Other Things Being Equal
Part 2 out of 5
be? You are always amiable together, are you not?"
"Well," she said, knitting her brows and pursing her lips drolly, "that,
methinks, depends on the limits and requirements of amiability. If
disputation showeth a friendly spirit, then is my lord overfriendly; for it
oft hath seemed of late to pleasure his mood to wax disputations, though,
in sooth, lady fair, I have always maintained a wary and decorous
"I can imagine," laughed her mother, a little anxiously; "then you will
If Arnold really cared for the outcome of such manoeuvres, Mrs. Levice's
exertions bore some fruit.
There are few communities, comparatively speaking, with more enthusiastic
theatre-lovers than are to be found in San Francisco. The play was one of
the few worldly pleasures that Mr. Levice thoroughly enjoyed. When a great
star was heralded, he was in a feverish delight until it had come and gone.
When Bernhardt appeared, the quiet little man fully earned the often
indiscriminately applied title of "crazy Frenchman." A Frenchman is never
so much one as when confronted in a foreign land with a great French
creation; every fibre in his body answers each charm with an appreciation
worked to fever-heat by patriotic love; at such times the play of his
emotions precludes any idea of reason to an onlooker. Bernhardt was one of
Levice's passions. Booth was another, though he took him more composedly.
The first time the latter appeared at the Baldwin (his opening play was
"Hamlet") the Levices--that is, Ruth and her father--went three times in
succession to witness his matchless performance, and every succeeding
characterization but strengthened their enthusiasm.
Booth was coming again. The announcement had been rapturously hailed by
"It will be impossible for us to go together, Father," Ruth remarked at the
breakfast-table. "Louis will have to take me on alternate nights, while
you stay at home with Mamma; did you hear, Louis?"
"You will hardly need to do that," answered Arnold, lowering his cup; "if
you and your father prefer going together, I shall enjoy staying with your
mother on those nights."
"Thanks for the offer--and your evident delight in my company," laughed
Ruth; "but there is one play at which you must submit to the infliction of
my presence. Don't you remember we always wished to see the 'Merchant of
Venice' and judge for ourselves his interpretation of the character? Well,
I am determined that we shall see it together."
"When does he play it?"
"A week from Saturday night."
"Sorry to disappoint you, but I shall be out of town at the end of next
"Oh, dear? Honestly? Can't you put it off? I want so much to go."
"Impossible. Go with your father."
"You know very well neither of us would go off and leave Mamma alone at
night. It is horrid of you to go. I am sure you could manage differently
"Why, my child!"
She was actually pouting; and her father's quiet tone of surprised
reprimand just headed off two great tears that threatened to fall.
"I know," she said, trying to smile, and showing an April face instead;
"but I had just set my heart on going, and with Louis too."
"That comes of being a spoilt only child," put in Arnold, suavely. "You
ought to know by this time that of the many plans we make with ourselves,
nine out of ten come to nought. Before you set your heart on a thing, be
sure you will not have to give it up."
Ruth, still sore with disappointment, acknowledged this philosophic remark
with a curled lip.
"There, save your tears for something more worthy," cut in Levice, briskly;
"if you care so much about it, we or chance must arrange it as you wish."
But chance in this instance was not propitious. Wednesday came, and Arnold
saw no way of accommodating her. He left town after taking her to see the
"Fool's Revenge" as a sort of substitution.
"You seemed to be enjoying the poor Fool's troubles last night," observed
Dr. Kemp, in the morning; they were still standing in Mrs. Levice's room.
"I? Not enjoying his troubles; I enjoyed Booth, though, --if you can call
it enjoyment when your heart is ready to break for him. Were you there? I
did not see you."
"No, I don't suppose you did, or you would have been in the pitiable
condition of the princess who had her head turned. I sat directly back of
your box, in the dress-circle. Then you like Booth?"
"Take care! That is a dangerous subject with my family," broke in Mrs.
Levice. "Ruth has actually exhausted every adjective in her admiration
vocabulary. The last extravaganza I heard from her on that theme was after
she had seen him as Brutus; she wished herself Lucius, that in the tent
scene she might kiss Booth's hand."
"It sounds gushing enough for a school-girl now," laughed Ruth merrily,
looking up at the doctor; "but at the time I meant it."
"Have you seen him in all his impersonations?" he asked.
"In everything but 'Shylock.'"
"You will have a chance for that on Saturday night. It will be a great
"Undoubtedly, but I shall have to forego that last glimpse of him."
"Now, Doctor," cried Mrs. Levice, "will you please impress it on her that I
am not a lunatic and can be left alone without fear? She wishes to go
Saturday night, but refuses to go with her father on the ground that I
shall be left alone, as Mr. Arnold is out of town. Is not that being
"Without doubt. But," he added, turning deferentially to Ruth, "in lieu of
a better escort, how would I do, Miss Levice?"
"I do not understand."
"Will you come with me Saturday night to see 'Shylock'?"
To be candid, Ruth was embarrassed. The doctor had said neither "will you
honor me" nor "will you please me," but he had both pleased and honored
her. She turned a pair of radiant eyes to her mother. "Come now, Mrs.
Levice," laughed Kemp, noting the action, "will you allow your little girl
to go with me? Do not detain me with a refusal; it will be impossible to
accept one now, and I shall not be around till then, you know.
Unwittingly, the doctor had caused an excitement in the hearts both of
mother and daughter. The latter was naturally surprised at his unexpected
invitation, but surprise was soon obliterated by another and quite
different feeling, which she kept rigorously to herself. Mrs. Levice was
in a dilemma about it, and consulted her husband in the evening.
"By all means, let her go," replied he; "why should you have had any
misgivings about it? I am sure I am glad she is going."
"But, Jules, you forget that none of our Jewish friends allow their girls
to go out with strangers."
"Is that part of our religion?"
"No; but custom is in itself a religion. People do talk so at every little
innovation against convention."
"What will they say? Nothing detrimental either to Ruth or the doctor.
Pshaw, Esther! You ought to feel proud that Dr. Kemp has asked the child.
If she wishes to go, don't set an impossible bogy in the way of her
enjoyment. Besides, you do not care to appear so silly as you would if you
said to the doctor, 'I can't let her go on account of people's tongues,'
and that is the only honest excuse you can offer." So in his manly,
practical way he decided it.
On Saturday night Ruth stood in the drawing-room buttoning her pale suede
glove. Kemp had not yet come in. She looked unusually well in her dull
sage-green gown. A tiny toque of the same color rested on her soft dark
hair. The creamy pallor of her face, the firm white throat revealed by the
broad rolling collar, her grave lips and dreamy eyes, hardly told that she
was feeling a little shy. Presently the bell rang, and Kemp came in, his
open topcoat revealing his evening dress beneath. He came forward hastily.
"I am a little late," he said, taking her hand, "but it was unavoidable.
Ten minutes to eight," looking at his watch; "the horses must make good
"It is slightly chilly to-night, is it not?" asked Ruth, for want of
something better to say as she turned for her wrap.
"I did not feel it," he replied, intercepting her. "But this furry thing
will keep the cold off, if there is any," he continued, as he held it for
her, and quite unprofessionally bent his head to hook it at her throat. A
strange sensation shot through Ruth as his face approached so close her
"How are your mother and father?" He asked, holding the door open, while
she turned for her fan, thus concealing a slight embarrassment.
"They are as usual," she answered. "Father expects to see you after the
play. You will come in for a little supper, will you not?"
"That sounds alluring," he responded lightly, his quick eye remarking, as
she came toward him, the dainty femininity of her loveliness, that seemed
to have caught a grace beyond the reach of art.
It thus happened that they took their places just as the curtain rose.
Everybody remembers the sad old comedy, as differently interpreted in its
graver sentiment as there are different interpreters. Ruth had seen one
who made of Shylock merely a fawning, mercenary, loveless, blood-thirsty
wretch. She had seen another who presented a man of quick wit, ready
tongue, great dignity, greater vengeance, silent of love, wordy of hate.
Booth, without throwing any romantic glamour on the Jew, showed him as God
and man, but mostly man, had made him: an old Jew, grown bitter in the
world's disfavor through fault of race; grown old in strife for the only
worldly power vouchsafed him, --gold; grown old with but one human love to
lighten his hard existence; a man who, at length, shorn of his two loves
through the same medium that robbed him of his manly birthright, now turned
fiend, endeavors with tooth and nail to wreak the smouldering vengeance of
a lifetime upon the chance representative of an inexorable persecution.
All through the performance Ruth sat a silent, attentive listener. Kemp,
with his ready laugh at Gratiano's sallies, would turn a quick look at her
for sympathy; he was rather surprised at the grave, unsmiling face beside
him. When, however, the old Jew staggered alone and almost blindly from
the triumphantly smiling court-room, a little pinch on his arm decidedly
He lowered his glass and turned round on her so suddenly that Ruth started.
"Oh," she faltered, "I--I beg your pardon; I had forgotten you were not
"I do not mind in the least," he assured her easily.
The last act passes merrily and quickly; only the severe, great things of
life move slowly.
As the doctor and Ruth made their way through the crowded lobby, the latter
thought she had never seen so many acquaintances, each of whom turned an
interested look at her stalwart escort. Of this she was perfectly aware,
but the same human interest with which Kemp's acquaintances regarded her
passed by her unnoticed.
