had in any man I should not have failed. But every woman
physician has a double disadvantage that I hadn't the strength to
overcome,--her own inexperience and the distrust of other women."
"Well, whose fault is that?"
"Not the men's. It is the men alone who give women any chance. They are
kind and generous and liberal-minded. I have no blame for them, and I
have no patience with women who want to treat them as the enemies of
women's advancement. Women can't move a step forwards without their
sufferance and help. Dr. Mulbridge," she cried, "I wish to apologize for
the hasty and silly words I used to you the day I came to ask you to
consult with me. I ought to have been grateful to you for consenting at
first, and when you took back your consent I ought to have considered
your position. You were entirely right. We had no common ground to meet
on, and I behaved like a petulant, foolish, vulgar girl!"
"No, no," he protested, laughing in recollection of the scene. "You were
all right, and I was in a fix; and if your own fears had n't come to the
rescue, I don't know how I should have got out of it. It would have been
disgraceful, wouldn't it, to refuse a lady's. request. You don't know
how near I was to giving way. I can tell you, now that it's all over. I
had never seen a lady of our profession before," he added hastily, "and
my curiosity was up. I always had my doubts about the thoroughness of
women's study, and I should have liked to see where your training failed.
I must say I found it very good,--I've told you that. You wouldn't fail
individually: you would fail because you are a woman."
"I don't believe that," said Grace.
"Well, then, because your patients are women. It's all one. What will
"I shall not do anything. I shall give it all up."
"But what shall you do then?"
"What are you going to be? A fashionable woman? Or are you going to
Europe, and settle down there with the other American failures? I've
heard about them,--in Rome and Florence and Paris. Are you going to
throw away the study you've put into this profession? You took it up
because you wanted to do good. Don't you want to do good any more? Has
the human race turned out unworthy?"
She cowered at this arraignment, in which she could not separate the
mocking from the justice. "What do you advise me to do? Do you think I
could ever succeed?"
"You could never succeed alone."
"Yes, I know that; I felt that from the first. But I have planned to
unite with a woman physician older than myself."
"And double your deficiency. Sit down here," he said; "I wish to talk
business." They had entered the border of the woods encompassing
Jocelyn's, and he painted to a stump, beside which lay the fallen tree.
She obeyed mechanically, and he remained standing near her, with one foot
lifted to the log; he leaned forward over her, and seemed to seize a
physical advantage in the posture. "From your own point of view, you
would have no right to give up your undertaking if there was a chance of
success in it. You would have no more right to give up than a woman who
had gone out as a missionary."
"I don't pretend to compare myself with such a woman; but I should have
no more right to give up," she answered, helpless against the logic of
her fate, which he had somehow divined.
"Well, then, listen to me. I can give you this chance. Are you
satisfied that with my advice you could have succeeded in Mrs. Maynard's
"Yes, I think so. But what"--
"I think so, too. Don't rise!"
His will overcame the impulse that had betrayed itself, and she sank back
to her seat. "I offer you my advice from this time forward; I offer you
"That is very good of you," she murmured; "and I appreciate your
generosity more than I can say. I know the prejudice you must have had
to overcome in regard to women physicians before you could bring yourself
to do this; and I know how you must have despised me for failing in my
attempt, and giving myself up to my feeble temperament. But"--
"Oh, we won't speak of all that," he interrupted. "Of course I felt the
prejudice against women entering the profession which we all feel; it was
ridiculous and disgusting to me till I saw you. I won't urge you from
any personal motive to accept my offer. But I know that if you do you
can realize all your hopes of usefulness; and I ask you to consider that
certainly. But you know the only way it could be done."
She looked him in the eyes, with dismay in her growing intelligence.
"What--what do you mean?"
"I mean that I ask you to let me help you carry out your plan of life,
and to save all you have done, and all you have hoped, from waste--as
your husband. Think"--
She struggled to her feet as if he were opposing a palpable resistance,
so strongly she felt the pressure of his will. "It can't be, Dr.
Mulbridge. Oh, it can't, indeed! Let us go back; I wish to go back!"
But he had planted himself in her way, and blocked her advance, unless
she chose to make it a flight.
"I expected this," he said, with a smile, as if her wild trepidation
interested him as an anticipated symptom. "The whole idea is new and
startling to you. But I know you won't dismiss it abruptly, and I won't
"Yes, yes, you must! I will not think of it! I can't! I do dismiss it
at once. Let me go!"
"Then you really choose to be like the rest,--a thing of hysterical
impulses, without conscience or reason! I supposed the weakest woman
would be equal to an offer of marriage. And you had dreamt of being a
physician and useful!"
"I tell you," she cried, half quelled by his derision, "that I have found
out that I am not fit for it,--that I am a failure and a disgrace; and
you had no right to expect me to be anything else."
"You are no failure, and I had a right to expect anything of you after
the endurance and the discretion you have shown in the last three weeks.
Without your help I should have failed myself. You owe it to other women
to go on."
"They must take care of themselves," she said. "If my weakness throws
shame on them, they must bear it. I thank you for what you say. I
believe you mean it. But if I was of any use to you I did n't know it."
"It was probably inspiration, then," he interrupted coolly. "Come, this
isn't a thing to be frightened at. You're not obliged to do what I say.
But I think you ought to hear me out. I haven't spoken without serious
thought, and I didn't suppose you would reject me without a reason."
"Reason?" she repeated. "There is no reason in it."
"There ought to be. There is, on my side. I have all kinds of reasons
for asking you to be my wife: I believe that I can make you happy in the
fulfilment of your plans; I admire you and respect you more than any
other woman I ever saw; and I love you."
"I don't love you, and that is reason enough."
"Yes, between boys and girls. But between men and women it isn't enough.
Do you dislike me?"
"Am I repulsive in any way?"
"I know that I am not very young and that I am not very good-looking."
"It is n't that at all."
"Of course I know that such things weigh with women, and that personal
traits and habits are important in an affair like this. I am slovenly
and indifferent about my dress; but it's only because I have lived where
every sort of spirit and ambition was useless. I don't know about city
ways, but I could pick up all of them that were worth while. I spoke of
going to Boston; but I would go anywhere else with you, east or west,
that you chose, and I know that I should succeed. I haven't done what I
might have done with myself, because I've never had an object in life.
I've always lived in the one little place, and I've never been out of it
except when I was in the army. I've always liked my profession; but
nothing has seemed worth while. You were a revelation to me; you have
put ambition and hope into me. I never saw any woman before that I would
have turned my hand to have. They always seemed to me fit to be the
companions of fools, or the playthings of men. But of all the
simpletons, the women who were trying to do something for woman, as they
called it, trying to exemplify and illustrate a cause, were the silliest
that I came across. I never happened to have met a woman doctor before
you came to me; but I had imagined them, and I could n't believe in you
when I saw you. You were not supersensitive, you were not presumptuous,
and you gave up, not because you distrusted yourself, but because your
patient distrusted you. That was right: I should have done the same
thing myself. Under my direction, you have shown yourself faithful,
docile, patient, intelligent beyond anything I have seen. I have watched
you, and I know; and I know what your peculiar trials have been from that
woman. You have taught me a lesson,--I 'm not ashamed to say it; and
you've given me a motive. I was wrong to ask you to marry me so that you
might carry out your plans: that was no way to appeal to you. What I
meant was that I might make your plans my own, and that we might carry
them out together. I don't care for making money; I have always been
poor, and I had always expected to be so; and I am not afraid of hard
work. There is n't any self-sacrifice you've dreamed of that I wouldn't
gladly and proudly share with you. You can't do anything by yourself,
but we could do anything together. If you have any scruple about giving
up your theory of medicine, you needn't do it; and the State Medical
Association may go to the devil. I've said my say. What do you say?"
She looked all round, as if seeking escape from a mesh suddenly flung
about her, and then she looked imploringly up at him. "I have nothing to
say," she whispered huskily. "I can't answer you."
" Well, that's all I ask," he said, moving a few steps, away, and
suffering her to rise. "Don't answer me now. Take time,--all the time
you want, all the time there is."
"No," she said, rising, and gathering some strength from the sense of
being on foot again. "I don't mean that. I mean that I don't--I can't
"You don't believe in me? You don't think I would do it?"
"I don't believe in myself. I have no right to doubt you. I know that I
ought to honor you for what you propose."
"I don't think it calls for any great honor. Of course I shouldn't
propose it to every lady physician." He smiled with entire serenity and
self-possession. "Tell me one thing: was there ever a time when you
would have consented?" She did not answer. "Then you will consent yet?"
"No. Don't deceive yourself. I shall never consent."
"I'll leave that to the logic of your own conscience. You will do what
seems your duty."
"You must n't trust to my conscience. I fling it away! I won't have
anything to do with it. I've been tortured enough by it. There is no
sense or justice in it!"
He laughed easily at her vehemence. "I 'll trust your conscience. But I
won't stay to worry you now. I'm coming again day after to-morrow, and
I'm not afraid of what you will say then."
He turned and left her, tearing his way through the sweet-fern and low
blackberry vines, with long strides, a shape of uncouth force. After he
was out of sight, she followed, scared and trembling at herself, as if
she had blasphemed.
Grace burst into the room where her mother sat; and flung her hat aside
with a desperate gesture. "Now, mother, you have got to listen to me.
Dr. Mulbridge has asked me to marry him!"
