Martie The Unconquered
Part 3 out of 8
Tell him she still loved him!
Martie delivered none of these airy messages. She secretly marvelled
at the happiness that could blind Sally to a memory of Pa, and Pa's
"Listen, Martie," said Sally, when for a moment the sisters were
alone, "it wasn't so sudden as you think, my marrying Joe!" She
stopped, interrupted by some thought, and added impulsively, "Isn't
it STRANGE, Mart, that we might have missed each other; it makes us
both just SHIVER to think of it! Well"--and with a visible effort
the little wife brought herself down from a roseate cloud to
realities again--"if--if Lyd had married Cliff Frost," she said
uncertainly, "I never should have DARED marry Joe!"
"Or if I had married Rodney Parker, Sally?" Martie added steadily.
"Well--" The colour flew to Sally's face. "As it was," she went on a
little hurriedly, "I just--couldn't bear to go on and on, it made me
desperate! And I thought Pa and Ma's way is no good, our house never
seems to have much happiness in it--and I'm going to get OUT! There
never was a place like this for good times, and babies, and jokes,
and company to dinner!" smiled Sally, looking about the Hawkeses'
But then Sally was born devoid of a social sense, mused Martie,
walking home. What would life be without it--she wondered. No
affectations, no barriers, no pretenses--
"Flout me not, Sweet!" said some one at her side. She looked up into
the beaming eyes of Wallace Bannister. "Don't you remember me--I'm
the city feller that came here breakin' all hearts awhile back!"
"You idiot!" Martie laughed, too. "I thought you were miles away!"
"Well, judging by your expression, darling, you were miles away,
too," said the irrepressible Wallace. "How are you, Brunhilde? Ich
liebe dich! Yes'm, we ought to be miles away, but to tell you the
honest truth, the season is simply ROTTEN here on the coast. We've
bust up, for the moment, but dry those tears. Here's my contract for
seven weeks in San Francisco--seven plays. Sixty bones per week;
pretty neat, what? We begin rehearsing in July, open August eighth,
and if it's a go, go on indefinitely. The Cluetts and I are in this-
-the rest of the company's gone flooey. Meanwhile, I have three
weeks to wait, and I'm staying with my aunt in Pittsville studying
"And what are you doing in Monroe?" Martie said contentedly, as they
"I came here a week ago to change some shoes," said Wallace, "and I
saw you. So to-day I came and made you a formal call."
"You did NOT!" Martie ejaculated, laughing.
"Why didn't I? I fell down eleven steps into your garden, knocked on
the front door, knocked on the side door, talked to some one called
'Ma,' talked to some one called 'Lydia,' and learned that Miss
Martha Brunhilde Monroe was out for a sashay. There!"
"Well--for goodness sake!" Martie was conscious of flushing. From
that second she grew a little self-conscious. He was a funny
creature. He would have been unusually handsome, she thought, if it
were not for a certain largeness--it was not quite coarseness--of
feature. He would have been extraordinarily charming, decided
Martie, but for that same quality in his manner; recklessness,
carelessness. She knew he was not always telling the truth; these
honours, these affairs, these fascinating escapades were not all his
own. His exaggerated expressions of affection for herself were only
a part of this ebullient sense of romance. But he was amusing.
"Bon soir, papillon!" he said at her gate. "How about a meet to-
morrow? Tie a pink scarf to thy casement if thy jailer sleeps.
Seriously, leave us meet, kid. Leave us go inter Bonestell's with
the crowd--watto? I'll wait for youse outside the Library at three."
"With the accent on the WAIT," said Martie significantly. But she
did not think of Rodney that evening. She thought of Sally and of
Fortunately for her, it did not occur to her father to cross-examine
her on any other event of the day except the circumstance that she
had been seen walking with an unknown young man. This was food for
"I don't like it, my daughter," said Malcolm, rubbing his shins
together and polishing his glasses as he sat by the fire. "I don't
like it at all. I don't like this tendency to permit familiarities
with this young man and that young man--all very well for a while,
but not the sort of thing a young man chooses in a WIFE."
Martie, looking at him respectfully, as she placed a red Queen on a
black King, felt in her heart that she would like to kill him.
The next afternoon she decided to clean the chicken house, one of
the tasks in which her strange nature delighted. To splash about
with hose and broom, tip over the littered drinking trough, wash
cobwebs from the windows with a well-directed stream of water; in
these things Martie found some inexplicable satisfaction. She went
upstairs after luncheon to get into old clothes, came down half an
hour later with her best hat on, walked straight out of the gate and
Wallace was waiting, elated at her punctuality. Martie explaining
her fear that some one might report their meeting to her father,
they waited openly at Masset's corner, boarded the half-past three
o'clock trolley, and went to Pittsville.
Pittsville was two miles away, but this adventure had all the charm
of foreign travel to Martie. Every house interested her, the main
street of the little town might have been Broadway in New York. The
people looked different, she said. She and Wallace laughed their way
through the Five-and-Ten-Cent Store, enjoyed a Floradora Special
composed of bananas, ice cream, nuts, whipped cream, maple syrup,
and cherries, and finally bought six cream puffs and carried them to
Sally's delight was almost tearful. She led Martie rapturously over
her domain: the little bedroom spotless and sunshiny in the summer
afternoon; the microscopic kitchen scented with the baked apples
that HAD burned a little and the cookies that would NOT brown; the
living-and-dining room that was at once so bare and so rich. It was
a home, Martie realized dimly, and Sally was a person at last. The
younger sister peeped interestedly into spice-tins and meat safe;
three eggs were in a small yellow bowl, two thin slices of bacon on
a plate. In the bread box was half a loaf of bread and one cut
"Sally, it must be fun!" said Martie. "All this doll's house for six
dollars a month!"
"Oh--fun!" Sally was rapturous beyond words. She gave them pale, hot
cookies; the cream puffs would delight Joe.
The three laughed and feasted happily; Martie with a new sense of
freedom and independence that exhilarated her like wine.
"Find us a nice little place like this, sister," said Wallace.
"Martie loves me, Sarah. Their lips met in one long, rapturous kiss.
The girls laughed joyously. Martie went home at five, Wallace
accompanying her. She told her father that night that she had been
in the Library.
The next day she did clean the chicken house, and did go down to
spend the afternoon with Miss Fanny. But freedom danced in her
veins; on the third afternoon she and Wallace took a long walk, and
stopped to see Dr. Ben, and, sitting on two barrels behind the old
railway station, ate countless cherries and apricots. Again--and
again--they went to Pittsville. Sally was in their confidence and
feasted them in the little flat or went with them on their innocent
From their third meeting, it was cheerfully taken for granted that
Wallace and Martie belonged to each other. Martie never knew what he
really felt, any more than he dreamed of the girlish amusement and
distrust in which she held him. They flirted only, but they swiftly
found life uninteresting when apart. They never talked of marriage,
yet every time they parted it was reluctantly, and never without
definite plans for another immediate meeting. Wallace began to
advise Martie not to eat the rich things that made her sick; Martie
counselled him about his new suit, and listened, uneasy and ashamed,
to a brief, penitential reference to "crazy" things he had done, as
a "kid." He promised her never to drink again and incidentally told
her that his real name was Edward Tenney. Suddenly they found the
plural pronoun: we must do that; that doesn't interest us; Pa must
not suspect our affair.
"The Cluetts are going to be in Pittsville," said Wallace one day.
"I want you to meet them. You'll like Mabel; she's got two little
kids. She and Jesse have been married only six years. And they'll
like you, too; I've told 'em you're my girl!"
"Am I?" said Martie huskily. They were alone in Sally's little
house, and for answer he put his arms about her. "Do you love me,
Wallace?" she asked.
The question, the raised blue eyes, fired him to sudden passion.
They kissed each other blindly, with shut eyes. After that, whenever
they might, they kissed, and sometimes Martie, ignorant and
innocent, wondered why the memory of his hot lips worried her a
There was nothing wrong in kissing! Martie still said to herself
that of course they would not marry; yet when she was with Wallace
she loved the evidences of her power over him, and seemed unable, as
he was unable, to keep from the constant question: "Do you love me?"
In late June the Cluetts--pretty faded Mabel, her two enormous
babies, her stepson Lloyd, and Jesse, the husband and father--all
came to Pittsville for a few days' leisure before rehearsals began.
Lloyd was a "light juvenile," off as well as on the stage. Jesse
played father, judge, guardian, prime minister, and old family
doctor in turn. Mabel, rouged and befrilled, still made an
attractive foil for Wallace as the hero. Martie liked them all;
their chatter of the fairyland of the stage, their trunks plastered
with labels, their fine voices, their general air of being
incompetent children adrift in a puzzling world. Deep laughter
stirred within her when they spoke of business or of finance.
They talked frankly, in their three cheap rooms at the "Pittsville
White House," before Wallace's girl. Jesse was pompous; Lloyd
boyishly fretful; Mabel, patient, sympathetic, discouraged, and
sanguine by turns. Martie was enraptured by the babies: Bernadette,
a crimped heavy little brunette of five, and Leroy delicious at
three months in limp little flannel wrappers.
"I'll tell you what, Miss Monroe--I'm going to call you Martha--"
said Mabel, "I'm just about sick of California. I'm not a
Californian; little old New York for mine. I first seen the light of
day at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Sixteenth Street, and I wish
to the good Lord I was there now. You'll never get a fair deal in
Frisker, if any one should ride up on a bike and ask you, dear. We
were doing very good last fall when little Mister Man here decided
to join the party--after that I was simply no good! The box receipts
have fell off steadily since we put that awful girl in. Don't leave
that heavy child paralyze your limbs--she'll set there forever like
an immidge, if you go on telling her stories!"
"I am amused--genuinely amused at the circumstances under which you
find us, Miss Monroe," said Jesse Cluett with a dignified laugh.
"And my friends in the East would be equally surprised. Professional
pride brought me West, the pride of a man whose public demands one
or two favoured parts from him, year after year. My three or four
successes were a great gratification to me; not only the public, but
my fellow actors at the Lambs, assured me that my future was MADE.
'Made?--no,' I said. 'No. I have no wish to become a one-part man.'