A moment later they were in the fresh, open air.
"How beautiful it is!" said Ruth, looking up at the stars. "The wind has
entirely died away."
"'On such a night,'" quoth Kemp, as they approached the curb, "a closed
carriage seems out of season."
"And reason," supplemented Ruth, while the doctor opened the door rather
slowly. She glanced at him hesitatingly.
"Would you--" she began.
"Right! I would!" The door was banged to.
"John," he said, looking up at his man in the box, "take this trap round to
the stable; I shall not need the horses again to-night."
John touched his hat, and Kemp drew his companion's little hand through his
"Well," he said, as they turned the corner, "Were you satisfied with the
great man to-night?"
"Yes," she replied meditatively, "fully; there was no exaggeration, --it
was all quite natural."
"Except Jessica in boy's clothes."
"Don't mention her, please; I detest her."
"And yet she spoke quite prettily on the night."
"I did not hear her."
"Why, where were you while all the world was making merry on the stage?"
"Not with them; I was with the weary, heart-broken old man who passed out
when joy began."
"Ah! I fancied you did not half appreciate Gratiano's jesting. Miss
Levice, I am afraid you allow the sorry things of life to take too strong a
hold on you. It is not right. I assure you for every tear there is a
laugh, and you must learn to forget the former in the latter."
"I am sorry," replied Ruth, quite sadly; "but I fear I cannot learn that,
--tears are always stronger than laughter. How could I listen to the
others' nonsense when my heart was sobbing with that lonely old man?
Forgive me, but I cannot forget him."
They walked along silently for some time. Instinctively, each felt the
perfect accord with which they kept step. Ruth's little ear was just about
on a level with the doctor's chin. He hardly felt the soft touch of her
hand upon his sleeve; but as he looked at the white profile of her cheek
against the dark fur of her collar, the knowledge that she was there was a
"Did you consider the length of our walk when you fell in with my desire?"
he asked presently.
"I like a long walk in pleasant weather; I never tire of walking."
"You have found the essentials of a good pedestrian, --health and
"Yes; if everybody were like me, all your skill would be thrown away, --I
am never ill."
"Apparently there is no reason why you should be, with common-sense to back
your blessings. If common-sense could be bought at the drug-store, I
should be rid of a great many patients."
"That reminds me of a snatch of conversation I once overheard between my
mother and a doctor's wife. I am reminded of it because the spirit of your
meaning is diametrically opposed to her own. After some talk my mother
asked, 'And how is the doctor?' 'Oh,' replied the visitor, with a long
sigh, 'he's well enough in body, but he's blue, terribly blue; everybody is
so well, you know.'"
"Her sentiment was more human than humane," laughed Kemp. He was glad to
see that she had roused herself from her sad musings; but a certain set
purpose he had formed robbed him now of his former lightness of manner.
He was about to broach a subject that required delicate handling; but an
intuitive knowledge of the womanly character of the young girl aided him
much. It was not so much what he had seen her do as what he knew she was,
that led him to begin his recital.
"We have a good many blocks before us yet," he said, "and I am going to
tell you a little story. Why don't you take the full benefit of my arm?
There," he proceeded, drawing her hand farther through his arm, "now you
feel more like a big girl than like a bit of thistledown. If I get
tiresome, just call 'time,' will you?"
"All right," she laughed. She was beginning to meet halfway this
matter-of-fact, unadorned, friendly manner of his; and when she did meet
it, she felt a comfortable security in it. From the beginning to the end
of his short narrative he looked straight ahead.
"How shall I begin? Do you like fairy tales? Well, this is the soul of
one without the fictional wings. Once upon a time, --I think that is the
very best introduction extant, --a woman was left a widow with one little
girl. She lived in New Orleans, where the blow of her husband's death and
the loss of her good fortune came almost simultaneously. She must have had
little moral courage, for as soon as she could, she left her home, not
being able to bear the inevitable falling off of friends that follows loss
of fortune. She wandered over the intermediate States between here and
Louisiana, stopping nowhere long, but endeavoring to keep together the
bodies and souls of herself and child by teaching. They kept this up for
years until the mother succumbed. They were on the way from Nevada to Los
Angeles when she died. The daughter, then not eighteen, went on to Los
Angeles, where she buried her mother, and endeavored to continue teaching
as she had been doing. She was young, unsophisticated, sad, and in want in
a strange town. She applied for advice to a man highly honored and
recommended by his fellow-citizens. The man played the brute. The girl
fled--anywhere. Had she been less brave, she would have fled from herself.
She came to San Francisco and took a position as nurse-girl; children, she
thought, could not play her false, and she might outlive it. The hope was
cruel. She was living near my home, had seen my sign probably, and in the
extremity of her distress came to me. There is a good woman who keeps a
lodging-house, and who delights in doing me favors. I left the poor child
in her hands, and she is now fully recovered. As a physician I can do no
more for her, and yet melancholy has almost made a wreck of her. Nothing I
say has any effect; all she answers is, 'It isn't worth while.' I
understand her perfectly, but I wished to infuse into her some of her old
spirit of independence. This morning I asked her if she intended to let
herself drift on in this way. I may have spoken a little more harshly than
necessary, for my words broke down completely the wall of dogged silence
she had built around herself. 'Oh, sir,' she cried, weeping like the child
she is, 'what can I do? Can I dare to take little children by the hand,
stained as I am? Can I go as an impostor where, if people knew, they would
snatch their loved ones from me? Oh, it would be too wretched!' I tried
to remonstrate with her, told her that the lily in the dust is no less a
lily than is her spotless sister held high above contamination. She looked
at me miserably from her tear-stained face, and then said, 'Men may think
so, but women don't; a stain with them is ignoble whether made by one's
self or another. No woman knowing my story would think me free from
dishonor, and hold out her clean hands to me.' 'Plenty,' I contradicted.
'Maybe,' she said humbly; 'but what would it mean? The hand would be held
out at arm's length by women safe in their position, who would not fail to
show me how debased they think me. I am young yet; can you show me a girl,
like myself in years, but white as snow, kept safe from contamination, as
you say, who, knowing my story, would hold out her hand to me and not feel
herself besmirched by the contact? Do not say you can, for I know you
cannot.' She was crying so violently that she would not listen to me.
When I left her, I myself could think of none of my young friends to whom I
could propound the question. I know many sweet, kind girls, but I could
count not one among them all who in such a case would be brave as she was
womanly--until I thought of you."
Complete silence followed his words. He did not turn his glance from the
street ahead of him. He had made no appeal, would make none, in fact. He
had told the story with scarcely a reflection on its impropriety, that
would have arrested another man from introducing such an element into his
gentle fellowship with a girl like Ruth. His lack of hesitancy was born of
his manly view of the outcast's blamelessness, of her dire necessity for
help, and of a premonition that Ruth Levice would be as free from the
artificiality of conventional surface modesty as was he, through the
earnestness of the undertaking.
There is something very sweet to a woman in being singled out by a man for
some ennobling virtue. Ruth felt this so strongly that she could almost
hear her heart beat with the intoxicating knowledge. No question had been
asked, but she felt an answer was expected. Yet had her life depended on
it, the words could not have come at that moment. Was she indeed what he
esteemed her? Unconsciously Dr. Kemp had, in thought, placed her on a
pedestal. Did she deserve the high place he had given her, or would she?
With many women the question would have been, did she care for Dr. Kemp's
good opinion? Now, though Ruth was indeed put on her mettle, her quick
sympathy had been instantly touched by the girl's miserable story. Perhaps
the doctor's own feelings had influenced her, but had the girl stood before
her at the moment, she would have seized her hand with all her own gentle
nobility of soul.
As they turned the corner of the block where Ruth's house stood, Kemp said
"I thank you. Where does she live?"
Her quiet, natural tone told nothing of the tumult of sweet thoughts
within. They had reached the house, and the doctor opened the gate before
he answered. When he did, after they had passed through, he took both her
hands in his.
"I shall take you there," he said, looking down at her with grave, smiling
eyes; "I knew you would not fail me. When shall I call for you?"
"Do not call for me at all; I think--I know it will be better for me to
walk in alone, as of my own accord."
"Ah, yes!" he said, and told her the address. She ran lightly up the
steps, and as he turned her key in the door for her, she raised a pair of
starry eyes to his.
"Dr. Kemp," she said, "I have had an exceptionally lovely evening. I shall
not soon forget it."
"Nor I," he returned, raising his hat; holding it in his hand, he gently
raised her gloved hand to his lips. Herbert Kemp was a gentleman of the
old school in his manner of showing reverence to women.
"My brave young friend!" he said; and the next minute his firm footfall was
crunching the gravel of the walk. Neither of them had remembered that he
was to have come in with her. She waited till the gate clicked behind him,
and then softly closed the heavy door.
"My brave young friend!" The words mounted like wine to her head. She
forgot her surroundings and stood in a sweet dream in the hall, slowly
unbuttoning her glove. She must have remained in this attitude for five
minutes, when, raising her eyes, still shadowy with thought, she saw her
cousin before her down the hall, his arm resting on the newel-post.
"Louis!" she cried in surprise; and without considering, she hurried to
him, threw her arm around his neck, and kissed him on the cheek. Arnold,
taken by storm, stepped slightly back.