Mrs. Green put up her spectacles on her forehead, and stared at her
daughter, while some strong expressions, out of the plebeian or rustic
past which lies only a generation or two behind most of us, rose to her
lips. I will not repeat them here; she had long denied them to herself
as an immoral self-indulgence, and it must be owned that such things have
a fearful effect, coming from old ladies. "What has got into all the
men? What in nature does he want you to marry him for?"
"Oh, for the best reasons in the world," exclaimed the daughter. "For
reasons that will make you admire and respect him," she added ironically.
"For great, and unselfish, and magnanimous reasons!"
"I should want to believe they were the real ones, first," interrupted
"He wants to marry me because he knows that I can't fulfil my plans of
life alone, and because we could fulfil them together. We shall not only
be husband and wife, but we shall be physicians in partnership. I may
continue a homoeopath, he says, and the State Medical Association may go
to the devil." She used his language, that would have been shocking to
her ordinary moods, without blenching, and in their common agitation her
mother accepted it as fit and becoming. "He counts upon my accepting him
because I must see it as my duty, and my conscience won't let me reject
the only opportunity I shall have of doing some good and being of some
use in the world. What do you think I ought to do, mother?"
"There's reason in what he says. It is an opportunity. You could be of
use, in that way, and perhaps it's the only way. Yes," she continued,
fascinated by the logic of the position, and its capabilities for
vicarious self-sacrifice. "I don't see how you can get out of it: You
have spent years and years of study, and a great deal of money, to
educate yourself for a profession that you're too weak to practise alone.
"You can't say that I ever advised your doing it. It was your own idea,
and I did n't oppose it. But when you've gone so far, you've formed an
obligation to go on. It's your duty not to give up, if you know of any
means to continue. That's your duty, as plain as can be. To say nothing
of the wicked waste of your giving up now, you're bound to consider the
effect it would have upon other women who are trying to do something for
themselves. The only thing," she added, with some misgiving, "is whether
you believe he was in earnest and would keep his word to you."
"I think he was secretly laughing at me, and that he would expect to
laugh me out of his promise."
"Well, then, you ought to take time to reflect, and you ought to be sure
that you're right about him."
"Is that what you really think, mother?"
"I am always governed by reason, Grace, and by right; and I have brought
you up on that plan. If you have ever departed from it, it has not been
with my consent, nor for want of my warning. I have simply laid the
matter before you."
"Then you wish me to marry him?"
This was perhaps a point that had not occurred to Mrs. Breen in her
recognition of the strength of Dr. Mulbridge's position. It was one
thing to trace the path of duty; another to support the aspirant in
treading it. "You ought to take time to reflect," Mrs. Green repeated,
with evasion that she never used in behalf of others.
"Well, mother," answered Grace," I didn't take time to reflect, and I
should n't care whether I was right about him or not. I refused him
because I did n't love him. If I had loved him that would have been the
only reason I needed to marry him. But all the duty in the world
wouldn't be enough without it. Duty? I am sick of duty! Let the other
women who are trying to do something for themselves, take care of
themselves as men would. I don't owe them more than a man would owe
other men, and I won't be hoodwinked into thinking I do. As for the
waste, the past is gone, at any rate; and the waste that I lament is the
years I spent in working myself up to an undertaking that I was never fit
for. I won't continue that waste, and I won't keep up the delusion that
because I was very unhappy I was useful, and that it was doing good to be
miserable. I like pleasure and I like dress; I like pretty things.
There is no harm in them. Why should n't I have them?"
"There is harm in them for you,"--her mother began.
"Because I have tried to make my life a horror? There is no other
reason, and that is no reason. When we go into Boston this winter I
shall go to the theatre. I shall go to the opera, and I hope there will
be a ballet. And next summer, I am going to Europe; I am going to
Italy." She whirled away toward the door as if she were setting out.
"I should think you had taken leave of your conscience!" cried her
"I hope I have, mother. I am going to consult my reason after this."
"Well, then, my inclination. I have had enough of conscience,--of my
own, and of yours, too. That is what I told him, and that is what I
mean. There is such a thing as having too much conscience, and of
getting stupefied by it, so that you can't really see what's right. But
I don't care. I believe I should like to do wrong for a while, and I
will do wrong if it's doing right to marry him."
She had her hand on the door-knob, and now she opened the door, and
closed it after her with something very like a bang.
She naturally could not keep within doors in this explosive state, and
she went downstairs, and out upon the piazza. Mr. Maynard was there,
smoking, with his boots on top of the veranda-rail, and his person thrown
back in his chair at the angle requisite to accomplish this elevation of
the feet. He took them down, as he saw her approach, and rose, with the
respect in which he never failed for women, and threw his cigar away.
"Mr. Maynard," she asked abruptly, "do you know where Mr. Libby is?"
"No, I don't, doctor, I'm sorry to say. If I did, I would send and
borrow some more cigars of him. I think that the brand our landlord
keeps must have been invented by Mr. Track, the great anti-tobacco
"Is he coming back? Is n't he coming back?" she demanded breathlessly.
"Why, yes, I reckon he must be coming back. Libby generally sees his
friends through. And he'll have some curiosity to know how Mrs. Maynard
and I have come out of it all." He looked at her with something latent
in his eye; but what his eye expressed was merely a sympathetic regret
that he could not be more satisfactory.
"Perhaps," she suggested, "Mr. Barlow might know something."
"Well, now," said Maynard, "perhaps he might, that very thing. I'll go
round and ask him." He went to the stable, and she waited for his
return. "Barlow says," he reported, "that he guesses he's somewhere
about Leyden. At any rate, his mare,'s there yet, in the stable where
Barlow left her. He saw her there, yesterday."
"Thanks. That's all I wished to know," said Grace. "I wished to write
to him," she added boldly.
She shut herself in her room and spent the rest of the forenoon in
writing a letter, which when first finished was very long, but in its
ultimate phase was so short as to occupy but a small space on a square
correspondence-card. Having got it written on the card, she was
dissatisfied with it in that shape, and copied it upon a sheet of note-
paper. Then she sealed and addressed it, and put it into her pocket;
after dinner she went down to the beach, and walked a long way upon the
sands. She thought at first that she would ask Barlow to get it to him,
somehow; and then she determined to find out from Barlow the address of
the people who had Mr. Libby's horse, and send it to them for him by the
driver of the barge. She would approach the driver with a nonchalant,
imperious air, and ask him to please have that delivered to Mr. Libby
immediately; and in case he learned from the stable-people that he was
not in Leyden, to bring the letter back to her. She saw how the driver
would take it, and then she figured Libby opening and reading it. She
sometimes figured him one way, and sometimes another. Sometimes he
rapidly scanned the lines, and then instantly ordered his horse, and
feverishly hastened the men; again he deliberately read it, and then tore
it into stall pieces, with a laugh, and flung them away. This conception
of his behavior made her heart almost stop beating; but there was a
luxury in it, too, and she recurred to it quite as often as to the other,
which led her to a dramatization of their meeting, with all their parley
minutely realized, and every most intimate look and thought imagined.
There is of course no means of proving that this sort of mental exercise
was in any degree an exercise of the reason, or that Dr. Breen did not
behave unprofessionally in giving herself up to it. She could only have
claimed in self-defence that she was no longer aiming at a professional
behavior; that she was in fact abandoning herself to a recovered sense of
girlhood and all its sweetest irresponsibilities. Those who would excuse
so weak and capricious a character may urge, if they like, that she was
behaving as wisely as a young physician of the other sex would have done
in the circumstances.
She concluded to remain on the beach, where only the children were
playing in the sand, and where she could easily escape any other
companionship that threatened. After she had walked long enough to spend
the first passion of her reverie, she sat down under the cliff, and
presently grew conscious of his boat swinging at anchor in its wonted
place, and wondered that she had not thought he must come back for that.
Then she had a mind to tear up her letter as superfluous; but she did
not. She rose from her place under the cliff, and went to look for the
dory. She found it drawn up on the sand in a little cove. It was the
same place, and the water was so shoal for twenty feet out that no one
could have rowed the dory to land; it must be dragged up. She laughed
and blushed, and then boldly amused herself by looking for footprints;
but the tide must have washed them out long ago; there were only the
light, small footprints of the children who had been playing about the
dory. She brushed away some sand they had scattered over the seat, and
got into the boat and sat down there. It was a good seat, and commanded
a view of the sail-boat in the foreground of the otherwise empty ocean;
she took out her letter, and let it lie in the open hands which she let
lie in her lap.
She was not impatient to have the time pass; it went only too soon.
Though she indulged that luxury of terror in imagining her letter torn up
and scornfully thrown away, she really rested quite safe as to the event;
but she liked this fond delay, and the soft blue afternoon might have
lasted forever to her entire content.
A little whiff of breeze stole up, and suddenly caught the letter from
her open hands, and whisked it out over the sand. With a cry she fled
after it, and when she had recaptured it, she thought to look at her
watch. It was almost time for the barge, and now she made such needless
haste, in order not to give herself chance for misgiving or retreat, that
she arrived too soon at the point where she meant to intercept the driver
on his way to the house; for in her present mutiny she had resolved to
gratify a little natural liking for manoeuvre, long starved by the rigid
discipline to which she had subjected herself. She had always been
awkward at it, but she liked it; and now it pleased her to think that she
should give her letter secretly to the driver, and on her way to meet him
she forgot that she had meant to ask Barlow for part of the address. She
did not remember this till it was too late to go back to the hotel, and
she suddenly resolved not to consult Barlow, but to let the driver go
about from one place to another with the letter till he found the right
one. She kept walking on out into the forest through which the road
wound, and she had got a mile away before she saw the weary bowing of the
horses' heads as they tugged the barge through the sand at a walk. She
stopped involuntarily, with some impulses to flight; and as the vehicle
drew nearer, she saw the driver turned round upon his seat, and talking
to a passenger behind. She had never counted upon his having a
passenger, and the fact undid all.
