Martie The Unconquered
Part 7 out of 8
Below them lay the dark village and the furry tops of trees flooded
with gray moonlight. The odours of a summer night crept out to meet
them, odours of flowers and dew-wet, sunburned grass. The roadside
fences were wreathed with wild blackberry vines that took weird
shapes in the dark. In the idle fields spreading oaks threw shadows
of inky blackness.
Martie hardly thought of Clifford. Across her spinning senses an
occasional thought of him crept, but he had no part in to-night. To-
morrow she must end this dream of exquisite fulfillment, to-morrow,
somehow, she must send John away. But to-night was theirs.
Their talk was that of lovers, whose only life is in each other's
presence. They leaned on an old fence, above the town, and whether
they were grave, or whether Martie's gay laugh and his eager echoing
laugh rang out, the enchantment held them alike.
It was after one o'clock when they came slowly down the hill, and
let themselves silently into the shadowy garden. Martie fled
noiselessly past the streak of light under Lydia's door, gained her
own room, and blinked at her lighted gas.
The mirror showed her a pale, exalted face, with glittering blue
eyes under loosened bronze hair. She was cold, excited, tired, and
ecstatic. She moved the sprawling Teddy to the inside of the bed,
stooping to lay her cold cheek and half-opened lips to his flushed
little face. She got into a wrapper, her hair falling free on her
shoulders, and sat dreaming and remembering.
Lydia, in her gray wrapper, came in, with haggard, reproachful eyes.
Lydia was pale, too, but it was the paleness of fatigue, and had
nothing in common with Martie's starry pallor.
"Martie, do you know what time it is?"
"Lyd--I know it's late!"
"Late? It's two o'clock."
"Not really?" Martie bunched her splendid hair with a white hand
under each ear, and faced her affronted sister innocently.
"Don't say 'not really!'" Lydia, who happened to hate this
expression, which as a matter of fact Martie only used in moments of
airy rebellion, said sharply: "If that man hasn't any sense, you
ought to have!"
"We used to be intimate friends a few years ago," Martie offered
mildly. "We had a lot to say."
"A lot that couldn't be said before Pa and me, I suppose?" Lydia
asked bitingly. Martie was silent. "What do you propose to tell
Cliff of this delightful friendship?" Lydia pursued. "And how long a
visit do your friends propose to make?"
"Only until to-morrow. Mrs. Silver wants me to visit them, you know,
at Glen Mary."
"Do you intend to go?" Lydia asked stonily.
"Well, I suppose not. But it would be a wonderful experience, of
course. But I suppose not." Martie sighed heavily. "I really hadn't
thought it out," she pleaded.
"I should think you hadn't! I never heard anything like it," Lydia
said. "I should think the time had come when you really might think
it out--I don't know what things are coming to--"
"Oh, Lyddy dear, don't be so tiresome!" Martie said rudely. Lydia at
once left the room, with a short goodnight, but the interrupted mood
of memories and dreams did not return. Martie sat still a long time,
wrapped in the blanket she caught from the bed, staring vaguely into
"I've got to think it all out," she told herself, "I mustn't make--
And yet when she crept in beside Teddy, and flung her arm about him,
she would not let the half-formed phrase stand. The step that had
brought her splendid boy to her arms was not a mistake.
She slept lightly, and was up at five o'clock. Teddy, just shifting
from the stage when nothing could persuade him to sleep in the
morning to the stage when nothing could persuade him to wake, merely
rolled over when she left him. Martie, bathed, brushed, dressed in
white, went into the garden. They had arranged no meeting, but John
came toward her under the pepper trees as she closed the door.
Again they walked, this time in morning freshness. Martie showed him
the school gate, with "Girls" lettered over it, where she had
entered for so many years. They walked past the church, and up
toward the hills. She said she must get home in time to help Pauline
with breakfast for the augmented family, and John went with her into
the old kitchen, and cut peaches and mixed muffins with the
enthusiasm of an expert, talking all the time.
"But tell me about Adele, John!" she said suddenly, when Lydia and
her father had left the breakfast table, and they two were alone
again. "How do you EXPLAIN it?"
"Oh, well!" He brought his mind with an obvious effort to Adele. "We
had sort of a hard time of it--she wasn't well, and I wasn't. Her
sister came on--she's--she's quite a woman!" Evidently still a
little impressed by some memory, he made a wild gesture with his
hands. "She thought I didn't understand Adele?" he went on
questioningly. "After she left, Adele simply went away. She went to
a boarding-house where she knew the woman, and when I went there to
see her she told me that it was all over. That's what she said: it
was all over. I went to see the doctor, and he didn't deny that they
had gone somewhere--Atlantic City, I think it was, together! She
asked for a divorce, and I gave it to her, and her sister came on to
stay with her for the time she got it. She seemed awfully unhappy.
It was just before my book was taken. Her sister said she was
unlucky, and I guess she was--poor Adele!"
"And there was never any fight, or any special cause?"
"Oh, no!" He smiled his odd and charming smile. "But I think I bored
her!" he said. "I do bore most people! But most people don't--don't
understand me, Martie," he went on, with a quality almost like
hunger in his eyes and voice. "And that's why I have been longing
and longing to see you again. YOU understand! And with you I always
feel as if I could talk, as if what I said mattered, as if--well, as
if I had been on a hot desert walk, and came suddenly to trees, and
shade, and a bubbling spring!"
"You poet!" she smiled. But a pang shook her heart. It was sweet, it
was perilously sweet, but it could not be for long now.
"John," she began, when like a happy child he had loitered out with
her to feed the chickens, "I've got something to tell you. I'm
Scattering crumbled cornbread on the pecked, bare ground under the
willows, he gave her a confiding look. Her heart stopped.
"It's about Mr. Frost," Martie went on, "I've known him all my life;
he's one of the nicest men here. I'm--I'm engaged to him, John!"
His hand arrested, John looked at her steadily. There was a silence.
"How do you mean--to be married?" he asked tonelessly, without
Martie nodded. Under the willows, and in the soft fog of the
morning, the thing suddenly seemed a tragedy.
"Aren't you," he said simply, "aren't you going to marry me?"
His tone brought the tears to her eyes.
"I can't!" she whispered. "John, I'm sorry!"
"Sorry," he echoed dully. "But--but I don't understand. You can't
mean that you have promised--that you expect--to marry any one else
but me?" And as Martie again allowed a silence to fall, he took a
few steps away from her, walking like a person blinded by sudden
pain. "I don't understand," he said again. "I never thought of
anything but that we belonged to each other--I've thought of it all
the time! And now you tell me--I can't believe it! Is it settled? Is
it all decided?"
"My family and his family know," Martie said.
"Oh, but Martie--you can't mean that!" he burst out in agony. "What
have I done! What have I done--to have you do this! You don't love
"John," she said steadily, catching his hands, "even if I were free,
you aren't, dear. We could never be married while Adele lives."
He turned his steady gaze upon her.
"Then last night--" he asked gravely.
"Last night I was a fool, John--I was all to blame! I'm so sorry--
I'm so terribly sorry!"
"I thought last night--" He turned away under the willows, and she
anxiously followed him. "You let me think you cared!"
"John, I do care!"
"You SAID you did!"
"I don't know what was the matter with me," Martie said wretchedly,
"I was so carried away by seeing you so suddenly--and thinking of
old times--and of all we had been through together--"
"But it wasn't of that we talked, Martie!"
"I know." Her head drooped. "I know!"
"I'm so sorry," he said, bewildered and hurt. "I don't understand
you. I can't believe that you are going to marry that man, whoever
he is; you didn't say anything about him last night! Who is he--what
right has he got to come into it?"
"He's a good and honourable man, John, and he asked me. And I said
"You said yes--loving me?"
"Oh, John dear--you don't understand--"
"No," he said heavily, "I confess I don't."
The tone, curt and cold, brought tears to her eyes, and he saw them.
Instantly he was all penitence.
"Martie--ah, don't cry! Don't cry for me! Don't--I tell you, or I
shall rush off somewhere--I can't see you cry! I'll try to
understand. But you see last night--last night made me hope that you
might care for me a little--I couldn't sleep, Martie, I was so
happy! But I won't think of that. Now tell me, I'm quite quiet, you
see. Tell me. You don't mean that you don't--feel anything about
"John," she said simply, "I don't know whether I love you or not. I
know that--that last night was one of the wonderful times of my
life. But it came on me like a thunderbolt--I never felt that way
before--even when I was first engaged, even when I was married! But
I don't know whether that's love, or whether it's just you--the
extraordinary effect of you! You belong to one of the hardest parts
of my life, and at first, last night, I thought it was just seeing
you again--like any other old friend. Now--this morning--I don't
know." She stopped, distressed. The man was silent. "If I've really
made you unhappy, it will kill me, I think," Martie began, again,
pleadingly. "How can I go on into this marriage feeling that you are
lonely and hurt about it?"
They had sat down on the old iron bench that had for fifty years
stood rooted in the earth far down at the end of the garden, under
pepper trees and gnarled evergreens and rusty pampas grass.
"I thought you would marry me," John said, "and that we would go to
live in the farmhouse with the white rocks."
His tone made her eyes fill again.
"I'm sorry," she said.
"Yes, but I can't leave it this way, Martie," John said. "If I DID
come suddenly upon you, if I DID take you by surprise: why, I can
give you time. You can have all the time you want! I'll stay here in
the village--at the hotel, and see you every day, and we'll talk
"Talking wouldn't make you anything but a divorced man, John," she
"But you can't blame me for that--Adele did that!"
"Yes, I know, dear. But the fact is a fact, just the same."
"But--" He began some protest eagerly; his voice died away.
"See here, John." Martie locked her hands about the empty, battered
pan that had held the chickens' breakfast. "I was a girl here, ten
years ago, and I gave my parents plenty of trouble. Then I married,
and I suffered--and paid--for that. Then I came home, shabby and sad
and poor, and my father and sister took me in. Now comes this
opportunity to make a good man happy, to give my boy a good home, to
make my father and sisters proud and satisfied, to do, in a word,
the dutiful, normal thing that I've been failing to do all these
years! He loves me, and--I've known him since I was a child--I do
truly love him. This is July--we are to be married in August."