To John Drew I said--I met him going into the Club-'H'ar you,
Jesse?' he said. ... Oh, yes; we are warm friends, old friends. I
played for two years with John Drew. Very brilliant actor--in some
ways. And that is only one instance of the enthusiastic appreciation
to which I am accustomed. ... Are we going to eat, my dear?" For
Mrs. Cluett, who in her hospitable enthusiasm over Martie had taken
a little spirit lamp from the washstand and placed a full kettle
over the flame, was now looking about her in a vague, distressed
sort of way.
"It's going out," said she blankly. Philosophically, Jesse put his
wide-brimmed hat over his loose curls and, straightening his
shoulders, walked mincingly out for alcohol with the younger men.
Mrs. Cluett spread a small, spotted fringed cloth on a trunk,
setting on it a cut and odorous lemon a trifle past its prime and a
sticky jar of jam. Martie continued to cuddle Leroy and tell
Bernadette a fairy tale. She found the crowded, tawdry bedroom
delightfully cosy, especially when the men came back with graham
crackers and cheese and spongy, greasy bakery doughnuts.
They all laughed when Wallace asked for the rat-trap's delight; and
when Lloyd dropped a cruller on the floor and thumped his heel to
show its weight; and when Wallace said: "Don't jam or jar Miss
Monroe, Jesse!" But when, in retort for this latest witticism,
Martie said: "Put your hand where it hurts, Wallace, and show Mama";
the laughter changed to actual shrieks of mirth; Jesse indulging in
a deep "ha-ha-ha!" and Mabel hammering her heels madly together and
sobbing put faintly that she should die--she should simply DIE!
Martie almost missed the five o'clock trolley, but Wallace pushed
her upon the moving platform at the last possible moment, and she
laughed and gasped blindly half the way home, accepting his help
with her disordered hair and hat. When she finally raised her face,
and somewhat shamefacedly eyed the one or two other occupants of the
car, she saw Rose sitting opposite, a neat and interested Rose in
her trousseau tailor-made.
Uncomfortable, Martie bowed, and Rose responded sweetly, presently
patting the seat beside her with an inviting glove. Somewhat
surprised at this unexpected graciousness, Martie and her escort
crossed the car.
"No, MRS.--not Miss!" Rose contradicted Wallace merrily, looking up
at him prettily. "I know I'm not very imposing, but I'm a really
truly old married lady!"
"This is Mrs. Rodney Parker, Wallace," Martie said. Instantly she
was pleasantly conscious that her easy use of this actor's name was
a surprise to Rose, and for the first time a definite pride in
possession seized her. He might not be perfection, but he was hers.
"Is that so!" Wallace exclaimed, with new interest in eyes and
voice. "Gosh--what fun we had that night! Do you remember the night
we had oysters, and sat in that little place gassing for two hours?
You know," said he, in a confidential aside to Rose, "Martie's a
wonder when she gets started!"
"Isn't she?" Rose responded politely. "That was before I met my
husband, I think," she added, "or rather re-met him, for years ago
Mr. Parker and I---"
But Wallace, amused by the discussion that had arisen between the
conductor and a Chinese who was getting on the car, interrupted
abruptly to call Martie's attention to the affair, and Rose's
reminiscence was lost. She said, with her good-byes, that Mr.
Bannister must come and dine with them.
"Gosh, I see myself!" ejaculated Wallace ungratefully, as he walked
with Martie to the gate. "I never could stand that ass Parker!"
"Don't you think she's very pretty, Wallace?"
"Oh, I don't know! I don't care much for those dolly women. I like
red hair and big women, myself. Listen, Martie. To-morrow---"
No more was said of Rose. Martie wondered why she liked to hear
Rodney Parker called an ass.
Malcolm Monroe came home for luncheon every day except Wednesday,
which made Wednesday for the women of the family the easy day of the
week. Their midday meal, never elaborate or formal, was less formal
and even simpler on this day; conversation was more free, and time
For several days after Sally's extraordinary marriage Mrs. Monroe
had wept continually, and even her always mild and infrequent
attempts at conversation had been silenced. Later, she and Lydia had
long and mournful discussions of the event, punctuating them with
heavy sighs and uncomprehending shaking of their heads. That a
Monroe in her senses could stoop to a Hawkes was a fact that would
never cease to puzzle and amaze, and what the town was saying and
thinking in the matter was an agonized speculation to Mrs. Monroe
and Lydia. "Socially, of course," said Lydia, "we will never hold up
our heads again!"
But as the days went by and the divorce of the young Mulkeys, and
the new baby at Mrs. Hughie Wilson's, and the Annual Strawberry
Festival and Bazaar for the Church Debt came along to make the
gossip about Sally and Joe of secondary interest, Sally's mother and
sister revived. They came to take a bitter-sweet satisfaction in the
sympathy and interest that were shown on all sides.
Martie was not often at home in these days. "She fairly lives at the
Library, and she takes long walks, I imagine, Ma," Lydia said once.
"You know Martie misses---she's lonely. And then--there was, of
course, the feeling about Rodney. It's just Martie's queer way of
But on the hot Wednesday morning that brought in July Martie, with a
clear conscience, was baking gingerbread. She had improved in manner
and habit, of late, displaying an unwonted interest in the care of
herself and her person, and an unwonted energy in discharging
She was buttering pans vigorously, and singing "The Two Grenadiers,"
when Lydia came into the kitchen.
"Martie, Pa just came in the gate. Isn't that maddening! We'll have
to give him something canned; he hates eggs. Can't you make some
drop cakes of that batter so they'll be done?"
"Sure I can!" Martie snatched a piece of paper to butter. "But what
brings him home?"
"Why, I haven't the faintest---" Lydia was beginning, when her
father's voice came in a shout from the dining room:
Terror seized Martie, her mouth watered saltly, her knees touched,
and a chill shook her. The hot day turned bleak. She and Lydia
exchanged a sick look before Martie, trembling, crossed the pantry,
littered by Lydia's silver polish and rags, and went in to face the
furious old man on the hearthrug. Malcolm was quivering so violently
that his own fear seemed to be that he would lose his voice before
he had gained his information. Martie was vaguely conscious that her
mother, frightened and pale, was in the room, and that Len had come
to the hall doorway.
"Martie," said her father, breathing hard, "where were you yesterday
"At Alice Clark's Five Hundred with Lyd---" the girl was beginning
innocently. He cut her short with an impatient shake of the head.
"I don't mean yesterday! Where were you on Monday?"
"Monday? Why, Mama and I walked down to Bonestell's."
"Yes, we did, Pa! Yes, we did!" quavered Mrs. Monroe. "Oh, Pa, WHAT
"And then what did you do?" he pursued blackly, turning to his wife.
"Why--why, Martie said she was going to go over to Pittsville and
back, just for the ride--just to stay on the trolley, Pa!" explained
"Martie," thundered her father, "when you went to Pittsville you saw
your sister, didn't you?"
Martie's head was held erect. She was badly frightened, but
conscious through all her fear that there was a certain satisfaction
in having the blow fall at last.
"Yes, sir," she gulped; she wet her lips. "Yes, sir," she said
"You admit it?" said Malcolm, his eyes narrowing.
Lydia, pale and terrified, had come in from the kitchen. Now she
"Oh, Pa, don't--don't blame Martie for that! You know what the girls
always were to each other--I don't mean to be impertinent, Pa--do
forgive me!--but Martie and Sally always---" "One moment, Lydia,"
said her father, with a repressive gesture, the veins blue on his
forehead. "JUST--ONE--MOMENT." And, panting, he turned again to
Martie. "Yes, and who else did you see in Pittsville?" he whispered,
his voice failing.
Martie, breathing fast, her bright eyes fixed upon him with a sort
of fascination, did not answer.
"I'll tell you who you saw," said Malcolm at white heat. "I'll tell
you! You met this young whippersnapper Jackanapes--what's his name--
this young one-night actor---"
"Do you mean Mr. Wallace Bannister?" Martis asked with a sort of
Lydia and her mother gasped audibly in the silence. Malcolm moved
his eyes slowly from his youngest daughter's face to his wife's, to
Lydia's, and back to Martie again. For two dreadful moments he
studied her, an ugly smile touching his harsh mouth.
"You don't deny it," he said, after the interval, in a shaking
voice. "You don't deny that you've been disobeying me and lying to
me for weeks? Now I tell you, my girl--there's been enough of this
sort of thing going on in this family. You couldn't get the man you
wanted, so, like your sister, you pick up---"
Martie laughed briefly and bitterly. The sound seemed to madden him.
For a moment he watched her, his head dropped forward like a
"Understand me, Martie," he said. "I'll break that spirit in you--if
it takes the rest of my life! You'll laugh in a different way! My
God--am I to be the laughing-stock of this entire town? Is a girl
your age to---"
"Pa!" sobbed Mrs. Monroe. "Do what you think best, but don't--DON'T
excite yourself so!"
Her clutching fingers on his arm seemed to soothe in through all his
fury. He fell silent, still panting, and eying Martie belligerently.
"You--go to your room!" he commanded, pointing a shaking finger at
her. "Go upstairs with your sister, Lydia, and bring me the key of
her door. When I decide upon the measure that will bring this young
lady quickest to her senses, I'll let her know. Meanwhile---"
"Oh, Pa, you needn't lock Martie in," quivered Lydia, "she'll stay--
won't you, Martie?"
Martie, like a young animal at bay, stood facing them all for a
breathless moment. In that time the child that had been in her,
through all these years of slow development, died. Anger went out of
her eyes, and an infinite sadness filled them. A quick tremble of
her lips and a flutter at her nostrils were the only signs she gave
of the tears she felt rising. She flung one arm about her mother and
kissed the wet, faded cheek.
"Good-bye, Ma," she said quickly. In another instant she had crossed
to the entrance hall, blindly snatched an old soft felt hat from the
rack, caught up Len's overcoat, and slipped into it, and was gone.
Born in that moment of unreasoning terror, her free soul went with
The streets were flooded with hot summer sunshine, the sky almost
white. Not a breeze stirred the thick foliage of the elm trees on
Main Street as Martie walked quickly down to the Bank.
It was Rodney Parker who gave her her money; the original seventeen
dollars and fifty cents had swelled to almost twenty-two dollars
now. Martie hardly saw the gallant youth who congratulated her upon
her becoming gipsy hat; mechanically she slipped her money into a
pocket, mechanically started for the road to Pittsville.
