People Like That
Kate Langley Bosher
Part 2 out of 4
He nodded. "Mr. Pritchard kept me out an hour. Sometimes he lets me
make it up at lunch. I was going to ask him to let me to-day, but--"
"I'm preventing. I'm glad of it! When are you going to eat your
"I've done et it--" Jimmy's tongue moistened his lips. "I et it on
my way here this morning. I got paid off last night and I took out
five cents and gave the rest to mother, and this morning I bought a
pie with it and et up every bite. It might have been hooked when I
was out the room, so I'm glad I didn't save none. I got it at
Heck's. He keeps the best pies in town for five cents. They're real
I was paying little attention to Jimmy. At the open window I could
see a young girl across the street with a baby in her arms. She had
brought it from a small frame house with high steps leading to a
sagging porch, in the door of which a large and kindly-faced woman
was standing, arms folded and eyes watching the movements of the
girl. As the latter lifted her head, on which was no hat, I leaned
forward, my heart in my throat. The odd, eager young face, the
boyish arrangement of the hair above it, the quick, bird-like
movements of the slender body, had burned for days and nights in my
brain, and I recognized her at once.
"Jimmy," I said, "come here." I drew him to the window with nervous
haste, my fingers twitching, my breath unsteady. "Who is that girl
with the baby? There she is, turning the corner. Look quick! Do
you know her?"
Jimmy shook his head. "Never saw her. Can't see her now." He
leaned far out the window, but the girl had disappeared, and the
woman in the doorway had gone in and closed the door.
I must have said something, made some sort of sound, for Jimmy,
turning from the window, looked at me uneasily, in his eyes distress
"What's the matter, Miss Heath? You'd better sit down. Did the heat
make you sick? You're--you're whiter than that wall."
A sickness which Jimmy could not understand was indeed upon me, and
unsteadily I leaned against the window-frame, looking at, but not
seeing, him, and not until he spoke again did I remember I was not
"Is it very bad? You look as if it hurts so. Wait a minute--I'll
get you some water."
I caught him as he started to run down the hall, and drew him back.
"I don't want any water. I am not sick." My head went up. "The
smell of paste would make me ill if I stayed, however, and I'm not
going to stay to-day. I'll come some other time. Run on and join
the other boys. Tell your mother"--I seemed groping for words--"tell
your mother I will see her before you start to school. Run on,
Jimmy, and thank Mr. Pritchard for lending you to me. And laugh as
much as you want to, Jimmy. Laugh all you can before--you can't!"
Over the banister the child was leaning anxiously, watching me as I
stumbled down the steps. At their foot I turned and waved my hand
and laughed, an odd, faint, far-away laugh that seemed to come from
some one else; and then I went into the street and found myself
crossing it, impelled by surging impulse to know--
To know what? At the foot of the rickety stairs leading to the high
porch from which I had seen the girl come I stopped. All I had been
repressing, fighting, resisting for days past, had in a moment
yielded to horror, and hurt that seemed past healing, and I was
surrendering to what I should know was impossible. I must be mad!
With a shudder that was half a sob I turned away and walked down the
street and into the one which would lead to Scarborough Square. As I
walked my shoulders straightened. What was the matter with me? Was
I becoming that which I loathed--a suspicious, spying person? I was
insulting Selwyn. He knew I hated mystery, however, knew the right
of explanation was mine, knew that I expected of any man who was my
friend that his life should be as open as my life. If I had hurt
him, angered him by my question when I last saw him, he had hurt, had
angered me far more. For now I was angry. Did he imagine I was the
sort of woman who accepted reticence with resignation? I was not.
At the corner Mr. Fogg was standing in the door of his little shop,
holding a blue bottle up to the light and examining it with critical
care. He had on his usual clothes of many colors, shabby from much
wearing, but in his round, clean-shaven face, pink with health and
inward cheer, was smiling serenity, and in his eyes a twinkle that
yielded not to time or circumstance. His second-hand bookshelf, his
canary-birds and white rabbits, his fox-terriers and goldfish are
friends that never fail, and in them he has found content. His
eagerness to chat occasionally with some one who cares, as he cares,
for his beloved books, is not at times to be resisted, but I was in
no mood to talk to-day. I wondered if I could hurry by.
"Good morning!" The blue bottle, half filled with water, in which a
tiny bulb was floating, was waved toward me, and a shaggy white head
nodded at me. "It's a fine day, ain't it?--a fine day for snow.
Good and gray. I think we'll have some flakes before night. Kinder
feel like a boy again when it's snowing. I don't know yet which
season I like best. Every one has got its glory. What you been up
to to-day? Seeing some more things?"
I nodded. "I wish I could come in, but I can't." I shivered, though
I was not cold. "I am going up-town." A minute before I had no
intention of going up-town, but to go indoors was suddenly
impossible. Whatever was possessing me must be fought off alone. "I
will bring you my copy of Men and Nations to-morrow. Keep it as long
as you wish."
"Thank you, ma'am. Thank you hearty. I'll take good care of it. I
suppose you haven't heard of the widow Robb? Her name's Patty, you
know, and she's got a beau. He's named Cake. Luck plays tricks with
love, don't it? Don't get caught in a snow-storm. You ain't"--his
voice was anxious--"you ain't thinking of leaving us, are you? The
girls down here are needing of you, needing sore. All of us are
needing of you."
I shook my head. "Of course I'm not thinking of leaving you." I
waved my hand in response to his wave of the bottle, and, not seeing
where I went, I turned the corner and, head bent to keep out of my
face the tiny particles of sleet and snow beginning to fall, walked
for some distance before noticing where I was.
Much of my city, unknown to me a short while ago, was now familiar,
but to much I was still a stranger, and presently I was wondering
concerning the occupants of the houses I was passing. The shabby
gentility and dull respectability of the latter was depressing, and
to escape the radiation of their dreariness I turned into first one
street and then another, and as I walked the girl with the boyish
face walked with me, the face with its hunted fear. She had held the
baby as if frightened, and when she turned the corner she was
running. She was so young. Could the baby be hers? It must be
hers. Nothing but a mother-face could have in it what hers had. Why
was she afraid, and of what?
The streets were becoming rough and unpaved before I noticed I was
nearing the city limits, and, cutting across afield, I got into the
Avenue, toward the end of which was Selwyn's house. As I neared it
my steps slowed. For years the Thorne property had been on the
outskirts of the city, but progress had taken it in, and already
houses, flagrantly modern and architecturally shameless, offered
strong contrast to its perfect lines, its conscious dignity, its calm
aloofness, and its stone walls which shielded it from gaping gaze and
gave it privacy. The iron gates were closed, the shutters drawn, and
from the place stillness that was oppressive radiated, a stillness
that was ominous.