"You are NOT!" he said, through set jaws.
"But I am. I've always been a trial and a burden to them, John--I
could work my hands to the bone, more, I could write another 'Mary
Beatrice' without giving them half the joy that this marriage will
"That's the kind they are!" he said, with a boyish attempt at a
She laughed forgivingly, seeing the hurt beneath the unworthy
effort, and laid her fingers over his.
"That's the kind I am, too! This is my home, and this is my life,
and God is good to me to make it so pleasant and so easy!"
"Do you dare say, Martie, that if it were not for Adele you would
not marry me?"
Martie considered seriously.
"No, I can't say that, John. But you might as well ask me what I
would do if Cliff's wife were alive and yours dead!"
"I see," he said hopelessly.
For a few minutes there was silence in the old garden. John stared
at the neglected path, where shade lay so heavily that even in
summer emerald green moss filmed the jutting bricks. Martie
anxiously watched him.
"What do you want me to do?" he asked, presently, in a dead voice.
"I ask you not to make my life hard again, just when I have made it
smooth," she said eagerly. "I've been fighting all my life, John--
now I've won! I'm not only doing something that pleases them, I'm
doing the one thing that could please them most! And that means joy
for me, too--it's ALL right, for every one, at last! Dear, if I
could marry you, then that would be something else to think about,
but I can't. It would never be a marriage at all, in my eyes--"
"Oh, how I hate this petty talk of marriage, and duty, and all the
rest of it!" he burst out bitterly. "Tied to a little village, and
its ideals--YOU! Oh, Martie, why aren't you bigger than all this,
why don't you snap your fingers at them all? Come away with me--come
away with me, Sweetheart, let's get out of it--and away from them!
You and I, Martie, what do we need of the world? Oh, I want you so--
I want you so! We'll go to Connecticut, and live on the bank of our
river, and we'll make boats for Teddy--"
Teddy! If she had been wavering, even here in the old garden, which
was still haunted for her with memories of little girl days, of
Saturday mornings with dolls, houses and sugar pies, the child's
name brought her suddenly to earth. Teddy--! That was her answer.
She got to her feet, and began to walk steadily toward the house. He
"I ask you--for my sake--to give up the thought of it," she said
firmly. "I BEG you--! I want you to go away--to India, John, and
forget me--forget it all!"
He walked beside her for a moment in silence. When he spoke his
voice was dead and level.
"Of course if you ask me, the thing is done, my dear!"
"Thank you, John," she said, with a sinking heart.
"Not at all."
When they reached the side doorway, he went quickly and quietly in.
Dean Silver, sauntering around from the front garden, met her. He
had his watch in his hand. The gray car was waiting in the drive.
"If we have to make Glen Mary to-night, Mrs. Bannister," he began.
"And I want your answer to my wife's invitation," he added, with a
concerned and curious look at her agitated face.
"Oh, Mr. Silver," she said unhappily, "I can't come and visit you--
it's all been a mistake--I think I must have been crazy last night!
I'm so sorry--but things can't be changed now, I want you to take
him away--to sail up the Nile--if you really are going--"
"My dear girl," the man said patiently, "he hasn't the faintest idea
of sailing with me--I wish to the Lord he had!"
"He said he would," she said lifelessly.
"Dryden did?" Silver turned upon her suddenly.
"Yes, he just said he would."
"Yes." Martie picked a dead marguerite from a bush, and crumbled it
in her fingers.
"When did he?"
Dean Silver looked keenly at her face and shook his head
"You are really going through with it, then?"
"Oh, yes, I must!" she answered feverishly. And she added: "I want
"I see you want to!" the novelist said drily. And his voice had lost
its brotherly, affectionate tone when he added: "Very well, then, if
you two have settled it between you, I will not presume to
interfere, I was going down to the city to-morrow to see about
reservations; if Dryden means it--of course it alters the entire
aspect of affairs to me!"
"Oh, don't use that tone!" she said agitatedly, "I didn't ask him to
come here--I never encouraged him--why, I never thought of him! Am I
"Look here," said Silver suddenly. "You can't fool me. You know you
Martie did not answer. Her colour had faded, and she looked pale and
tired. She dropped her eyes Pity suddenly filled his own.
"I'm sorry!" the man said quickly; "I'm awfully sorry. I'll help you
if I can. He may buck the last moment, but perhaps he won't. And you
think it over. Think it all over. And if you send me a wire one
minute before the boat sails--that'll be time enough! We'll come
back. I'll keep you informed--and for God's sake, wire if you can!"
"We'll leave it that way," Martie said gratefully.
"I believe you'll wire," Silver said, with another searching look.
She only shrugged her shoulders wearily in answer.
They were silent for a few minutes, and then John came out of the
house with his bag in his hand. Lydia followed him down the steps.
Lydia was somewhat puzzled by the manner of the visitors, but
relieved to see that they were not planning to strain the
hospitality of the house for lunch. It was merely a question of
thanks and good-byes now, and these she had come forth to receive
"Your suitcase is in?" John said to his friend. He put his own into
the rumble, snaps were snapped and locks closed. He did not look at
Martie. He lifted his cap, and took Lydia's hand. "Good-bye, Miss
Monroe, and thank you. Good-bye, Martie. Everything all right,
He got into his seat. Lydia gave her hand in turn to the novelist.
"You mustn't count on a visit from this girl here, at Glen Mary,"
Lydia said in pleasant warning. "She's going to be a pretty busy
girl from now on, I expect!"
"So she was saying," Dean Silver said gravely. "Our own plans may be
changed," he added casually. "I may yet persuade Dryden here to sail
up the Nile with me!"
"I certainly think any one who has such a wonderful opportunity
would be foolish to decline it," Lydia observed cheerfully.
"Good-bye," said the writer to Martie. "You'll wire me if you can, I
"Good-bye," she said, hardly conscious of what was being done and
said, in the fever of excitement that was consuming her. "And thank
He jumped into the car. Martie, trembling, stepped back beside Lydia
as the engine began to throb.
"Good-bye, John," she faltered. John lifted his cap; the driver
waved a gloved hand.
They were gone.
"I'm so glad you told him about your engagement, Martie!" Lydia said
approvingly. "It was the only honest thing to do. And dear me, isn't
it quite a relief to think that they've had their visit, and it's
over, and everything is explained and understood?"
"Isn't it?" Martie echoed dully.
She went upstairs. The harsh light of the summer noon did not
penetrate the old Monroe house. Martie's room was full of greenish
light; there was an opaque streak across the old mirror where she
found her white, tired face.
She flung herself across the bed. Her heart was still beating high,
and her lips felt dry and hot. She could neither rest nor think, but
she lay still for a long while.
Chief among her confused emotions was relief. He had come, he had
frightened and disturbed her. Now he was gone again. She would
presently go down to mash Teddy's baked potato, and serve watery
canned pears from the pressed glass bowl. She would dress in white,
and go driving with Cliff and Teddy and Ruth in the late afternoon.
Life would resume its normal placidity.
A week from to-day Rose and Sally would give her the announcement
party. Martie resolutely forced her thoughts to the hour of John's
arrival: of what had she been thinking then? Of her wedding gown of
blue taffeta, and the blue straw hat wreathed with roses. She must
go down to the city, perhaps, for the hat--?
But the city brought John again to her mind, and for a few delicious
minutes she let herself remember his voice, his burning words, his
deep, meaning look.
"Well, it's wonderful--to have a man care that way!" she said,
forcing herself to get up, and set about dressing. "It's something
to have had, but it's over!"
Over, however, the episode was not, and after a few days Martie
realized with a sort of shame that she did not wish it to be over.
She could not keep her memory away from the enchanted hours when
John's presence had lent a glory to the dark old house and the
prosaic village. She said with a pang: "It was only yesterday--it
was only two--only three--days ago, that he was here, that all the
warmth and delight of it was mine!"
The burning lightness and dryness seemed still to possess her: she
was hardly conscious of the days she was living, for the poignancy
and power of the remembered days. The blue taffeta dress had lost
its charm, everything had grown strangely dull and poor.
She passed the lumber-yard with a quickened heart; she climbed the
hill alone, and leaned on the fence where they had leaned, and let
the full, splendid recollection sweep across her. She knelt in
church and prayed that there would be a letter from Dean Silver,
saying that Adele was dead--
A little cottage on a river bank in Connecticut became her Heaven.
She gave it an old flag-stone walk, she sprinkled the green new
grass of an Eastern spring with daisies. She dreamed of a simple
room, where breezes and sunshine came by day, and the cool moon by
night, and where she and John laughed over their bread and cheese.
So far it was more joy than pain. But there swiftly came a time when
pain alone remained. Life became almost intolerable.
Clifford, coming duly to see her every evening, never dreamed of the
thoughts that were darkening her blue eyes. He sat in the big chair
opposite Malcolm's, and they talked about real estate, and about the
various business ventures of the village. At nine o'clock Malcolm
went stiffly upstairs, attended by Lydia, and then Martie took her
father's seat, and Clifford hitched his chair nearer.
He would ask her what she was sewing, and sometimes she laughed,
spreading the ruffle of a petticoat over her knee, and refused to
consider his questions. They talked of little things pertaining to
their engagement: Martie was sure somebody suspected it, Clifford
had been thinking of the Yellowstone for a wedding trip, and had
brought folders to study. Rarely they touched upon politics, or upon
the questions of the day.
His opinions were already stiff-jointed, those of an elderly man. He
did not believe in all this prohibition agitation, he believed that
a gentleman always knew where to stop in the matter of wine. What
right had a few temperance fanatics to vote that seven hundred acres
of his, Clifford Frost's property, should be made valueless because
they happened to be planted to grapes?