Five minutes later she boarded the half-past twelve o'clock trolley,
coming in excited and exultant upon Sally who was singing quietly
over a solitary luncheon. The girls laughed and cried together.
"The funny thing is, I am as free as air!" Martie exclaimed, her
cheeks glowing from the tea and the sympathy and the warm room. "But
I never knew it! If Pa had gotten on that trolley, I think I would
have fainted with shock. But what could he do? I am absolutely FREE,
Sally--with twenty-one dollars and eighty-one cents!"
"I wish you had a husband---" mused Sally.
"I'd rather have a job," Martie said with a quick, bright flush
nevertheless. "But I think I know how to get one. Mrs. Cluett is
going to be playing steadily now, and after this engagement they're
going to try very hard to get booked in New York. She's got to have
SOME ONE to look out for the children."
"But Martie---" Sally said timidly, "you'd only be a sort of
"Well, that's the only thing I know anything about," Martie answered
simply. "It might lead to something---"
"Then you and Wallace aren't---?" Sally faltered. "There's nothing
Martie could not control the colour that swept up to the white
parting of her hair, but her mouth showed new firmness as she
"Sally--I don't know. Of course, I like him--how could I help it?
We're awfully good chums; he's the best chum I ever had. But he
never--well, he never asked me. Sally"--Martie rested her elbows on
the table, and her chin on her hands--"Sally, would you marry him?"
"If I loved him I would," said Sally.
"Yes, but did you KNOW you loved Joe?" Martie asked. Sally was
"Well--not so much--before--as after we were married," she said
hesitatingly, after a pause.
Martie suddenly sprang up.
"Well, I'm going to see Mrs. Cluett!"
"I'll go, too," said Sally, "and we'll stop at the express office
and tell Joe!"
Mrs. Cluett was alone with her children when the callers went in,
and even Martie's sensitive heart could have asked no warmer
reception of her plan.
The little actress kissed Sally, and kissed Martie more than once,
brimming over with interest and sympathy.
"Dearie, it ain't much of a start for you, but it is a start!" said
Mabel warmly over the head of the nursing baby. "And you'll get your
living and your railroad fares out of it, anyway! It'll be an
ackshal godsend to Mr. Cluett and me, for the children have took to
you something very unusual. We'll have elegant times going around
together, and you'll never be sorry."
These cheering sentiments Jesse echoed when he came in with Lloyd a
few minutes later.
"Much depends upon our future contracts, Miss Monroe," said he, "but
I will go so far as to say this. Should you some time desire to try
the calling that Shakespeare honoured, the opportunity will not be
This threw Sally, Martie, and Mabel into transports. It now being
after three o'clock tea was proposed.
And now Martie busied herself happily as one belonging to the little
establishment. Sally had taken rapturous possession of Leroy. Mabel
lighted the alcohol lamp. Martie, delayed by the affectionate
Bernadette, shook out the spotted cloth, and cut the stale cake.
They were all absorbed and chattering when Wallace Bannister opened
the door. At sight of him Martie straightened up, the long knife in
one hand, Bernadette's sticky little fingers clinging to the other.
The news was flung at him excitedly. Martie had left home--she was
never going back--she had only twenty dollars and an old coat and
hat--she was going to stay with Mabel for the present---
"What's this sweet dream about staying with Mabel?" Wallace said,
bewildered, reproachful, definite. He came over to Martie and put
one arm about her. "Look here, folks," he said, almost indignantly,
"Martie's my girl, aren't you, Martie? We're going to be married
right now, this afternoon; and hereafter what I do, she does--and
where I go, she goes!"
The love in his eyes, the love in all their watching faces, Martie
never forgot. Like a great river of warmth and sunshine it lifted
her free of her dry, thirsty girlhood; she felt the tears of joy
pressing against her eyes. There was nothing critical, nothing
calculating, nothing repressing here; her lover wanted her, just as
she stood, penniless, homeless, without a dress except the blue
gingham she wore!
The glory of it lighted with magic that day and the days to come.
They laughed over the pretty gipsy hat, over Len's coat, over the
need of borrowing Mabel's brush and comb. With Joe and Sally, they
all dined together, and wandered about the village streets in the
summer moonlight; then Martie went to bed, too happy and excited to
sleep, in Bernadette's room, wearing a much-trimmed nightgown of
Mabel's. It had been decided that the marriage should take place in
San Francisco, Wallace sensibly suggesting that there would be less
embarrassing questioning there, and also that Martie's money might
be spent to better advantage in the city.
Martie's trunk came to Sally's house the next morning, unaccompanied
by message or note, and three days later Martie wrote her mother a
long letter from a theatrical boarding-house in Geary Street,
sending a copy of the marriage certificate of Martha Salisbury
Monroe to Edward Vincent Tenney in Saint Patrick's Church, San
Francisco, and observing with a touch of pride that "my husband" was
now rehearsing for an engagement of seven weeks at sixty dollars a
week. There was no answer.
For days it was her one triumphant thought. She was married! She was
splendidly and unexpectedly a wife. And her life partner was no mere
Monroe youth, and her home was not merely one of the old, familiar
Monroe cottages. She was the wife of a rising actor, and she lived
in the biggest city of the State!
Martie exulted innocently and in secret. She reviewed the simple
fact again and again. The two Monroe girls were married. A dimple
would deepen in her cheek, a slow smile tug at her lips, when she
thought of it. She told Wallace, in her simple childish way, that
she had never really expected to be married; she thought that she
would like to go back to Monroe for a visit, and let her old friends
see the plain gold ring on her big, white hand.
Everything in Martie's life, up to this point, had helped her to
believe that marriage was the final step in any woman's experience.
A girl was admired, was desired, and was married, if she was,
humanly speaking, a success. If she was not admired, if no one asked
her in marriage, she was a failure. This was the only test.
Martie's thoughts never went on to the years that followed marriage,
the experiences and lessons; these were all lost in the golden glow
that surrounded the step safely accomplished. That the years between
thirty and fifty are as long as the years between ten and thirty,
never occurred to her. With the long, dull drag of her mother's life
before her eyes, she never had thought that Rose's life, that
Sally's life, as married women, could ever be long and dull. They
were married--doubt and surmise and hope were over. Lydia and Miss
Fanny were not married. Therefore, Rose and Sally and Martie had an
obvious advantage over Lydia and Fanny.
It was a surprise to her to find life placidly proceeding here in
this strange apartment in Geary Street, as if all the world had not
stopped moving and commenced again. The persons she met called her
"Mrs. Bannister" with no visible thrill. Nobody seemed surprised
when she and the big actor quietly went into their room at night and
shut the door.
She had fancied that the mere excitement of the new life filled all
brides with a sort of proud complacency; that they felt superior to
other human beings, and secretly scorned the unwed. It was
astonishing to find herself still concerned with the tiny questions
of yesterday: the ruffle torn on the bureau, the little infection
that swelled and inflamed her chin, the quarter of a dollar her
Chinese laundryman swore he had never received. It was always
tremendously thrilling to have Wallace give her money: delightful
gold pieces such as even her mother seldom handled. She felt a naive
resentment that so many of them had to be spent for what she called
"uninteresting" things: lodging and food and car fares. They seemed
so more than sufficient, when she first touched them; they melted so
mysteriously away. She felt that there should be great saving on so
generous an allowance, but Wallace never saved, nor did any of his
friends and associates.
So that a sense of being baffled began to puzzle her. She was
married now; the great question of life had been answered in the
affirmative. But--but the future was vague and unsettled still. Even
married persons had their problems. Even the best of husbands
sometimes left a tiny something to be desired.
Husbands, in Martie's dreams, were ideal persons who laughed
indulgently at adored wives, produced money without question or
stint, and for twenty or fifty years, as the span of their lives
might decree, came home appreciatively to delicious dinners,
escorted their wives proudly to dinner or theatre, made presents,
paid compliments, and disposed of bills. That her mother had once
perhaps had some such idea of her father did not occur to her.
"Lissen, dear, did I wake you up?" said Mrs. Wallace Bannister,
coming quietly into the sitting room that connected her bedroom with
that of Mrs. Jesse Cluett, in the early hours of an August morning.
"No--o! This feller wakes me up," Mrs. Cluett said, yawning and
pale, but cheerful. She indicated the fat, serious baby in her arms.
"Honest, it's enough to kill a girl, playing every night and Sunday,
and trying to raise children!" she added, manipulating her flat
breast with ringed fingers to meet the little mouth.
"I wish I could either have the baby nights, or play your parts!"
laughed Martie, reaching lazily for manicure scissors and beginning
to clip her nails, as she sat in a loose, blue kimono opposite the
"Dearie, you'll have your own soon enough!" Mabel answered
gratefully. "It won't be so hard long. They get so's they can take
care of themselves very quick. Look at Dette--goodness knows where
she's been ever since she got up. She must of drunk her milk and
eaten her san'wich, because here's the empty glass. She's playing
somewhere; she's all right."
"Oh, sure--she's all right!" Martie said, smiling lazily. And as
Leroy finished his meal she put out her arms. "Come to Aunt Martie,
Baby. Oh, you--cunnin'--little--scrap, you!"
"You'd ought to have one, Mart," said Mabel affectionately.
The wife of a month flushed brightly. With her loosened bronze braid
hanging over her shoulder, her blue eyes soft with happiness, and
her full figure only slightly disguised by the thin nightgown and
wrapper she wore, she looked the incarnation of potent youth and
"I'd love it," she said, burying her hot cheeks in the little space
between Leroy's fluffy crown and the collar of his soggy little
"I love 'em, too," Mabel agreed. "But they cert'ny do tie you down.
Dette was the same way--only I sort of forgot it."
"If this salary was going to keep up, I'd like a dozen of 'em!"
"Well, Wallace ought to do well," Mabel conceded. "But of course,
you can't be sure. My idea is to plunge in and HAVE them,
regardless. Things'll fit if they've GOT to."
"That's the NICEST way," Martie said timidly. She had married,
knowing nothing of wifehood and motherhood, except the one fact that
the matter of children must be left entirely to chance. But she did
not like to tell Mabel so.
She sat on in the pleasant morning sunshine, utterly happy, utterly
at ease. The baby went to sleep as the two women murmured together.