She remained helpless in the middle of the road; the horses came to a
stand-still a few paces from her, and the driver ceased from the high key
of conversation, and turned to see what was the matter.
"My grief!" he shouted. "If it had n't been for them horses o' mine, I
sh'd 'a' run right over ye."
"I wished to speak with you," she began. "I wished to send"--
She stopped, and the passenger leaned forward to learn what was going on.
"Miss Breen!" he exclaimed, and leaped out of the back of the barge and
ran to her.
"You--you got my letter!" she gasped.
"No! What letter? Is there anything the matter?"
She did not answer. She had become conscious of the letter, which she
had never ceased to hold in the hand that she had kept in her pocket for
that purpose. She crushed it into a small wad.
Libby turned his head, and said to the driver of the barge, "Go ahead."
"Will you take my arm?" he added to her. "It's heavy walking in
"No, thank you," she murmured, recoiling. "I'm not tired."
"Are you well? Have you been quite well?"
"Oh, yes, perfectly. I did n't know you were coming back."
"Yes. I had to come back. I'm going to Europe next week, and I had to
come to look after my boat, here; and I wanted to say good-by to Maynard.
I was just going to speak to Maynard, and then sail my boat over to
"It will be very pleasant," she said, without looking at him. "It's
"Oh, I sha'n't have any use for the moon. I shall get over before
nightfall, if this breeze holds."
She tried to think of something else, and to get away from this talk of a
sail to Leyden, but she fatally answered, "I saw your boat this
afternoon. I had n't noticed before that it was still here."
He hesitated a moment, and then asked, "Did you happen to notice the
"Yes, it was drawn up on the sand."
"I suppose it's all right--if it's in the same place."
"It seemed to be," she answered faintly.
"I'm going to give the boat to Johnson."
She did not say anything, for she could think of nothing to say, but that
she had looked for seals on the reef, but had not seen any, and this
would have been too shamelessly leading. That left the word to him, and
he asked timidly,--
"I hope my coming don't seem intrusive, Miss Breen?"
She did not heed this, but "You are going to be gone a great while?" she
asked, in turn.
"I don't know," he replied, in an uncertain tone, as if troubled to make
out whether she was vexed with him or not. "I thought," he added,
"I would go up the Nile this time. I've never been up the Nile, you
"No, I didn't know that. Well," she added to herself, "I wish you had
not come back! You had better not have come back. If you had n't come,
you would have got my letter. And now it can never be done! No, I can't
go through it all again, and no one has the right to ask it. We have
missed the only chance," she cried to herself, in such keen reproach of
him that she thought she must have spoken aloud.
"Is Mrs. Maynard all right again?" he asked.
"Yes, she is very much better," she answered, confusedly, as if he had
heard her reproach and had ignored it.
"I hope you're not so tired as you were."
"No, I 'm not tired now."
"I thought you looked a little pale," he said sympathetically, and now
she saw that he was so. It irritated her that she should be so far from
him, in all helpfulness, and she could scarcely keep down the wish that
ached in her heart.
We are never nearer doing the thing we long to do than when we have
proclaimed to ourselves that it must not and cannot be.
"Why are you so pale?" she demanded, almost angrily.
"I? I didn't know that I was," he answered. "I supposed I was pretty
well. I dare say I ought to be ashamed of showing it in that way. But
if you ask me, well, I will tell you; I don't find it any easier than I
did at first."
"You are to blame, then!" she cried. "If I were a man, I should not let
such a thing wear upon me for a moment"
"Oh, I dare say I shall live through it," he answered, with the national
whimsicality that comes to our aid in most emergencies.
A little pang went through her heart, but she retorted, "I would n't go
to Europe to escape it, nor up the Nile. I would stay and fight it where
I was." "Stay?" He seemed to have caught hopefully at the word.
"I thought you were stronger. If you give up in this way how can you
expect me"--She stopped; she hardly knew what she had intended to say;
she feared that he knew.
But he only said: "I'm sorry. I didn't intend to trouble you with the
sight of me. I had a plan for getting over the cliff without letting you
know, and having Maynard come down to me there."
"And did you really mean," she cried piteously, "to go away without
trying to see me again?"
"Yes," he owned simply. "I thought I might catch a glimpse of you, but I
did n't expect to speak to you."
"Did you hate me so badly as that? What had I done to you?"
"Done?" He gave a sorrowful laugh; and added, with an absent air, "Yes,
it's really like doing something to me! And sometimes it seems as if you
had done it purposely."
"You know I did n't! Now, then," she cried, "you have insulted me, and
you never did that before. You were very good and noble and generous,
and would n't let me blame myself for anything. I wanted always to
remember that of you; for I did n't believe that any man could be so
magnanimous. But it seems that you don't care to have me respect you!"
"Respect?" he repeated, in the same vague way. "No, I should n't care
about that unless it was included in the other. But you know whether I
have accused you of anything, or whether I have insulted you. I won't
excuse myself. I think that ought to be insulting to your common sense."
"Then why should you have wished to avoid seeing me to-day? Was it to
spare yourself?" she demanded, quite incoherently now. "Or did you think
I should not be equal to the meeting?"
"I don't know what to say to you," answered the young man. "I think I
must be crazy." He halted, and looked at her in complete bewilderment.
"I don't understand you at all."
"I wished to see you very much. I wanted your advice, as--as--a friend."
He shook his head. "Yes! you shall be my friend, in this at least. I
can claim it--demand it. You had no right to--to--make me--trust you so
much, and--and then--desert me."
"Oh, very well," he answered. "If any advice of mine--But I couldn't go
through that sacrilegious farce of being near you and not"--She waited
breathlessly, a condensed eternity, for him to go on; but he stopped at
that word, and added: "How can I advise you?"
The disappointment was so cruel that the tears came into her eyes and ran
down her face, which she averted from him. When she could control
herself she said, "I have an opportunity of going on in my profession
now, in a way that makes me sure of success."
"I am very glad on your account. You must be glad to realize"
"No, no!" she retorted wildly. "I am not glad!"
"I thought you"--
"But there are conditions! He says he will go with me anywhere, and we
can practise our profession together, and I can carry out all my plans.
But first--first--he wants me to--marry him!"
"Don't you know? Dr. Mulbridge!"
"That--I beg your pardon. I've no right to call him names." The young
fellow halted, and looked at her downcast face. "Well, do you want me to
tell you to take him? That is too much. I did n't know you were cruel."
"You make me cruel! You leave me to be cruel!"
"I leave you to be cruel?"
"Oh, don't play upon my words, if you won't ask me what I answered!"
"How can I ask that? I have no right to know."
"But you shall know!" she cried. "I told him that I had no plans.
I have given them all up because--because I'm too weak for them, and
because I abhor him, and because--But it was n't enough. He would not
take what I said for answer, and he is coming again for an answer."
"Yes. He is a man who believes that women may change, for reason or no
"You--you mean to take him when he comes back?" gasped the young man.
"Never! Not if he came a thousand times!"
"Then what is it you want me to advise you about?" he faltered.
"Nothing!" she answered, with freezing hauteur. She suddenly put up her
arms across her eyes, with the beautiful, artless action of a shame-
smitten child, and left her young figure in bewildering relief. "Oh,
don't you see that I love you?"
"Could n't you understand,--couldn't you see what I meant?" she asked
again that night, as they lost themselves on the long stretch of the
moonlit beach. With his arm close about that lovely shape they would
have seemed but one person to the inattentive observer, as they paced
along in the white splendor.
"I couldn't risk anything. I had spoken, once for all. I always thought
that for a man to offer himself twice was indelicate and unfair. I could
never have done it."
"That's very sweet in you," she said; and perhaps she would have praised
in the same terms the precisely opposite sentiment. "It's some comfort,"
she added, with a deep-fetched sigh, "to think I had to speak."
He laughed. "You didn't find it so easy to make love!"
"Oh, NOTHING is easy that men have to do!" she answered, with passionate
There are moments of extreme concession, of magnanimous admission, that
come but once in a lifetime.
Dr. Mulbridge did not wait for the time he had fixed for his return. He
may have judged that her tendency against him would strengthen by delay,
or he may have yielded to his own impatience in coming the next day. He
asked for Grace with his wonted abruptness, and waited for her coming in
the little parlor of the hotel, walking up and down the floor, with his
shaggy head bent forward, and his big hands clasped behind him.
As she hovered at the door before entering, she could watch him while he
walked the whole room's length away, and she felt a pang at sight of him.
If she could have believed that he loved her, she could not have faced
him, but must have turned and run away; and even as it was she grieved
for him. Such a man would not have made up his mind to this step without
a deep motive, if not a deep feeling. Her heart had been softened so
that she could not think of frustrating his ambition, if it were no
better than that, without pity. One man had made her feel very kindly
toward all other men; she wished in the tender confusion of the moment
that she need not reject her importunate suitor, whose importunity even
she could not resent.
He caught sight of her as soon as he made his turn at the end of the
room, and with a quick "Ah, Ah!" he hastened to meet her, with the smile
in which there was certainly something attractive. "You see I've come
back a day sooner than I promised. I haven't the sort of turnout you've
been used to, but I want you to drive with me." "I can't drive with you,
Dr. Mulbridge," she faltered.