He disapproved of this agitation concerning the social evil. There
had always been women in that life, and there always would be. They
were in it because they liked it. They didn't have to choose it. Why
didn't they go into somebody's kitchen, and save money, and have
good homes, if they wanted to? He told Martie a little story that he
thought was funny of one of these women. It was the sort of story
that a man might tell the widow who was to be his wife. It made
Martie want to cry.
She had always felt herself too ignorant to form an opinion of these
things. But she found herself rapidly forming opinions now, and they
were not Clifford's opinions.
Three days after his departure, Dean Silver wrote her briefly. John
was "taking it very quietly, but didn't seem to know just what had
happened." He, Dean, hoped to get the younger man safely on board
the vessel before this mood broke. He had therefore engaged passage
on the Nippon Maru, for Thursday, four days ahead. They were all in
San Francisco, Mrs. Silver and the little girl had come down with
them, and John was interested in the steamer, and seemed perfectly
docile. He never mentioned Martie.
This letter threw her into an agony of indecision. There were a few
moments when she planned to go down to the city herself, and see
him--hear him again. Just a few minutes of John's eyes and his
voice, of the intoxication of being so passionately loved--!
She put aside this impulse, and went to write a telegram. But her
hand trembled as she did so, and her soul sickened. What could she
offer him, what but pain and fresh renunciation?
She had made many mistakes in her life. But through them all a
certain underlying principle had kept her safe. Could she fling that
all aside now; that courage that had made her, a frightened girl of
twenty, come with her unborn baby, away from the man whose marriage
to her was in question, the faith that had helped her to kneel calm
and brave beside the child who had gone?
To do that would make it all wasted and wrong. To do that would be
to lose the little she had brought from the hard years. She knew
that she would not do it. She put it all away, when the constant
thought of it arose, as weakness and madness.
Thursday came, and Martie, walking toward Sally's house, where she
and Teddy always had their Thursday supper, bought a paper, and read
that the Nippon Maru had duly sailed.
On the way she met Teddy himself--he had been to the store for Aunt
Sally--with 'Lizabeth and Billy; he was happy, chattering and
curveting about her madly in the warm twilight. He was happy here,
and safe, she told herself. And the Nippon Maru had sailed--
Sally was in her kitchen, her silky hair curled in damp rings on her
forehead. She had on her best gown, a soft blue gingham, for Sally
had just been elected to the club, and had been there this
afternoon. She had turned up the skirt of her dress, and taken off
the frilled white collar, laying it on a shelf until the dinner fuss
and hurry should be over. Mary was sitting in the high-chair, clean
and expectant, Jim was hammering nails in porch.
The children put down their bread and butter, Sally kissed her
sister. Martie began to butter swiftly, and spread it with honey.
"San Francisco paper, Mart?"
"Yes." Martie did not look up. "Mr. Dryden and Mr. Silver sailed
this morning," she said.
"Oh, really?" Sally turned a flushed face from the stove. "Lyd was
talking about him to-day, and the way he acted, carrying you off for
a walk, or something," Sally pursued cheerfully. "And until she
happened to say that his wife is living, I declare I was frightened
to death for fear he was in love with you, Mart!"
Martie stared at her in simple bewilderment. Could it be possible
that Sally had seen nothing of the fevers and heartaches of this
memorable week? Her innocent allusion to the night of their walk--
only a week ago!--brought Martie an actual pang.
For just one other such evening, for just one more talk, Martie was
beginning to feel she would go mad. They had said so little then,
they had known so little what this new separation would mean!
And Sally knew nothing of it. A sudden lonely blankness fell upon
Martie's soul; it mattered nothing to Lydia and Rose and Sally that
John Dryden loved her. It mattered more than life to her.
What use to talk of it? How flat the words would seem for that
memory of everything high and splendid. Yet she felt the need of
speech. She must talk of him to some one, now when it was too late:
when he was out on the ocean: when she was perhaps never to see him
"Sis," she said, setting the filled plate in the centre of the
table, "do you specially remember him?"
Sally had chanced to come to the old home for just a minute on the
morning of her talk with John in the garden. Sally nodded now
"Certainly I do! He seemed a dear," she said cordially.
"I wish they had not come!" Martie said sombrely.
"You--wish--?" Sally's anxious eyes flashed to her face.
"That they had never come!"
"Oh, Mart! Oh, Mart, why?"
"Because--because I think perhaps I should not marry Cliff, feeling
as I do to John!" Martie said desperately.
She had not quite meant it when she said it: her sick heart was
merely trying to reach Sally's concern, it frightened her now to
feel that it was almost true.
"WHAT!" Sally whispered.
She was roused now: too much roused. Martie began hastily to
reassure Sally, and herself, too.
"Oh, I will, Sally. Of course I will. And nobody will ever know this
except you and me!"
"Martie, dear, he DOES care then?"
"Oh, yes, he cares!"
"But, Mart--that's terrible!"
Martie laughed ruefully.
"It's miserable!" she agreed, her eyes watering even while she
"He knew about Cliff?" Sally questioned.
"And his own wife is alive?"
"Well, then?" Sally concluded anxiously. "What does he want--what
does he expect you to do?"
To this Martie only answered unhappily:
"I don't know."
Sally, staring at her in distress, was silent. But as Martie
suddenly seemed to put the subject aside, and called the children
for supper, she turned back to the stove in relief. Presently they
were all gathered about the kitchen table, Martie encouraging the
children, as usual, to launch into the conversation, and laughing in
quite her usual merry manner at their observations. She took Mary
into her lap, ruffling the curly little head with her kisses, and
whispering endearments into the small ear. But Sally noticed that
she was not eating.
Later, when they had put away the hot, clean dishes, and made the
kitchen orderly for the night, Sally touched somewhat awkwardly upon
the delicate topic.
"Too bad--about Mr. Dryden," Sally ventured. Martie, at the open
doorway, gave no sign of hearing. Her splendid bronze head was
resting against the jamb, she was looking down the shabby little
littered backyard to the river. And suddenly it seemed to Sally that
restless, lovely Martie did not really belong to Monroe, that this
mysterious sister of hers never had belonged to Monroe, that
Martie's well-groomed hair and hands were as little in place here as
Martie's curious aloofness from the town affairs, as Martie's blue
eyes through which her hungry soul occasionally looked. "I'm awfully
sorry for him," Sally went on, a little uncertainly. "But what can
you do? He must realize--"
"He realizes nothing!" Martie said, half-smiling, half-sighing.
"He's not a Catholic, then?"
"But you explained to him? And you told him about Cliff?"
"Yes; he knew about Cliff." But Martie's tone was so heavy, and the
fashion in which she raised a hand to brush the hair from her white
forehead was so suggestive of pain, that Sally felt a little tremor
"Martie--you don't--CARE, too?" she asked fearfully.
"With every fibre of my soul and body!" Martie answered, in a low,
moody voice from the doorway. "Sally--Sally--Sally--to be free!" she
went on, speaking, as Sally was vaguely aware, more for the relief
of her own heart than for any effect on her sister. "To have him
free! We always liked each other--loved each other, I think. What a
life--what joy we would have! Oh, I can't bear it. I can't bear to
have the days go by, and the years go by, and never--never see him
or hear him again! I can't help Cliff; I can't help John's wife; I
can't help it if he seems odd and boyish and different to other
people--! That's what makes him John--what he is!"
"I never dreamed it," Sally marvelled.
"I never dreamed it myself, a week ago. I always had a sort of
special feeling toward John, and I knew he had toward me. But I've
been a romantic sort of fool all my life--my Prince Charming had to
come dashing up on a white horse--I didn't recognize him because he
was a little clerk in a furniture store, and married to the
stupidest woman the Lord ever made!"
Sally laughed in spite of herself. Martie turned from the dimness of
the doorway, and came into the hot, clean little room. She sat down
at the table, and spread her arms across it, locking her white
"It's all so funny. Sally," she said childishly. "A week ago, I was
sailing along, humbly grateful and happy because Cliff loved me. To-
day John Dryden sails for a year in the Orient. And between those
few days he drifts in here just long enough to bring my plans all
tumbling about my ears."
"I'm sorry!" Sally, busily setting bread, could say nothing more
significant. But as Martie remained silent, brooding eyes on her own
fingers, the older sister added timidly: "Do--do you think perhaps
you'll get over that--that feeling?"
"That is my only hope!" Martie said courageously.
"And after all," Sally went on, eagerly, "what could he offer you?
Cliff is--he's devoted to you, and he's steadiness itself! And I do
believe you would be perfectly contented if you just put the other
thing out of your mind, and tried to make the greatest happiness
possible out of your new life! Lydia and Pa, and all of us, and Ruth
and Teddy are all so happy about it And you know there's no safety
like the safety of being married to a good man!"
"You're quite right, Sally! But," she added, her face growing
serious again, "the terrible thing is this: If I marry Cliff, I do
it--just a LITTLE--with other things in view. The children, as you
say, and the good opinion of the town, and Pa's happiness, and Len's
prosperity, and the pleasure of being mistress of the old house, and
dear knows what! Of course I LIKE Cliff--but I tell you frankly that
I'm looking even now to the time when our honeymoon shall be over,
and the first strangeness of--well, of belonging to him is over!"
Sally's face was flaming. She had stopped working, and both sisters
faced each other consciously.
"In other words," smiled Martie, "I wish I had been married to him
ten years ago, and by this time had little Sally and Cliffy--"
"Oh, dearest, I do hope there are children!" Sally said eagerly.
"I hope so, too!" Martie said simply. And with suddenly misting eyes
Sally heard her say softly, half to herself, "I want another girl!"
Then her lip trembled, and to the older sister's consternation she
began to cry, with her shining head laid on her arms. "I don't know
w-w-what to do, Sally!" she sobbed. "I don't know what is right! I
know I'm desperately tired of worrying and fretting and being
criticised! I don't see why it should be my life that is always
being upset and disorganized, while other women go on placidly
having children and giving dinners!"