Outside the lace-curtained windows busy Geary Street had long been
astir. Wagons rattled up and down; cable-cars clanged. Sunlight had
already conquered the summer fog. It was nine o'clock.
Mabel was enjoying tea and toast, but Martie refused to join her. If
every hour had not been so blissful the young wife would have said
that the happiest time of the day was when she and Wallace wandered
out into the sunshine together for breakfast.
Presently she slipped away to take the bath that was a part of her
morning routine now, and to wake Wallace. With his tumbled hair, his
flushed face and his pale blue pajama jacket open at the throat
Martie thought him no more than a delightful, drowsy boy. She sat on
the edge of the bed beside him, teasing him to open his eyes.
"Ah--you darling!" Wallace was not too sleepy to appreciate her
cool, fresh kisses. "Oh, Lord, I'm a wreck! What time is it?"
"Nearly ten. You've had ten hours' sleep, darling. I don't know what
you WANT!" Martie answered--at the bureau now, with the glory of her
hair falling about her.
While they dressed they talked; delicious irrelevant chatter
punctuated with laughter and kisses. The new stock company was a
success, and Wallace working hard and happily. At ten the young
Bannisters went forth in search of breakfast, the best meal of the
Martie loved the city: Market Street, Kearney Street, Union Square.
She loved the fresh breath of the morning in her face. She always
had her choice of flowers at the curb market about Lotta's fountain,
pinning a nodding bunch of roses, Shasta daisies, pansies, or
cafnations at the belt of her white shirtwaists. They went to the
Vienna Bakery or to Swain's for their leisurely meal, unless Wallace
was hungry enough to beg for the Poodle Dog, or they felt rich
enough for the Palace. Now and then they walked out of the familiar
neighbourhood and tried a strange restaurant or hotel--but not
Usually Martie had Swain's famous toasted muffins for her breakfast,
daintily playing with coffee and fruit while Wallace disposed of
cereal, eggs and ham, and fried potatoes. She used to marvel that he
never grew fat on this hearty fare; sometimes he had sharp touches
Over their meal they talked untiringly, marvelling anew at the
miracle of their finding each other. Martie learned her husband's
nature as if it had been a book. Sensitive here--evasive there; a
little coarse, perhaps, a little simple. However surprising his
differences it was for her to adapt herself. She was almost glad
when his unconscious demands required of her the smallest sacrifice;
getting so much, how glad she was to give!
After breakfast, when Wallace was not rehearsing and they were free
to amuse themselves, they prowled through the Chinese quarter, and
through the Italian colony. They rode on windy "dummies" out to the
beach, and went scattering peanut shells along the wet sands. They
visited the Park, the Mint, and the big baths, or crossed to Oakland
or Sausalito, where Martie learned to swim. Martie found Wallace
tireless in his appetite for excursions, and committed herself
cheerfully to his guidance. Catching a train, they rejoiced; missing
it, they were none the less happy.
Twice a week a matinee performance brought Wallace to the Granada
Theatre at one o'clock. On other days, rehearsals began at eleven
and ended at three or occasionally as late as four. The theatre life
charmed Martie like a fairy tale. She never grew tired of its
It was gratifying in the first place to enter the door marked
"Stage" with a supplementary legend, NO ADMITTANCE, and pass the old
doorkeeper who knew and liked her. The dark passages beyond,
smelling of escaping gas and damp straw, of unaired rooms and
plumbing and fresh paint, were perfumed with romance to her, as were
the little dressing rooms with old photographs stuck in the loosened
wallpaper and dim initials scratched on the bare walls, and odd wigs
and scarfs and paint jars littering the shelves. Wallace making up
his face was an exalted being in the eyes of his wife.
When the play began, she took her station in the wings--silent,
unobtrusive, eager to keep out of everybody's way, eager not to miss
a word of the play. The man over her head, busy with his lights; the
one or two shirt-sleeved, elderly men who invariably stood
dispassionately watching the performance; the stage-hands; the
various members of the cast: for all these she had a smile, and
their answering smiles were Martie's delight.
"Take off ten pounds, Martie, and Bellew will give you a show some
time!" said Maybelle La Rue, who was Mabel Cluett in private life.
Martie gasped at the mere thought. She determined to diet.
A few months before, she had supposed that social intercourse was a
large factor in the actor's life, that midnight suppers were shared
by the cast, and that intimacy of an unconventional if harmless
nature reigned among them. Now, with some surprise, she learned that
this was not the case. The actors, leaving the play at different
moments, quietly got into their street clothes and disappeared; so
that Mabel and Wallace, usually holding the stage for the last few
moments by reason of their respective parts of maid and lover, often
left a theatre empty of performers except for themselves. Jesse
would frequently reach home enough earlier to be sound asleep when
his wife rushed in to seize her hungry and fretting baby. Little
Leroy spent the early evening in Martie's bed; one of the maids in
the house being paid in Mabel's old finery for coming to look at the
children now and then.
At intervals the Bannisters and the Cluetts did have little after-
theatre suppers, but Martie was heroically dieting, Mabel tired and
sleepy, and both gentlemen somewhat subject to indigestion. So
Martie and Wallace more often went alone, Martie drinking bouillon
and nibbling a cracker, and her husband devouring large orders of
coffee and scrambled eggs.
They had been married perhaps eight weeks when Wallace astonished
her by drinking too much. She had always fancied herself too broad-
minded to resent this in the usual wifely way, but the fact angered
her, and she suffered over the incident for days.
It was immediately after the termination of his successful
engagement, and he and the Cluetts were celebrating the inauguration
of a rest. With two or three other members of the cast, they went to
dine at the Cliff House, preceding the dinner with several cocktails
apiece. There was a long wait for the planked steak, during which
time more cocktails were ordered; Martie, who had merely tasted the
first one, looking on amiably as the others drank.
Presently Mabel began to laugh unrestrainedly, much to Martie's
half-comprehending embarrassment. The men, far from seeming to be
shocked by her hysteria, laughed violently themselves.
"Time f'r 'nother round cocktails!" Jesse said. Martie turned to her
"Wallace! Don't order any more. Not until we've had some solid food,
anyway. Can't you see that we don't need them?"
"What is it, dear?" Wallace moved his eyes heavily to look at her.
His face was flushed, and as he spoke he wet his lips with his
tongue. "Whatever you say, darling," he said earnestly. "You have
only to ask, and I will give you anything in my power. Let me know
what you wish---"
"I want you not to drink any more," Martie said distressedly.
"Why not, Martie--why not, li'l girl?" Wallace asked her
caressingly. He put his arm about her shoulders, breathing hotly in
her face. "Do you know that I am crazy about you?" he murmured.
"If you are," Martie answered, with an uncomfortable glance about
for watching eyes, "please, please---!"
"Martie," he said lovingly, "do you think I am drinking too much?"
"Well--well, I think you have had enough, Wallace," she stammered.
"Dearie, I will stop if you say so," he answered, "but you amuse me.
I am just as col' sober---" And, a fresh reinforcement of cocktails
having arrived, he drank one off as he spoke, setting down the
little empty glass with a long gasp.
After that the long evening was an agony to Martie. Mabel laughed
and screamed; wine was spilled; the food was wasted and wrecked.
Wallace's face grew hotter and hotter. Jesse became sodden and
sleepy; champagne packed in a bucket of ice was brought, and Martie
saw Wallace's gold pieces pay for it.
It was not an unusual scene. She had looked on at just such scenes,
taking place at the tables all about her, more than once in the last
few weeks. Even now, this was not the only group that had dined less
wisely than well. But the shame of it, the fear of what might happen
before Wallace was safely at home in bed, sickened Martie to the
She went to the dressing room with Mabel, who was sick. Presently
they were all out in a drizzling rain, stumbling their way up the
hill and blundering aboard a street car. Two nice, quiet women on
the opposite seat watched the group in shocked disgust; Martie felt
that she would never hold up her head again. Wallace fell when they
got off, and his hat rolled in the mud. Martie tried to help him,
somehow got him upstairs to his room, somehow got him into bed,
where he at once fell asleep, and snored.
It was just eleven o'clock. Martie washed her face, and brushed her
hair, and sat down, in a warm wrapper, staring gloomily at the
unconscious form on the bed. She could hear Mabel and Jesse laughing
and quarrelling in the room adjoining. Presently Mabel came in for
the baby, who usually slept in Martie's room during the earlier part
of the night, so that his possible crying would not disturb
"Poor Wallace--he is all in, down and out!" Mabel said, settling
herself to nurse the baby. She looked flushed and excited still, but
was otherwise herself. "He certainly was lit up like a battleship,"
she added in an amused voice; "as for me, I'm ashamed of myself--I'm
always that way!"
Martie's indignant conviction was that Mabel might indeed be ashamed
of herself, and this airy expression of what should have been
penitence too deep for words, gave her a curious shock.
"They all do it," said Mabel, smiling after a long yawn, "and I
suppose it's better to have their wives with 'em, than to have 'em
go off by themselves!"
"They all SHOULDN'T do it!" Martie answered sombrely.
"Well, no; I suppose they shouldn't!" Mabel conceded amiably. She
carried the baby away, and Martie sat on, gazing sternly at the
Half an hour passed, another half hour. Martie had intended to do
some serious thinking, but she found herself sleepy.
After a while she crept in beside her husband, and went to sleep,
her heart still hot with anger.
But when the morning came she forgave him, as she was often to
forgive him. What else could she do? The sunlight was streaming into
their large, shabby bedroom, cable cars were rattling by, fog
whistles from the bay penetrated the soft winter air. Martie was
healthily hungry for breakfast, Wallace awakened good natured and
"You were a darling to me last night, Mart," he said appreciatively.
Martie had not known he was awake. She turned from her mirror,
regarding him steadily between the curtains of her shining hair.
"And you're a darling not to rub it in," Wallace pursued.
"I WOULD rub it in," Martie said in a hurt voice, "if I thought it
would do any good!"
Wallace sat up, and pressed his hands against his forehead.
"Well, believe me--that was the last!" he said fervently. "Never
"Oh, dearest," Martie said, coming to sit beside him, "I hope you
mean that!" That he did mean it, they both believed.