Pride was undoubtedly Selwyn's dominating characteristic. Pride in
his name, in its unstained honor, in the heritage of his fathers; and
in the presence of his house it seemed an ugly dream--the picture
ever in my mind, the picture of Selwyn walking slowly with a young
girl in the dark of a winter afternoon in a section of the city as
removed from his as sunlight is removed from shadow. In his nature
was nothing that could make such association imaginable. If no
higher deterrent prevented, pride would protect him from doubtful
situations. He was sensitive to higher deterrents, however, as
sensitive as I.
Passing the gates, on the stone columns of which the quaint,
old-fashioned lamps of former days were still nightly lighted, I
glanced through them at the snow-covered lawn and the square-built,
lonely house, occupied now only by Selwyn and his younger brother
Harrie, then again hurried on. The Avenue with its great width and
unbroken length, its crystal-coated trees and handsome houses, was
now deserted save for hurrying limousines and an occasional
pedestrian; and safe in the fierceness of the snow, from encounter
with old friends, I decided to walk home through the section of the
city which was the only part I once knew well, and just as I decided
I knocked into some one turning a corner as I approached it.
"Oh, Miss Heath!" The woman drew back. "The snow was so thick I
didn't see you. Did I hurt you?"
"Not a bit." I wiped my face, damp with melted flakes which had
brushed it. "What are you doing up here? You look as frozen as I
feel. Have you got on overshoes?"
The woman shook her head. "I haven't got any. I wouldn't have come
out, but I had to bring some work back to Mrs. Le Moyne. If she'd
paid me I'd have bought a pair of rubbers. But she didn't pay me.
She said she'd let me have the money next week."
"Next week! You need it this minute. How much does she owe you?"
"Four seventy-five for these last things, and four twenty-five for
those I made last week. I don't know what I'm going to do." The
woman's hands, cold and stiff, twisted nervously. "I don't reckon
she's ever had to think about rent, or food, or fuel, or overshoes.
People like that don't have to. I wish they did, sometimes."
"So do I. Come on; it's too cold to stop. We'll go down to Benson's
and get something hot to warm us up. I forgot about lunch. Turn
your coat-collar up--the snow is getting down your neck--and take my
muff. I've got pockets and you haven't."
As we started off a large limousine with violets in the glass vases
of its interior, upholstered in fawn-colored cloth, stopped just
ahead of us, and a woman I did not know got out of it, followed by
one I knew well. Fur coats entirely covered their dresses, and
quickly the chauffeur opened an umbrella to protect their hats. As
we passed I started to speak to Alice Herbert, but, turning her head,
she gave me not even a blink of recognition. At first I did not
understand; then I laughed.
"Who is that?" Mrs. Beck's voice was awed. "Ain't they grand? Do
you know them?"
"No." I put my hands in the pockets of my long coat. "I used to
know one of them, the feeble-minded one. We'd better go over to High
Street and take a car to Benson's. The storm's getting worse. We'll
have to hurry."
The street lamps were being lighted as we reached Scarborough Square,
and at sight of the house, in the doorway of which Mrs. Mundy was
standing, I hurried, impelled by impulse beyond defining. Mrs. Beck
had left me at the corner, and as Mrs. Mundy closed the door behind
me she followed me up the steps.
"I've been that worried about you I couldn't set still long at a
time, and Bettina's been up three times to see that your fire was
burning all right. I knew you didn't have your umbrella or
overshoes. It's a wonder you ain't froze stiff. I'll bring your tea
"I've had tea, thank you." I held out first one foot and then the
other to the blazing coals, and from the soles of my shoes came
curling steam. "It's a wonderful storm. I'd like to walk ten miles
in it. I don't know why you were worried. I'm all right."
"I know you are, but"--she poked the fire--"but I wish you wouldn't
go so hard. For near two weeks you haven't stopped a minute. You
can't stand going like that. I wish I'd known where to find you.
Mr. Thorne was here this afternoon. He was very anxious to see you."
"Mr. who?" I turned sharply, then put my hands behind me to hide
their sudden twisting. I was cold and tired, and the only human
being in all the world I wanted to see was Selwyn. It was
intolerable, this tormenting something that was separating us. "When
was he here?" I asked, and leaned against the mantel.
"He came about three, but he waited half an hour. He didn't say
much, but he was powerful put out about your not being home. He
couldn't wait any longer, as he had to catch a train--the
four-thirty, I think."
"Where was he going?" I sat down in the big wing-chair and the
fingers of my hands interlaced. "Did he say where he was going?"
"He didn't mention the place, just said he had to go away and might
be gone some time. He'll write, I reckon. He was awful disappointed
at not seeing you. He asked me--" Mrs. Mundy, on her knees,
unbuttoned my shoes and drew them off. "Your feet are near 'bout
frozen, and no wonder. Your stockings are wet clean through, and I'm
letting you sit here in them when I promised him I'd see you didn't
kill yourself doing these very things. You just put your feet on the
fender while I get some dry clothes. He says to me, says he: 'Mrs.
Mundy, the one human being she gives no thought to is herself, and
will you please take care of her? She don't understand'"--
"Oh, I do understand!" My voice was wearily protesting. "The one
thing men don't want women to do is to understand. They want us to
be sweet and pretty--and not understand. Selwyn talks as if I were a
child. I am perfectly able to take care of myself."
"Maybe you are, but you don't do it--least-ways, not always. I
promised him I wouldn't let you wear yourself out, and I promised
"That I wouldn't let you go too far. He says you've lost your
patience with people, specially women, who think it's not their
business to bother with things that--that aren't nice, and you're apt
to go to the other extreme and forget how people talk."
"About some things they don't talk enough. Did--did he leave any
message for me?"
Again Mrs. Mundy shook her head. "I think he wanted to talk to you
about something he couldn't send messages about."
Selwyn has been gone two weeks. I have heard nothing from him. I do
not even know where he is.
Yesterday, over the telephone, Kitty reproached me indignantly for not
coming oftener to see her. Each week I try to take lunch or dinner
with her, but there have been weeks when I could not see her, when I
could not get away. Scarborough Square and the Avenue are not mixable,
and just now Scarborough Square is taking all my time.
Daily new demands are being made upon me, new opportunities opening,
new friendships being formed, and though my new friends are very
interesting to me, I hardly think they would be to Kitty. I rarely
speak of them to her.