"Well, walk, then. I should prefer to walk."
"You must excuse me," she answered, and remained standing before him.
"Sit down," he bade her, and pushed up a chair towards her. His
audacity, if it had been a finer courage, would have been splendid, and
as it was she helplessly obeyed him, as if she were his patient, and must
do so. "If I were superstitious I should say that you receive me
ominously," he said, fixing his gray eyes keenly upon her.
"I do!" she forced herself to reply. "I wish you had not come."
"That's explicit, at any rate. Have you thought it over?"
"No; I had no need to do that, I had fully resolved when I spoke
yesterday. Dr. Mulbridge, why didn't you spare me this? It's unkind of
you to insist, after what I said. You know that I must hate to repeat
it. I do value you so highly in some ways that I blame you for obliging
me to hurt you--if it does hurt--by telling you again that I don't love
He drew in a long breath, and set his teeth hard upon his lip. "You may
depend upon its hurting," he said, "but I was glad to risk the pain,
whatever it was, for the chance of getting you to reconsider. I presume
I'm not the conventional wooer. I'm too old for it, and I'm too blunt
and plain a man. I've been thirty-five years making up my mind to ask
you to marry me. You're the first woman, and you shall be the last. You
couldn't suppose I was going to give you up for one no?"
"You had better."
"Not for twenty! I can understand very well how you never thought of me
in this way; but there's no reason why you shouldn't. Come, it's a
matter that we can reason about, like anything else."
"No. I told you, it's something we can't reason about. Or yes, it is.
I will reason with you. You say that you love me?"
"If you did n't love me, you would n't ask me to marry you?"
"Then how can you expect me to marry you without loving you?"
"I don't. All that I ask is that you won't refuse me. I know that you
can love me."
"No, no, never!"
"And I only want you to take time to try."
"I don't wish to try. If you persist, I must leave the room. We had
better part. I was foolish to see you. But I thought--I was sorry--I
hoped to make it less unkind to you."
"In spite of yourself, you were relenting."
"Not at all!"
"But if you pitied me, you did care for me a little?"
"You know that I had the highest respect for you as a physician. I tell
you that you were my ideal in that way, and I will tell you that if"--she
stopped, and he continued for her.
"If you had not resolved to give it up, you might have done what I
"I did not say that," she answered indignantly.
"But why do you give it up?"
"Because I am not equal to it."
"How do you know it? Who told you?"
"You have told me,--by every look and act of yours,--and I'm grateful to
you for it."
"And if I told you now by word that you were fit for it."
"I shouldn't believe you."
"You would n't believe my word?" She did not answer. "I see," he said
presently, "that you doubt me somehow as a man. What is it you think of
"You wouldn't like to know."
"Oh, yes, I should."
"Well, I will tell you. I think you are a tyrant, and that you want a
slave, not a wife. You wish to be obeyed. You despise women. I don't
mean their minds,--they 're despicable enough, in most cases, as men's
are,--but their nature."
"This is news to me," he said, laughing. "I never knew that I despised
"It's true, whether you knew it or not."
"Do I despise you?"
"You would, if you saw that I was afraid of you: Oh, why do you force me
to say such things? Why don't you spare me--spare yourself?"
"In this cause I couldn't spare myself. I can't bear to give you up!
I'm what I am, whatever you say; but with you, I could be whatever you
would. I could show you that you are wrong if you gave me the chance.
I know that I could make you happy. Listen to me a moment."
"No! If you have taken the trouble to read me in this way, there must
have been a time when you might have cared."
"There never was any such time. I read you from the first."
"I will go away," he said, after a pause, in which she had risen, and
began a retreat towards the door. "But I will not--I cannot--give you
up. I will see you again."
"No, sir. You shall not see me again. I will not submit to it. I will
not be persecuted." She was trembling, and she knew that he saw her
"Well," he said, with a smile that recognized her trepidation, "I will
not persecute you. I'll renounce these pretensions. But I'll ask you to
see me once more, as a friend,--an acquaintance."
"I will not see you again."
"You are rather hard with me, I think," he urged gently. "I don't think
I'm playing the tyrant with you now."
"You are,--the baffled tyrant."
"But if I promised not to offend again, why should you deny me your
"Because I don't believe you." She was getting nearer the door, and as
she put her hand behind her and touched the knob, the wild terror she had
felt, lest he should reach it first and prevent her escape, left her.
"You are treating me like a child that does n't know its own mind, or has
none to know. You are laughing at me--playing with me; you have shown me
that you despise me."
He actually laughed. "Well, you've shown that you are not afraid of me.
Why are you not afraid?"
"Because," she answered, and she dealt the blow now without pity, "I'm
engaged,--engaged to Mr. Libby! "She whirled about and vanished through
the door, ashamed, indignant, fearing that if she had not fled, he would
somehow have found means to make his will prevail even yet.
He stood, stupefied, looking at the closed door, and he made a turn or
two about the room before he summoned intelligence to quit it. When
death itself comes, the sense of continuance is not at once broken in the
survivors. In these moral deaths, which men survive in their own lives,
there is no immediate consciousness of an end. For a while, habit and
the automatic tendency of desire carry them on.
He drove back to Corbitant perched on the rickety seat of his rattling
open buggy, and bowed forward as his wont was, his rounded shoulders
bringing his chin well over the dashboard. As he passed down the long
sandy street, toward the corner where his own house stood, the brooding
group of loafers, waiting in Hackett's store for the distribution of the
mail, watched him through the open door, and from under the boughs of the
weatherbeaten poplar before it. Hackett had been cutting a pound of
cheese out of the thick yellow disk before him, for the Widow Holman, and
he stared at the street after Mulbridge passed, as if his mental eye had
halted him there for the public consideration, while he leaned over the
counter, and held by the point the long knife with which he had cut the
"I see some the folks from over to Jocelyn's, yist'd'y," he said, in a
spasm of sharp, crackling speech, "and they seemed to think 't Mis'
Mulbridge'd got to step round pretty spry 'f she did n't want another the
same name in the house with her."
A long silence followed, in which no one changed in any wise the posture
in which he found himself when Hackett began to speak. Cap'n George
Wray, tilted back against the wall in his chair, continued to stare at
the store-keeper; Cap'n Jabez Wray, did not look up from whittling the
chair between his legs; their cousin, Cap'n Wray Storrell, seated on a
nailkeg near the stove, went on fretting the rust on the pipe with the
end of a stiff, cast-off envelope; two other captains, more or less akin
to them, continued their game of checkers; the Widow Seth Wray's boy
rested immovable, with his chin and hand on the counter, where he had
been trying since the Widow Holman went out to catch Hackett's eye and
buy a corn-ball. Old Cap'n Billy Wray was the first to break the spell.
He took his cigar from his mouth, and held it between his shaking thumb
and forefinger, while he pursed his lips for speech. "Jabez," he said,
"did Cap'n Sam'l git that coalier?"
"No," answered the whittler, cutting deeper into his chair, "she did n't
signal for him till she got into the channel, and then he'd got a couple
o' passengers for Leyden; and Cap'n Jim brought her up."
"I don't know," said Cap'n Billy, with a stiff yet tremulous reference of
himself to the storekeeper, "as spryness would help her, as long as he
took the notion. I guess he's master of his own ship. Who's he going to
marry? The grahs-widow got well enough?"
"No. As I understand," crackled the store-keeper, "her husband's turned
up. Folks over there seem to think't he's got his eye on the other
"Going to marry with her, hey? Well, if either of 'em gets sick they
won't have to go far for advice, and they won't have any doctor's bills
to pay. Still, I shouldn't ha' picked out just that kind of a wife for
"As I understand," the storekeeper began; but here he caught sight of
Widow Seth Wray's boy, and asked, "What's wanted, Bub? Corn-ball?" and
turning to take that sweetmeat from the shelf behind him he added the
rest in the mouth of the hollowly reverberating jar, "She's got prop'ty."
"Well, I never knew a Mulbridge yet 't objected to prop'ty,--especially,
"Barlow he's tellin' round that she 's very fine appearin'." He handed
the corn-ball to Widow Seth Wray's boy, who went noiselessly out on his
Cap'n Billy drew several long breaths. When another man might have been
supposed to have dismissed the subject he said, "Well, I never knew a
Mulbridge that objected to good looks in women folks. They've all
merried hahnsome wives, ever since the old gentleman set 'em the example
with his second one. They got their own looks from the first. Well," he
added, "I hope she's a tough one. She's got either to bend or to break."
"They say," said Cap'n George Wray, like one rising from the dead to say
it, so dumb and motionless had he been till now, "that Mis' Mulbridge was
too much for the old doctor."
"I don't know about that," Cap'n Billy replied, "but I guess her son's
too much for her: she's only Gardiner, and he's Gardiner and Mulbridge
No one changed countenance, but a sense of Cap'n Billy's wit sparely yet
satisfyingly glimmered from the eyes of Cap'n George and the storekeeper,
and Cap'n Jabez closed his knife with a snap and looked up. "Perhaps,"
he suggested, "she's seen enough of him to know beforehand that there
would be too much of him."
"I never rightly understood," said Hackett, "just what it was about him,
there in the army--coming out a year beforehand, that way."
"I guess you never will,--from him," said Cap'n Jabez.