Half an hour later, when they went out to breakfast, she was in her
happiest mood. The little cloud, in vanishing, had left the sky
clearer than before. But some little quality of blind admiration and
faith was gone from her wifeliness thereafter.
In December the stock company had a Re-engagement Extraordinary, and
Martie got her first part. It was not much of a part--three lines--
but she approached it with passionate seriousness, and when the
first rehearsal came, rattled off her three lines so glibly that the
entire jaded company and the director enjoyed a refreshing laugh. At
the costumier's, in a fascinating welter of tarnished and shabby
garments, she selected a suitable dress, and Wallace coached her,
made up her face, and prompted her with great pride. So the tiny
part went well, and one of the papers gave a praising line to
"Junoesque Miss Salisbury." These were happy days. Martie loved the
odorous, dark, crowded world behind the scenes, loved to be a part
of it. This was living indeed!
And Sally was expecting a baby! Martie laughed aloud from sheer
excitement and pleasure when the news came. It was almost like
having one herself; in one way even more satisfactory, because she
was too busy now to be interrupted. She spent the first money she
had ever earned in sending Sally a present for the baby; smiling
again whenever she pictured Sally was showing it to old friends in
Monroe: "From Martie; isn't it gorgeous?"
The weeks fled by. Wallace began to talk of moving to New York. It
was always their dream. Instinctively they wanted New York. Their
talk of it, their plans for it, were as enthusiastic as they were
ignorant, if Wallace could only get the chance to play on Broadway!
That seemed to both of them the goal of their ambition. Always
hopeful of another part, Martie began to read and study seriously.
She had much spare time, and she used it. From everybody and
everything about her she learned: a few German phrases from the
rheumatic old man whose wife kept the lodging house; Juliet's lines
and the lines of Lady Macbeth from Mabel's shabby books; and
something of millinery from the little Irishwoman who kept a shop on
the corner, with "Elise" written across its window. She learned all
of Wallace's parts, and usually Mabel's as well. Often she went to
the piano in the musty parlour of the Geary Street house and played
"The Two Grenadiers" and "Absent." She brimmed with energy; while
Wallace or Mabel wrangled with the old costumier, Martie was busily
folding and smoothing the garments of jesters and clowns and Dolly
Vardens. She had a curious instinct for trade terms; she could not
buy a yard of veiling without an eager little talk with the
saleswoman; the chance phrase of a conductor or the woman in the
French laundry amused and interested her.
Away from all the repressing influences of her childhood, healthy
and happy, she met the claims of the new state with a splendid and
unthinking passion. To yield herself generously and supremely was
the only natural thing; she had no dread and no regret. From the old
life she brought to this hour only an instinctive reticence, so that
Mabel never had the long talks and the short talks she had
anticipated with the bride, and never dared say a word to Martie
that might not have been as safely said to Bernadette.
On A hot Sunday in early March Martie came back from church to find
Wallace gone. She had had no breakfast, but had stopped on the way
home to get six enormous oranges in a paper bag. The heat had given
her a stupid headache, and she felt limp and tired. It was delicious
to undress, to climb into the smoothed bed, and to sink back against
A bulky newspaper, smelling of printer's ink, was on the chair
beside her bed, but Martie did not open it for a while. Serious
thoughts held her. Opening her orange, she said to herself, with a
little flutter at her heart, that it must be so. She was going to
have a baby!
Fear and pride shook her. It seemed a tremendous thing; not at all
like the other babies other women had been having since time began.
She could not believe it--of herself, Martie Monroe, who had been an
ignorant girl only a few months ago!
Yet she had been vaguely suspecting the state of affairs for more
than a week; when morning after morning found her languid and weary,
when Wallace's fork crushing an egg-yolk had given her a sudden
sensation of nausea. She felt so stupid, so tired all the time. She
could not sleep at night; she could hardly stay awake in the
Her eyes were heavy now. She glanced indifferently at the newspaper,
smiled a contented little smile, and, murmuring, "I wonder--I
wonder--" and fell into delicious sleep.
She slept for a long time. Wallace, coming in at two o'clock,
awakened her. Afternoon sunlight was streaming into the room, which
was scented with the decaying sweetness of orange peel. Dazed and
stupid, yet dreamily content, Martie smiled upon him. He hated
Sunday rehearsals: she could see that he was in a bad mood, and his
obvious effort to think of her and to disguise his own feeling
"Tired?" she asked affectionately. "Isn't it hot?"
"How are you?" Wallace questioned in turn. "You felt so rotten
He sat down beside her, and pushed the dark hair from his big
forehead, and she saw that his face was damp and pale.
"Fine!" she assured him, laying her hand over his.
They remained so for a full minute, Wallace staring gloomily at
nothing, Martie's eyes idly roving about the room. Then the man
reached for a section of the paper, glanced at it indifferently, and
flung it aside.
"There wasn't any rehearsal this morning," he observed after a
pause. He cleared his throat self-consciously before speaking and
Martie, glancing quickly at him, saw that he intended the statement
to have a significance.
"Where were you then?" she asked duly.
"I was--I was--" He hesitated, expelling a long breath suddenly.
"Something came up," he amended, "and I had to see about it."
"What came up?" Martie pursued, more anxious to set his mind at
rest, than curious.
"Well--it all goes back to some time ago, Mart; before I knew you,"
Wallace said, in a carefully matter-of-fact tone. But she could see
that he was troubled, and a faint stir of apprehension shook her own
"Money?" she guessed quickly.
"No," he said reassuringly, "nothing like that!"
He got up, and restlessly circled the room, drawing the shade that
was rattling gently at the window, flinging his coat across a chair.
Then he went back, and sat down by the bed again, locking his
dropped hands loosely between his knees, and looking steadily at the
worn old colourless carpet.
"You see this Golda--" he began.
"Golda who?" Martie echoed.
"This girl I've been talking to this morning," Wallace supplied
impatiently; "Golda White."
"Who is she?" Martie asked, bewildered, as his heavy voice stopped
on the name.
"Oh, she's a girl I used to know! I haven't seen her for eight or
ten years--since I left Portland, in fact."
"But who IS she, Wallie?" Martie had propped herself in pillows, she
was wide awake now, and her voice was firm and quick.
"Well, wait and I'll tell you, I'll tell you the whole thing. I
don't believe there's anything in it, but anyway, I'll tell you, and
you and I can sort of talk it over. You see I met this girl in
Portland, when I was a kid in my uncle's lumber office. I was about
twenty-two or three, and she was ten years older than that. But we
ran with the same crowd a lot, and I saw her all the time---"
"She was in the office?"
"Sure. She was Uncle Chester's steno. She was a queer sort of girl;
pretty, too. I was sore because my father made me work there, and I
wanted to join the navy or go to college, or go on the stage, and
she'd sit there making herself collars and things, and sort of
console me. She was engaged to a fellow in Los Angeles, or she said
"We liked each other all right, she'd tell me her troubles and I'd
tell her mine; she had a stepfather she hated, and sometimes she'd
cry and all that. The crowd began to jolly us about liking each
other, and I could see she didn't mind it much---"
"Perhaps she loved you, Wallie?" Martie suggested on a quick,
"You bet your life she loved me!" he affirmed positively.
"Poor girl!" said the wife in pitying anticipation of a tragedy.
"Don't call her 'poor girl!'" Wallace said, his face darkening.
"She'll look out for herself. There's a lot of talk," he added with
a sort of dull resentment, "about 'leading young girls astray,' and
'betraying innocence,' and all that, but I want to tell you right
now that nine times out of ten it's the girls that do the leading
astray! You ask any fellow---"
The expression on Martie's face did not alter by the flicker of an
eyelash. She had been looking steadily at him, and she still stared
steadily. But she felt her throat thicken, and the blood begin to
pump convulsively at her heart.
"But Wallace," she stammered eagerly, "she wasn't--she wasn't---"
"Sure she was!" he said coarsely; "she was as rotten as the rest of
"But--but---" Martie's lips felt dry, her voice failed her.
"I was only a kid, I tell you," said Wallace, uneasily watching her.
"Why, Mart," he added, dropping on his knees beside the bed, and
putting his arms about her, "all boys are like that! Every one knows
it. There isn't a man you know---And you're the only girl I ever
loved, Sweetheart, you know that. Men are different, that's all. A
boy growing up can't any more keep out of it---And I never lied to
you, Mart. I told you when we were engaged that I wished to God, for
your sake, that I'd never---"
"Yes, I know!" Martie whispered, shutting her eyes. He kissed her
suddenly colourless cheek, and she heard him move away.
"Well, to go on with the rest of this," Wallace resumed suddenly.
Martie opened tired eyes to watch him, but he did not meet her look.
"Golda and I went together for about a year," he said, "and finally
she got to talking as if we were going to be married. One day--it
was a rainy day in the office, and I had a cold, and she fixed me up
something hot to drink--she got to crying, and she said her
stepfather had ordered her out of the house. I didn't believe it
then, and I don't believe it now, but anyway, we talked it all over,
and she said she was going down to Los Angeles and hunt up this
other fellow. Well, that made me feel kind of sick, because we had
been going together for so long, and her talking about how things
would be when we were married and all that, and I said--you know the
way you do--'What's the matter with us getting married, right now?'"
Martie's face was fixed in a look of agonized attention: she made no
"She said we wouldn't have anything to live on," Wallace pursued,
not looking at his wife, "and that she wanted to take a rest when
she got married, and have a little fun. Well, I says, we can keep it
quiet for awhile. Well, we talked about it that day, and after that
we would kind of josh about it, and finally one day we walked over
to the bureau and got out a license, and the Justice of the Peace---
"Wallie--my God!" Martie breathed.
"Well, listen!" he urged her impatiently. "I put a wrong age on the
license and so did she, and she had told me a lot of lies about
herself, as I found out later, Martie---"
"So that it wasn't legal!"
"Well, listen. After that we went on with the crowd for a few weeks,
and we didn't tell anybody. And then this Dr. Prendergast turned up-
"WHAT Dr. Prendergast!"