"When did you get home?" she asked, the pale rose-flush that mantled her
cheeks making her face exquisite.
"A half an hour ago."
She looked at him quickly.
"Are you tired, Louis?" she inquired gently. "You are somewhat pale, and
you speak in that way."
"Did you enjoy the play?" he asked quietly, passing by her remarks.
"The play!" she echoed, and then a quick burning blush suffused her face.
The epilogue had wholly obliterated the play from her recollection.
"Oh, of course," she responded, turning from the rather sardonic smile of
his lips and seating herself on the stairs; "do you want to hear about it
"Well," she began, laying her gloves in her lap and snuggling her chin in
the palms of her hands, "shall I tell you how I felt about it? In the
first place, I was not ashamed of Shylock; if his vengeance was distorted,
the cause distorted it. But, oh, Louis, the misery of that poor old man!
After all, his punishment was as fiendish as his guilt. Booth was great.
I wish you could have seen the play of his wonderful eyebrow and the
eloquence of his fine hand. Poor old, lonely Shylock! With all his
intellect, how could he regret that wretched little Jessica?"
"He was a Jewish father."
"How singularly you say that! Of course he was a Jew; but Jewish hardly
describes him, --at least, according to the modern idea. Are you coming
"Yes. Go on; I will lower the gas."
"Wouldn't you like something to eat or drink? You look so worn out; let me
get you something."
"Thanks; I have dined. Good-night." The girl passed on to her pretty
white and gold room. Shylock had again fled from her memory, but there was
singing in her heart a deep, grave voice saying, --
"My brave young friend!"
"A humble bard presents his respects to my Lady Marechal Niel, and begs her
to step down to the gate for about two minutes."
The note was handed to Ruth early the next morning as she stood in the
kitchen beating up eggs for an omelette for her mother's breakfast. A
smile of mingled surprise and amusement overspread her face as she read;
instinctively turning the card, she saw, "Herbert Kemp, M. D.," in simple
"Do I look all right, Mary?" she asked hurriedly, placing the bowl on the
table and half turning to the cook as she walked to the door. Mary
deliberately placed both hands on her hips and eyed her sharply.
"And striped flannel dresses and hairs in braids," she began, as she always
did, as if continuing a thought, "being nice, pretty flannel and nice,
pretty braids, Miss Ruth do look sweet-like, which is nothing out of the
common, for she always do!"
The last was almost shouted after Ruth, who had run from the cook's
As she hurried down the walk, she recognized the doctor's carriage,
containing the doctor himself with Bob in state beside him. Two hands went
up to two respective hats as the gate swung behind her, and she advanced
with hand extended to Bob.
"You are looking much better," she exclaimed heartily, shaking the rather
bashfully outstretched hand; "your first outing, is it not?"
"Yes, lady." It had been impossible for her to make him call her by name.
"He elected to pay his first devoirs to the Queen of Roses, as he expressed
it," spoke up Kemp, with his disengaged hand on the boy's shoulder, and
looking with a puzzled expression at Ruth. Last night she had been a young
woman; this morning she was a young girl; it was only after he had driven
off that he discovered the cause lay in the arrangement of her hair.
"Thank you, Bob; presently I expect to have you paying me a visit on foot,
when we can come to a clearer understanding about my flower-beds."
"He says," returned the boy, turning an almost humbly devoted look on Kemp,
"that I must not think of gardening for some weeks. And so--and so--"
"And so," explained the doctor, briskly, "he is going to hold my reins on
our rounds, and imbibe a world of sunshine to expend on some flowers--yours
or mine, perhaps--by and by."
Bob's eyes were luminous with feeling as they rested on the dark, bearded
face of his benefactor.
"Now say all you have to say, and we'll be off," said Kemp, tucking in the
robe at Bob's side.
"I didn't have anything to say, sir; I came only to let her know."
"And I am so glad, Bob," said Ruth, smiling up into the boy's shy, speaking
eyes. People always will try to add to the comfort of a convalescent, and
Ruth, in turn, drew down the robe over the lad's hands. As she did so, her
cousin, Jennie Lewis, passed hurriedly by. Her quick blue eyes took in to
a detail the attitudes of the trio.
"Good-morning, Jennie," said Ruth, turning; "are you coming in?"
"Not now," bowing stiffly and hurrying on.
Bob delivered himself of this sentiment as gently as if he had let fall a
The doctor gave a quick look at Ruth, which she met, smiling.
"He cannot help his inspiration," she remarked easily, and stepped back as
the doctor pulled the reins.
"Come again, Bob," she called, and with a smile to Kemp she ran in.
"And I was going to say," continued Mary, as she re-entered the kitchen,
"that a speck of aig splashed on your cheek, Miss Ruth."
"Oh, Mary, where?"
"But not knowin' that you would see anybody, I didn't think to run after
you; so it's just this side your mouth, like if you hadn't wiped it good
Ruth rubbed it off, wondering with vexation if the doctor had noticed it.
Truth to say, the doctor had noticed it, and naturally placed the same
passing construction on it that Mary had suggested. Not that the little
yellow splash occupied much of his attention. When he drove off, all he
thought of Ruth's appearance was that her braided hair hung gracefully and
heavily down her back; that she looked young, --decidedly young and
missish; and that he had probably spoken indiscreetly and impulsively to
the wrong person on a wrong subject the night before.
Dress has a subtile influence upon our actions: one gown can make a romp,
another a princess, another a boor, another a sparkling coquette, out of
the same woman. The female mood is susceptibly sympathetic to the fitness
or unfitness of dress. Now, Ruth was without doubt the same girl who had
so earnestly and sympathetically heard the doctor's unconventional story;
but the fashion of her gown had changed the impression she had made a few
An hour later, and Dr. Kemp could not have failed to recognize Ruth, the
woman of his confidence. Something, perhaps a dormant spirit of
worldliness, kept her from disclosing to her mother the reason of her going
out. She herself felt no shame or doubt as to the advisability of her
action; but the certain knowledge of her mother's disapproval of such a
proceeding restrained the disclosure which, of a surety, would have cost
her the non-fulfilment of a kindly act. A bit of subterfuge which hurts no
one is often not only excusable, but commendable. Besides, it saved her
mother an annoying controversy; and so, fully satisfied as to her part,
Ruth took her way down the street. The question as to whether the doctor
had gone beyond the bounds of their brief acquaintance had of course been
presented to her mind; but if a slight flush came into her face when she
remembered the nature of the narrative and the personality of the narrator,
it was quickly banished by the sweet assurance that in this way he had
honored her beyond the reach of current flattery.
A certain placid strength possessed her and showed in her grave brown eyes;
with her whole heart and soul she wished to do this thing, and she longed
to do it well. Her purpose robbed her of every trace of nervousness; and
it was a sweet-faced young woman who gently knocked at room Number 10 on
the second floor of a respectable lodging-house on Polk Street.
Receiving no answer to her knock, she repeated it somewhat more loudly. At
this a tired voice called, "Come in."
She turned the knob, which yielded to her touch, and found herself in a
small, well-lighted, and neat room. Seated in an armchair near the window,
but with her back toward it, was what on first view appeared to be a
golden-haired child in black; one elbow rested on the arm of the chair, and
a childish hand supported the flower-like head. As Ruth hesitated after
closing the door behind her, she found a pair of listless violet eyes
regarding her from a small white face.
"Well?" queried the girl, without changing her position except to allow her
gaze to travel to the floor.
"You are Miss Rose Delano?" said Ruth, as she came a step nearer.
"What of that?" Asked the girl, lifelessly, her dull eyes wandering
everywhere but to the face of her strange interlocutor.
"I am Ruth Levice, a friend of Dr. Kemp. Will that introduction be enough
to make you shake hands with me?"
She advanced toward her, holding out her hand. A burning flame shot across
Rose Delano's face, and she shrank farther back among her pillows.
"No," she said, putting up a repellent hand; "it is not enough. Do not
touch me, or you will regret it. You must not, I say." She arose quickly
from her chair and stood at bay, regarding Ruth. The latter, taller than
she by head and shoulders, looked down at her smiling.
"I know no reason why I must not," she replied gently.
"You do not know me."
"No; but I know of you."
"Then why did you come; why don't you go?" The blue eyes looked with
passionate resentment at her.
"Because I have come to see you; because I wish to shake hands with you."
"Why do you wish to do that?"
"Because I wish to be your friend. May we not be friends? I am not much
older than you, I think."
"You are centuries younger. Who sent you here? Dr. Kemp?"
"No one sent me; I came of my own free will."
"Then go as you came."
She stood gracefully and quietly before her. Rose Delano moved farther
from her, as if to escape her grave brown eyes.
"You do not know what you are doing," cried the girl, excitedly; "have you
no father or mother, no one to tell you what a girl should not do?"
"I have both; but I have also a friend, --Dr. Kemp."
"He is my friend too," affirmed Rose, tremulously.
"Then we have one good thing in common; and since he is my friend and
yours, why should we not be friends?"
"Because he is a man, and you are a woman. He has then told you my story?"
"And you feel yourself unharmed in coming here--to such a creature as I?"
"I feel nothing but pity for you; I do not blame you. But, oh, little one,
I do so grieve for you because you won't believe that the world is not all
merciless. Come, give me your hand."