Miss Hardy, the woman labor inspector for the state, a girl who had
worked in various factories since she was twelve and who had gotten her
education at a night school, where often she fell asleep at her desk, I
find both entertaining and instructing, but Kitty would not care for
her. She wears spectacles, and Kitty has an unyielding antipathy for
women who wear spectacles. Neither would she care for Miss Bayne,
another state employee, a clever, capable woman who is an expert in her
line. It is her business to discover feeble-mindedness, to test school
children, and inmates of institutions to which they have been sent, or
of places to which they have gone because of incapacity or delinquency
or sin of any sort; and nothing I have read in books has been so
revealing concerning conditions that exist as her frank statements
In my sitting-room at Scarborough Square she comes in frequently for
tea with me, and meets there Fannie Harris, the teacher of an open-air
school for the tuberculosis children of our neighborhood; and Martha
White, the district nurse for our particular section; meets Miss Hay, a
probation officer of the Juvenile Court, and Loulie Hill, a girl from
the country who had once gone wrong, and who is now trying to keep
straight on five dollars a week made in the sewing-room of one of the
city's hospitals. Bettie Flynn, who lives at the City Home because of
epileptic fits, also comes in occasionally. Bettie is a friend of Mrs.
Mundy. Owing to kinlessness and inability to care for herself, owing,
also, to there being nowhere else to which she could go, she has been
forced to enter the Home. Her caustic comments on its management are
of a clear-cut variety. Bettie was born for a satirist and became an
epileptic. The result at times is speech that is not guarded, a
calling of things by names that are their own.
These and various others who are facing at short range realities of
which I have long been personally ignorant, are taking me into new
worlds, pumping streams of new understandings, new outreaches, into my
brain and heart, and life has become big and many-sided, and a thing
not to be wasted. Myself of the old life I am seeing as I never saw
before, seeing in a perspective that does not fill with pride.
Last night I went to my first dinner-party since Aunt Matilda's death.
In Kitty's car I watched with interest, on the way to her house, the
long stretches of dingy streets, then cleaner ones, with their old and
comfortable houses; the park, with its bare trees and shrubs, and
finally the Avenue, with its smooth paving and pretentious homes, its
hurrying cars of luxurious make, its air of conscious smartness. As
contrast to my present home it interested greatly.
Kitty's house is very beautiful. She is that rare person who knows she
does not know, and the house, bought for her by her father as a
wedding-gift, she had put in the hands of proper authorities for its
furnishings. It is not the sort of home I would care to have, but it
is undeniably handsome, and undoubtedly Kitty understands the art of
Her dinner-party was rather a large one, its honor guest an English
writer whose books are unendurably dull; but any sort of lion is
helpful in reducing social obligations, and for that purpose Kitty had
captured him. She insisted on my coming, but begged me not to mention
horrid things, like poor people and politics and babies who died from
lack of intelligent care, but to talk books.
"So few of the others talk books, except novels, and he thinks most
modern novels rotten," she had told me over the telephone. "So please
come and splash out something about these foreign writers whose names I
can't remember. Bergyson is one, I believe, and Brerr another, and
France-Ana--Ana something France. He's a man. And there's another
one. Mater. . . Yes, that's it. Maeterlinck. And listen: Wear that
white crepe you wore at my wedding; it's frightfully plain, but all
your other things are black. I don't see why you still wear black.
Aunt Matilda hated it."
As I went up-stairs to take off my wraps I smiled at Kitty's
instructions. In her room she hastily kissed me.
"Do hurry and come down. I'm so afraid he'll come before the others,
and I might have to talk to him. Literary people are the limit, and
this one, they say, is the worst kind. Billy refuses to leave his room
until you go down; says he'd rather be sent to jail than left alone
with him ten minutes. He met him at the club."
Holding me off, she surveyed me critically. "You look very well.
That's a good-looking dress. It suits you. I believe you wear pearls
and these untrimmed things just to bring out your hair and eyes.
Nobody but you could do it."
Stopping her short, quick sentences, she leaned forward. "There he is,
coming up the steps with Mr. Alexander. Come on; they're inside. We
can go down now. By the way"--she pinned the orchids at her waist
with unnecessary attention--"Selwyn got back yesterday. He will be
here to-night. Dick Moran is sick, and Selwyn is taking his place. At
first he declined to come. For weeks he's been going nowhere, but he
finally promised. Are you ready?"
Without looking around she went out of the room, and without answering
her I followed. I was conscious chiefly of a desire to get away, to do
anything but meet Selwyn where each would have to play a part; but as I
entered Kitty's drawing-room and later met her guests I crowded back
all else but what was due her, spoke in turn to each, and then to
Selwyn, as if between us there was no terrifying, unbridged gulf.
Kitty's dinners are perfect. I am ever amazed at the care and
consideration she gives to their ordering. In art and letters she is
not learned, but she is an expert in the management of household
affairs, and her dinner invitations are rarely declined.
At the table, with its lilacs and valley-lilies, its soft lights and
perfect appointments, were old friends of mine and new acquaintances of
hers, and with the guest of honor I shared their curiosity. Very
skilfully Kitty led the chatter into channels where the draught was
light, and obediently I did my best to follow. There was much talk,
but no conversation.
"Oh, Miss Heath!" A young girl opposite me leaned forward. "I've been
so crazy to meet you. Some one told me that you'd gone in for slums.
It must be so entrancing!"
I looked up. For a second Selwyn's eyes held mine and we both smiled,
but before I could speak Kitty's lion turned toward me.
"Yes--I heard that, too." Fixing his black-rimmed glasses more firmly
on his big and bulging nose, Mr. Garrott looked at me closely. "In my
country slumming has become a fad with a--a certain type of restless
women who have to make their living, I suppose. But I wouldn't fancy
Jack Peebles, now happily married, blinked in my direction, signaled me
to say nothing, then turned to the Englishman. "Miss Heath can do as
she chooses, being Miss Heath, but the Turks are right. Women ought to
be kept behind latticed windows, given a lute, and supplied with veils,
and if they ask for anything else, they should be taken from the
"I don't agree with you." Mr. Garrott filled his fork with mushrooms
and raised it to his mouth. "The Turks carry their restraint too far.
Women should have more liberty than is given them in Turkey. They add
color to life, add to its--"
"Uncertainties." Selwyn made effort to control the smile the others
found uncontrollable. "In your country, now, the woman-question is
interesting, exciting. There they do things, smash things, make a
noise, keep you guessing. Over here their behavior is much less
entertaining. Their attitude is one of investigation as well as
demand. They have developed an unreasonable desire to know things;
know why they are as they are; why they should continue to be what they
have been. They are preparing themselves by first-hand knowledge and
information to tell what most of us do not want to hear."
Selwyn's eyes again for a moment held mine, and in my face I felt hot
color creeping. Never before had he defended, even with satire, what
he had told me a hundred times was folly on my part. He turned to Mr.