"I don't know who he was--a dentist anyway. And he had known Golda
before, somewhere, and he was crazy about her. His wife was getting
a divorce, it seems; anyway, he butted right in, and she let him. I
don't think she had awfully good sense, she would act sort of crazy
sometimes, as if she didn't know what she was doing. Well, I told
her I wouldn't stand for that, and we had some fights. But just then
my dad wrote and told me that he would finance me for a year at
Stanford, and I began to think I'd like to cut the whole bunch. So I
said to Golda: 'I'm done. I'm going to get out! You keep your mouth
shut, and I'll keep mine!' She says, 'Leon'--that was Prendergast--
'is going to marry me, and you'll talk before I do!' So---"
"But what, dearie?"
"But it wasn't left that way?"
"Now, listen, dearie. Of course it wasn't! She and Prendergast were
going to leave town, a few days later, but I was kind of worried
about it, and I finally told my uncle the whole story. Of course he
blew up! He sent for her, and she came right in, scared to death. He
told her that he'd give away the whole story to Prendergast, or else
he'd give her a check for five hundred dollars on her wedding day.
She fell for it, and we said good-bye. She swore it was only a sort
of joke anyway, and that the day we--we did it, she'd been filling
me up with whisky lemonades and all that, and that the whole thing
was off. And let me tell you that I was glad to beat it! I never saw
her again until this morning! I went on the stage, and changed my
name because the leading lady in that show happened to be Thelma
Tenney. About a month later my uncle wrote me that she had sent him
a newspaper notice of her marriage, and he had sent her the check.
I'll never forget reading that letter. I'd been worrying myself
black in the face, but that day I went on a bust, I can tell you!"
"That marriage would cancel the other?" Martie asked, with a dry
"Sure it would!" he said easily.
"But now--now---" she pursued fearfully.
"Now she's turned up," he said, a shadow falling on his heavy face
again. "She was at the theatre last night. God knows what she's been
doing all these years; she looks awful. She saw my picture in some
paper, and she came straight to the city. She found out where I
lived, and this morning, while you were at church, Mabel came in and
said a lady wanted to see me. I took her to breakfast. I didn't know
what to do with her--and we talked."
"And what does she say, Wallie--what does she want?"
"Oh, she wants anything she can get! She doesn't know that I'm
married. If she did, I suppose she might make herself unpleasant
along that line!"
"But she has no claim on you! She married another man!"
"She says now that she never was married to Prendergast!"
"But she WAS!" Martie said hotly. Her voice dropped vaguely. Her
eyes were fixed and glassy with growing apprehension. "Perhaps she
was lying about that," she whispered, as if to herself.
"She'd lie about anything!" Wallace supplied.
"But if she wasn't, Wallace, if she wasn't--then would that second
marriage cancel the first?" she asked feverishly.
"I should THINK so!" he answered. "Shouldn't you?"
"Shouldn't _I_?" she echoed, with her first flash of anger. "Why,
what do _I_ know about it? What do _I_ know about it? I don't know
anything! You come to me with this now--NOW!"
"Don't talk like that!" he pleaded. "I feel--I feel awfully about
it, Martie! I can't tell you how I feel! But the whole thing was so
long ago it had sort of gone out of my mind. Every fellow does
things that he's ashamed of, Mart--things that he's sorry for; but
you always think that you'll marry some day, and have kids, and that
the world will go on like it always has---"
The fire suddenly died out of Martie. In a deadly calm she sat back
against her pillows, and began to gather up her masses of loosened
"If she is right---" she began, and stopped.
"She's not right, I tell you!" Wallace said. "She hasn't got a leg
to stand on!"
"No," Martie conceded lifelessly, patiently. "But if she SHOULD be
"But I tell you she isn't, Mart!"
"Yes, I know you do." The deadly gentleness was again in her voice.
"I know you do!" she repeated mildly. "Only--only---" Her lip
trembled despite her desperate effort, she felt her throat thicken
and the tears come.
Instantly he was beside her again, and with her arms still raised
she felt him put his own arms about her, and felt his penitent
kisses through the veil of her hair. A sickness swept over her: they
were here in the sacred intimacy of their own room, the room to
which he had brought her as a bride only a few months before.
She freed herself with what dignity she could command. He asked her
a hundred times if she loved him, if she could forgive him. Her one
impulse was to silence him, to have him go away.
"I know--I know how you feel, Wallie! I'm sorry--for you and myself,
and the whole thing! I'm terribly sorry! I--I don't know what we can
do. I have to go away, of course; I can't stay here until we know;
and you'll have to investigate, and find out just what she claims.
I'll go to Sally, I suppose. People can think I've come up to help
when the baby comes--I don't care what they think!"
"I thought you might go to Oakland for awhile," he agreed,
gratefully; "but of course it'll be best to have you go to Sally--
it'll only be for a few days. Mart, I feel rotten about it!"
"I know you do, Wallace," she answered nervously.
"To spring this on you--it's just rotten!"
Martie was silent. Her mind was in a whirl.
"Will you go out?" she asked simply. "I want to dress."
"What do you want me to go out for?" he asked, amazed.
Again his wife was silent. Her cheeks were bright scarlet, her eyes
hard and dry. She looked at him steadily, and he got clumsily to his
"Sure I'll go out!" he said stupidly. "I'll do anything you want me
to. I feel like a skunk about this--it had sort of slipped my mind,
Mart! Every fellow lets himself in for something like this."
Trapped. It was the one thought she had when he was gone, and when
she had sprung feverishly from bed, and was quickly dressing.
Trapped, in this friendly, comfortable room, where she had been so
happy and so proud! She had been so innocently complacent over her
state as this man's wife, she had planned for their future so
courageously. Now she was--what? Now she was--what?
Just to escape somehow and instantly, that was the first wild
impulse. He was gone, but he was coming back: he must not find her
here. She must disappear, nobody must ever find her. Sally and her
father, Rose and Rodney must never know! Martie Monroe, married to a
man who was married before, disgraced, exiled, lost. Nobody knew
that she was going to have a baby, but Monroe would surmise that.
Oh, fool--fool--fool that she had been to marry him so! But it was
too late for that. She must face the situation now, and fret over
the past some other day.
She had felt the thought of a return to Monroe intolerable: but
quickly she changed her mind. Sally's home might be an immediate
retreat, she could rest there, and plan there. Her sister was
eagerly awaiting an answer to the letter in which she begged Martie
to come to her for the month of the baby's birth.
Martie, packing frantically, glanced at the clock. It was two
o'clock now, she could get the four o'clock boat. She would be in
peaceful Monroe at seven. And after that---?
After that she did not know. Should she ever return to Wallace,
under any circumstances? Should she tell Sally? Should she hide both
Wallace's revelations and the morning's earlier hopes of motherhood?
Child that she was, she could not decide. She had had no preparation
for these crises, she was sick with shock and terror. Married to a
man who was already married--and perhaps to have a baby!
But she never faltered in her instant determination to leave him. If
she was not his wife, at least she could face the unknown future far
more bravely than the dubious present. If she had been wrong, she
would not add more wrong.
With her bag packed, and her hat pinned on, she paused, and looked
about the room. The window curtain flapped uncertainly, a gritty
wind blew straight down Geary Street. The bed was unmade, the sweet
orange peels still scented the air.
Martie suddenly flung her gloves aside, and knelt down beside her
bed. She had an impulse to make her last act in this room a prayer.
Wallace, pale and quiet, opened the door, and as she rose from her
knees their eyes met. In a second they were in each other's arms,
and Martie was sobbing on his shoulder.
"Mart--my darling little girl! I'm so sorry!"
"I know you are--I know you are!"
"It's only for a few days, dearie--until I settle her once and for
"And then you'll come back, and we'll go have Spanish omelette at
the Poodle Dog, won't we?"
"Oh, Wallie, darling, I hope--I hope we will!"
She gasped on a long breath, and dried her eyes.
"How much money have you got, dearie?"
"About--I don't know. About four dollars, I think."
"Well, here--" He was all the husband again, stuffing gold pieces
into her purse. "You're going down to the four boat? I'll take you
down. And wire me when you get there, Martie, so I won't worry. And
tell Sally I wish her luck, I'll certainly be glad to hear the
news." They were at the doorway; he put his arm about her. "You DO
love me, Mart?"
"Oh, Wallie---!" The tender moment, following upon her hour of
lonely agony, was almost too much. "We--we didn't think--this would
be the end of our happy time, did we?" she stammered. And as they
kissed again, both faces were wet with tears.
Sally met her; a Sally ample of figure and wonderful in complexion.
All the roses of spring were in Sally's smiling face; she laughed
and rejoiced at their meeting with a certain quality of ease and
poise for which Martie was puzzled to account, but which was new to
quiet, conventional Sally. Sally was in the serene mood that
immediately precedes motherhood; all the complex elements of her
life were temporarily lapped in a joyous peace. Of Martie's hidden
agony she suspected nothing.
She took Martie to the tiny house by the river; the plates and
spoons and pillow-slips looked strange to Martie, and for every one
of them Sally had an amused history. Martie felt, with a little
twinge of pain, that she would have liked a handsomer home for
Sally, would have liked a more imposing husband than the tired,
dirty, boyish-looking Joe, would have liked the first Monroe baby to
come to a prettier layette than these plain little slips and
flannels; but Sally saw everything rose-coloured. They had almost no
money, she told Martie, with a happy laugh. Already Sally, who had
been brought up in entire ignorance of the value of money, was
watching the pennies. Never had there been economy like this in Pa's
Sally kept house on a microscopic scale that amused and a little
impressed Martie. Every apple, every onion, was used to the last
scrap. Every cold muffin was reheated, or bit of cold toast was
utilized. When Carrie David brought the young householders a roasted
chicken, it was an event. The fowl was sliced and stewed and minced
and made into soup before it went into the family annals to shine
forevermore as "the delicious chicken Cousin Carrie brought us
before the baby was born." Sally's cakes were made with one egg, her
custards reinforced with cornstarch, her cream was only "top milk."
Even her house was only half a house: the four rooms were matched by
four other rooms, with only a central wall between. But Sally had a
square yard, and a garden, and Martie came to love every inch of the
little place, so rich in happiness and love.
The days went on and on, and there was no word of Wallace. Martie's
heart was like lead in her breast. She talked with Sally, set
tables, washed dishes, she laughed and planned, and all the while
misgivings pressed close about her. Sometimes, kneeling in church in
the soft warm afternoons of early spring, she told herself that if
this one cup were taken from her lips, if she were only proved to be
indeed an honourable wife, she would bear with resignation whatever
life might bring. She would welcome poverty, welcome humiliations,
welcome the suffering and the burden of the baby's coming--but dear
Lord, dear Lord, she could not face the shame that menaced her now!