"No," she said, clasping her hands behind her and retreating as the other
advanced; "go away, please. You are very good, but you are very foolish.
Bad as I am, however, I shall not let you harm yourself more; leave my
"Not till I have held your hands in mine."
"Stop! I tell you I don't want you to come here; I don't want your
friendship. Can't you go now, or are you afraid that your sweetheart will
upbraid you if you fail to carry out his will?"
"My sweetheart?" she asked in questioning wonder.
"Yes; only a lover could make a girl like you so forget herself. I speak
of Dr. Kemp."
"But he is not my lover," she stated, still speaking gently, but with a
pale face turned to her companion.
"I--I--beg your pardon," faltered the girl, humbly drooping her head,
shamed by the cold pride in her tormentor's face; "but why, oh, why, then,
won't you go?" she continued, wildly sobbing. "I assure you it is best."
"This is best," said Ruth, deliberately; and before Rose knew it she had
seized her two hands, and unclasping them from behind her, drew them to her
"Now," she said, holding them tightly, "who is the stronger, you or I?"
She looked pleasantly down at the tear-stained face so close to hers.
"O God!" breathed the girl, her storm-beaten eyes held by the power of her
"Now we are friends," said Ruth, softly, "shall we sit down and talk?"
Still holding the slender hands, she drew up a chair, and seating the frail
girl in the armchair, sat down beside her.
"Oh, wait!" whispered Rose; "let me tell you everything before you make me
"I know everything; and truly, Rose, nothing you can say could make me wish
to befriend you less."
"How nobly, how kindly he must have told you!"
"Hush! He told me nothing but the truth. To me you are a victim, not a
culprit. And now, tell me, do you feel perfectly strong?"
"Oh, yes." The little hand swept in agony over her sad, childish face.
"Then you ought to go out for a nice walk. You have no idea how pleasant
it is this morning."
"I can't, indeed I can't! and, oh, why should I?"
"You can and you must, because you must go to work soon."
Two frightened eyes were raised to hers.
"Yes," she added, patting the hand she held; "you are a teacher, are you
"I was," she replied, the catch in her voice still audible.
"What are you used to teaching?"
"Spanish, and English literature."
"Spanish--with your blue eyes!" The sudden outburst of surprise sent a
faint April-like beam into Rose's face.
"Then you must teach me. Let me see. Wednesdays, --Wednesday afternoon,
Again the frightened eyes appealed to her; but Ruth ignored them.
"And so many of my friends would like to speak Spanish. Will you teach
"Oh, Miss Levice, how can I go with such a past?"
"I tell you," said Ruth, proudly rearing her head, "if I introduce you as
my friend, you are, you must be, presentable."
The pale lips strove to answer her.
"To-morrow I shall come with a number of names of girls who are 'dying,' as
they say, to speak Spanish, and then you can go and make arrangements with
them. Will you?"
Thus pushed to the wall, Rose's tear-filled eyes were her only answer.
Ruth's own filled in turn.
"Dear little Rose," she said, her usual sweet voice coming back to her,
"won't it be lovely to do this? You will feel so much better when you once
get out and are earning your independent, pleasant living again. And now
will you forgive me for having been so harsh?"
"Forgive you!" A red spot glowed on each pallid cheek; she raised her eyes
and said with simple fervor, "I would die for you."
"No, but you may live for me," laughed Ruth, rising; "will you promise me
to go out this morning, just for a block or two?"
"I promise you."
"Well, then, good-by." She held out her hand meaningly; a little
fluttering one was placed in hers, and Ruth bent and kissed the wistful
mouth. That pure kiss would have wiped out every stain from Rose's
"I shall see you to-morrow surely," she called back, turning a radiant face
to the lonely little figure in the doorway. She felt deliriously happy as
she ran down the stairs; her eyes shone like stars; a buoyant joyfulness
spoke in her step.
"It is so easy to be happy when one has everything," she mused. She forgot
to add, "And gives much." There is so much happiness derived from a kind
action that were it not for the motive, charity might be called supreme
She told her mother in a few words at luncheon that she had arranged to
take Spanish lessons from a young protege of Dr. Kemp, who had been ill
and was in want.
"And I was thinking," she added with naive policy, "that I might combine a
little business with pleasure this afternoon, --pay off some of those ever
urgent calls you accuse me of outlawing, and at the same time try to get up
a class of pupils for Miss Delano. What do you think?"
"That would be nice; don't forget Mrs. Bunker. I know you don't like her,
but you must pay a call for the musical which we did not attend; and she
has children who might like to learn Spanish. I wonder if I could take
lessons too; it would not be exciting, and I am not yet so old but I may
"You might ask the doctor. He has almost dismissed himself now; and after
we get back from the country perhaps Jennie would join us two in a class.
Mother and daughter can then go to school together."
"It is very fortunate," Mrs. Levice observed pensively, sipping her
necessary glass of port, "that C_ sent your hat this morning to wear with
your new gown. Isn't it?"
"Fortunate!" Ruth exclaimed, laughing banteringly; "it is destiny."
So Mrs. Levice slipped easily into Ruth's plan from a social standpoint,
and Ruth slipped out, trim and graceful, from her mother's artistic
Meanwhile Mrs. Levice intended writing some delayed letters till her
husband's return, which promised to be early in the afternoon.
She had just about settled herself at her desk when Jennie Lewis came
bustling in. Mrs. Lewis always brought in a sense of importance; one
looked upon her presence with that exhilarating feeling with which one
anticipates the latest number of a society journal.
"Go right on with your writing, Aunt Esther," she said after they had
exchanged greetings. "I have brought my work, so I shall not mind the
quiet in the least."
"As if I would bore you in that way!" returned Mrs. Levice, with a laughing
glance at her, as she closed her desk. "Lay off your things, and let us
have a downright comfortable afternoon. Don't forget a single sensation; I
am actually starving for one."
Mrs. Lewis smiled grimly as she fluffed up her bang with her hat-pin. She
drew up a second cosey rocking-chair near her aunt's, drew out her needle
and crochet-work, and as the steel hook flashed in and out, her tongue soon
acquired its accustomed momentum.
"Where is Ruth?" she began, winding her thread round her chubby,
"She is paying off some calls for a change."
"Indeed! Got down to conventionality again?" "You would not call her
unconventional, would you?"
"Oh, well; every one has a right to an opinion."
Mrs. Levice glanced at her inquiringly. Without doubt there was an
underground mine beneath this non-committal remark. Mrs. Lewis rocked
violently backward and forward without raising her eyes. Her face was
beet-red, and it looked as if an explosion were imminent. Mrs. Levice
waited with no little speculation as to what act of Ruth her cousin
disapproved of so obviously. She like Jennie; every one who knew her
recognized her sterling good heart; but almost every one who knew her
agreed that a grain of flour was a whole cake, baked and iced, to Mrs.
Lewis's imagination, and these airy comfits were passed around
promiscuously to whoever was on hand. Not a sound broke the portentous
silence but the decided snap with which Mrs. Lewis pulled her needle
through, and the hurricane she raised with her rocking.
"I was at the theatre last night."
The blow drew no blood.
"Which theatre?" asked Mrs. Levice, innocently.
"The Baldwin; Booth played the 'Merchant of Venice.'"
"Did you enjoy it?" queried her aunt, either evading or failing to perceive
"I did." A pause, and then, "Did Ruth?"
Mrs. Levice saw a flash of daylight, but her answer hinted at no
"Very much. Booth is her actor-idol, you know."
"So I have heard." She spread her crochet work on her knee as if measuring
its length, then with striking indifference picked it up again and adjusted
her needle, --
"She came in rather late, didn't she?"
"Did she?" questioned Mrs. Levice, parrying with enjoyment the indirect
thrusts. "I did not know; had the curtain risen?"
"No; there was plenty of time for every one to recognize her."
"I had no idea she was so well known."
"Those who did not know her, knew her escort. Dr. Kemp is well known, and
his presence is naturally remarked."
"Yes; his appearance is very striking."
"Aunt Esther!" The vehemence of Mrs. Lewis's feelings sent her ball of
cotton rolling to the other end of the room.
"My dear, what is it?" Mrs. Levice turned a pair of bright, interested
eyes on her niece.
"You know very well what I wish to say: everybody wondered to see Ruth with
"Because every one knows that she never goes out with any gentleman but
Uncle or Louis, and we all were surprised. The Hoffmans sat behind us, and
Miss Hoffman leaned forward to ask what it meant. I met several
acquaintances this morning who had been there, and each one made some
remark about Ruth. One said, 'I had no idea the Levices were so intimate
with Dr. Kemp;' another young girl laughed and said, 'Ruth Levice had a
swell escort last night, didn't she?' Still another asked, 'Anything on
the tapis in your family, Mrs. Lewis?' And what could I say?"
"What did you say?"
Mrs. Levice's quiet tone did not betray her vexation. She had feared just
such a little disturbance from the Jewish community, but her husband's
views had overruled hers, and she was now bound to uphold his.
Nevertheless, she hated anything of the kind.
"I simply said I knew nothing at all about it, except that he was your
physician. Even if I had known, I wouldn't have said more."