"Why on earth perfectly comfortable, supposedly Christian human beings
should want personally to know anything about uncomfortable, unfit,
"Oh, but I think they ought to!" Again the pretty little creature in
green chiffon nodded toward me. "But you won't let Miss Heath have a
chance to say anything! Some one told me such queer people came to see
her. Factory-girls and working-women and--oh--all sorts of people like
that. Is it really so, Miss Heath?"
"Very interesting people come to see me. They are undoubtedly of
different sorts, but one of the illuminating discoveries of life is
that human beings are amazingly alike. Veneering is a great help, of
course. If you knew my friends you would find--"
"I'd love to know them. I always have liked queer people. I've been
crazy to come and see you, but mother won't let-- I mean--"
"Mrs. Henderson says she met a young man when she went to see you who
was the cleverest person she ever talked, to." Gentle Annie Gaines was
venturing to come to my help. "He seemed to know something of
everything. She couldn't remember his name."
"It's difficult to remember. He's a Russian Jew. Schrioski, is his
name." At the head of the table I felt Kitty squirm, knew she was
twisting her feet in fear and indignation. I turned to her English
"I have another friend who will be so glad to know I have met you, Mr.
Garrott. He is one of your most intelligent and intense admirers. He
has read, I think, everything you've written."
Absorbed in his salad, evidently new and to his liking, Mr. Garrott was
not impressed by, or appreciative of, my attempt to follow Kitty's
instructions. With any reservations of my bad taste in talking shop I
would have agreed, still, something was due Kitty. "He tells me"--I
refused to be ignored--"that he keeps an advance order for everything
you write; buys your books as soon as they are published."
"Buys them!" With the only quick movement he had made, Mr. Garrott
turned to me. "I'd like to meet him. I'm glad to know there's
somebody in America who buys and reads my books. Usually those who buy
don't read, and those who read don't buy. But tell me--" Again the
corners of his mouth drooped, and again his spectacles were adjusted.
"Why did you go in for--for living in a run-down place and meeting such
odds and ends as they say you meet? You're not old enough for things
of that kind. An ugly woman, uninteresting, unprovided for--she might
take them up." He stared at me as if for physical explanation of
unreasonable peculiarities. "You believe, I fancy--"
"That a woman is capable of deciding for herself what she wants to do."
Again Jack Peebles's near-sighted eyes blinked at me, but in his voice
there was no longer chaffing. "She believes even more remarkable
things than that. Believes if people, all sorts, knew one another
better, understood one another better, there would be less injustice,
less indifference, and greater friendship and regard. Rather an
uncomfortable creed for those who don't want to know, who prefer--"
"But you don't expect all grades of people to be friends? Surely you
I smiled. "No, I don't expect. So far I'm only hoping all people may,
some day--be friendly."
Kitty was signaling frantically with her eyes, and in obedience I again
performed as requested, for the third time turned to Mr. Garrott.
"I heard a most interesting discussion the other day concerning certain
present-day French writers. I wonder if you agree with Bernard Shaw
that Brieux is the greatest dramatist since Moliere, or if--"
"I never agree with Bernard Shaw."
Mr. Garrott frowned, and, taking up his wine-glass, drained it.
Putting it down, he again stared at me. "I don't understand you. You
don't look at all as I imagined you would."
At the foot of the table Billy was insisting upon the superiority of
the links of the Hawthorne to those of the Essex club, and Kitty, at
her end, was giving a lively account of a wedding-party she had come
across at the station the evening before when seeing a friend off for
her annual trip South, and at first one and then the other Mr. Garrott
looked, as if not comprehending why, when he wished to speak, there
should be chatter. Later, when again we were in the drawing-room, he
continued to eye me speculatively, but he was permitted no opportunity
to add to his inquiries; and when at last he was gone Kitty sat down,
limp and worn at the strain she had been forced to endure.
"What business is it of his how you live and what you do?" she said,
indignantly. "He's an old teapot, but you see now what I mean. I'm
always having to explain you, to tell--"
"Don't do it. I'll forgive much, but not explaining. Your lion
doesn't roar well, still, a lion is worth seeing--once." I turned to
Selwyn. "I beg your pardon. Did you speak to me?"
"I asked if I could take you to Scarborough Square. I have a taxi
"Thank you, but I am spending the night with Kitty. I am not going
In astonishment Kitty looked at me, then turned away. I had told her I
could not stay. I had not intended to stay, but I could not talk to
Selwyn to-night. There would not be time and there was too much I
wanted to say.
Selwyn's shoulders made shrug that was barely perceptible, and without
offering his hand he said good night. In the hall I heard him speak to
Kitty, then the closing of the door and the starting of the taxi, then
Dawn was breaking when at last I slept.
I have not seen Selwyn since the night of Kitty's dinner-party. He
has been back three days. If he wished to see me before he went
away, why does he not come to see me now? Daily I determine I will
let no thought of him come into my mind. The purposes for which I
came to Scarborough Square will be defeated if I continue to think of
this unimaginable happening that is with me day and night, this
peculiar behavior of which he makes no explanation. I determine not
to think, and thought is ever with me.
I was silly, foolish, quixotic to hope that here, in this little
world of workaday people, he might be brought to see that personal
acquisition and advance is not enough to give life meaning, to
justify what it exacts. I was foolish. We are more apart than when
Mrs. Mundy, in her blue cotton dress, a band of embroidery in the
neck of its close-fitting basque, and around her waist a long, white
apron which reached beyond her ample hips to the middle of her back,
lingered this morning, dust-cloth in hand, at the door of my
sitting-room. There was something else she wanted to say.
"I'm mighty 'fraid little Gertie Archer is going to have what we used
to call a galloping case." She went over to the window, where she
felt the earth in its flower-box to see if it were moist. "She's a
pretty child, and she was terrible anxious to go to one of them
open-air schools on the roof, but there wasn't any room. It's too
The upper ends of the dust-cloth were fitted together carefully, and,
leaving the window, Mrs. Mundy went over to the door. "Do you reckon
the women know, the women where you come from? And the other women,
the rich, and the comfortable, and the plain ones who could help,
too, if they were shown how--do you reckon they know?"
I looked up from the table where I had been straightening some
magazines. "Know what?"
"About there not being schools enough for the children, and about
boys and girls going wrong because of not being shown how to go
right, and about--"
Mrs. Mundy sat down in a chair near the door. "Another thing I want
to ask you is this: How did it come about that some men and women
have found out they've got to know, and they've got to care, and
they've _got_ to help with things they didn't use to help with; and
some 'ain't heard a sound, 'ain't seen a thing of what's going on
"Some people like being deaf and blind. But most people are willing
to do their part if they only understand it. The trouble is in
knowing how to go about things in the right way--the wise way. Women
have had to stumble so long--
"They're natural stumblers--women are. That is, some of 'em.