"Perhaps because you are so different from other? women?" Sally
suggested, somewhat timidly. She was not sure that Martie would like
But Martie gave her a grateful glance, and immediately dried her
eyes with a brisk evidence of returning self-control.
"Well!" she said sensibly. "It is that way, anyhow, and I have to
make the best of it. I married foolishly, in some ways, and I paid
the price--nobody knows what it was! Then I came back here, and had
really worked out a happy life for myself, when Cliff came along,
and no sooner was I adjusted to Cliff--to the thought of marriage
again, when John upset it all!"
"The happiness of the woman who marries Cliff ought to be pretty
safe," offered Sally.
"Yes, I know it. But Sally," Martie said, looking at her sister
questioningly, "sometimes I feel that I don't dare risk it! I can't
marry John, but I can't seem to--to let him go, either. I know what
madness that visit was, and yet--and yet every minute that we were
together was like--I don't know--like swimming in a sea of gold! I
didn't know what I wore or ate in those days! Pa and Lyd--other
people didn't seem to exist! I never believed before that any one
could feel as strange--as bewildered and excited and happy--as I did
then. It was like being hungry and satisfied at the same time. It
was just like being under a spell! His voice, Sally, and the way he
speaks of men and books--so surely, and yet in that boyish way--and
his hands, and the way he smiles through his lashes--I can't forget
one instant of it! We got breakfast together; I can't go into the
kitchen now without remembering it, and longing to have him there
again, whipping eggs and hunting about for the butter, while all the
time we were laughing and talking so wonderfully! It's that--loving
that way, that makes life worth while, Sally. Nothing else counts!
Nothing that we did together seemed insignificant, and nothing that
I do without him is worth while--I can't--can't--can't let him go!"
Sally was frightened as her sister's head went down again. She could
think of nothing to say. "I can't help thinking that our life would
be that," Martie went on presently, raising her sombre face to rest
it on one hand, her elbows propped on the table. "Everything would
be wonderful, just because we love each other so! He writes, and I
"Feeling as you do," Sally said after a troubled silence, "I would
really say that you oughtn't to marry any one else, Mart. But even
if Cliff gave you up, how could you marry a divorced man?"
"Oh, Sally--don't keep reiterating that it's impossible!" Martie
said with a flash of impatience. "I know it--I know it--but that
doesn't make it any easier to bear! You women who have so much can't
"You have Teddy," Sally suggested, in the silence.
"Yes, I have Teddy--God bless him!" his mother said, with a sudden
tender smile. And she seemed to see a line of little Teddies,
playing with Grandma Curley's spools, glancing fearfully at the
"Cold Lairs," walking sturdily beside Margar's shabby coach,
chattering to a quiet, black-clad mother on the overland train. She
had her gallant, gay little Teddy still. "I don't know why I talk so
recklessly, Sally," she said sensibly. "It's only that I am so
worried--and troubled. I don't know what I ought to do! Suppose I
tell Cliff frankly, and we break the engagement? Then John will come
back, and there'll be all that to go over and over!"
"But that's--just selfishness," said Sally, spreading a checked blue
towel neatly over her pan of dough, and adding last touches to the
now orderly kitchen.
"Oh, men are all selfish!" Martie conceded. "Every one's selfish!
Cliff quite placidly broke Lydia's heart years ago; Rose and Rodney
between them nearly broke mine. But now Cliff wants something from
me, and Rose realizes that she has something to gain, and it's
roses, roses all the way."
"Well, that's life, Mart," submitted the older sister.
"If I had it all to do over again," Martie mused, "I wouldn't come
back after Wallace's death. Teddy and I could have made our way
comfortably in New York. By coming, I have more or less obliged
myself to accept the Monroe point of view---"
"Oh, but Mart, we've had such wonderful times together, and it means
so much to me to have you like Joe and the children!" said Sally.
"Yes," Martie's arm went about her sister, "that's been the one
definite gain, Sally, to see you so happy and prosperous, and to
realize that life is going so pleasantly for you. As the years go
by, Joe'll gain steadily; he's that sort; and Dr. Hawkes's children
won't have to envy any children in Monroe. But, oh, Sis--if I could
The old cry, Sally thought, as she anxiously studied the beautiful,
Presently Clifford came, to take his future wife home, and Joe came
back from the hospital in the Ford, and there was much friendly talk
and laughter. But Sally watched her sister a little wistfully that
evening; didn't Martie think this was all pleasant--all worth while?
Rose's little daughter, pawn that she was in the game of Martie's
fortunes, was pushed into play the following day. For Rose
telephoned Martie at the Library, in the foggy early morning, that
Doris was not well: there was a rather suspicious rash on the baby's
chest, and if it really were measles, there must be no announcement
Martie had been eagerly awaiting that luncheon, when a dozen of the
prominent young matrons of Monroe should learn of her engagement.
She put up the telephone thoughtfully. Another delay. Another
respite, when she might still say to herself over and over: "I COULD
end it now. It isn't too late yet!"
In her hand to-day was a brief note brought to land by the tender of
the Nippon Maru. Dean Silver and John had duly sailed, they were far
out on the ocean now. That was settled. Now there was nothing to do
but go on serenely with her interrupted plans.
And yet the restless excitement caused by his coming was still about
her, she could not make herself forget. Everything that his odd and
vibrant personality had touched was changed to her. The wallflowers
he had twisted unseeingly in his nervous fingers, the kitchen where
their eager, ardent talk had gone on over the boiling of coffee and
the mixing of muffins, the hill they had climbed in gray, warm
moonlight, these things belonged to him now. Martie touched the
books he had praised tenderly, hearing his words again.
He had not written her: she knew why. She must be all or nothing to
John now. He had not spoken of her to Dean, he was trying in his
blundering boyish way to forget.
The novelist's note was short, and written in a tone of
disappointment and reproach. Martie read it, and winced as she
crumpled it in her hand. Presently she straightened it out, and read
it again. She flattened it on the desk before her, and studied it
resolutely, with reddened cheeks, and with a little pang at her
Sally came in, full of happy plans. There was talk now of making Joe
resident physician at the hospital, with a little house up there
right near the big building. It would be so dignified, bubbled
Sally, setting little Mary on the desk, where she and Aunt Mart
could each tie a small, dragging shoe-lace.
"Of course, this won't be for a year or two, Mart--but think of the
fun! A pretty house with a big porch, to match the main building, I
"But you'll be a mile out of town, Sis!"
"Oh, I know--but I can run the children in to school in the Ford,
and you'll have your own car, and that's all I really care about!
This is only a possibility, you know. What are you thinking about,
Martie laughed guiltily.
"I don't know what I was thinking," she confessed. Sally flushed,
studying her with bright eyes.
"Have you heard--"
"From John? No, but he sailed. I have a note from Mr. Silver here.
He was anxious to get him away, and they left suddenly. The sailing
list was in the paper, too, with a little notice of them both. It's
better so, I'm glad it's settled. But I wish I was a little more
sure of what the next step should be."
"I don't believe Rose's Doris has the measles at all," Sally said
thoughtfully, "and in that case, the luncheon will be in a day or
two, and won't that be rather--rather a relief to you? Oh, and
Mart," she broke off suddenly to say, "I have a letter for you here-
-Teddy and Billy called for the mail yesterday, and they left this
Martie took the big envelope, smiling. The smile deepened as she
read. After a minute she turned the letter about on the desk, so
that Sally might read it too.
"From the editor of the magazine that took my other article," Martie
explained. "I sent them another, two weeks ago."
MY DEAR MRS. BANNISTER:
Your second article has been read with much interest in this office,
and we are glad to use it. Enclosed is a check for $100, which we
hope will be satisfactory to you. Our readers have taken so
continued an interest in your first article that we are glad to give
them something more from your pen.
If you are ever in New York, will you favor us with a call? It is
possible that we might interest you with an offer of permanent work
on our staff. We make a special feature, as perhaps you know, of
articles of interest to growing girls, and when we find a writer
whose work has this appeal, we feel that she belongs to us.
In any case, let us hear from you soon again.
"A hundred dollars!" Sally said proudly, handing the letter back.
"You smart thing! That's a nice letter, isn't it? Don't you think it
is? I do. Listen, Mart, don't say anything about Joe's plans, will
you? That's all in the air. I've got to go now, it's eleven. And
Mart, don't worry too much about anything. It will all seem
perfectly natural and pleasant once it's DONE. Good-bye, dear, I
wish I could have been some help to you about it all!"
"You have been, Sally--I believe you've been the greatest help in
the world!" Martie answered enigmatically, kissing Mary's soft
little neck where the silky curls showed under the little scalloped
bonnet. "Good-bye, dear--don't walk too fast in this sun!"
When Sally had tripped away, Martie sat on at the Library desk,
staring vaguely into space. Outside, the village hummed with the
peaceful sounds of a mild autumn morning. A soft fog had earlier
enveloped it; it was rising now; every hour showed more of the
encircling brown hills; by noon the school children would rush into
a sunshiny world. Shopping women pushed baby-carriages over the
crossings; a new generation of boys and girls would swarm to
Bonestell's in the late afternoon. Time was always moving, under it
all; in a few weeks the Clifford Frosts would be home again; in a
few months the High School would stand on the ground where little
Sally and Martie Monroe had played dolls' house a few years ago.
This was her last week at the Library; Daisy David was coming in to
take her place. Already Miss Fanny suspected the truth, and her
manner had changed toward Martie a little, already she was something
of a personage in Monroe.
Women and children and old men came out and in, their whispers
sounding in the quiet, airy space. Len's wife came in, with the
third daughter who should have been a son. Teddy and Billy came in;
they wanted five cents for nails; they had run out of nails. Measles
had closed the little boys' classes, and they were wild with the joy
of unexpected holiday.
Martie presently found herself telling Miss Fanny that she would
like a few hours' freedom that afternoon: she had shopping to do.
She ate her basket lunch as usual, then she walked out into the
glaring afternoon light of Main Street. A summer wind was blowing,
the warm air was full of grit and dust.