"There is no more to be said. Dr. Kemp and Ruth have become friendly
through their mutual interest in several poor patients; and in the course
of conversation one morning he heard that Ruth was anxious to see this
play, and had no escort. So he asked her, and her father saw no objection
to her going. It is a pity she didn't think to hand round a written
explanation to her different Jewish friends in the theatre."
"There you go, Aunt Esther! Jewish friends! I am sure that no matter how
indifferent Uncle is to such things, you must remember that our Jewish
girls never go alone to the theatre with any one outside of the family, and
certainly not with a Christian."
"What has that to do with it, so long as he is a gentleman?"
"Nothing. Only I didn't think you cared to have Ruth's name coupled with
"No, nor with any one. But as I cannot control people's tongues--"
"Then I would not give them cause for wagging. Aunt Esther, is there
anything between Ruth and Dr. Kemp?"
"Jennie, you surprise and anger me. Do you know what you insinuate?"
"I can't help it. Either you are crazy, or ignorant of what is going on,
and I consider it my duty to enlighten you," --a gossip's duties are all
away from home, --"unless, of course, you prefer to remain in blissful or
"Speak out, please."
"Of course I knew you must have sanctioned her going last night, though, I
must confess, I still think you did very wrongly; but do you know where she
went this morning?"
Mrs. Levice was put out. She was enough of a Jewess to realize that if you
dislike Jewish comment, you must never step out of the narrowly
conventional Jewish pathway. That Ruth, her only daughter, should be the
subject of vulgar bandying was more bitter than wormwood to her; but that
her own niece could come with these wild conjectures incensed her beyond
"I do know," she said in response to the foregoing question. "Ruth is not
a sneak, --she tells me everything; but her enterprises are so mild that
there would be no harm if she left them untold. She called on a poor young
girl who, after a long illness, desires pupils in Spanish."
"A friend of Dr. Kemp."
"A young girl, unmarried, who, a few weeks ago, through a merciful fate,
lost her child at its birth."
The faint flush on Mrs. Levice's cheek receded.
"Who told you this?" she questioned in an even, low voice.
"I thought you could not know. Mrs. Blake, the landlady where the girl
lives, told me."
"And how, pray, do you connect Ruth with this girl?"
"I will tell you. Mrs. Blake does my white sewing. I was there this
morning; and just as I went into her room, I saw Ruth leaving another
farther down the hall. Naturally I asked Mrs. Blake who had the room, and
she told me the story."
"Naturally." The cutting sarcasm drove the blood to Mrs. Lewis's face.
"For me it was; and in this case," she retorted with rising accents, "my
vulgar curiosity had its vulgar reward. I heard a scandalous account of
the girl whom my cousin was visiting, and, outside of Dr. Kemp, Ruth is the
only visitor she has had."
"I am sorry to hear this, Jennie."
"I know you are, Aunt Esther. But what I find so very queer is that Dr.
Kemp, who pretends to be her friend, --and I have seen them together many
times, --should have sent her there. Don't you?"
"I do not understand it at all, --neither Ruth nor him."
"Surely you don't think Ruth knew anything of this?" questioned Mrs.
Lewis, leaning forward and raising her voice in horror.
"Of course not," returned Mrs. Levice, rather lamely. She had long ago
acknowledged to herself that there were depths in her daughter's nature
that she had never gauged.
"I know what an idol his patients make of him, but he is a man
nevertheless; and though you may think it horrible of me, it struck me as
very suggestive that he was that girl's only friend."
"Therefore he must have been a good friend."
Mrs. Lewis bounded from her chair and turned a startled face to Mr. Levice,
who had thus spoken, standing in the doorway. Mrs. Levice breathed a sigh
of hysterical relief.
"Good-afternoon, Jennie," he said, coming into the room and shaking her
hand; "sit down again. Good-afternoon Esther;" he stooped to kiss his
Mrs. Lewis's hands trembled; she looked, to say the least, ashamed. She
had been caught scandal-mongering by her uncle, Jules Levice, the head and
pride of the whole family.
"I am sorry I heard what I did, Jennie; sorry to think that you are so poor
as to lay the vilest construction on an affair of which you evidently know
nothing, and sorry you could not keep your views to yourself." It was the
habit of all of Levice's relatives to listen in silence to any personal
reprimand the dignified old man might offer.
"I heard a good part of your conversation, and I can only characterize it
as--petty. Can't you and your friends see anything without springing at
shilling-shocker conclusions? Don't you know that people sometimes enjoy
themselves without any further design? So much for the theatre talk. What
is more serious is the fact that you could so misjudge my honorable friend,
Dr. Kemp. Such a thing, Jennie, my girl, would be as remote from Dr.
Kemp's possibilities as the antipodes. Remember, what I say is
indisputable. Whether Ruth knew the story of this girl or not, I cannot
say, but either way I feel assured that what she did was well done--if
innocently; if with knowledge, so much the better. And I venture to assert
that she is not a whit harmed by the action. In all probability she will
tell us all the particulars if we ask her. Otherwise, Jennie, don't you
think you have been unnecessarily alarmed?" The benign gentleness of his
question calmed Mrs. Lewis.
"Uncle," she replied earnestly, "in my life such things are not trivial;
perhaps because my life is narrower. I know you and Ruth take a different
view of everything."
"Don't disparage yourself; people generally do that to be contradicted or
to show that they know their weaknesses and have never cared to change
them. A woman of your intelligence need never sink to the level of a
spiteful chatterbox; every one should keep his tongue sheathed, for it is
more deadly than a sword. Your higher interests should make you overlook
every little action of your neighbors. You only see or hear what takes
place when the window is open; you can never judge from this what takes
place when the window is shut. How are the children?"
By dint of great tenderness he strove to make her more at ease.
Ruth, confronted with their knowledge, confessed, with flushed cheeks and
glowing eyes, her contretemps.
"And," she said in conclusion, "Father, Mamma, nothing you can say will
make me retract anything I have done or purpose doing."
"Nothing?" repeated her father.
"I hope you won't ask me to, but that is my decision."
"My darling, I dislike to hear you call yourself a mule," said her father,
looking at her with something softer than disapproval; "but in this case I
shall not use the whip to turn you from your purpose. Eh, Esther?"
"It is Quixotic," affirmed Mrs. Levice; "but since you have gone so far,
there is no reasonable way of getting out of it. When next I see the
doctor, I shall speak to him of it."
"There will be no occasion, dear," remonstrated the indulgent father, at
sight of the annoyed flash in Ruth's eyes; "I shall."
By which it will be seen that the course of an only child is not so smooth
as one of many children may think; every action of the former assumes such
prominence that it is examined and cross-examined, and very often sent to
Coventry; whereas, in a large family, the happy-go-lucky offspring has his
little light dimmed, and therefore less remarked, through the propinquity
If Ruth, in the privacy of her heart, realized that she was sailing toward
dangerous rapids, the premonition gave her no unpleasant fears. Possibly
she used no lens, being content to glide forever on her smooth stream of
delight. When the sun blinds us, we cannot see the warning black lurking
in the far horizon. Without doubt the girl's soul and sympathies were
receiving their proper food. Life was full for her, not because she was
occupied, --for a busy life does not always prove a full one, --but because
she entered thoroughly into the lives of others, struggled with their
struggles, triumphed in their triumphs, and was beginning to see in
everything, good or bad, its necessity of existence. Under ordinary
circumstances one cannot see much misery without experiencing a world of
disillusion and futile rebellion of spirit; but Ruth was not living just at
that time under ordinary circumstances.
Something of the nature of electricity seemed to envelop her, that made her
pulses bound, her lips quick to smile, and her eyes shine like twin
dreamstars. She seemed to be moving to some rapturous music unheard save
only by herself. At night, alone with her heart, she dared hardly name to
herself the meaning of it all, _ a puritanic modesty withheld her. Yet all
the sweet humility of which she was possessed could not banish from her
memory the lingering clasp of a hand, the warm light that fell from eyes
that glanced at her. For the present, these were grace sufficient for her
daily need. Given the perfume, what need to name the flower?
Her family, without understanding it, noted the difference in their
different ways. Mrs. Levice saw with a thrill of delight that she was
growing more softly beautiful. Her father, holding his hands a few inches
from her shoulders, said, one morning, with a drolly puzzled look, "I am
afraid to touch you; sparks might fly."
Arnold surprised her standing in the gloaming by a window, her hands
clasped over her head, a smile parting her lips, her eyes haunting in the
witchery of their expression. By some occult power her glance fell
unconsciously on him; and he beheld, with mingled amazement and
speculation, a rosy hue overspread her face and throat; her hands went
swiftly to her face as if she would hide something it might reveal, and she
passed quickly from the room. Arnold sat down to solve this problem of an
Ruth's birthday came in its course, a few days after her meeting with Rose
The family celebrated it in their usual simple way, which consisted only in
making the day pass pleasantly for the one whose day of days it was, --a
graceful way of showing that the birth has been a happy one for all
On this evening of her twenty-second birthday, Ruth seemed to be in her
element. She had donned, in a spirit of mischief, a gown she had worn five
years before on the occasion of some festivity. The girlish fashion of the
white frock, with its straight, full skirt to her ankles, the round baby
waist, and short puffs on her shoulders made a very child of her.