"Laziness, I guess,--too much work," said old Cap'n Billy. "What he
wants is a wife with money. There ain't a better doctor anywhere. I've
heard 't up to Boston, where he got his manifest, they thought everything
of him. He's smart enough, but he's lazy, and he always was lazy, and
harder'n a nut. He's a curious mixtur'. N'I guess he's been on the
lookout for somethin' of this kind ever sence he begun practising among
the summer boarders. Guess he's had an eye out."
"They say he's poplar among 'em," observed the storekeeper thoughtfully.
"He's been pooty p'tic'lar, or they have," said Cap'n Jabez.
"Well, most on 'em's merried women," Hackett urged. "It's astonishin'
how they do come off and leave their husbands, the whole summer long.
They say they're all out o' health, though."
"I wonder," said old Cap'n Billy, "if them coaliers is goin' to make a
settled thing of haulin' inside before they signal a pilot."
"I know one thing," answered Cap'n Jabez, "that if any coalier signals me
in the channel, I'll see her in hell first" He slipped his smooth, warm
knife into his pocket, and walked out of the store amid a general
"He's consid'ble worked up, about them coaliers," said old Cap'n Billy.
"I don't know as I've heard Jabez swear before--not since he was mate of
the Gallatin. He used to swear then, consid'able."
"Them coaliers is enough to make any one swear," said Cap'n George. "If
it's any ways fair weather they won't take you outside, and they cut you
down from twenty-five dollars to two dollars if they take you inside."
Old Cap'n Billy did not answer before he had breathed awhile, and then,
having tried his cigar and found it out, he scraped a match on his coat-
sleeve. He looked at the flame while it burned from blue to yellow.
"Well, I guess if anybody's been p'tic'lar, it's been him. There ain't
any doubt but what he's got a takin' way with the women. They like him.
He's masterful, and he ain't a fool, and women most gen'ly like a man
that ain't a fool. I guess if he 's got his eye on the girl's prop'ty,
she'll have to come along. He'd begin by havin' his own way about her
answer; he'd hang on till she said Yes, if she did n't say it first-off;
and he'd keep on as he'd begun. I guess if he wants her it's a match."
And Cap'n Billy threw his own into the square box of tobacco-stained
sawdust under the stove.
Mrs. Maynard fully shared the opinion which rocked Dr. Mulbridge's defeat
with a belief in his invincible will. When it became necessary, in the
course of events which made Grace and Libby resolve upon a short
engagement, to tell her that they were going to be married, she expressed
a frank astonishment. "Walter Libby!" she cried. "Well, I am surprised.
When I was talking to you the other day about getting married, of course
I supposed it was going to be Dr. Mulbridge. I did n't want you to marry
him, but I thought you were going to."
"And why," demanded Grace, with mounting sensation, "did you think
"Oh, I thought you would have to."
"Oh, you have such a weak will. Or I always thought you had. But
perhaps it's only a weak will with other women. I don't know! But
Walter Libby! I knew he was perfectly gone upon you, and I told you so
at the beginning; but I never dreamt of your caring for him. Why, it
seems too ridiculous."
"Indeed! I'm glad that it amuses you."
"Oh no, you're not, Grace. But you know what I mean. He seems so much
"Younger? He's half a year older than I am."
"I did n't say he was younger. But you're so very grave and he's so very
light. Well, I always told Walter Libby I should get him a wife, but you
were the last person I should have thought of. What's going to become of
all your high purposes? You can't do anything with them when you're
married! But you won't have any occasion for them, that's one comfort."
"It's not my idea of marriage that any high purpose will be lost in it."
"Oh, it is n't anybody's, before they get married. I had such high
purposes I couldn't rest. I felt like hiring a hall, as George says, all
the time. Walter Libby is n't going to let you practise, is he? You
mustn't let him! I know he'd be willing to do anything you said, but a
husband ought to be something more than a mere & Co."
Grace laughed at the impudent cynicism of all this, for she was too happy
to be vexed with any one just then. "I'm, glad you've come to think so
well of husbands' rights at last, Louise," she said.
Mrs. Maynard took the little puncture in good part. "Oh, yes, George and
I have had a good deal of light let in on us. I don't suppose my
character was much changed outwardly in my sickness," she suggested.
"It was not," answered Grace warmly. "It was intensified, that was all."
Mrs. Maynard laughed in her turn, with real enjoyment of the conception.
"Well, I wasn't going to let on, unless it came to the worst; I did n't
say much, but I kept up an awful thinking. It would have been easy
enough to get a divorce, and George would n't have opposed it; but I
looked at it in this way: that the divorce wouldn't have put us back
where we were, anyway, as I had supposed it would. We had broken into
each other's lives, and we couldn't get out again, with all the divorces
under the sun. That's the worst of getting married: you break into each
other's lives. You said something like it to me, that day when you came
back from your sail with Walter Libby. And I just concluded that there
could n't be any trial that would n't be a great deal easier to bear than
getting rid of all your trials; and I just made up my mind that if any
divorce was to be got, George Maynard might get it himself; a temporary
separation was bad enough for me, and I told him so, about the first
words I could speak. And we're going to try the new departure on that
platform. We don't either of us suspect we can have things perfectly
smooth, but we've agreed to rough it together when we can't. We've found
out that we can't marry and then become single, any more than we could
die and come to life again. And don't you forget it, Grace! You don't
half know yourself, now. You know what you have been; but getting
married lets loose all your possibilities. You don't know what a temper
you've got, nor how badly you can behave--how much like a naughty, good-
for-nothing little girl; for a husband and wife are just two children
together: that's what makes the sweetness of it, and that's what makes
the dreadfulness. Oh, you'll have need of all your good principles, I
can tell you, and if you've a mind to do anything practical in the way of
high purposes, I reckon there'll be use for them all."
Another lady who was astonished at Grace's choice was more incurably
disappointed and more grieved for the waste of those noble aims with
which her worshipping fancy had endowed the girl even more richly than
her own ambition. It was Grace's wish to pass a year in Europe before
her husband should settle down in charge of his mills; and their
engagement, marriage, and departure followed so swiftly upon one another,
that Miss Gleason would have had no opportunity to proffer remonstrance
or advice. She could only account for Grace's course on the theory that
Dr. Mulbridge had failed to offer himself; but this explained her failure
to marry him, without explaining her marriage with Mr. Libby. That
remained for some time a mystery, for Miss Gleason firmly refused to
believe that such a girl could be in love with a man so much her
inferior: the conception disgraced not only her idol, but cast shame upon
all other women, whose course in such matters is notoriously governed by
motives of the highest sagacity and judgment.
Mrs. Breen hesitated between the duty of accompanying the young couple on
their European travels, and that of going to the village where Libby's
mills were situated,--in southern New Hampshire. She was not strongly
urged to a decision by her children, and she finally chose the latter
course. The mill property had been a long time abandoned before Libby's
father bought it, and put it in a repair which he did not hasten to
extend to the village. This had remained in a sort of picturesque
neglect, which harmonized with the scenery of the wild little valley
where it nestled; and Mrs. Breen found, upon the vigorous inquiry which
she set on foot, that the operatives were deplorably destitute of culture
and drainage. She at once devoted herself to the establishment of a
circulating library and an enlightened system of cess-pools, to such an
effect of ingratitude in her beneficiaries that she was quite ready to
remand them to their former squalor when her son-in-law returned. But he
found her work all so good that he mediated between her and the
inhabitants, and adopted it with a hearty appreciation that went far to
console her, and finally popularized it. In fact, he entered into the
spirit of all practical reforms with an energy and intelligence that
quite reconciled her to him. It was rather with Grace than with him that
she had fault to find. She believed that the girl had returned from
Europe materialized and corrupted; and she regarded the souvenirs of
travel with which the house was filled as so many tokens of moral decay.
It is undeniable that Grace seemed for a time, to have softened to, a
certain degree of self-indulgence. During the brief opera season the
first winter after her return, she spent a week in Boston; she often came
to the city, and went to the theatres and the exhibitions of pictures.
It was for some time Miss Gleason's opinion that these escapades were the
struggles of a magnanimous nature, unequally mated, to forget itself.
When they met she indulged the habit of regarding Mrs. Libby with eyes of
latent pity, till one day she heard something that gave her more relief
than she could ever have hoped for. This was the fact, perfectly
ascertained by some summer sojourners in the neighborhood; that Mrs.
Libby was turning her professional training to account by treating the
sick children among her husband's operatives.
In the fall Miss Gleason saw her heroine at an exhibition of pictures.
She rushed across the main hall of the Museum to greet her.
"Congratulate you!" she deeply whispered, "on realizing your dream!
Now you are happy, now you can be at peace!"
"Happy? At peace?"
"In the good work you have taken up. Oh, nothing, under Gawd, is lost!"
she exclaimed, getting ready to run away, and speaking with her face
turned over her shoulder towards Mrs. Libby.
"Dream? Good work? What do you mean?"
"Those factory children!"
"Oh!" said Mrs. Libby coldly, "that was my husband's idea."
"Your husband's!" cried Miss Gleason, facing about again, and trying to
let a whole history of suddenly relieved anxiety speak in her eyes. "How
happy you make me! Do let me thank you!"
In the effort to shake hands with Mrs. Libby she knocked the catalogue
out of her hold, and vanished in the crowd without knowing it. Some
gentleman picked it up, and gave it to her again, with a bow of burlesque
Mrs. Libby flushed tenderly. "I might have known it would be you,
Walter. Where did you spring from?"