They're afraid to look where they're going. I don't like to lose
heart in anything human, but I get low down in spirit when I see how
don't-care so many women are. They're blind as bats when they don't
want to see, and they've got a mighty satisfying way of soothing of
themselves by saying some things ain't their business. That's
devil's dope. Generally women who talk that way are the ones who
call the most attention to the faults and failings of men.
Considering men are men, I think they do wonderful. Mr. Guard says
if women keep silent much longer the very stones will cry out."
"Mr. Guard? Is he the one you call the people's preacher?"
Mrs. Mundy nodded. "He preaches to them what won't go in a church.
I reckon you've seen something about him in the papers. He used to
have a church in a big city, but he gave it up. I don't think he
thinks like the churches think, exactly, but he don't have any call
to mention creeds and doctrines down here, and he just asks people
plain out what kind of life they're living, not what they believe.
I've been wanting for a long time for you-all to know each other."
"I'd like very much to know him. Ask him to come to see me."
"He don't go to see people unless they need him. I've been wanting
him for weeks to come to supper with Bettina and me, but he's that
busy he hasn't had a night free to do it. When he does have one,
would you mind coming down and taking supper with us instead of my
sending yours up as usual? I'd be awful proud to have you."
"Of course I'll come. I'd love to. Can't you get him for Friday
evening? I have no engagement for Friday--"
"It's this minute I'll try." Mrs. Mundy got up with activity. "You
two were meant to know each other. Both of you have your own way of
doing things, and you'll have a lot to talk about. You'll like him
and he'll like you. I'll let you know if he can come as soon as I
find out." Closing the door behind her, she left me alone.
Taking the morning paper to the window, I drew my chair close to it,
pushing back the curtains that I might have all possible light as I
read. It was again snowing, and the grayness of the sky and
atmosphere was reflected in the room, notwithstanding the leaping
flames of the open fire, and after a while I put the paper aside and
looked out of the window.
Each twig and branch of the trees and shrubs of the snow-covered
Square was bent and twisted in fantastic shape by its coating of
sleet, and the usual shabbiness of the little park was glorified with
shining wonder; and under its spell, for the moment, I forgot all
else. Here and there a squirrel hopped cautiously from tree to tree,
now standing on its branches and nibbling a nut dug from its
hiding-place, now scurrying off to hide it again, and as I watched
the cautious cocking of their heads I laughed aloud, and the sound
recalled me to the waste I was making of time.
"This isn't writing my letters, and they must go off on the afternoon
mail." Getting up, I was about to turn from the window when a man
and a young woman coming across the Square caught my attention and,
hardly knowing why, I looked at them intently. Something about the
man was familiar. He was barely medium height, and singularly
slender, and though his head was bent that he might better hear the
girl who was talking, I was sure I had seen him before. The girl I
had never seen. She was dragging slowly, as if each step was forced,
and, putting her handkerchief close to her mouth, she began to cough.
For a moment they stood still and I saw the girl had on low shoes and
a shabby coat which had once been showy. On one side of her hat was
a red bird, battered and bruised, and at this comic effort at
dressiness, which poor people cling to with such pathetic
persistence, I smiled, and then in alarm leaned closer to the window.
They had begun their walk again, and were now at the end of the path
opening on to the pavement. I could see them clearly, and
instinctively my hands went out as if to catch her, for the girl had
fallen forward, and on the snow a tiny stream of red was dripping
from her mouth. Quickly the man caught her and put his handkerchief
to her lips, and with equal swiftness he looked around. He could not
lay her on the snow, but she could no longer stand. The fear in his
face, the whiteness of hers, were plainly visible. I raised the
"Bring her over here," I called. "I'll come down and help you."
In a flash I was out of the room and down the steps. Mrs. Mundy, who
had heard my hurried running, followed me to the door. "What is it?"
she asked. "What's the matter, Miss Dandridge?"
Opening the front door, I started down the steps, but already the
man, with the girl in his arms, was coming up them. "Go back," he
said, quietly, though his breath was quick and uneven. "Go back.
You'll get your feet wet."
With a swift movement Mrs. Mundy pushed me aside. "Mr. Guard?" Her
voice was questioning, uncertain; then she held out her arms. "The
poor child! Give her to me. Who is it? Why, it's--it's Lillie
"Yes." The man's voice was low, and with a movement of his head his
hat fell on the floor. "It's Lillie Pierce. She has fainted. Where
shall I take her?"
"In here." Opening a door at the end of the hall, Mrs. Mundy
motioned Mr. Guard to enter. From the girl's mouth the blood was
still dripping, and on the collar of her coat was a big round splotch
"No," I said. "Bring her up-stairs. There's a room all fixed, and
you have so much to do." I put my hand on Mrs. Mundy's arm. "I can
take care of her. Can't we take her up-stairs?"
A swift look passed between Mrs. Mundy and Mr. Guard. "No." The
latter shook his head. "It is better for her to be down here."
Going inside of the little room, he laid the girl on a cot at the
foot of the bed, then turned to me. "Get a doctor. Call Chester
4273 and tell Carson, if he's there, to come at once. If you can
find her, get Miss White also."
I turned to leave the room, but not before I saw Mrs. Mundy and Mr.
Guard at work on the girl, and already her hat and coat were off, and
warm covering was being tucked around her. Mrs. Mundy knew what to
do, and with feet that hardly touched the steps I was at the
telephone and calling the number that had been given me. I was
frightened and impatient at the slowness of Central. "For Heaven's
sake, hurry!" I said. "Some one is ill. Ring loud!"
Dr. Carson was in. He would come at once. Miss White was out.
"Where is she?" I asked. "Where can I get her?"
I was told where she might be found, and, changing my slippers for
shoes, and putting on my coat and hat, I came down ready to go out.
At the door of the room where they had taken the girl I stopped. She
was now quite conscious, and with no pillow under her head she was
staring up at the ceiling. Blood was no longer on her lips, but a
curious smile was on them. It must have been this gasping, faintly
scornful smile that startled me. It seemed mocking what had been
done too late.
"I am going for Miss White." I looked at Mr. Guard. "She is at the
Bostrows'. The doctor--"
As I spoke he came in, a big man, careless in dress and caustic in
speech, but a man to be trusted. I slipped out and in a few minutes
had found Martha White, and quickly we walked back to Scarborough
"It's well you came when you did." She bent her head to keep the
swirling snowflakes from her face. Martha is fat and short and rapid
walking is difficult. "I was just about to leave for the other end
of town to see a typhoid case of Miss Wyatt's. She's young and gets
frightened easily, and I promised I'd come some time to-day, though
it's out of my district. Who is this girl I'm going to see?"
"I don't know. I heard Mr. Guard and Mrs. Mundy call her Lillie
Pierce. They seemed to know her. I never saw her before."