"Who can imagine me seventeen?" she asked gayly as she entered the library,
softly lighted by many wax candles. Her mother, who was again enjoying the
freedom of the house, and who was now snugly ensconced in her own
particular chair, looked up at her.
"That little frock makes me long to take you in my lap," said she,
"And it makes me long to be there," answered Ruth, throwing herself into
her mother's arms and twining her arms about her neck.
"How now, Mr. Arnold, you can't scare me tonight with your sarcastic
disapproval!" she laughed, glancing provokingly over at her cousin seated
in a deep blue-cushioned chair.
"I have no desire to scare you, little one," he answered pleasantly. "I
only do that to children or grown-up people."
"And what am I, pray, good sir?"
"You are neither; you are neither child or woman; you are neither flesh nor
spirit; you are uncanny."
"Dear me! In other words, I am a conundrum. Who will guess me?"
"You are the Sphinx," replied her cousin.
"I won't be that ugly-faced thing," she retorted; "guess again."
"Impossible. Once acquire a sphinx's elusiveness and you are a mystery
perpetual. You alone can unriddle the riddle."
"I can't. I give myself up."
"Not so fast, young woman," broke in her father, shutting his magazine and
settling his glasses more firmly upon his nose; "that is an office I alone
can perform. Who has been hunting on my preserves?"
"Alas! They are not tempting, so be quite calm on that score." She sat up
with a forlorn sigh, adding, "Think of it, Father, twenty-two, and not a
heart to hang on my chatelaine."
"Hands are supposed to mean hearts nowadays," said Louis, reassuringly; "I
am sure you have mittened one or two."
"Oh, yes," she answered, laughing evasively, "both of little Toddie
Flynn's. Mamma, don't you think I am too big a baby for you to hold long?"
She sprang up, and drawing a stool before her father's chair, exclaimed, --
"Now, Father, a grown-up Mother-Goose story for my birthday; make it short
and sweet and with a moral like you."
Mr. Levice patted her head and rumpled the loosely gathered hair.
"Once upon a time," he began, "a little boy went into his father's
warehouse and ate up all the sugar in the land. He did not die, but he was
so sweet that everybody wanted to bite him. That is short and sweet; and
what is the moral?"
"Selfishness brings misery," answered Ruth, promptly; "clever of both of
us, but what is the analogy? Louis, you look lonesome over there. I feel
as if I were masquerading; come nearer the footlights."
"And get scorched for my pains? Thanks; this is very comfortable.
Distance adds to illusion."
"You don't mean to admit you have any illusions, do you? Why, those
glasses of yours could see through a rhinoceros, I verily believe. Did you
ever see anything you did not consider a delusion and a snare?"
"Yes; there is a standing institution of whose honest value there is no
"And that is?"
"After all, it is a lying institution, my friend; and are you not deposing
your masculine muse, --your cigar? Oh, that reminds me of the annual
She jumped up, snatched a candle, and left the room. As she turned toward
the staircase she was arrested by the ringing of the doorbell. She stood
quite still, holding the lighted candle while the maid opened the door.
"Is Miss Levice in?" asked the voice that made the little candle-light seem
like myriads of swimming stars. As the maid answered in the affirmative,
she came mechanically forward and met the bright-glancing eyes of Dr. Kemp.
"Good-evening," she said, holding out her disengaged hand, which he grasped
and shook heartily.
"Is it Santa Filomena?" he asked, smiling into her eyes.
"No, only Ruth Levice, who is pleased to see you. Will you step into the
library? We are having a little home evening together."
"Thank you. Directly." He slipped out of his topcoat, and turning quietly
to her, said, "But before we go in, and I enact the odd number, I wish to
say a few words to you alone, please."
She bent a look of inquiry upon him, and meeting the gaze of his compelling
eyes, led him across the hall into the drawing-room. He noticed how the
soft light she held made her the only white spot in the dark room, till,
touching a tall silver lamp, she threw a rosy halo over everything. That
it was an exquisite, graceful apartment he felt at a glance.
She placed her candle upon a tiny rococo table, and seated herself in a
quaint, low chair overtopped by two tiny ivory horns that spread like hands
of blessing above her head. The doctor declined to sit down, but stood
with one hand upon the fragile table and looked down at her.
"I am inclined to think, after all," he said slowly, "that you are in truth
the divine lady with the light. It is a pretty name and a pretty fame,
--that of Santa Filomena."
What had come over her eyelids that they refused to be raised?
"I think," he continued with a low laugh, "that I shall always call you so,
and have all rights reserved. May I?"
"I am afraid," she answered, raising her eyes, "that your poem would be
without rhyme or reason; a candle is too slight a thing for such an
"But not a Rose Delano. I saw her to-day, and at least one sufferer would
turn to kiss your shadow. Do you know what a wonderfully beautiful thing
you have done? I came to-night to thank you; for any one who makes good
our ideals is a subject for thanks. Of course, the thing had no personal
bearing upon myself; but being an officious fellow, I thought it proper to
let you know that I know. That is my only excuse for coming."
"Did you need an excuse?"
"That, or an invitation."
"Oh, I never thought of you--as--as--"
"As a man?"
How to answer this? Then finally she said, --
"As caring to waste an evening."
"Would it be a waste? There is an old adage that one might adapt, then, 'A
wilful waste makes a woful want.' Want is a bad thing, so economy would
not be a half-bad idea. Shall we go in to your family now, or will they
not think you have been spirited away?"
He took the candle from her, and they retraced their steps. As she turned
the handle of the door, she said, --
"Will you give me the candle, please, and walk in? I am going upstairs."
"Are you coming down again?" he asked, standing abruptly still.
"Oh, yes. Father," she called, opening wide the door, "here is Dr. Kemp."
With this announcement she fled up the staircase.
She had come up for some cigars; but when she got into her father's room,
she seated herself blindly and looked aimlessly down at her hands. What a
blessed reprieve this was! If she could but stay here! She could if it
were not for the peace-pipe. Such a silly performance too! Father kept
those superfine cigars over in the cabinet there. Should she bring only
two as usual? Then she was going? Why not? It would look very rude not
to do so. Besides, she wondered what they were talking about. She
supposed she must have looked very foolish in that gown with her hair all
mussed; and then his eyes-- She arose suddenly and walked to the
dressing-table with her light. After all, it was not very unbecoming. Had
her face been so white all the evening? Louis liked her face to be
colorless. Oh, she had better hurry down.
"Here comes the chief!" cried her mother as she entered. "Now, Doctor, you
can see the native celebrating her natal day."
"She enacts the witch," said her father "and sends us, living, to the happy
hunting-grounds. Will you join us, Doctor?"
"If Lachesis thinks me worthy. Is the operation painful?"
He received no answer as Ruth came forward with a box of tempting Havanas.
She selected one, and placing the box on a chair, reached to the high-tiled
mantel-shelf, whence she took a tiny pair of scissors and deftly cut off
the point of the cigar. She seemed quite unconscious that all were
watching her. Louis handed her a lighted match, and putting the cigar
between her lips, she lit it into life. The doctor was amused.
She blew up a wreath of the fragrant smoke and handing it to her father,
"With this year's love, Father."
The doctor grew interested.
She took another, and lighting it as gracefully, and without the slightest
approach to Bohemianism, gave it into Louis's outstretched hand.
"Well?" he suggested, holding it from his lips till she had spoken.
"I can think of nothing you care for sufficiently to wish you."
"Unless," with sudden mischief, "I wish you a comfortable bed all the year
round--and pleasant dreams, Louis."
"That is much," he answered dryly as he drew a cloud of smoke.
The doctor became anticipative.
Ruth's embarrassment was evident as she turned and offered him a cigar.
"Do you smoke?" she asked, holding out the box.
"Like a chimney," he replied, looking at her, but taking none, "and in the
same manner as other common mortals."
She stood still, but withdrew her hand a little as if repelling the hint
his words conveyed; whereupon he immediately selected a cigar, saying as he
did so, "So you were born in summer, --the time of all good things. Well,
'Thy dearest wish, wish I thee,' and may it not pass in the smoking!"
She swept him a deep, mock courtesy.
Afer this, Ruth sat a rather silent listener to the conversation. She knew
that they were discussing the pros and cons of the advantages for a
bachelor of club life over home life. She knew that Louis was making some
brilliantly cynical remarks, --asserting that the apparent privacy of the
latter was delusive, and that the reputed publicity of the former was
deceptive, as it was even more isolated than the latter. All of which the
doctor laughed down as untruly epigrammatic.
"Then there is only one loophole for the poor bachelor," Mrs. Levice summed
up, "and that is to marry. Louis complains of the club, and thinks himself
a sort of cynosure in a large household. You, Doctor, complain of the want
of coseyness in a bachelor establishment. To state it simply, you need a
"And oust my Pooh-ba! Madame, you do not know what a treasure that old
soldier of mine is. If I call him a veritable Martha, I shall but be
paying proper tribute to the neatness with which he keeps my house and
linen; he entertains my palate as deliciously as a Corinne her salon,
and--is never in my way or thoughts. Can you commend me any woman so
"Many women, but no wife, I am glad to say. But you need one."
"So! Pray explain wherein the lack is apparent."
"Oh, not to me, but--"
"You mean you consider a wife an adjunct to a doctor's certificate."