The Bank first, then Clifford's office, then a long, silent hour
praying, in the empty little church, where the noises of Main Street
were softened, as was the very daylight that penetrated the cheap
coloured windows. Then Martie went to Dr. Ben's, and last of all to
She was to take Teddy home and Sally came with them to the gate. It
was sunset and the wind had fallen. There was a sweet, sharp odour
of dew on the dust.
"Be good to my boy, Sally!"
"Martie--as if he was mine!" Sally's eyes filled with tears at her
sister's tone: she was to have Teddy during the honeymoon.
Martie suddenly kissed her, an unusually tender kiss.
"And love me, Sis!"
"Martie," Sally said troubled, "I always DO!"
"I know you do!"
Martie laughed, with her own eyes suddenly wet, caught Teddy's
little hand, and walked away. Sally watched the tall, splendid
figure out of sight.
At the supper-table she was unusually thoughtful. Her eyes travelled
about the familiar room, the room where her high-chair had stood
years ago, the room where the Monroes had eaten tons of
uninteresting bread and butter, and had poured gallons of weak cream
into strong tea, and had cut hundreds of pies to Ma's or Lydia's
mild apologies for the crust or the colour. How often had the
windows of this room been steamy with the breath of onions and
mashed potatoes, how many; limp napkins and spotted tablecloths had
had their day there! Martie remembered, as long as she remembered
anything, the walnut chairs, with their scrolls and knobs, and the
black marble fireplace, with an old engraving, "Franklin at the
Court of France," hanging above it. Mould had crept in and had
stained the picture, which was crumpled in deep folds now, yet it
would always be a work of art to Pa and to Lydia.
She looked at Lydia; gentle, faded, dowdy in her plum-coloured cloth
dress, with imitation lace carefully sewed at neck and sleeves; at
Lydia's flat cheeks and rather prim mouth. She was like her mother,
but life had perforce broadened Ma, and it was narrowing Lydia.
Lydia was young no longer, and Pa was old.
He sat chewing his food uncomfortably, with much working of the
muscles of his face; some teeth were missing now, and some replaced
with unmanageable artificial ones. The thin, oily hair was iron-
gray, and his moustache, which had stayed black so much longer, was
iron-gray, too, and stained yellow from the tobacco of his cigars.
His eyes were set in bags of wrinkles; it was a discontented face,
even when Pa was amiable and pleased by chance. Martie knew its
every expression as well as she knew the brown-and-white china, and
the blue glass spoon holder, and the napkin-ring with "Souvenir of
Santa Cruz" on it. She could not help wondering what they would make
of the new house when they got into it, and how the clumsy, shabby
old furniture would look.
"Pa and Lyd," she said suddenly in a silence. Her tone was
sufficiently odd to arrest their immediate attention. "Pa--Lyd--I
went in to see Clifford this afternoon, and told him that I wanted
to--to break our engagement!"
An amazed silence followed. Teddy, chewing steadily on raisin
cookies, turned his eyes smilingly to his mother. He didn't quite
understand, but whatever she did was all right. Malcolm settled his
glasses with one lean, dark hand, and stared at his daughter. Lydia
gave a horrified gasp, and looked quickly from her father to her
sister: a look that was intended to serve the purpose of a fuse.
"How do you mean?" Malcolm asked painfully, at last.
"Well!" said Lydia, whose one fear was that she would not be able to
fully express herself upon this outrage.
"I mean that I--I don't truly feel that I love him," Martie said,
fitting her phraseology to her audience. "I respect him, of course,
and I like him, but--but as the time came nearer, I COULDN'T feel--"
Her voice dropped in an awful silence.
"You certainly waited some time to make up your mind, Martie," said
her father then, catching vaguely for a weapon and using it at
"But, Martie, what's your REASON?" Lydia overflowed suddenly. "What
earthly reason can you have--you can't just say that you don't want
to, now--you can't just suddenly--I never heard of anything so--so
inconsiderate! Why, what do you suppose everybody--"
"This is some of your heady nonsense, Martie," said her father's
heavy voice, drowning down Lydia's clatter. "This is just the sort
of mischief I expected to follow a visit from men as entirely
irresponsible as these New York friends of yours. I expected
something of this sort. Just as you are about to behave like a
sensible woman, they come along to upset you--"
"Exactly!" Lydia added, quivering. "I never said a word to you, Pa,"
she went on hurriedly, "but _I_ noticed it! I think it's perfectly
amazing that you should; of COURSE it's that! Martie listened to
him, and Martie walked with him, and several people noticed it, and
spoke to me about it! It's none of my business, of course, and I'm
not going to interfere, but all I can say is THIS, if Martie Monroe
plays fast and loose with a man like Cliff Frost, it will hurt us in
this village more than she has ANY idea! What are people going to
think, that's all! I certainly hope you will use your authority to
bring her to her senses--just a few days before the wedding, with
"Perhaps you will tell me what Clifford thinks of this astonishing
decision?" Malcolm asked, again interrupting Lydia's wild rush of
"Cliff was very generous, Pa. He feels that it is only a passing
feeling, and that I must have time to think things over if I want
it," Martie began.
"Ha! I should think so!" Lydia interpolated scornfully.
"At first he was inclined to laugh about it, and to think that it
was nothing," Martie said almost timidly, glancing from one to the
other, and keeping one hand over Teddy's hand.
"What makes you feel that you HAVEN'T given the thing due
consideration, Martie?" her father asked darkly, with the air of
humouring a child's fantastic whims.
"Yes! You've been engaged for months!" Lydia shot in.
"Well, it's only lately, Pa," Martie confessed mildly.
"Exactly! Since somebody came along to upset you!" said Lydia. "All
I can say is, that I think it would break Ma's heart!" she added
violently. "You give up a fine man like Cliff Frost, and now I
suppose we'll have some of your divorced friends hanging about--"
"Lyd, dear, don't be so bitter," Martie said gently, almost
maternally. "Mr. Dryden has gone off for a long tour; he may not be
back for years. What I plan to do now is go to New York. I told
Cliff that--that I wanted to go."
"May I ask how you intend to live there?" Malcolm asked, with
magnificent and obvious restraint.
"By writing, Pa."
"You plan to take your child, and reenter--"
"I think I would leave Teddy, Pa, for a while at least." They had
all left the table now, and gone into the parlour, and Martie,
sinking into a chair, rested her chin on her hand, and looked
bravely yet a trifle uncomfortably at her interlocutors. Teddy had
dashed out into the yard.
"Now, I think we have heard about enough of this nonsense, Martie,"
said her father, in a changed and hostile tone. Lydia gave a
satisfied nod; Pa was taking a stand at last. "You didn't have to
say that you would marry Clifford," he went on sternly. "You did so
as a responsible woman, of your own accord! Now you propose to make
him and your family ridiculous, just for a whim. I sent you money to
come on here, after your husband's death, and all your life I have
tried to be a good father to you. What is my reward? You run away
and marry the first irresponsible scamp that asks you; you show no
sign of repentance or feeling until you are in trouble; you come
back, at my invitation, and are made as welcome here as if you had
been the most dutiful daughter in the world, and then--THEN--you
propose to bring fresh sorrow and disgrace upon the parent who
lifted you out of your misery, and offered you a home, and forgot
and forgave the past! I am not a rich man, but what I have has been
freely yours, your child has been promised a home for my lifetime.
What more can you ask? But no," said Malcolm, pacing the floor, "you
turn against me; yours is the hand that strikes me down in my age!
Now I tell you, Martie, that things have gone far enough. If you
follow your own course in this affair, you do so at your own risk.
The day you break your engagement, you are no longer my daughter.
The day you let it be known that you are acting in this flighty and
irresponsible way, that DAY your welcome here is withdrawn! I will
not be made the laughing-stock of this town!"
Lydia was in tears; Martie pale. But the younger woman did not
speak. She had been watching her father with slightly dilated eyes
and a rising breast, while he spoke.
"Cliff generous?" Malcolm went on. "Of course he's generous! He
probably doesn't know what to make of it; responsible people don't
blow hot and cold like this! The idea of your going in to him with
any such cock-and-bull story as this! You'll break your engagement,
eh?--and go on to New York for a while, eh?--and then come smiling
back, I suppose, and marry him when it suits your own sweet will?
Well, now, I'll tell you something, young lady," he added, with a
sort of confident menace, "you'll do nothing of the kind! You sit
down now and write Clifford a note, and tell him you were a fool.
And don't let me ever hear another word of this New York nonsense!
Upon my word, I don't know how I ever came to have such children!
Other people's children seem to have some sense, and act like
reasonable human beings, but mine--however, you know what I feel
now, Martie. Going into the Bank indeed, and telling the man you're
going to marry that you are 'afraid' this and you 'fancy' that! I'll
not have it, I tell you!"
"I told him that I knew I was acting badly," Martie said, "I said
that I felt terribly about it. I even cried--I'm not proud of
myself, Pa! And he asked me to think it over, and not to worry about
postponing the wedding, and--I think he was tremendously surprised,
but he didn't say one unkind word!"
"Well, he should have, then," Malcolm said harshly. "And you are a
fortunate woman if, when it suits your high-and-mightiness to come
to your senses, he doesn't take his turn to jilt YOU! On my word, I
never heard anything like it! What possesses you is more than I can
understand. You deliberately bring unhappiness down on your family,
and act as if you were proud of yourself! I don't pretend to be
perfect, but all my life I have given my children generously--"
"Pa," Martie said suddenly, "I wonder if you believe that!" She
stood up now, facing him, her breath coming quickly. It seemed to
Martie that she had been waiting all her life to say this: hoping
for the opportunity, years ago, dreading the necessity now. "I
wonder if you believe," she said, trembling a little, "that you--and
half the other fathers and mothers in the world--are really in the
right! I didn't ask to be born; Sally didn't ask to be born. We
didn't choose our sex. We came and we grew up, and went to school,
and we had clothing and food enough. But then--THEN!--when we must
really begin to live, you suddenly failed us. Oh, you aren't
different from other fathers, Pa. It's just that you don't
understand! What help had we then in forming human relationships?