Sally saw the change in her, the new silence and gravity, and
"Martie, dearest, something's worrying you?"
"Nothing much, dear. Wallace--Wallace doesn't write to me as often
as I should like!"
"You didn't quarrel with him, Mart?"
"Oh, no--he's the best husband in the world. We never quarrel."
"But it's not like you to fret so," Sally grieved. Presently she
ventured a daring question: "Has it ever occurred to you, Mart, that
Martie laughed shakily.
"The way you and Grace wish babies on to people--it's the limit!"
Sally laughed, too, and if she was unconvinced, at least she said no
more. She encouraged Martie to take long walks, to help with the
housework, and finally, to attempt composition. Sitting at the clean
little kitchen table, in the warm evenings, Martie wrote an article
upon the subject of independence for women.
For a few days she laboured tirelessly with it: then she tired of
it, and flung it aside. Other things absorbed her attention.
First came the expected letter from Wallace. Martie's hand shook as
she took it from the postman. Now she would know--now she would
know! Whatever the news, the suspense was over.
Perhaps the hardest moment of the hard weeks was when she realized
that the tension was not snapped, after all. Wallace wrote
affectionately, but with maddening vagueness. He missed his girl, he
had a rotten cold, he was not working now. Golda was raising hell.
He did not believe half that she said, but he had written to his
uncle, who advised him to go to Portland, and investigate the matter
there. So unless Martie heard to the contrary he would probably go
north this week. Anyway, Martie had better stay where she was, and
Not worry! It became a marvel to Martie that life could go on for
any one while her own future was so frightfully uncertain. She was
going to have a baby, and she was not married--that was the summary
of the situation. It was like something in a book, only worse than
any book that she had ever read. Sometimes she felt as if her brain
were being affected by the sheer horror of it. Sometimes, Sally
noticed, Martie fell into such deep brooding that she neither heard
nor saw what went on about her. Her mind was in a continual fever;
she was exhausted with fruitless hoping and unavailing endurance.
At the end of a hot, endless April day, into the darkness of Sally's
disordered bedroom, came life. A little hemstitched blanket had been
made ready for the baby; it seemed to Martie's frightened heart
nothing short of a miracle when Sally's crying daughter was actually
wrapped in it. Martie had travelled a long road since the placid
spring afternoon when they had made that blanket.
But the strain and fright were over now; Sally lay at peace, her
eyes shut in a white face. The tears dried on Martie's cheeks; Mrs.
Hawkes and Dr. Ben were even laughing as they consulted and worked
together. Martie took the baby down to the kitchen for her bath, and
it seemed strange to her that the dried peaches Sally had set on the
stove that morning were still placidly simmering in their saucepan.
For a day or two everything was unreal, the smoke of battle and the
shadow of death still hung over the little household. Gradually, the
air cleared. Joe and Martie ate the deluge of layer cakes and apple
pies--debated over details. Joe's mother came in to bathe the baby
and Sally did nothing but laugh and eat and sleep. She called her
first-born Elizabeth, for her mother; and sometimes the sisters
wondered if Ma and Lydia ever talked about the first baby, and ever
longed to see her first tiny charms.
The event shook Martie from her brooding, and brought her the first
real happiness she had known since the terrible morning of Golda's
appearance. She and Sally found the care of the baby only a delight,
and disputed for the privilege of bathing and dressing her.
One episode in the tiny Elizabeth's life was unusual, and long years
afterward Martie found a place for it in her own slowly-forming
theories. At the time the three young persons debated it amusedly
and carelessly before it came to be just an accepted, if
Dr. Ben, whose modest bill for attendance upon Sally was promptly
paid, had sent the baby a check for seventy-five dollars. The card
with this check was merely pencilled: "For Miss Elizabeth's first
quarter, from Uncle Ben." At first Sally and Martie and Joe were
puzzled to understand it.
Then suddenly Sally remembered her talk with the doctor a year ago.
This was the "mother's pay" he had spoken about then.
"It does seem funny that we were only girls then, and that to speak
of such things really made me almost die of embarrassment," smiled
Sally, "and now, here we are, and we know all about it! But now, the
question is, what to do?"
Sally and Joe were at first for a polite refusal of the money. It
was so "queer," they said. It seemed too "odd." It was not as if Pa
had decided to do it, or as if Dr. Ben really was the child's uncle.
It was better not to chance possible complications--
Presently Joe dropped out of this debate. He said simply that it was
a deuce of a lot of money, and that there were lots of things that
the baby needed, but he didn't care either way. Sally then said that
it was settled, for if he didn't care the check should go back.
But here Martie found herself with an opinion. She said suddenly
that she thought Sally would be foolish to refuse. It was Dr. Ben's
money. If he endowed a library, or put a conservatory into the
Monroe Park, Sally would enjoy them to the full. Why shouldn't he do
this? His money and the way he spent it were his own affair.
"He's working out an experiment, Sally. I don't see why you
shouldn't let him. You may never have another baby, but if you do,
why six hundred a year is just that much better than three!"
There were several days of debate. It was inevitable that the check
lying on Sally's cheap little three-drawer bureau should suggest
things it would purchase. Martie summarily took it to the Bank one
day and brought home crackling bills in exchange. One of the first
things that was purchased was the perambulator in which 'Lizabeth
was proudly wheeled to call upon her benefactor.
Then the dreadful days began to go by again, and still there was no
letter from Wallace. June came in with enervating, dry heat, and
Martie wilted under it. There was no longer any doubt about her
condition. The hour was coming closer when Sally must know, when all
Monroe must know just how mad a venture her marriage had been.
One day she had a letter from Mabel, who begged her to come back to
the city. Jesse was sure he could get her an occasional engagement;
it was better than fretting herself to death there in that "jay"
Martie sat thinking for a long time with this letter in her hand.
For the first time thoughts consciously hostile to Wallace swept
through her mind. She analyzed the motives that had urged her into
marriage; she had been taught to think of it as a woman's surest
refuge. If she had not been so taught, what might she have done for
herself in this year? Was it fair of him to take what she had to
give then, in quick and generous devotion, and to fail her so
utterly now, when the old physical supremacy was gone, and when she
must meet, in the future, not only her own needs but the needs of a
child? He had known more of life than she--her mother and father had
known more--why had nobody helped her?
That evening, when Sally and Joe had gone to the moving pictures,
leaving Martie to listen for 'Lizabeth's little snuffle of
awakening, should she unexpectedly awake, Martie cleared the dining-
room table and wrote to Wallace.
This was not one of her cheerful, courageous letters, filled with
affectionate solicitude for him, and brave hope for the future. She
wept over the pages, she reproached and blamed him. For the first
time she told him of the baby's coming. She was his wife, he must
help her get away, at least until she was well again. She was sick
of waiting and hoping; now he must answer her, he must advise her.
Her face was wet with tears; she went that night to mail it at the
corner. Afterward she lay long awake, wondering in her ignorant
girl's heart if such an unwifely tirade were sufficient cause for
divorce, wondering if he would ever love her again after reading it.
Wallace brought the answer himself, five days later. Coming in from
a lonely walk, Martie found him eating bread and jam and scrambled
eggs in Sally's kitchen. The sight of him there in the flesh,
smiling and handsome, was almost too much for her. She rushed into
his arms, and sobbed and laughed like a madwoman, as she assured
herself of his blessed reality.
Sally, in sympathetic tears herself, tried to join in Wallace's
heartening laugh, and Martie, quieted, sat on the arm of her
husband's chair, feeling again the delicious comfort of his arm
about her, and smiling with dark lashes still wet.
After a while they were alone, and then they talked freely.
"Wallie--only tell me this! Have you got enough money to get me away
somewhere? I can't stay here! You see that! Oh, dearest, if you
"Get you away! Why, you're going with me! We're going to New York!"
Her bewildered eyes were fixed upon him with dawning hope.
"But Golda!" she said.
"Oh, Golda!" He dismissed the adventuress impatiently. "Now I'll
tell you all about that some time, dear---"
"But, Wallace, it's--it's ALL RIGHT?" Martie must turn the knife in
the wound now, there must be no more doubt.
"All RIGHT?" The old bombastic, triumphant voice! "Her husband's
alive, if you call THAT all right!"
"Her husband?" Martie's voice died in a sort of faintness.
"Sure! She was married six years before I ever saw her. Uncle Chess
says he heard it, and then forgot it, you know the way you do? I've
been to Portland and Uncle Chess was bully. His old lawyer, whom he
consulted at the time I left there, was dead, but we dug up the
license bureau and found what we were after. She had been married
all right and her husband's still living. We found him in the Home
for Incurables up there; been there fifteen years. I got a copy of
her marriage license from the Registrar and if Mrs. Golda White
Ferguson ever turns up again we'll see who does the talking about
bigamy! The she-devil! And I told you about meeting Dawson?"
"Oh, God, I thank Thee--I thank Thee!" Martie was breathing to
herself, her eyes closed. "Dawson?" she asked, when he repeated the
Wallace had straightened up; it was quite in his old manner that he
"I--would--rather work for Emory Dawson than for any man I know of
in New York!"
"Oh, a manager?"
"The coming manager--you mark what I say!"
"And you met him?" Martie was asking the dutiful questions; but her
face rested against her husband's as she talked, and she was crying
a little, in joy and relief.
For answer Wallace gently dislodged her, so that he might take from
his pocket a letter, the friendly letter that the manager had dashed
"He swears he'll book me!" Wallace said, refolding the letter. "He
said he needs me, and I need him. I borrowed two hundred from Uncle
Chess, and now it's us to the bright lights, Baby!"
"And nothing but happiness--happiness--happiness!" Martie said,
returning his handkerchief, and finishing the talk with one of her
eager kisses and with a child's long sigh.
"I was afraid you might be a little sorry about--November, Wallie,"
said she, after a while. "You are glad, a little; aren't you?"
"Sure!" he answered good-naturedly. "You can't help it!"
Martie looked at him strangely, as if she were puzzled or
surprised. Was it her fault? Were women to be blamed for bearing?