"It is a great guarantee with women," put in Louis, "as a voucher against
impatience with their own foibles. They think only home practice can
secure the adequate tolerance. Eh, Aunt Esther?"
"Nonsense, Louis!" interrupted Mr. Levice; "what has that to do with
"Skill is one thing; the manner of man is another--with women."
"That is worth considering--or adding to the curriculum," observed Kemp,
turning his steady, quiet gaze upon Arnold.
Ruth noticed that the two men had taken the same position, --vis- -vis to
each other in their respective easy-chairs, their heads thrown back upon
the cushions, their arms resting on the chair-arms. Something in Louis's
veiled eyes caused her to interpose.
"Will you play, Louis?" she asked.
"Not to-night, ma cousine," he replied, glancing at her from lowered lids.
"It is not optional with you to-night, Louis," she insisted playfully,
rising; "we--desire you to play."
"Or be punished for treason? Has your Majesty any other behest?"
"No; I shall even turn the leaves for you."
"The leaves of what, --memory? I'll play by rote."
He strolled over to the piano and sat down. He struck a few random chords,
some soft, some florid, some harsh, some melting; he strung them together
and then glided into a dreamy, melodious rhythm, that faded into a
bird-like hallelujah, --swelling now into grandeur, then fainting into
sobs, then rushing into an allegro so brilliantly bewildering that when the
closing chords came like the pealing tones of an organ, Ruth drew a long
sigh with the last lingering vibrations.
"What is that?" asked Levice, looking curiously at his nephew, who, turning
on his music-chair, took up his cigar again.
"That," he replied, flecking an ash from his coat lappel, "has no name that
I know of; some people call it 'The Soul.'"
A pained sensation shot through Ruth at his words, for he had plainly been
improvising, and he must have felt what he had played.
"Here, Ruth, sing this," he continued, turning round and picking up a sheet
"What?" she asked without moving.
"'The bugle;' I like it."
Kemp looked at her expectantly. He said he had not known she sang; but
since she did, he was sure her voice was contralto.
"Why?" she asked.
"Because your face is contralto."
She turned from his eyes as if they hurt her, and walked over to Louis's
It could hardly be called singing. Louis had often said that her voice
needed merely to be set to rhythmic time to be music; in pursuance of which
idea he would put into her hand some poem that touched his fancy, tell her
to read it, and as she read, he would adapt to it an accompaniment
according to the meaning and measure of the lines, --grandly solemn,
daintily tripping, or wildly inspiriting. It was more like a chant than a
song. To-night he chose Tennyson's Bugle-song. Her voice was subservient
to the accompaniment, that shook its faint, sweet bugle-notes at first as
in a rosy splendor; it rose and swelled and echoed and reverberated and
died away slowly as if loath to depart. Arnold's playing was the poem,
Ruth's voice the music the poet might have heard as he wrote, sweet as a
violin, deep as the feeling evolved, --for when she came to the line
beginning, "oh, love, they die in yon rich sky," she might have stood alone
with one, in some high, clear place, so mellow was the thrill of her voice,
so rapt the expression of her face. Kemp looked as if he would not tire if
the sound should "grow forever and forever."
Mrs. Levice was wakeful after she had gone to bed. Her husband also seemed
inclined to prolong the night, for he made no move to undress.
"Jules," said she in a low, confidential tone, "do you realize that our
daughter is twenty-two?"
He looked at her with a half-smile.
"Is not this her birthday?"
"Her twenty-second, and she is still unmarried."
"Well, it is time she were. I should like to see it."
"So should I," he acquiesced with marked decision.
Mrs. Levice straightened herself up in bed and looked at her husband
"Is it possible," she exclaimed, "that we have both thought of the same
It was now Mr. Levice's turn to start into an interested position.
"Of whom," he asked with some restraint, "are you speaking?"
"Hush! Come here; I have longed for it for some time, but have never
breathed it to a soul, --Louis."
"Levice had become quite pale, but as she pronounced the familiar name, the
color returned to his cheek, and a surprised look sprang into his eyes.
"Louis? Why do you think of such a thing?"
"Because I think them particularly well suited. Ruth, pardon me, dear, has
imbibed some very peculiar and high-flown notions. No merely commonplace
young man would make her happy. A man must have some ideas outside of what
his daily life brings him, if she is to spend a moment's interested thought
on him. She has repelled some of the most eligible advances for no obvious
reasons whatever. Now, she does not care a rap for society, and goes only
because I exact it. That is no condition for a young girl to allow herself
to sink into; she owes a duty to her future. I am telling you this
because, of course, you see nothing peculiar in such a course. But it is
time you were roused; you know one look from you is worth a whole sermon
from me. As to my thinking of Louis, well, in running over my list of
eligibles, I found he fulfilled every condition, --good-looking, clever,
cultivated, well-to-do, and--of good family. Why should it not be? They
like each other, and see enough of each other to learn to love. We,
however, must bring it to a head."
"First provide the hearts, little woman. What can I do, ask Louis or
"Jules," she returned with vexation, "how childish! Don't you feel well?
Your cheeks are rather flushed."
"They are somewhat warm. I am going in to kiss the child good-night; she
ran off while I saw Dr. Kemp out."
Ruth sat in her white dressing-gown, her heavy dark hair about her, her
brush idle in her hand. Her father stood silently in the doorway,
regarding her, a great dread tugging at his heart. Jules Levice was a keen
student of the human face, and he had caught a faint glimpse of something
in the doctor's eyes while Ruth sang. He knew it had been harmless, for
her back had been turned, but he wished to reassure himself.
"Not in bed yet, my child?"
She started up in confusion as he came in.
"Of what were you thinking, darling?" he continued, putting his hand under
her soft white chin and looking deeply into her eyes.
"Well," she answered slowly, "I was not thinking of anything important; I
was thinking of you. We are going to Beacham's next week--and have you any
fine silk shirts?"
He laughed a hearty, relieved laugh.
"Well, no," he answered; "I leave all such fancies to your care. So we go
next week. I am glad; and you?"
"I? Oh, I love the country in its summer dress, you know."
"Yes. Well, good-night, love." He took her face between his hands, and
drawing it down to his, kissed it. Still holding her, he said with sweet
"'The Lord bless thee and keep thee.
"'The Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee.
"'The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.'"
It was August. The Levices had purposely postponed leaving town until the
gay, merry-making crowds had disappeared, when Mrs. Levice, in the quiet
autumn, could put a crown to her recovery.
Ruth had quite a busy time getting all three ready, as she was to continue
the management of the household affairs until their return, a month later.
Besides which, numerous little private incidentals had to be put in running
order for a month, and she realized with a pang at parting with some of her
simple, sincere proteges that were this part of her life withdrawn, the
rest would pall insufferably.
The evening before their departure she stood bareheaded upon the steps of
the veranda with Louis, who was enjoying a post-prandial smoke. Mr. and
Mrs. Levice, in the soft golden gloaming of late summer, were strolling
arm-in-arm among the flower-beds. Mrs. Levice, without obviously looking
toward them, felt with satisfaction that Ruth was looking well in a plain
black gown which she had had no time to change after her late shopping.
She did not know that, close and isolated as the young man and woman stood,
not only were they silent, but each appeared oblivious of the other's
Ruth, with her hands clasped behind her, and Arnold, blowing wreaths of
blue smoke into the heliotrope-scented air, looked as if under a
As Mrs. Levice passed within ear-shot, Ruth heard snatches of the broken
This roused her from her revery, and she called to her mother, --
"Why, I forgot to drop in at Jennie's this afternoon, as I promised."
"How annoying! When you know how sensitive she is and how angry she gets at
"I can run out there now. It is light enough."
"But it will be dark in less than an hour. Louis, will you go out to
Jennie's with Ruth?"
"Eh? Oh, certainly, if she wishes me."
"I wish you to come if you yourself wish it. I'll run in and get my hat
and jacket while you decide."
Ruth came back in a few minutes with a jaunty little sailor hat on and a
light gray jacket, which she handed to Louis to hold for her.
"New?" he asked, pulling it into place in the back.
"Yes," she answered; "do you like it for travelling?"
"Under a duster. Otherwise its delicate complexion will be rather freckled
when you arrive at Beacham's."
He pulled his hat on from ease to respectability and followed her down to
the gate. They turned the corner, walking southward toward the valley.
Mrs. Levice and her husband stood at the gate and watched them saunter off.
When they were quite out of sight, Mrs. Levice turned around and sang gayly
to Mr. Levice, "'Ca va bien!'"
The other two walked on silently. The evening was perfect. To the west
and sweeping toward Golden Gate a hazy glory flushed the sky rose-color and
molten gold, purple and silver; and then seas of glinting pale green to the
northward held the eye with their beauty. The air was soft and languorous
after a very warm day; now and then a piano, violin, or mandolin sounded
through open windows; the peace and beauty of rest was over all.
They continued down Van Ness Avenue a few blocks, and unconsciously turned
into one of the dividing streets toward Franklin. Suddenly Arnold felt his
companion start, and saw she had taken her far-off gaze from the landscape.
Following the direction of her eyes, he also straightened up. The
disturbing object was a slight black column attached to a garden fence and
bearing in small gold letters the simple name, Dr. Herbert Kemp.