When did you ever tell us why this young man was a possible husband,
and that one was not? I wanted to work, I wanted to be a nurse, or a
bookkeeper--you laughed at me! I had a bitter experience--an
experience that you could have spared me, and Lydia before me, if
you had cared!--and I had a girl's hell to bear; I had to go about
among my friends ASHAMED! You didn't comfort me; you didn't tell me
that if I learned a little French, and brushed up my hair, and
bought white shoes, the NEXT young man wouldn't throw me over for a
prettier and more accomplished woman! You were ashamed of me! Sally,
just as ignorant as Teddy is this minute, dashed into marriage; she
was afraid, as I was, of being a dependent old maid! She married a
good man--but that wasn't your doing! I married a bad man, a man
whose selfishness and cruelty ruined all my young days, crushed the
youth right out of me, and he might be living yet, and Teddy and I
tied to him yet but for a chance! I suffered dependence and hunger--
yes, and death, too," said Martie, crying now, "just because you
didn't give me a livelihood, just because you didn't make me, and
Sally, and Lydia, too, useful citizens! You did Len; why didn't you
give us the same chance you gave Len? Len had college; he not only
was encouraged to choose a profession, but he was MADE to! Our
profession was marriage, and we weren't even prepared for that! I
didn't know anything when I married. I didn't know whether Wallace
was fit to be a husband or a father! I didn't know how motherhood
came--all those first months were full of misgivings and doubts! I
knew I was giving him all I had, and that financially I was just
where I had been--worse off than ever, in fact, for there were the
children to think of! Why didn't I have some work to do, so that I
could have stepped into it, when bitter need came, and my children
and I were almost starving? What has Len cost you, five thousand
dollars, ten thousand? What did that statue to Grandfather Monroe
cost you? Sally and I have never cost you anything but what we ate
Malcolm had risen, too, and they were glaring at each other. The old
man's putty-coloured face was pale, and his eyes glittered with
"You were always a headstrong, wicked girl!" he said now, in a
toneless dry voice, hardly above a whisper. "And heartless and
wicked you will be to the end, I suppose! How dare you criticise
your father, and your sainted mother? You choose your own life; you
throw in your fortune with a ne'er-do-well, and then you come and
reproach me! Don't--don't touch me!" he added, in a sort of furious
crow, and as Martie laid a placating hand on his arm: "Don't come
"No, don't you dare come near him!" sobbed Lydia. "Poor, dear Pa,
always so generous and so good to us! I should think you'd be
afraid, Martie--I should think you'd actually be afraid to talk so
She essayed an embrace of her father, but Malcolm shook her loose,
and crossed the hall; they heard the study door slam. For a few
minutes the sisters stared at each other, then Martie went to the
side door, and called Teddy in as quiet a voice as she could
command, and Lydia vanished kitchenward, with only one scared and
But the evening was not over. After Teddy was in bed, Martie,
staring at herself in the mirror, suddenly came to a new decision.
She ran down to the study, and entered informally.
"Pa!" She was on his knee, her arms about him. "I'm sorry I am such
a problem--so little a comfort!--to you. Forgive me, Pa, for I
always truly loved you--"
"If you truly want my forgiveness," he said stiffly, trying to
dislodge the clinging young arms, "you know how to deserve it--"
The old phraseology, and the old odour of teeth and skin! Martie
alone was changed.
"But forgive me, Pa, and I'll truly try never to cross you again."
Reluctantly, he conceded a response to her kiss, and she sat on the
arm of his chair, and played with the thin locks of his hair while
she completed the peace. Then she went into the kitchen, where Lydia
was sitting at the table, soaking circles of paper in brandy for the
preservation of the glasses of jelly ranged before her.
"Lyd, I just went and told Pa that I was sorry that I am such a
beast, and we've made it up--"
"I don't think you ought to talk as if it was just a quarrel," Lydia
said. "If Pa was angry with you, he had good cause--"
"Darling, I know he did! But I couldn't bear to go to sleep with ill
feeling between us, and so I came down, and apologized, and did the
whole thing handsomely--"
"You couldn't talk so lightly if you really CARED, Mart!"
"I care tremendously, Lyd. Why don't you use paraffin?"
"I know," Lydia said with interest, "Angela does. But somehow Ma
always did it this way."
"Well, I'll mark 'em for you!" Martie began to cut neat little
labels from white paper, and to write on them, "Currant Jelly with
Rasp. 1915." Presently she and Lydia were chatting pleasantly.
"I really put up too much one year," Lydia said, "and it began to
spoil, so I sent a whole box of it out to the Poor House; I don't
suppose they mind! But Mrs. Dolan there never sent my glasses back!
However, this year I'll give you some, Mart; unless Polly put some
"Unless I go to New York!" Martie suggested.
Lydia's whole face darkened.
"And if I do, you and Sally will be good to Teddy?" his mother
asked, her tone suddenly faltering.
"Martie, what POSSESSES you to talk about going to New York now?"
"Oh, Lyddy, you'd never understand! It's just the longing to do
something for myself, to hold my own there, to--well, to make good!
Marrying here, and being comfortably supported here, seems like--
like failure, almost, to me! If it wasn't for Teddy, I believe that
I would have gone long ago!"
"And a selfish feeling like that is strong enough to make you
willing to break a good man's heart, and desert your child?" asked
Lydia in calm tones.
"It won't break his heart, Lyd--not nearly so much as he broke
yours, years ago! And when I can--when I could, I would send for my
boy! He'd be happier here--" Martie, rather timidly watching her
sister's face, suddenly realized the futility of this and changed
her tone. "But let's not talk about it any more to-night, Lydia,
we're both too tired and excited!"
"I don't understand you," Lydia said patiently and wearily, "I never
did. I should think that SOMETIMES you'd wonder whether you're
right, and everybody else in the world is wrong--or whether the rest
of us know SOMETHING--"
Martie generously let her have the prized last word, and went
To her surprise she found Teddy awake. She sat down on the edge of
the bed, and leaned over the small figure.
"Teddy, my own boy! Haven't you been asleep?"
"Moth'," he said, with a child's uncanny prescience of impending
events, "if I were awfully, awfully bad--"
"Yes, Ted?" she encouraged him, as he paused.
"Would you ever leave me?" he asked anxiously.
The question stabbed her to the heart. She could not speak.
"I'm enough for you, aren't I?" he said eagerly. Still she did not
speak. "Or do you need somebody else?" he asked urgently.
A pang went through her heart. She tightened her arm about him.
"Teddy! You are all I have, dear!"
His small warm hand played with the ruffle of her blouse.
"But--how about Uncle Cliff, and Uncle John, and all?" he asked.
Martie was silent. "Are you going to marry them?" he added, with a
child's hesitation to say what might be ridiculous.
"No, Ted," she answered honestly.
"Well, promise me," he said urgently, sitting up to tighten his arms
about her throat, "promise me that you will never leave me! I will
never leave you, if you will promise me that! PROMISE!"
He was crying now, and Martie's own tears started thick and fast.
"I might have to leave you--just for a while--" she began.
"Not if you promised!" he said jealously.
"Even if I went away from Aunt Sally and the children, Ted, and we
had to live in a little flat again?" she stammered.
"Even THEN!" he said, with a shaken attempt at a manly voice. "I
remember the pears in the carts, and the box you dropped the train
tickets into," he said encouragingly, "and I remember Margar's
bottles that you used to let me wash! You'd take me into the parks,
and down to the beach, wouldn't you, Moth'?"
"Oh, Teddy, my little son! I'd try to make a life for you, dear!"
"And WE'D be our family, just you and me!" he said uncertainly.
"We'd be a family, all by ourselves," she promised him, laughing and
crying. And she clung to him hungrily, kissing the smooth little
forehead under the rich tumble of hair, her tears falling on his
face. Ah, this was hers, this belonged to her alone, out of all the
world. "I'm glad you told me how you felt about this, Teddy," she
said. "It makes it all clearer to me. You and I, dear--that's the
only real life for us. I owe you that. I promise you, we'll never be
separated while Mother can help it."
His wet little face was pressed against hers.
"And you'll NEVER talk about it any more!" he said violently.
"Because I cry about it sometimes, at night--"
"Never again, my own son!" He lay back on his pillow with a breath
of relief, but she kept her arms about him.
"Because you don't know how a boy feels about his own mother!" he
assured her. Kneeling there, Martie wondered how she had come to
forget his rights, forget his point of view for so long! He would
always seem a baby to her, but he was a person now, and he had his
part in, and his influence upon, her life. Suppose she had left him
to cry out this secret hunger of his uncomforted; suppose, while she
thought him contentedly playing with Billy and 'Lizabeth, he had
been judging and blaming his mother?
While she knelt, thinking, he went to sleep. But Lydia wondered what
was keeping Martie awake. The light in Martie's room was turned up,
and fell in a yellow oblong across the gravel; Lydia dozed and
awakened, but the light was always there.
Morning broke softly in a fog which did not lift as the hours went
by. Malcolm was at home until after lunch, to which meal Teddy and
Martie came downstairs unusually well dressed, Martie observing that
she had errands down town. Teddy kissed Grandpa good-bye as usual,
and his mother kissed Grandpa, too, which was not quite usual, and
clung with her white hands to his lapel.
"Teddy and I have shopping to do down town, Pa, and I've written
Cliff a note!" she said. Her father brightened.
"I'm glad you're inclined to act sensibly, my dear!" he said,
departing. "I thought we'd hear a different story this morning!"
"What are you going down town for?" asked Lydia. "I ought to have
some rubber rings from Mallon's."
"I'm taking a lot of things down--I have to pass the cleaner's
anyway," answered Martie. "I'll get them, and send them."
"Oh, bring them; they'll go in your pocket," Lydia said. "Well, Ted,
what'll you do when these measles are over, and you have to go back
to school? You've put an awful good suit on him, Mart, just to play
"He'll change before he plays," Martie answered, nervously smiling.