"I've been here ever since you came."
"What in the world doing?"
"Oh, enjoying myself."
"Looking at the pictures?"
"Watching you walk round:'
"I thought you couldn't be enjoying the pictures," she said simply."
She was not happy, indeed, in any of the aesthetic dissipations into
which she had plunged, and it was doubtless from a shrewder knowledge of
her nature than she had herself that her husband had proposed this active
usefulness, which she once intended under such different conditions. At
the end of the ends she was a Puritan; belated, misdated, if the reader
will, and cast upon good works for the consolation which the Puritans
formerly found in a creed. Riches and ease were sinful to her, and
somehow to be atoned for; and she had no real love for anything that was
not of an immediate humane and spiritual effect. Under the shelter of
her husband's name the benevolent use of her skill was no queerer than
the charity to which many ladies devote themselves; though they are
neither of them people to have felt the anguish which comes from the fear
of what other people will think. They go their way in life, and are
probably not disturbed by any misgivings concerning them. It is thought,
on one hand, that he is a man of excellent head, and of a heart so
generous that his deference to her in certain matters is part of the
devoted flattery which would spoil any other woman, but that she consults
his judgment in every action of her life, and trusts his sense with the
same completeness that she trusts his love. On the other hand, when it
is felt that she ought to have done for the sake of woman what she could
not do for herself, she is regarded as sacrificed in her marriage. If,
it is feared, she is not infatuated with her husband, she is in a
disgraceful subjection, without the hope of better or higher things. If
she had children, they might be a compensation and refuge for her; in
that case, to be sure, she must be cut off from her present resource in
caring for the children of others; though the conditions under which she
now exercises her skill certainly amount to begging the whole question of
woman's fitness for the career she had chosen.
Both parties to this contention are, strange to say, ladies. If it has
not been made clear from the events and characters of the foregoing
history which opinion is right, I am unable to decide. It is well,
perhaps, not to be too explicitly in the confidence of one's heroine.
After her marriage perhaps it is not even decorous.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A boat's like your own fireside for snugness
All treat ourselves upon a theory
Character of all-compelling lady's-novel hero
Critical spirit of a recent arrival
Delusion that because I was very unhappy I was useful
Divination of her unexpressed desires
Evasion that she never used in behalf of others
Every woman physician has a double disadvantage
Feeble sense of humor often failed to seize his intention
Husband and wife are just two children together
Intention not to tell him something she wished to tell him
Kind, without being at any moment unprofitably sympathetic
Knew when to listen and when not to listen
Laugh, which had its edge of patronage and conceit
Long to be consoled and even flattered for having been silly
New England attractive three months of the year
Raising children is mighty uncertain business
Results at war with all the precepts
She likes to share her sufferings with her friends
Short cuts through the elaborate and reluctant statements
Success looks a good deal like failure from the inside
The rule is to disturb a doctor
Titter of self-applause
Tremble at the suggestion of a change for the better
Village seemed to get afloat at last
Vouchsafed an explanation to no one
Willing another woman should forgive her husband
You must n't believe too much in doctors
FENNEL AND RUE
By William Dean Howells
The success of Verrian did not come early, and it did not come easily.
He had been trying a long time to get his work into the best magazines,
and when he had won the favor of the editors, whose interest he had
perhaps had from the beginning, it might be said that they began to
accept his work from their consciences, because in its way it was so good
that they could not justly refuse it. The particular editor who took
Verrian's serial, after it had come back to the author from the editors
of the other leading periodicals, was in fact moved mainly by the belief
that the story would please the better sort of his readers. These, if
they were not so numerous as the worse, he felt had now and then the
right to have their pleasure studied.
It was a serious story, and it was somewhat bitter, as Verrian himself
was, after his struggle to reach the public with work which he knew
merited recognition. But the world which does not like people to take
themselves too seriously also likes them to take themselves seriously,
and the bitterness in Verrian's story proved agreeable to a number of
readers unexpectedly great. It intimated a romantic personality in the
author, and the world still likes to imagine romantic things of authors.
It likes especially to imagine them of novelists, now that there are no
longer poets; and when it began to like Verrian's serial, it began to
write him all sorts of letters, directly, in care of the editor, and
indirectly to the editor, whom they asked about Verrian more than about
It was a man's story rather than a woman's story, as these may be
distinguished; but quite for that reason women seemed peculiarly taken
with it. Perhaps the women had more leisure or more courage to write to
the author and the editor; at any rate, most of the letters were from
women; some of the letters were silly and fatuous enough, but others were
of an intelligence which was none the less penetrating for being
emotional rather than critical. These maids or matrons, whoever or
whichever they were, knew wonderfully well what the author would be at,
and their interest in his story implied a constant if not a single
devotion. Now and then Verrian was tempted to answer one of them, and
under favor of his mother, who had been his confidant at every point of
his literary career, he yielded to the temptation; but one day there came
a letter asking an answer, which neither he nor his mother felt competent
to deal with. They both perceived that they must refer it to the editor
of the magazine, and it seemed to them so important that they decided
Verrian must go with it in person to the editor. Then he must be so far
ruled by him, if necessary, as to give him the letter and put himself, as
the author, beyond an appeal which he found peculiarly poignant.
The letter, which had overcome the tacit misgivings of his mother as they
read it and read it again together, was from a girl who had perhaps no
need to confess herself young, or to own her inexperience of the world
where stories were written and printed. She excused herself with a
delicacy which Verrian's correspondents by no means always showed for
intruding upon him, and then pleaded the power his story had over her as
the only shadow of right she had in addressing him. Its fascination,
she said, had begun with the first number, the first chapter, almost the
first paragraph. It was not for the plot that she cared; she had read
too many stories to care for the plot; it was the problem involved. It
was one which she had so often pondered in her own mind that she felt, in
a way she hoped he would not think conceited, almost as if the story was
written for her. She had never been able to solve the problem; how he
would solve it she did not see how she could wait to know; and here she
made him a confidence without which, she said, she should not have the
courage to go on. She was an invalid, and her doctor had told her that,
though she might live for months, there were chances that she might die
at any moment suddenly. He would think it strange, and it was strange
that she should tell him this, and stranger still that she should dare to
ask him what she was going to ask. The story had yet four months to run,
and she had begun to have a morbid foreboding that she should not live to
read it in the ordinary course. She was so ignorant about writers that
she did not know whether such a thing was ever done, or could be done;
but if he could tell her how the story was to come out he would be doing
more for her than anything else that could be done for her on earth. She
had read that sometimes authors began to print their serial stories
before they had written them to the end, and he might not be sure of the
end himself; but if he had finished this story of his, and could let her
see the last pages in print, she would owe him the gratitude she could
The letter was written in an educated hand, and there were no foibles of
form or excesses of fashion in the stationery to mar the character of
sincerity the simple wording conveyed. The postal address, with the
date, was fully given, and the name signed at the end was evidently
Verrian himself had no question of the genuineness of the letter in any
respect; his mother, after her first misgivings, which were perhaps
sensations, thought as he did about it. She said the story dealt so
profoundly with the deepest things that it was no wonder a person,
standing like that girl between life and death, should wish to know how
the author solved its problem. Then she read the letter carefully over
again, and again Verrian read it, with an effect not different from that
which its first perusal had made with him. His faith in his work was so
great, so entire, that the notion of any other feeling about it was not
"Of course," he said, with a sigh of satisfaction, "I must show the
letter to Armiger at once."
"Of course," his mother replied. "He is the editor, and you must not do
anything without his approval."
The faith in the writer of the letter, which was primary with him, was
secondary with her, but perhaps for that reason, she was all the more
firmly grounded in it.
There was nothing to cloud the editor's judgment, when Verrian came to
him, except the fact that he was a poet as well as an editor. He read in
a silence as great as the author's the letter which Verrian submitted.
Then he remained pondering it for as long a space before he said, "That
is very touching."
Verrian jumped to his question. "Do you mean that we ought to send her
the proofs of the story?"
"No," the editor faltered, but even in this decision he did not deny the
author his sympathy. "You've touched bottom in that story, Verrian. You
may go higher, but you can never go deeper."
Verrian flushed a little. "Oh, thank you!"
"I'm not surprised the girl wants to know how you manage your problem--
such a girl, standing in the shadow of the other world, which is always
eclipsing this, and seeing how you've caught its awful outline."
Verrian made a grateful murmur at the praise. "That is what my mother
felt. Then you have no doubt of the good faith--"
"No," the editor returned, with the same quantity, if not the same
quality, of reluctance as before. "You see, it would be too daring."
"Then why not let her have the proofs?"
"The thing is so unprecedented--"
"Our doing it needn't form a precedent."
"And if you've no doubt of its being a true case--"
"We must prove that it is, or, rather, we must make her prove it. I
quite feel with you about it. If I were to act upon my own impulse, my
own convictions, I should send her the rest of the story and take the
chances. But she may be an enterprising journalist in disguise it's
astonishing what women will do when they take to newspaper work--and we
have no right to risk anything, for the magazine's sake, if not yours and
mine. Will you leave this letter with me?"
"I expected to leave the whole affair in your hands. Do you mind telling
me what you propose to do? Of course, it won't be anything--abrupt--"
"Oh no; and I don't mind telling you what has occurred to me. If this is
a true case, as you say, and I've no question but it is, the writer will
be on confidential terms with her pastor as well as her doctor and I
propose asking her to get him to certify, in any sort of general terms,
to her identity. I will treat the matter delicately--Or, if you prefer
to write to her yourself--"
"Oh no, it's much better for you to do it; you can do it
"Yes, and if she isn't the real thing, but merely a woman journalist
trying to work us for a 'story' in her Sunday edition, we shall hear no
more from her."