"Never heard of her." Miss White, who had been district nursing for
fourteen years, made effort to recall the name. "She had a
hemorrhage, you say?"
She did not wait for an answer, but went up the steps ahead of me,
and envy filled me as I followed her into the room where she was to
find her patient. Professionally Miss White was one person, socially
another. Off duty she was slow and shy and consciously awkward. In
the sick-room she was transformed. Quiet, cool, steady, alert, she
knew what to do and how to do it. With a word to the others, her
coat and hat were off and she was standing by the bed, and again I
was humiliated that I knew how to do so little, was of so little
Between the doctor and herself was some talk. Directions were given
and statements made, and then the doctor came to the door where I was
standing. For a half-moment he looked me over, his near-sighted eyes
almost closing in their squint.
"I knew your father. A very unusual man." He held out his hand.
"You're like him, got his expression, and, I'm told, the same
disregard of what people think. That"--he jerked his thumb over his
shoulder--"is a side of life you've never seen before. It's a side
men make and women permit. Good morning." Before I could answer he
Close to the cot Mrs. Mundy and Miss White were still standing. The
latter slipped her hand under the covering and drew out the hot-water
bag. "This has cooled," she said. "Where can I get hot water?"
Mrs. Mundy pointed to the bath-room, then turned, and together they
left the room. The girl on the cot was seemingly asleep.
As they went out the man, who was standing by the mantel, came toward
me. "I am David Guard," he said. "I have not thanked you for
letting me bring her in. Had there been anywhere else to take her, I
would not have brought her here. I met her at the other end of the
Square. We had been standing for some while, talking. There was no
place to which we could go to talk, and, fearing she would get too
cold, we had moved on. Last month she tried to take her life. This
morning she was telling me she could hold out no longer. There was
no way out of it but death."
"Who is she?"
Before he could answer I understood. Shivering, I turned away, then
I came back.
"Will you come to my sitting-room, Mr. Guard? Can we not talk as
human beings who are trying to find the right way to--to help wrong
A moment later we were up-stairs. "I don't know why I am so cold."
My hands, not yet steady, were held out to the leaping flames.
"Usually I love a snow-storm, but to-day--"
"They tell me you rarely have such weather as we have had of late.
Personally I like it, but to many it means anything but pleasure.
Is this the chair you prefer?"
At my nod he pushed a low rocker closer to the fire and placed a
foot-stool properly. Drawing up the wing-chair he sat down and
looked around the room. As the light fell on him I noticed the
olive, almost swarthy, coloring of his skin, his deep-sunk eyes
with their changing expressions of gravity and humor, of tolerance
and intolerance, and I knew he was the sort of man one could talk
to on any subject and not be misunderstood. His hair was slightly
gray, and frequently his well-shaped hand would brush back a long
lock that fell across his temple. His clothes were not of a
clerical cut, and evidently had seen good service; and that he gave
little attention to personal details was evidenced by his cravat,
which was midway of his collar, and his collar of a loose,
About him was something intensely earnest, intensely eager and
alert, and, watching him, I realized he belonged to that little
group which through the ages has dared to differ with accepted
order; and for his daring he had suffered, as all must suffer who
feel as well as think.
"You don't mind," the smile on his face was whimsical, "if I take a
good draught of this, do you? It's been long since I've seen just
this sort of thing." His eyes were on a picture between two
windows. "Out of Denmark one rarely sees anything of Skovgaard's.
That Filipinno Lippi is excellent, also. At the Hermitage in St.
Petersburg I tried to get a copy like that"--he nodded at
Rembrandt's picture of himself--"but there was none to be had. Did
you get yours there?"
"Four years ago. I also got that photograph of Houdon's Voltaire
He looked in the direction to which I pointed, and, getting up,
went over to first one picture and then another, and studied them
closely. A bit of bronze, a statuette or two, an altar-piece, a
chalice, a flagon, a paten, a censer, and an ikon held his
attention, one after the other, and again he turned to me.
"These are very interesting. Is it as one of the faithful you
collect?" A smile which strangely lighted his face swept over it.
"Oh no!" I shook my head. "The faithful would find me a most
disturbing person. I ask too many questions." My hand made
movement in the direction of the bookshelves around the four sides
of the room, on the tops of which were oddly assorted little
remembrances of days of travel. "A study of such things is a study
of religious expression at different periods and among different
peoples. They've always interested me."
"They interest me, also." Mr. Guard stood before the ikon, looked
long upon it before coming back to the fire and again sitting down.
For a moment he gazed into it as if forgetting where he was, then
he leaned back in his chair and turned to me.
"A collection of examples of ecclesiastical art, of religious
ideas embodied in objects used for purposes of worship, is
interesting--yes--but a collection of re-actions against what they
fail to represent would be more so, could they be collected."
"They have been--haven't they? In the lives of those who dare to
differ, to break from heritage and tradition, much has been
collected and transmitted. The effect of re-actions is what
counts, I suppose."
"Their inevitability is what people do not seem to understand."
Leaning forward, he again looked into the fire, his hands between
his knees. "The teachings of Christ having been twisted into a
system of theology, and the Church into an organization based on
dogma and doctrine, re-action is unescapable. However, we won't
get on that." Again he straightened. "Was it re-action that
brought you to Scarborough Square? I beg your pardon! I have no
right to ask. There was something you wished to ask me, I believe."
For a moment there was silence, broken only by the flames of the
fire, which spluttered and flared and made soft, whispering sounds,
while on the window-panes the snow, now turning into sleet, tapped
as if with tiny fingers, and my heart began to beat queerly.
I did not know how to ask him what I wanted to ask. There was much
he could tell me, much I wished to hear from a man's standpoint,
but how to make him understand was difficult. He had faced life
frankly, knew what was subterfuge, what sincere, and the
restrictions of custom and convention no longer handicapped him.
Between sympathy and sentimentality he had found the right
distinction, and his judgment and emotions had learned to work
together. My judgment and emotions were yet untrained.
"The girl down-stairs," I began. "You and Mrs. Mundy seem to know
her. If she belongs, as I imagine, to the world down there," my
hand made motion behind me, "Mrs. Mundy will think I can do
nothing. But cannot somebody do something? Must things always go
on the same way?"
"No. They will not always go on the same way. They will continue
so to go, however, until women--good women--understand they must
chiefly bring about the change. For centuries women have been
cowards, been ignorant of what they should know, been silent when
they should speak. They prefer to be--"
"White roses! But white roses do not necessarily live in
hot-houses." I pushed my chair farther from the fire. "That is one
of the reasons I am here. I want to know where women fail."
He looked up. "One does not often find a woman willing to know.