"Don't forget your things for the cleaner's!" Lydia said, handing
her her suitcase. Martie surprised the older sister with a sudden
"Thanks, Lyd, dear!" she said. "Good-bye! Come, Ted!"
They went down through the quiet village, shabby after the burning
of the summer. Fog lay in wet, dark patches on the yellow grass, and
in the thinning air was the good smell of wood fires. Grapes were
piled outside the fruit stores and pasted at a slant on Bonestell's
window was a neatly printed paper slip, "Chop Suey Sundae, 15c." Up
on the brown hills the fog was rising.
They went to see Dr. Ben in his old offices opposite the Town Hall,
and he gave Teddy a pink "sucker pill," as he had given Martie years
At the grocery they met Sally, with all four children, and two small
children more, and Aunt Mart had her usual kisses. Sally was afraid
that Grace's baby boy had the measles, she confided to her sister,
and had taken the twins for a time.
"Martie, how smart you look, and Ted all dressed up!" said Sally.
"And look at my tramps in their old clothes! Mart, do go past Mason
and White's and see the linen dress patterns in the window; there's
a blue-and-tan there, and an all-white--they're too lovely!"
"Why don't you let me send you one, Sally?" Martie asked
affectionately. "I'm rich! I drew my two hundred and eleven dollars'
bank account yesterday, and cashed a check from my editor, and
Cousin Allie's wedding check!" Sally flamed into immediate protest.
"Martie, I'll be wild if you do--you mustn't! I never would have
spoken of it--"
Martie laughed as she kissed her sister, and presently Sally wheeled
Mary's carriage away. But Teddy and his mother went into Mason and
White's, nevertheless, and both the tan-and-blue and the all-white
dress were taken out of the window and duly paid for and sent away.
Teddy shouted to his mother when they were in the street again that
there was Uncle Joe in the car, and he could have taken the dresses
to Aunt Sally.
No, his mother told him, that was to be a surprise! But she crossed
the street to talk in a low tone to Uncle Joe. Uncle Joe said more
than once, "I'm with you--I think you're right!" and finally kissed
Teddy, and suddenly kissed his mother, before he drove away.
Teddy was bursting with the thought of the surprise. But this
afternoon was full of surprises. They were strolling along,
peacefully enough, when suddenly his mother took his small arm and
guided him into the station where they had arrived in Monroe nearly
two years before.
A big train came thundering to a stop now as then, and Teddy's
mother said to him quickly and urgently: "Climb in, Love. That's my
boy! Get in, dear; mother'll explain to you later!"
She took a ticket from her bag, and showed it to the coloured
porter, and they went down the little passage past the dressing
room, and came to the big velvet seats which he remembered
perfectly. His mother was breathing nervously, and she was quite
pale as she discussed the question of Teddy's berth with the man who
had letters on his cap.
She would not let Teddy look out of the windows until the train
started, but it started in perhaps two minutes, and then she took
off his hat and her own, and smoothed back his hair, and laughed
delightfully like a little girl.
"Where are we goin'?" asked Teddy, charmed and excited.
"We're going to New York, Loveliness! We're going to make a new
start!" she said.
From that hour Martie knew the joy of living. She emerged from the
hard school in which she had been stumbling and blundering so long;
she was a person, an individuality, she was alive and she loved
Her heart fairly sang as she paid for Teddy's supper, the lovely
brown hills of California slipping past the windows of the dining
car. The waiter was solicitous; would the lady have just a salad?
No, said the lady, she did not feel hungry. She and Teddy went out
to breathe the glorious air of the mountains from the observation
car, and to flash and clatter through the snow sheds.
And what a delight it was to be young and free and to have this
splendid child all for her own, thought Martie, her heart swelling
with a wonderful peace. Everybody liked Teddy, and Teddy's touching
happiness at being alone with his adored mother opened her eyes to
the feeling that had been hidden under a child's inarticulateness
all these months.
The two hundred dollars between her and destitution might have been
two million; she was rich. She could treat the troubled, pale little
mother and the two children from the next section to lemonades every
afternoon, and when they reached Chicago, hot and sunshiny at last,
she and Teddy spent the day loitering through a big department
store. Here Teddy was given a Boy Scout suit, and Martie bought
herself a cake of perfumed soap whose odour, whenever she caught it
in after times, brought back the enchanting emotion of these first
days of independence.
Tired, dirty, they were sitting together late in the afternoon of
the fifth day, when she felt a sudden tug at her heart. Outside the
car window, slipping steadily by, were smoke-stained brick
factories, and little canals and backwaters soiled with oil and
soot, and heaps of slag and scrap iron and clinkers. Then villages
swept by--flat, orderly villages with fences enclosing summer
gardens. Then factories again--villages--factories--no more of the
flat, bare fields: the fields were all of the West.
But suddenly above this monotonous scene Martie noticed a dull glow
that grew rosier and steadier as the early evening deepened. Up
against the first early stars the lights of New York climbed in a
wide bar of pink and gold, flung a quivering bar of red.
She was back again! Back in the great city. She belonged once more
to the seething crowds in the Ghetto, to the cool arcades between
the great office buildings, to Broadway with its pushing crowds of
shoppers, to the Bronx teeming with tiny shops and swung with the
signs of a thousand apartments to let. The hotels, with their
uniformed starters, the middle Forties, with their theatrical
boarding-houses, the tiny experimental art shops and tea shops and
gift shops that continually appear and disappear among the basements
of old brown-stone houses--she was back among them all!
Tears of joy and excitement came to her eyes. She pressed her face
eagerly beside the child's face at the window.
"Look down, Ted, that's the East Side, dear, with all the children
playing; do you remember? And see all the darling awnings flapping!"
"I shouldn't wonder if we should have an electric storm!" said
Teddy, finding the old phrase easily, his warm little cheek against
"We're back in New York, Teddy! We're home again!" She was gathering
her things together. A thought smote her, and she paused with
suddenly colouring cheeks. This might so easily have been her
wedding-trip; she and Clifford might have been together now.
Poor Clifford, with his stiffly moving brain and his platitudes! She
hoped he would marry some more grateful woman some day. What a
Paradise opening for Lydia if he could ever fancy her again! Martie
spent a moment in wonder as to what the story given Monroe would be.
She had mailed a letter to Lydia, and one to Clifford, during that
last, quiet, foggy morning--letters written after the packing had
been done on that last night. She had suggested that Monroe be given
a hint that business had taken Mrs. Bannister suddenly eastward. It
would be a nine days' wonder; in six months Monroe would only
vaguely remember it. Gossips might suspect the truth: they would
never know it. Clifford himself, in another year, would be placidly
implying that there never had been anything in the rumour of an
engagement. Rose would dimple and shake her head; Martie was always
just a little ODD. Lydia would confide to Sally that she was just
sick for fear that Dryden man--and Sally, sternly inspecting Jimmy's
little back for signs of measles, would quote Joe. Joe ALWAYS
thought Martie would make good, and Joe wasn't one bit sorry she had
done as she had. Dr. Ben would defend her, too, for on that sudden
impulsive call she had let her full heart thank him for all his
fatherly goodness to her beloved Sally, and had told him what she
"Mark ye, if you was engaged to me, ye wouldn't jump the traces like
this!" the old man had assured her.
"Dr. Ben, I wouldn't want to!" she had answered gaily. "You're older
than Cliff; I know that. But you're broad, Dr. Ben, and you're
simple, and you aren't narrow! You've grown older the way I want to,
just smiling and listening. And you know more in your little finger
than--than some people know in their whole bodies!" And she put her
arms about his neck, and gave him a daughter's laughing kiss.
"Looky here," said the old man, warming, "a man's got to be dead
before he can stand for a thing like this! You haven't got a
waiting-list, I suppose, Miss Martie?"
"No, sir!" she answered positively. "But if ever I do I'll let you
She and Teddy ate their first meal at Childs'. Little signs bearing
the single word "strawberries" were pasted on the window; Martie
felt a real thrill of affection for the place as she went in. After
a while "Old Southern Corn Cakes" would take the place of the
strawberries, and then grape-fruit "In Season Now."
"After a while we'll be too rich to come here, Ted!" she said as
they went out.
"Wull we?" Teddy asked regretfully. They went into the pushing and
crowding of the streets; heard the shrill trill of the crossing
policeman's whistle again; caught a glimpse of Broadway's lights,
fanning lower and higher, and as the big signs rippled up and down.
Martie drank it in eagerly, no faintest shadow of apprehension fell
upon this evening. She and Teddy walked to their little hotel; to-
morrow she would see her editor, and they would search for cheaper
quarters. She would get the half-promised position or another; it
mattered not which. She would board economically, or find diminutive
quarters for housekeeping; be comfortable either way. If they kept
house, some kindly old woman would be found to give Teddy bread and
butter when he came in from school. And on hot summer Sundays she
and Teddy would pack their lunch, and make an early start for the
beach; theoretically, it would be an odd life for the child, but
actually--how much richer and more sympathetic she would make it
than her own had been! Children are natural gypsies, and Teddy would
never complain because his mother kept him up later than was quite
conventional in the evening, and sometimes took him to her office,
to draw pictures or look at books for a quiet hour.
And she would have friends: women who were working like herself, and
men, too. She was as little afraid of the other as of the one now.
There would be visits to country cottages; there would be winter
dinners, down on the Square. And some day, perhaps, she would have
the studio with the bare floors and the dark rugs. Over and over
again she said the words to herself: she was free; she was free.
Dependence on Pa's whim, on Wallace's whim, was over. She stood
alone, now; she could make for herself that life that every man was
always free to make; that every woman should be offered, too. She
had suffered bitterly; she might live to be an old, old woman, but
she knew that the sight of a fluffy-headed girl baby must always
stab her with unendurable pain. She had been shabby, hungry,
ashamed, penniless, humiliated. She had been ill, physically
handicapped for weary weeks upon weeks.