"I don't see anything to object to in your plan," Verrian said, upon
reflection. "She certainly can't complain of our being cautious."
"No, and she won't. I shall have to refer the matter to the house--"
"Oh, will you?"
"Why, certainly! I couldn't take a step like that without the approval
of the house."
"No," Verrian assented, and he made a note of the writer's address from
the letter. Then, after a moment spent in looking hard at the letter, he
gave it back to the editor and went abruptly away.
He had proof, the next morning, that the editor had acted promptly, at
least so far as regarded the house. The house had approved his plan, if
one could trust the romantic paragraph which Verrian found in his paper
at breakfast, exploiting the fact concerned as one of the interesting
evidences of the hold his serial had got with the magazine readers. He
recognized in the paragraph the touch of the good fellow who prepared the
weekly bulletins of the house, and offered the press literary
intelligence in a form ready for immediate use. The case was fairly
stated, but the privacy of the author's correspondent was perfectly
guarded; it was not even made known that she was a woman. Yet Verrian
felt, in reading the paragraph, a shock of guilty dismay, as if he had
betrayed a confidence reposed in him, and he handed the paper across the
table to his mother with rather a sick look.
After his return from the magazine office the day before, there had been
a good deal of talk between them about that girl. Mrs. Verrian had
agreed with him that no more interesting event could have happened to an
author, but she had tried to keep him from taking it too personally, and
from making himself mischievous illusions from it. She had since slept
upon her anxieties, with the effect of finding them more vivid at waking,
and she had been casting about for an opening to penetrate him with them,
when fortune put this paragraph in her way.
"Isn't it disgusting?" he asked. "I don't see how Armiger could let them
do it. I hope to heaven she'll never see it!"
His mother looked up from the paragraph and asked,
"What would she think of me?"
"I don't know. She might have expected something of the kind."
"How expect something of the kind? Am I one of the self-advertisers?"
"Well, she must have realized that she was doing rather a bold thing."
"Venturesome," Mrs. Verrian compromised to the kindling anger in her
"I don't understand you, mother. I thought you agreed with me about the
writer of that letter--her sincerity, simplicity."
"Sincerity, yes. But simplicity--Philip, a thoroughly single-minded
girl never wrote that letter. You can't feel such a thing as I do.
A man couldn't. You can paint the character of women, and you do it
wonderfully--but, after all, you can't know them as a woman does."
"You talk," he answered, a little sulkily, "as if you knew some harm of
"No, my son, I know nothing about her, except that she is not single-
minded, and there is no harm in not being single-minded. A great many
single-minded women are fools, and some double-minded women are good."
"Well, single-minded or double-minded, if she is what she says she is,
what motive on earth could she have in writing to me except the motive
she gives? You don't deny that she tells the truth about herself?"
"Don't I say that she is sincere? But a girl doesn't always know her own
motives, or all of them. She may have written to you because she would
like to begin a correspondence with an author. Or she may have done it
out of the love of excitement. Or for the sake of distraction, to get
away from herself and her gloomy forebodings."
"And should you blame her for that?"
"No, I shouldn't. I should pity her for it. But, all the same, I
shouldn't want you to be taken in by her."
"You think, then, she doesn't care anything about the story?"
"I think, very probably, she cares a great deal about it. She is a
serious person, intellectually at least, and it is a serious story. No
wonder she would like to know, at first hand, something about the man who
This flattered Verrian, but he would not allow its reasonableness. He
took a gulp of coffee before saying, uncandidly, "I can't make out what
you're driving at, mother. But, fortunately, there's no hurry about your
meaning. The thing's in the only shape we could possibly give it, and I
am satisfied to leave it in Armiger's hands. I'm certain he will deal
wisely with it-and kindly."
"Yes, I'm sure he'll deal kindly. I should be very unhappy if he didn't.
He could easily deal more wisely, though, than she has."
Verrian chose not to follow his mother in this. "All is," he said, with
finality, "I hope she'll never see that loathsome paragraph."
"Oh, very likely she won't," his mother consoled him.
Only four days after he had seen Armiger, Verrian received an envelope
covering a brief note to himself from the editor, a copy of the letter he
had written to Verrian's unknown correspondent, and her answer in the
original. Verrian was alone when the postman brought him this envelope,
and he could indulge a certain passion for method by which he read its
contents in the order named; if his mother had been by, she would have
made him read the girl's reply first of all. Armiger wrote:
"MY DEAR VERRIAN,--I enclose two exhibits which will possess you of all
the facts in the case of the young lady who feared she might die before
she read the end of your story, but who, you will be glad to find, is
likely to live through the year. As the story ends in our October
number, she need not be supplied with advance sheets. I am sorry the
house hurried out a paragraph concerning the matter, but it will not be
followed by another. Perhaps you will feel, as I do, that the incident
is closed. I have not replied to the writer, and you need not return her
letter. Yours ever,
The editor's letter to the young lady read:
"DEAR MADAM,--Mr. P. S. Verrian has handed me your letter of the 4th, and
I need not tell you that it has interested us both.
"I am almost as much gratified as he by the testimony your request bears
to the importance of his work, and if I could have acted upon my instant
feeling I should have had no hesitation in granting it, though it is so
very unusual as to be, in my experience as an editor, unprecedented. I
am sure that you would not have made it so frankly if you had not been
prepared to guard in return any confidence placed in you; but you will
realize that as you are quite unknown to us, we should not be justified
in taking a step so unusual as you propose without having some guarantee
besides that which Mr. Verrian and I both feel from the character of your
letter. Simply, then, for purposes of identification, as the phrase is,
I must beg you to ask the pastor of your church, or, better still, your
family physician, to write you a line saying that he knows you, as a sort
of letter of introduction to me. Then I will send you the advance proofs
of Mr. Verrian's story. You may like to address me personally in the
care of the magazine, and not as the editor.
"Yours very respectfully,
The editor's letter was dated the 6th of the month; the answer, dated the
8th, betrayed the anxious haste of the writer in replying, and it was not
her fault if what she wrote came to Verrian when he was no longer able to
do justice to her confession. Under the address given in her first
letter she now began, in, a hand into which a kindlier eye might have
read a pathetic perturbation:
"DEAR SIR,--I have something awful to tell you. I might write pages
without making you think better of me, and I will let you think the worst
at once. I am not what I pretended to be. I wrote to Mr. Verrian saying
what I did, and asking to see the rest of his story on the impulse of the
moment. I had been reading it, for I think it is perfectly fascinating;
and a friend of mine, another girl, and I got together trying to guess
how he would end it, and we began to dare each other to write to him and
ask. At first we did not dream of doing such a thing, but we went on,
and just for the fun of it we drew lots to see which should write to him.
The lot fell to me; but we composed that letter together, and we put in
about my dying for a joke. We never intended to send it; but then one
thing led to another, and I signed it with my real name and we sent it.
We did not really expect to hear anything from it, for we supposed he
must get lots of letters about his story and never paid any attention to
them. We did not realize what we had done till I got your letter
yesterday. Then we saw it all, and ever since we have been trying to
think what to do, and I do not believe either of us has slept a moment.
We have come to the conclusion that there was only one thing we could do,
and that was to tell you just exactly how it happened and take the
consequences. But there is no reason why more than one person should be
brought into it, and so I will not let my friend sign this letter with
me, but I will put my own name alone to it. You may not think it is my
real name, but it is; you can find out by writing to the postmaster here.
I do not know whether you will publish it as a fraud for the warning of
others, but I shall not blame you if you do. I deserve anything.
"JERUSHA PEREGRINE BROWN."
If Verrian had been an older man life might have supplied him with the
means of judging the writer of this letter. But his experience as an
author had not been very great, and such as it was it had hardened and
sharpened him. There was nothing wild or whirling in his mood, but in
the deadly hurt which had been inflicted upon his vanity he coldly and
carefully studied what deadlier hurt he might inflict again. He was of
the crueller intent because he had not known how much of personal vanity
there was in the seriousness with which he took himself and his work. He
had supposed that he was respecting his ethics and aesthetics, his ideal
of conduct and of art, but now it was brought home to him that he was
swollen with the conceit of his own performance, and that, however well
others thought of it, his own thought of it far outran their will to
honor it. He wished to revenge himself for this consciousness as well as
the offence offered him; of the two the consciousness was the more
His mother, dressed for the street, came in where he sat quiet at his
desk, with the editor's letters and the girl's before him, and he mutely
referred them to her with a hand lifted over his shoulder. She read
them, and then she said, "This is hard to bear, Philip. I wish I could
bear it for you, or at least with you; but I'm late for my engagement
with Mrs. Alfred, as it is--No, I will telephone her I'm detained and
we'll talk it over--"
"No, no! Not on any account! I'd rather think it out for myself. You
couldn't help me. After all, it hasn't done me any harm--"
"And you've had a great escape! And I won't say a word more now, but
I'll be back soon, and then we--Oh, I'm so sorry I'm going."
Verrian gave a laugh. "You couldn't do anything if you stayed, mother.
"Well--" She looked at him, smoothing her muff with her hand a moment,
and then she dropped a fond kiss on his cheek and obeyed him.