Behind the confusion of such terms as ignorance and innocence most
women continue their irresponsibility in certain directions. They
have accepted man's decree that certain evils, having always
existed, must always exist, and they have made little effort to
test the truth of the assertion. Lillie Pierce and the women of
her world are largely the product of the attitude of good women
toward them. To the sin of men good women shut their eyes, pretend
they do not know. They do not want to know."
"They not only do not want to know, themselves--that is, many of
them--but they would keep others from knowing. Perhaps it is
natural. So many things have happened to life in the past few
years that even clever, able women are still bewildered, still
uncertain what is right to do. Life can never be again what it
once was, and still, most of us are trying to live a new thing in
an old way. We have so long been purposely kept ignorant, so long
not permitted to have opinions that count, so long been told our
work is elsewhere, that cowardice and indifference, the fear of
inability to deal with new conditions, new obligations, new
responsibilities, still holds us back. I get impatient, indignant,
and then I realize--"
David Guard laughed. "That many are still in the child class?"
His head tossed back the long lock of hair that fell over his
forehead. "It is true, but certainly you do not think because I
see the backwardness, the blindness of some women, I do not see the
forwardness, the vision of others? Men have hardly guessed as yet
that it is chiefly due to women that the world is now asking
questions it has never asked before, beginning to look life in the
face where once it blinked at it. Because of what women have
suggested, urged, insisted on, and worked for, the social
conscience all over the earth has been aroused, social legislation
enacted, and social dreams stand chance of coming true. Certain
fields they have barely entered yet, however. It is easy to
understand why. When they realize what is required of them, they
will not hold back. But as yet, among the women you know, how many
give a thought to Lillie Pierce's world, to the causes and
conditions which make her and her kind?"
I shook my head. "I do not know. I've never heard her world
"I suppose not. In this entire city there are few women who think
of girls like Lillie Pierce, or care to learn the truth concerning
them; care enough to see that though they went unto dogs, unto dogs
they need not return if they wish to get away. Most people, both
men and women, imagine such girls like their hideous life; that
they entered it from deliberate choice. Out of a hundred there may
be a dozen who so chose, but each of the others has her story, in
many instances a story that would shame all men because of man." He
glanced at the clock and got up quickly.
"I'm sorry, but I've got to go. I'd entirely forgotten an
engagement I'm compelled to fill. May I come again?" He held out
his hand. "I've heard about you, of course. I've wanted to know
you. There's much I'd like to talk to you about. When you leave
Scarborough Square and go back into your world, you can tell it
many things it should know. Some day it will understand." Abruptly
he turned and left the room.
The girl down-stairs, the girl named Lillie Pierce, was taken on the
back porch this morning, and for the first time Mrs. Mundy left me
alone with her.
"When the snow's gone and the sun shines, the cot can be rolled out, I
told the doctor," Mrs. Mundy tucked the covering closely around the
shrinking figure, "but chill and dampness ain't friends to feeble
folks, and there's plenty of fresh air without going outdoors. It's
hard to make even smart folks like doctors get more 'n one idea at a
time in their heads, and in remembering benefits, they forget dangers.
Are you ready, child, for a whiff of sunshine? It's come at last, the
The girl nodded indifferently, but as the cot was pushed into the porch
I saw her lips quiver, saw her teeth bitten into them to hide their
quivering, and I nodded to Mrs. Mundy to go inside, and I, too, left
her for a moment and went down the steps to the little garden being
made ready for the coming of spring. Around the high fence vines had
been planted, a trellis or two put against the porch for roses and
clematis, and close to the gate an apple-tree, twisted and gnarled,
gave promise of blossoms, if not of fruit. Already I loved the garden
which was to be.
"Violets are to be here and tulips there," I said, under my breath, and
wondered if Lillie were herself again, if I could not go back. "A row
of snowdrops and bleeding-hearts would look lovely there--" Something
green and growing in a sheltered corner near the house caught my eye,
and stooping, I pulled the little blossom, and went up the steps to
Lillie's cot and gave it to her.
Eagerly she held out her hands and the silence of days was broken. The
bitterness that had filled her eyes, the scorn that had drawn her thin
lips into forbidding curves, the mask of control which had exhausted
her strength, yielded at the sight of a little brown-and-yellow flower,
and with a cry she kissed it, pressed it to her face.
"It used to grow, a long bed of it, close to the kitchen wall where it
was warm, and where it bloomed before anything else." The words came
stumblingly. "Mother loved it best of all her flowers; she had all
sorts in her garden."
With a quick turn of her head she looked at me, in her face horror, in
her eyes tumultuous pain, then threw the flower from her with a wild
movement, as if her touch had blighted it. "Why don't you let me die!"
she cried. "Oh, why don't you let me die!"
I drew a chair close to the cot and sat down by it. For a while I said
nothing. Things long locked within her, long held back, were
struggling for utterance. In the days she had been with us her silence
had been unbroken, but gradually something bitter and rebellious had
died out of her face, and into it had come a haunted, hunted look, and
yet she would not talk. Until she was ready to speak we knew it was
best to say nothing to her of days that were past, or of those that
were to come.
Mrs. Mundy had known her before she came to Scarborough Square. In a
ward of one of the city's hospitals, where her baby was born, she had
found her alone, deserted, and waiting her time. Two days after its
birth the baby died.
When she left the hospital there was nowhere for her to go. She had
lived in a city but a short time and knew little of its life, and yet
she must work. Mrs. Mundy got a room for her, then a place in a store,
and she did well, kept to herself, but somebody who knew her story saw
her, told the proprietor, and he turned her off. He couldn't keep
girls like that, he said. It would injure his business. Later, she
got in an office. She had learned at night to do typewriting, and
there one of the men was kind to her, began to give her a little
pleasure every now and then. She was young. It was dreary where she
lived, and she craved a bit of brightness. One night he took her to
what she found was--oh, worse than where she has since lived, for it
pretended to be respectable.
"She was terribly afraid of men. It wasn't put on; it was real. I
know pretense when I see it." Mrs. Mundy, who was telling me of the
girl, changed her position and fixed the screen so that the flames from
the fire should not burn her face. "Ever since the father of the child
had deserted her, she had believed all men were wicked, but this man
had been so friendly, so kindly, she thought he was different from the
others. When she found where she was, she was crazy with fear and
anger, and made a scene before she left. The next morning when she
went to work she was told her services were no longer needed, and told
in a way that made her understand she was not fit to work in the room
with other girls. The man who had charge of the room was the man she
had thought a friend. He's got his job still."
The ticking of the clock on the mantel alone broke the stillness of the
room as Mrs. Mundy stopped. I tried to say something, but words would
"For years I've heard the stories of these poor creatures." Mrs.
Mundy's even tones steadied somewhat the protesting tumult in my heart.