And she had emerged, armed for the fight. The world needed her now,
Cliff and Pa needed her, even Dr. Ben and Sally and Len would have
been proud to offer her a home. Miss Fanny was missing her now; a
dozen persons idling into the Library in sleepy little Monroe's
summer fog, to-morrow morning, would wish that Miss David was not so
slow, would wish that Mrs. Bannister was back.
The editor himself was out of town; but his assistant was as
encouraging as a somewhat dazzled young man could be.
"She's a corker," said the assistant later. "She's pretty and she
talks fast and she's full of fun; but it's not that. She's got a
sort of PUSH to her; you'll like her. I bet she'll be just the
person. I told her that you'd be here this morning, and she said
she'd call again."
"I hope she does!" the editor said. Her card was handed him a moment
In came the tall, severely gowned woman with the flashing smile and
blue eyes, and magnificent bronze hair. She radiated confidence and
power. He had hoped for something like this from her letters; she
was better than his hopes. She wanted a position. She hoped, she
said innocently, that it was a good time for positions.
It was always a good time for certain people, the editor reflected.
They talked for half an hour, irrelevant talk, Martie thought it,
for it was principally of her personal history and his own. Then a
stenographer interrupted; the little boy was afraid that his mother
had gone away through some other door!
The little boy came in, and shook hands with Mr. Trowbridge, and
subsided into his mother's lap. Then the three had another half-
hour's talk. Mr. Trowbridge had boys, too, but they were up in the
He himself escorted them over the office, through large spaces
filled with desks, past closed doors, through a lunch-room and a
library. Respectful greetings met them on all sides. Martie was glad
she had on her wedding suit, and the new hat that had been in a
department store on Sixth Avenue yesterday afternoon. Mr. Trowbridge
called Mrs. Bannister's attention to a certain desk. When they went
back to the privacy of his own office, he asked her if she would
like to come to use that desk, say on Monday?
"There's a bunch of confidential letters there now, for you to
answer," he said. "Then there are always articles to change, or cut,
or adapt. Also our Miss Briggs, in the 'My Own Money Club,' needs
help. We may ask you sometimes to take home a bunch of stories to
read; we may ask you to do something else!"
"I'll address envelopes or stoke the furnace!" said Martie, bright
tears in her smiling eyes. "I don't know whether I'm worth all that
money," she added, "for it doesn't seem to me that anybody in the
world really EARNS as much as twenty dollars a week, but I'll try to
be! I'm twenty-eight years old, and I've been waiting all my life
for this chance!"
"Well, even at that age, you may have a year or two of usefulness
left, if your health is spared you." the editor said. They parted
laughing, and Martie went out into the wonderful, sunny, hospitable
city as gay as Teddy was. Oh, how she would work, how she would
work! She would get down to the office first of all; she would wear
the trimmest suits; she would never be cross, never be tired, never
rebel at the most flagrant imposition! She would take the cold baths
and wear the winter underwear that kept tonsilitis at bay; she would
hire a typewriter, and keep on with her articles. If ever a woman in
the world kept a position, then Martie would keep hers!
And, of course, women did. There was that pretty, capable woman who
came into Mr. Trowbridge's office, and was introduced as the
assistant editor. Coolly dressed, dainty and calm, she had not
suggested that the struggle was too hard. She had smilingly greeted
Martie, offered a low-voiced suggestion, and vanished unruffled and
"Why, that's what this world IS," Martie reflected. "Workers needing
jobs, and jobs needing workers." And suddenly she hit upon the
keynote to her new philosophy. "MEN don't worry and fidget about
keeping their jobs, and _I_'M not going to. I'm just as necessary
and just as capable as if I were--say, Len. If Len came on here for
a job I wouldn't worry myself sick about his ever getting it!"
What honeymoon would have been half so thrilling, she reflected, as
this business of getting herself and Teddy suitably established? Her
choice, not made until Sunday afternoon, fell upon a quiet boarding-
house on West Sixty-first Street. It was kept by a kindly Irishwoman
who had children younger and older than Teddy, and well-disposed
toward Teddy, and it was only half a block from the Park. At first
Mrs. Gilfogle said she would charge nothing at all for the child; a
final price for the two was placed at fifteen dollars a week. Martie
suspected that the young Gilfogles would accompany Teddy and herself
on their jaunts occasionally, and would help him scatter his stone
blocks all over her floor on winter nights. But the luncheon for
which they stayed was exceptionally good, and she was delighted with
her big back room.
"I'm alone wid the two of thim to raise," said Mrs. Gilfogle. "I
know what it is. He died on me just as I got three hundred dollars'
worth of furniture in, God rest him. I didn't know would I ever pay
for it at all, with Joe here at the breast, and Annie only walking.
But I've had good luck these seven years! You'll not find elegance,
but at that you'll never go hungry here. And you lost the child,
too?--that was hard."
"My girl would be three," Martie said wistfully. And suddenly
reminded, she thought that she would take Teddy and go to see the
old Doctor and Mrs. Converse.
That they welcomed her almost with tears of joy, and that her
improved appearance and spirits gave them genuine parental delight
was only a part of her new experience. Mrs. Converse wanted her to
settle down with Teddy in her old room. Martie would not do that;
she must be near the subway, she said, but she promised them many a
"And that Mrs. Dryden got divorced, but she never married again,"
marvelled the old lady mildly.
"Oh, she didn't marry her doctor, then?"
"No, I think somebody told Doctor that she couldn't. Wasn't she just
the kind of woman who could spoil the lives of two good men?
Somebody told Doctor that the doctor was reconciled to his wife, and
they went away from New York, but I don't know."
Martie wondered. She thought that she would look up the doctor's
name in the telephone book, anyway, and perhaps chance an anonymous
telephone call. Suppose she asked for Mrs. Cooper, and Adele
But before she did so, she met Adele. She had held her new position
for six weeks then, and Indian Summer was giving way to the
delicious coolness of the fall. Martie was in a department store,
Teddy beside her, when a woman came smiling up to her, and laid a
hand on her arm. She recognized a changed Adele. The beauty was not
gone, but it seemed to have faded and shrunk upon itself; Adele's
bright eyes were ringed with lead, the old coquetry of manner was
"Martie," said Adele, "this is my sister, Mrs. Baker."
Mrs. Baker, a big wholesome woman, who looked, Martie thought, as if
she might have a delicate daughter, married young, and a husband
prominent in the Eastern Star, and be herself a clever bridge
player, and a most successful hostess and guest at women's hilarious
lunch-eons, looked at the stranger truculently. She was a tightly
corseted woman, with prominent teeth, and a good-natured smile.
Martie felt sure that she always had good clothes, and wore white
shoes in summer, and could be generous without any glimmering of a
sense of justice. She was close to fifty.
"How do, Mrs. Bannister," she said heartily. "I've heard Adele
mention your name. How do you think she looks? I think she looks
like death. How do, dear?" she added to Teddy. "Are you mama's boy?
I don't live in New York like you do; I live in Browning, Indiana.
Don't you think that's a funny place to live? But it's a real pretty
place just the same."
"Have you had your lunch?" Adele was asking. "We haven't. I was kept
by the girl at the milliner's--"
It was one o'clock on a Saturday afternoon. Martie was free to lunch
where she pleased. She was free even to sit down with a woman whose
name was under a cloud. They all crowded into an express elevator,
and sat down at a table in the restaurant on the twelfth floor.
Presently the unreality of it faded from Martie's uppermost
consciousness and she began to enjoy herself. To sit with the wife
of a Mystic Shriner, and the woman who had done what Adele had done,
and whose husband incidentally was deeply devoted to herself, was
not according to Monroe. But she was in New York!
"I guess I was a silly girl, misled by a man of the world," Adele
was saying in her old, complaining, complacent voice. "I know I was
a fool, Martie, but don't men do that sort of thing all the time,
and get over it? Why should us women pay all the time? You know as
well as I do that John Dryden was just as queer as Dick's hatband; I
was hungering, as a girl will, for pleasure and excitement--"
"It was a dirty crime, the way that doctor acted," Mrs. Baker
contributed, her tone much pleasanter than her words. "He must have
been a skunk, if you ask me. Adele here was wrong, Mrs. Bannister;
you and I won't quarrel about that. But Adele wasn't nothing but a
child at heart--"
"I believed anything he told me!" Adele drawled, playing with her
knife and fork, her lashes dropped.
"Dryden," the loyal sister continued majestically, "threw her over
the second he got a chance; that's what she got for putting up with
HIM for all those years! And then, if you please, this other feller
discovers that he can't get rid of his wife. I came on then," she
said warmly as Martie murmured her sympathy, "and I says to Adele,
throw the whole crowd of them down. Billy Baker and I have plenty,
and my daughter--Ruby, she's a lovely girl and she's married an
elegant feller whose people own about all the lumber interests in
our part of the country--she doesn't need anything from us. But if
you ask me, it's just about killed Adele," she went on frankly,
glancing at her sister, "she looks like a sick girl to me. We came
on two or three days ago, to see a specialist about her, and I
declare I'll be glad to get her back."
"What has become of Dr. Cooper?" Martie felt justified in asking.
"He lost all the practice he ever had, they say," Mrs. Baker said
viciously. "And good enough for him, too! His wife won't even see
him, and he lives at some boarding-house; and serve him right!"
"And Jack's book such a success!" Adele said, widening her eyes at
Martie. "Do you ever see him?"
"He's got a great friend in Dean Silver, the novelist," Martie
answered composedly. "I believe they're abroad."
"The idea!" Adele said lifelessly. She was playing with her
bracelets now, and looked about her in an aimless way.
"Well, if this little girl has any sense she'll let the past be the
past," remarked the optimistic Mrs. Baker. "There's a fellow out our
way, Joe Chase; he's got a cattle ranch. You never heard of him?
He's a di'mond in the rough, if you ask me, but he's been crazy
about Adele ever since she first visited me. He'd give her anything
in God's world."
"But I think I'd die of loneliness winters!" Adele said, with the
smile of a petted child.
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