Verrian still sat at his desk, thinking, with his burning face in his
hands. It was covered with shame for what had happened to him, but his
humiliation had no quality of pity in it. He must write to that girl,
and write at once, and his sole hesitation was as to the form he should
give his reply. He could not address her as Dear Miss Brown or as Dear
Madam. Even Madam was not sharp and forbidding enough; besides, Madam,
alone or with the senseless prefix, was archaic, and Verrian wished to be
very modern with this most offensive instance of the latest girl.
He decided upon dealing with her in the third person, and trusting to his
literary skill to keep the form from clumsiness.
He tried it in that form, and it was simply disgusting, the attitude
stiff and swelling, and the diction affected and unnatural. With a quick
reversion to the impossible first type, he recast his letter in what was
now the only possible shape.
"MY DEAR MISS BROWN,--The editor of the American Miscellany has
sent me a copy of his recent letter to you and your own reply, and
has remanded to me an affair which resulted from my going to him
with your request to see the close of my story now publishing in his
"After giving the matter my best thought, I have concluded that it
will be well to enclose all the exhibits to you, and I now do this
in the hope that a serious study of them will enable you to share my
surprise at the moral and social conditions in which the business
could originate. I willingly leave with you the question which is
the more trustworthy, your letter to me or your letter to him, or
which the more truly represents the interesting diversity of your
nature. I confess that the first moved me more than the second,
and I do not see why I should not tell you that as soon as I had
your request I went with it to Mr. Armiger and did what I could to
prompt his compliance with it. In putting these papers out of my
hands, I ought to acknowledge that they have formed a temptation to
make literary use of the affair which I shall now be the better
fitted to resist. You will, of course, be amused by the ease with
which you could abuse my reliance on your good faith, and I am sure
you will not allow any shame for your trick to qualify your pleasure
in its success.
"It will not be necessary for you to acknowledge this letter and its
enclosures. I will register the package, so that it will not fail
to reach you, and I will return any answer of yours unopened, or, if
not recognizably addressed, then unread.
"P. S. VERRIAN."
He read and read again these lines, with only the sense of their
insufficiency in doing the effect of the bitterness in his heart. If the
letter was insulting, it was by no means as insulting as he would have
liked to make it. Whether it would be wounding enough was something that
depended upon the person whom he wished to wound. All that was proud and
vain and cruel in him surged up at the thought of the trick that had been
played upon him, and all that was sweet and kind and gentle in him, when
he believed the trick was a genuine appeal, turned to their counter
qualities. Yet, feeble and inadequate as his letter was, he knew that
he could not do more or worse by trying, and he so much feared that by
waiting he might do less and better that he hurried it into the post at
once. If his mother had been at hand he would have shown it her,
though he might not have been ruled by her judgment of it. He was glad
that she was not with him, for either she would have had her opinion of
what would be more telling, or she would have insisted upon his delaying
any sort of reply, and he could not endure the thought of difference
He asked himself whether he should let her see the rough first draft of
his letter or not, and he decided that he would not. But when she came
into his study on her return he showed it her.
She read it in silence, and then she seemed to temporize in asking,
"Where are her two letters?"
"I've sent them back with the answer."
His mother let the paper drop from her hands. "Philip! You haven't sent
"Yes, I have. It wasn't what I wanted to make it, but I wished to get
the detestable experience out of my mind, and it was the best I could do
at the moment. Don't you like it?"
"Oh--" She seemed beginning to say something, but without saying anything
she took the fallen leaf up and read it again.
"Well!" he demanded, with impatience.
"Oh, you may have been right. I hope you've not been wrong."
"She deserved the severest things you could say; and yet--"
"Perhaps she was punished enough already."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't like your being-vindictive."
"Being so terribly just, then." She added, at his blank stare, "This is
He gave a bitter laugh. "I don't think it will kill her. She isn't that
"She's a girl," his mother said, with a kind of sad absence.
"But not a single-minded girl, you warned me. I wish I could have taken
your warning. It would have saved me from playing the fool before myself
and giving myself away to Armiger, and letting him give himself away.
I don't think Miss Brown will suffer much before she dies. She will 'get
together,' as she calls it, with that other girl and have 'a real good
time' over it. You know the village type and the village conditions,
where the vulgar ignorance of any larger world is so thick you could cut
it with a knife. Don't be troubled by my vindictiveness or my justice,
mother! I begin to think I have done justice and not fallen short of it,
as I was afraid."
Mrs. Verrian sighed, and again she gave his letter back to her son.
"Perhaps you are right, Philip. She is probably so tough as not to feel
it very painfully."
"She's not so tough but she'll be very glad to get out of it so lightly.
She has had a useful scare, and I've done her a favor in making the scare
a sharp one. I suppose," Verrian mused, "that she thinks I've kept
copies of her letters."
"Yes. Why didn't you?" his mother asked.
Verrian laughed, only a little less bitterly than before. "I shall begin
to believe you're all alike, mother."
I didn't keep copies of her letters because I wanted to get her and her
letters out of my mind, finally and forever. Besides, I didn't choose.
to emulate her duplicity by any sort of dissimulation.
"I see what you mean," his mother said. "And, of course, you have taken
the only honorable way."
Then they were both silent for a time, thinking their several thoughts.
Verrian broke the silence to say, "I wish I knew what sort of 'other
girl' it was that she 'got together with.'"
"Because she wrote a more cultivated letter than this magnanimous
creature who takes all the blame to herself."
"Then you don't believe they're both the same?"
"They are both the same in stationery and chirography, but not in
"I hope you won't get to thinking about her, then," his mother entreated,
intelligibly but not definitely.
"Not seriously," Verrian reassured her. "I've had my medicine."
Continuity is so much the lesson of experience that in the course of a
life by no means long it becomes the instinctive expectation. The event
that has happened will happen again; it will prolong itself in a series
of recurrences by which each one's episode shares in the unending history
of all. The sense of this is so pervasive that humanity refuses to
accept death itself as final. In the agonized affections, the shattered
hopes, of those who remain, the severed life keeps on unbrokenly, and
when time and reason prevail, at least as to the life here, the defeated
faith appeals for fulfilment to another world, and the belief of
immortality holds against the myriad years in which none of the
numberless dead have made an indisputable sign in witness of it. The
lost limb still reports its sensations to the brain; the fixed habit
mechanically attempts its repetition when the conditions render it
Verrian was aware how deeply and absorbingly he had brooded upon the
incident which he had done his utmost to close, when he found himself
expecting an answer of some sort from his unknown correspondent. He
perceived, then, without owning the fact, that he had really hoped for
some protest, some excuse, some extenuation, which in the end would
suffer him to be more merciful. Though he had wished to crush her into
silence, and to forbid her all hope of his forgiveness, he had, in a
manner, not meant to do it. He had kept a secret place in his soul where
the sinner against him could find refuge from his justice, and when this
sanctuary remained unattempted he found himself with a regret that he had
barred the way to it so effectually. The regret was so vague, so
formless, however, that he could tacitly deny it to himself at all times,
and explicitly deny it to his mother at such times as her touch taught
him that it was tangible.
One day, after ten or twelve days had gone by, she asked him, "You
haven't heard anything more from that girl?"
"What girl?" he returned, as if he did not know; and he frowned. "You
mean the girl that wrote me about my story?"
He continued to frown rather more darkly. "I don't see how you could
expect me to hear from her, after what I wrote. But, to be categorical,
I haven't, mother."
"Oh, of course not. Did you think she would be so easily silenced?"
"I did what I could to crush her into silence."
"Yes, and you did quite right; I am more and more convinced of that. But
such a very tough young person might have refused to stay crushed. She
might very naturally have got herself into shape again and smoothed out
the creases, at least so far to try some further defence."
"It seems that she hasn't," Verrian said, still darkly, but not so
"I should have fancied," his mother suggested, "that if she had wanted to
open a correspondence with you--if that was her original object--she
would not have let it drop so easily."
"Has she let it drop easily? I thought I had left her no possible chance
of resuming it."
"That is true," his mother said, and for the time she said no more about
Not long after this he came home from the magazine office and reported to
her from Armiger that the story was catching on more and more with the
best class of readers. The editor had shown Verrian some references to
it in newspapers of good standing and several letters about it.
"I thought you might like to look at the letters," Verrian said, and he
took some letters from his pocket and handed them to her across the
lunch-table. She did not immediately look at them, because he went on to
add something that they both felt to be more important. "Armiger says
there has been some increase of the sales, which I can attribute to my
story if I have the cheek."
"That is good."
"And the house wants to publish the book. They think, down there, that
it will have a very pretty success--not be a big seller, of course, but
Mrs. Verrian's eyes were suffused with pride and fondness. "And you can
always think, Philip, that this has come to you without the least
lowering of your standard, without forsaking your ideal for a moment."
"That is certainly a satisfaction."
She kept her proud and tender gaze upon him. "No one will ever know as I
do how faithful you have been to your art. Did any of the newspapers
recognize that--or surmise it, or suspect it?"
"No, that isn't the turn they take. They speak of the strong love
interest involved in the problem. And the abundance of incident.
I looked out to keep something happening, you know. I'm sorry I didn't
ask Armiger to let me bring the notices home to you. I'm not sure that I
did wisely not to subscribe to that press-clippings bureau."
His mother smiled. "You mustn't let prosperity corrupt you, Philip.
Wouldn't seeing what the press is saying of it distract you from the real
aim you had in your story?"
"We're all weak, of course. It might, if the story were not finished;
but as it is, I think I could be proof against the stupidest praise."
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