As they approached nearer, Arnold knew of a certainty that there would be
more speaking signs of the doctor's propinquity. His forecasting was not
Dr. Kemp's quaint, dark-red cottage, with its flower-edged lawn, was
reached by a flight of low granite steps, at the top of which lounged the
medical gentleman in person. He was not heaven-gazing, but seemed plunged
in tobacco-inspired meditation of the flowers beneath him. Arnold's quick
eye detected the pink flush that rose to the little ear of his cousin. The
sound of their footsteps on the stone sidewalk came faintly to Kemp; he
raised his eyes slowly and indifferently. The indifference vanished when
he recognized them.
With a hasty movement he threw the cigar from him and ran down the steps.
"Good-evening," he called, raising his old slouch hat and arresting their
evident intention of proceeding on their way. They came up, perforce, and
met him at the foot of the steps.
"A beautiful evening," he said originally, holding out a cordial hand to
Arnold and looking with happy eyes at Ruth. She noticed that there was a
marked difference in his appearance from anything she had been used to.
His figure looked particularly tall and easy in a loose dark velvet jacket,
thrown open from his broad chest; the large sombrero-like hat which had
settled on the back of his head left to view his dark hair brushed
carelessly backward; an unusual color was on his cheek, and a warm glow in
his gray eyes.
"I hope," he went on, frankly transferring his attention to Ruth, "this
weather will continue. We shall have a magnificent autumn; the woods must
be beginning to look gorgeous."
"I shall know better to-morrow."
"Yes; we leave for Beacham's to-morrow, you know."
"No, I did not know;" an indefinable shadow over-clouded his face, but he
said quickly, --
"That is an old hunting-ground of mine. The river teems with speckled
treasures. Are you a disciple of old Walton, Mr. Arnold?" he added,
turning with courtesy to the silent Frenchman.
"You mean fishing? No; life is too short to hang my humor of a whole day
on the end of a line. I have never been at Beacham's."
"It is a fine spot. You will probably go down there this year."
"My business keeps me tied to the city just at present. A professional man
has no such bond; his will is his master."
"Hardly, or I should have slipped cables long ago. A restful night is an
unknown indulgence sometimes for weeks."
His gaze moved from Arnold's peachy cheek, and falling upon Ruth, surprised
her dark eyes resting upon him in anxious questioning. He smiled.
"We shall have to be moving on," she said, holding out a gloved hand.
"Will you be gone long?" he asked, pressing it cordially.
"About a month."
"You will be missed--by the Flynns. Good-by." He raised his hat as he
looked at her.
Arnold drew her arm within his, and they walked off.
They say that the first thing a Frenchman learns in studying the English
language is the use of that highly expressive outlet of emotion, "Damn."
Arnold was an old-timer, but he had not outgrown the charm of his first
linguistic victory; and now as he replaced his hat in reply to Kemp, he
distinctly though coolly said, "Damn him."
Ruth looked at him, startled; but the composed, non-committal expression of
his face led her to believe that her ears had deceived her.
A few more blocks were passed, and they stopped at a pretentious,
many-windowed, Queen Anne house. Ruth ran lightly up the steps, her cousin
following her leisurely.
She had scarcely rung the bell when the door was opened by Mrs. Lewis
"Good-evening, Ruth; why, Mr. Arnold doesn't mean to say that he does us
Mr. Arnold had said nothing of the kind; but he offered no disclaimer, and
giving her rather a loose hand-shake, walked in.
"Come right into the dining-room," she continued. "I suppose you were
surprised to find me in the hall; I had just come from putting the children
to bed. They were in mischievous spirits and annoyed their father, who
wished to be very quiet this evening."
By this time they had reached the room at the end of the hall, the door of
which she threw open.
Jewish people, as a rule, use their dining-rooms to sit in, keeping the
drawing-rooms for company only. This is always presupposing that they have
no extra sitting-room. After all, a dining-room is not a bad place for the
family gathering, having a large table as an objective plane for a round
game, which also serves as a support for reading matter; while from an
economical point of view it preserves the drawing-rooms in reception
stiffness and ceremonious newness.
The apartment they entered was large and square, and contained the
regulation chairs, table, and silver and crystal loaded sideboard.
Upon the mantel-piece, the unflickering light from a waxen taper burning in
a glass of oil lent an unusual air of Sabbath quiet to the room.
"I have 'Yahrzeit' for my mother," explained Jo Lewis, glancing toward the
taper after greeting his visitors. He sat down quietly again.
"Do you always burn the light?" asked Arnold.
"Always. A light once a year to a mother's memory is not much to ask of a
"How long is it since you lost your mother?" questioned Ruth, gently.
Jo Lewis was a man with whom she had little in common. To her he seemed to
have but one idea, --the amassing of wealth. With her more intellectual
cravings, the continual striving for this, to the exclusion of all higher
aspirations, put him on a plane too narrow for her footing. Unpolished he
certainly was, but the rough, exposed grain of his unhewn nature showed
many strata of strength and virility. In this gentle mood a tenderness had
come into view that drew her to him with a touch of kinship.
"Thirty years," he answered musingly, -- "thirty years. It is a long time,
Ruth; but every year when I light the taper it seems as if but yesterday I
was a boy crying because my mother had gone away forever." The strong man
wiped his eyes.
"The little light casts a long ray," observed Ruth. "Love builds its own
lighthouse, and by its gleaming we travel back as at a leap to that which
seemed eternally lost."
Jo Lewis sighed. Presently the thoughts that so strongly possessed him
found an outlet.
"There was a woman for you!" he cried with glowing eyes. "Why, Arnold, you
talk of men being great financiers; I wonder what you would have said to
the powers my mother showed. We were poor, but poor to a degree of which
you can know nothing. Well, with a large family of small children she
struggled on alone and managed to keep us not only alive, but clean and
respectable. In our village Sara Lewis was a name that every man and woman
honored as if it belonged to a princess. Jennie is a good woman, but life
is made easy for her. I often think how grand my mother would feel if she
were here, and I were able to give her every comfort. God knows how proud
and happy I would have been to say, 'You have struggled enough, Mother;
life is going to be a heaven on earth to you now.' Well, well, what is the
good of thinking of it? To-morrow I shall go down town and deal with men,
not memories; it is more profitable."
"Not always," said Arnold, dryly. The two men drifted into a business
discussion that neither Mrs. Lewis nor Ruth cared to follow.
"Are you quite ready?" asked Mrs. Lewis, drawing her chair closer to
"Entirely," she replied; "we start on the 8.30 train in the morning."
"You will be gone a month, will you not?"
"Yes; we wish to get back for the holidays. New Year's falls on the 12th
of September, and we must give the house its usual holiday cleaning."
"I have begun already. Somehow I never thought you would mind being away."
"Why, we always go to the Temple, you know; and I would not miss the
Atonement services for a great deal."
"Why don't you say 'Yom Kippur,' as everybody else does?"
"Because 'Atonement' is English and means something to me. Is there
anything odd about that?"
"I suppose not. By the way, if there is anything you would like to have
done while you are away, let me know."
"I think I have seen to everything. You might run in and see Louis now and
"Louis," Mrs. Lewis called instantly, "be sure to come in often for dinner
while the folks are gone."
"Thank you; I shall. The last dinner I ate with you was delicious enough
to do away with any verbal invitation to another."
He arose, seeing Ruth had risen and was kissing her cousins good-by.
Mrs. Lewis beamed with pleasure at his words.
"Now, won't you take something before you go?" she asked. "Ruth, I have
the loveliest cakes."
"Oh, Jennie," remonstrated Ruth, as her cousin bustled off, "we have just
"Let her enjoy herself," observed Louis; "she is never so happy as when she
is feeding somebody."
The clink of glasses was soon heard, and Mrs. Lewis's rosy face appeared
behind a tray with tiny glasses and a plate of rich, brown-looking little
"Jo, get the Kirsch. You must try one, Ruth; I made them myself."
When they had complimented her on her cakes and Louis had drunk to his next
undertaking, suggested by Jo Lewis, the visitors departed.
They had been walking in almost total silence for a number of blocks, when
Ruth turned suddenly to him and said with great earnestness, --
"Louis, what is the matter with you? For the last few days you have hardly
spoken to me. Have I done anything to annoy you?"
"You? Why, no, not that I remember."
"Then, please, before we go off, be friendly with me again."
"I am afraid I am not of a very hilarious temperament."
"Still, you manage to talk to others."
"Have you cared very much who talked to you lately?"
Her cheek changed color in the starlight.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"Anything or nothing."
Ruth looked at him haughtily.
"If nothing," he continued, observing her askance from lowered lids, "what
I am about to say will be harmless. If anything, I still hope you will
find it pardonable."
"What are you about to say?"
"It won't take long. Will you be my wife?"
And the stars still shone up in heaven!
Her face turned white as a Niphetos rose.
"Louis," she said finally and speaking with difficulty, "why do you ask me
"Why does any man ask a woman to be his wife?"
"Generally because he loves her."
If he had spoken outright, she might have answered him; but the simple
monosyllable, implying a world of restrained avowal, confronted her like a
wall, before which she stood silent.
"Answer me, Ruth."
"If you mean it, Louis, I am very, very sorry."
"Because I can never be your wife."
"I do not love you--like that."
Silence for half a block, the man's lips pressed hard together under his
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