But she rested her case there, and presently Sally came in, wheeling
the baby, and there was a disorderly dinner of sausages and fresh
bread and strawberries, with everybody jumping up and sitting down
incessantly. Wallace was a great addition to the little group; they
were all young enough to like the pose of lovers, to flush and
dimple over the new possessives, over the odd readjustment of
relationships. The four went to see the moving pictures in the
evening, and came home strewing peanut-shells on the sidewalk,
laughing and talking.
Two little clouds spoiled the long-awaited glory of going to New
York for Martie, when early in July she and Wallace really arranged
to go. One was the supper he gave a night or two before they left to
various young members of the Hawkes family, Reddy Johnson, and one
or two other men. Martie thought it was "silly" to order wine and to
attempt a smart affair in the dismal white dining room of the hotel;
she resented the opportunity Wallace gave her old friends to see him
when he was not at his best. She scolded him for incurring the
The second cloud lay in the fact that, without consulting her, he
had borrowed money from Rodney Parker. This stung Martie's pride
"Wallace, WHY did you?" she asked with difficult self-control.
"Oh, well; it was only a hundred; and he's coining money," Wallace
answered easily. "I breezed into the Bank one day, and he was
boasting about his job, and his automobile. He took out his bank
book and showed me his balance. And all of a sudden it occurred to
me I might make a touch. I told him about Dawson." He looked at his
wife's dark, resentful face. "Don't you worry, Mart," he said. "YOU
didn't borrow it!"
Martie silently resuming her packing reflected upon the irony of
life. She was married, she was going to New York. What a triumphant
achievement of her dream of a year ago! And yet her heart was so
heavy that she might almost have envied that old, idle Martie,
wandering under the trees of Main Street and planning so hopefully
for the future.
On the day before she left, exhilarated with the confusion, the new
hat she had just bought, the packed trunks, she went to see her
mother. It was a strange hour that she spent in the old sitting
room, in the cool, stale, home odours, with the home pictures, the
jointed gas brackets under which she had played solitaire and the
square piano where she had sung "The Two Grenadiers." Outside, in
the sunken garden, summer burgeoned fragrantly; the drawn window
shades bellied softly to and fro, letting in wheeling spokes of
light, shutting down the twilight again. Lydia and her mother, like
gentle ghosts, listened to her, reproving and unsympathetic.
"Pa is angry with you, Martie, arid who can blame him?" said Lydia.
"I'm sure I never heard of such actions, coming from a girl who had
loving parents and a good home!"
This was the mother's note. Lydia was always an echo.
"It isn't as if you hadn't had everything, Mart. You girls had
everything you needed--that party at Thanksgiving and all! And
you've no idea of the TALK in town! Pa feels it terribly. To think
that other girls, even like Rose, who had no father, should have so
much more sense than OUR girls."
Martie talked of Sally's baby. "Named for you, Ma," she told her
mother. And with sudden earnestness she added: "WHY don't you go see
it some day? It's the dearest baby I ever saw!"
Mrs. Monroe, who had a folded handkerchief in her bony, discoloured
fingers, now pressed it to her eyes, shaking her head as she did so.
Lydia gave Martie a resentful look, and her mother a sympathetic
one, before she said primly:
"If Sally Monroe wanted Ma and me to go see her and her baby, why
didn't she marry some man Pa could have been proud of, and have a
church wedding and act in a way becoming to her family?"
To this Martie had nothing to say. She left messages of love for Len
and for her father. Her mother and sister came with her for good-
byes to the old porch with its peeling dark paint and woody rose-
"Pa said at noon that you had 'phoned you wanted to come say good-
bye," said her mother mildly. "I hope you'll always be happy,
Martie, and remember that we did our best for you. If you're a good
girl, and write some day and ask Pa's forgiveness, I think he may
come 'round, because he was always a most affectionate father to his
The toneless, lifeless voice ceased. Martie kissed Lydia's
unresponsive warm cheek, and her mother's flat soft one. She walked
quickly down the old garden, through the still rich green, and
smelled, as she had smelled a thousand times before, the velvety
sweetness of wallflowers. As she went, she heard her sister say, in
a quick, low tone:
"Look, Ma--there's Angela Baxter with that man again. I wonder who
on earth he is?"
The big train moved smoothly. Martie, her arm laid against the
window, felt it thrill her to her heart. She smiled steadily as she
watched the group on the platform, and Sally, Joe, and all the
others who had come to say good-bye smiled steadily back. Sometimes
they shouted messages; but they all were secretly anxious for the
train to move, and Martie, for all her smiling and nodding, was in a
fever to be gone.
They vanished; all the faces she knew. The big train slid through
Monroe. Martie had a last glimpse of Mason and White's--of the
bridge--of the winery with its pyramids of sweet-smelling purple
refuse. Outlying ranches, familiar from Sunday walks and drives,
slipped by. Down near the old Archer ranch, Henry Prout was driving
his mother into town. The surrey and the rusty white horse were
smothered in sulphurous dust. It seemed odd to Martie that Henny was
driving Mrs. Prout into town with an air of actual importance; Henny
was clean, and the old lady had on cotton gloves and a stiff gray
percale. Yet they were only going to hot little Monroe. Martie was
going to New York!
All her life she remembered the novelty and delight of the trip.
Wallace was at his best; the new hat had its share in the happy
recollection. The dining car, the berths, the unchanging routine of
the day--all charmed her.
She watched her first thunder storm in Chicago with awed pleasure.
The hour came, when, a little jaded, feeling dirty and tumbled,
feeling excited and headachy and nervous, Martie saw her neighbours
in the car begin to straighten garments and gather small
possessions. They were arriving!
She was silent, as first impressions jumbled themselves together in
her tired brain. Wallace, at her elbow, was eager with information.
"Look, Mart--this is the Grand Central. They're going to tear all
this down! Look--that's the subway--those hoods, where the people
are going down! See over that way--this is Forty-Second Street, one
of the biggest cross-streets there is--and over that way is
Broadway! We can't take the subway, I wish we could--you wait until
you see the expresses! But I'll tell you what we'll do, we'll go
over and take a 'bus, on the Avenue--see, here's a Childs'--see,
there's the new Library! Climb right up on the 'bus, if you get a
chance, because then we can see the Park!"
Bewildered, dirty, tired, she stumbled along at his side, her eyes
moving rapidly over the strange crowds, the strange buildings, the
strange streets and crossings. That must be an elevated train
banging along; here was a park, with men packed on the benches, and
newspapers blowing lazily on the paths. And shops in all the
basements--why had no one ever told her that there were shops in all
the basements? And a placid church facade breaking this array of
trimmed windows and crowded little enterprises! It was hot: she felt
her forehead wet, her clothes seemed heavy and sticky, and her head
"Howd' you like it?" Wallace asked enthusiastically.
"I love it, sweetheart!"
Wallace, frankly embarrassed for money, took her at once to Mrs.
Curley's big boarding-house in East Seventieth Street, where the
Cluetts had stayed.
Mabel had told Martie that "Grandma Curley" was a "character." She
was a plain, shrewd, kindly old woman, who lived in an old
brownstone house that had been acquired after his death, Martie
learned, for a bad debt of her husband's making. She liked everybody
and believed in nobody; smiling a deep, mysterious smile when her
table or her management was praised. She eyed Martie's fresh beauty
appraisingly, immediately suspected her condition, was given the
young wife's unreserved confidence, and, with a few brief pieces of
advice, left her new boarders entirely to their own devices.
Wallace's daring compliments fell upon unhearing ears; she would not
lower her prices for anybody, she said. They could have the big room
for eighteen, or the little one for fourteen dollars a week.
"Sixteen for the big one! You know you like our looks," said
"I'd be losing money on it, Mr. Bannister. You can take it or leave
it, just as you like."
He was a little daunted by her firmness, but in the end he told
Martie that eighteen was cheap enough, and as she scattered her
belongings about, his wife gave a happy assent. It was fun to be
married and be boarding in New York.
She was too confused, too excited, to eat her dinner. They were both
in wild spirits; and went out after dinner to take an experimental
ride on the elevated train. That evening the trunk came, and Martie,
feeling still in a whirl of new impressions, unpacked in the big
bare bedroom; as pleased as a child to arrange her belongings in the
empty bureau or hang them in the shallow closet. She had been
looking forward, for five hot days, to the pleasure of a bath and a
quiet bed. The bath was not to be had; neither faucet in the
bathroom ran hot; but the bed was deliciously comfortable, and
Martie tumbled into it with only one thought in her head:
"Anyway, whatever happens now--I'm here in New York!"
The first few days of exploration were somewhat affected by the fact
that Wallace had almost no money; yet they were glorious days,
filled with laughter and joy. The heat of summer had no terrors for
Martie as yet, she was all enthusiasm and eagerness. They ate butter
cakes and baked apples at Child's, they bought fruit and ice cream
bricks and walked along eating them. All New York was eating, and
panting, and gasping in the heat. They went to Liberty Island, and
climbed the statue, and descended into the smothering subway to be
rushed to the Bronx Zoo.
And swiftly the city claimed Martie's heart and mind and body,
swiftly she partook of its freedom, of its thousand little pleasures
for the poor, of its romance and pathos and ugliness and beauty.
Even to the seasoned New Yorkers she met, she seemed to hold some
key to what was strange and significant.
Italian women, musing bareheaded and overburdened in the cars,
Rabbis with their patriarchal beards, slim saleswomen who wore
masses of marcelled curls and real Irish lace, she watched them all.
She drank in the music of the Park concerts, she dreamed in the
libraries, she eagerly caught the first brassy mutter of the thunder
"If five million other people can make a living here, can't we?" she
amused Wallace by asking with spirit.
"There's something in that!" he assured her.
A day came when Wallace shaved and dressed with unusual care, and
went to see Dawson. Hovering about him anxiously at his toilet, his
wife had reminded him bravely that if Dawson failed, there were
other managers; Dawson was not the only one! The great thing was
that he was HERE, ready for them.
Dawson, however, did not fail him. Wallace came back buoyantly with
the contract. He had been less than a week in New York, and look at
it! Seventy-five dollars a week in a new play. Rehearsals were to
start at once.
The joy that she had always felt awaited her in New York was
Martie's now! She told Wallace that she had KNOWN that New York
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