"For years I've known the awful side of the lives they lead. I didn't
have money or learning or influence, or the chance to make good people
understand, even if they'd been willing to hear, what I could tell, but
I could help one of them every now and then. There 're few of them who
start out deliberate to live wrong. When they take it up regular it's
'most always because they're like dogs at bay. There's nothing else to
"What became of Lillie when she lost her place?" I got up from the
sofa and came closer to the fire. My teeth were chattering.
"She lost her soul. She went in a factory, but the air made her sick,
and after three faints they turned her off. It interrupted the work
and made the girls lose time running to her, and so she had to go.
After a while--I was away at the time--the woman she lived with turned
her out. She owed room rent, a good deal of it, and she needed food
and clothes, and there was no money with which to buy them. It got her
crazy, the thought that because she had done wrong she was but a rag to
be kicked from place to place with only the gutter to land in at last,
and--well, she landed. But she isn't all bad. I used to feel about
girls like her just as most good people still feel, but I've come to
see there's many of them who are more sinned against than sinning. The
men who make and keep them what they are go free and are let alone."
"Couldn't she have gone home? You said she was from the country.
Wouldn't they let her come back home?"
Mrs. Mundy shook her head. "Her own mother was dead and her stepmother
wouldn't let her come. She had young children of her own. Last month
she tried to end it all. She won't be here much longer. The doctor
says she'll hardly live six months. If we can get her in the City
"The City Home!" The memory of what I had seen there came over me
protestingly. The girl had lived in hell. She need not die in it.
"Perhaps she can be sent somewhere in the country," I said, after a
while. "Mr. Guard might know of some one who will take her. Certainly
she can stay here until--until he knows what is best to do."
Mrs. Mundy got up. For a moment she looked at me, started to say
something, then went out of the room. She was crying. I wonder if I
said anything I shouldn't.
"Tell me of your mother's garden." I picked up the tiny flower and put
it on Lillie's cot, where its fragrance waked faint stirrings of other
days. "I've always wanted a garden like my grandmother Heath used to
have. I remember it very well, though I was only nine when she died.
There were cherry-trees and fig-trees in it, and a big arbor covered
with scuppernong grape-vines, and wonderful strawberries in one corner.
All of her flowers were the old-fashioned kind. There was a beautiful
yellow rose that grew all over the fence which separated the flowers
from the vegetables, and close to the wood-house was a big moss-rose
bush. There were Micrafella roses, too. I loved them best, and
Jacqueminots, and tea-roses, and--"
"Did she have princess-feather in hers, and candytuft, and
sweet-williams?" Lillie turned over on her side, her hand under her
cheek, and in her eyes a quick, eager glow. "In mother's garden were
all sorts of old-fashioned flowers also. We lived two miles from town
and father sold vegetables and chickens to the market-men, who sold
them to their customers. But he never had as good luck with his
vegetables as mother had with her flowers. She loved them so. There
was a big mock-orange bush right by the well. Did you ever shut your
eyes and see things again just as they were a long time ago? If I were
blind-folded and my hands tied behind me I could find just where every
flower used to grow in mother's garden, if I could go in it again."
Like a flood overleaping the barrier that held it back, the words came
eagerly. To keep her from talking would do more harm than to let her
talk. The fever in her soul was greater, more consuming, than that in
her body. I did not try to stop her.
"I don't remember where each thing was in grandmother's garden." I
moved my chair a little closer to her cot. "But I remember the
gooseberry-bushes were just behind a long bed of lilies-of-the-valley.
It seemed so queer they should be together."
"Lilies of the valley grow anywhere. Mother's bed got bigger every
year. There was a large circle of them around a mound in the middle of
our garden, and they were fringed with violets. One February our
minister's wife died. They didn't have any flowers, and it seemed so
dreadful not to have any that I went into the garden to see if I
couldn't find something. The ground was covered with snow, but the
week before had been warm, and, going to one of the beds, I brushed the
snow away and found a lot of white violets. They were blooming under
the snow. I pulled them and took them to the minister, and he put them
in her hands. They used to put flowers in people's hands when they
were dead. I don't know whether they do it now or not."
"Sometimes it is done." I took up the sewing an my lap and made a few
stitches. "Tell me some more of your mother's garden. Did she have
winter pinks and bachelor's buttons and snap-dragons and hollyhocks in
it? I used to hate grandmother's hollyhocks. They were so haughty."
"We did not have any, but we had bridal-wreath and spirea and a big
pomegranate-bush. There were two large oleanders in tubs at the foot
of the front steps. One was mine, the other was my sister's. My
sister is married now and lives out West. She has two children."
A bird on the bough of the apple-tree began to twitter. For a moment
Lillie listened, then again she looked at me, in her eyes that which I
had noticed several times before, a look of torturing fear and pain and
"Do"--her voice was low--"do you know about me?"
"Yes, I know about you."
"You know--and--and still you talk to me? I don't understand. Why did
you come down here? You don't belong in Scarborough Square."
"Why not? I have no one who needs me." I held my bit of sewing off,
looked at it carefully. "Other women have their homes, their husbands
and children, or their families, or duties or obligations of some sort,
which they cannot leave, even if they wanted to know, to understand
better how they might--" I leaned forward. "I think you can help me,
Lillie, help me very much."
"Help you--" Half lifting herself up, Lillie stared at me as if not
understanding, then the flush in her face deepened. "I help anybody!
Oh, my God! if I only could! If I only could!"
"I'm sure you can." I picked up the flower, which again had fallen.
"The doctor says you can go in the country soon, but before you go--"
"I hope I won't live long enough to go anywhere, but before I go away
for good if I could tell you what you could tell to others, and make
them understand how different it is from what they think, make them
know the awfulness--awfulness--"
She turned her head away, buried it in her arms, her body shaking in
convulsive sobs. The bird on the apple-tree had stopped its singing,
and the sun was no longer shining. In the hall I heard Mrs. Mundy go
to the door, heard it open; then heavier footsteps came toward us, I
looked around. Selwyn was standing in the doorway.
Selwyn closed the door, put his hat and overcoat on a chair beside
it, and came over to the fire. Standing in front of it, hands in his
pockets, he looked at me. I, also, was standing.
"Why don't you sit down? Are you in a hurry? Am I interrupting you?"
I shook my head. "I am not in a hurry, and you are not interrupting.
I thought perhaps--"
"That you were in a hurry." I sat down on a footstool near the
mantel, and leaned against the latter, my hands on my knees. "I so
seldom have a visit from a man in the morning that I don't know how
to behave." My head nodded toward the chair he usually preferred.
"I would not take your time now--but I must." He took a seat opposite
me, and looking at me, his face changed. "What is the matter? Are
you sick? Your eyes look like holes in a blanket. Something has
been keeping you awake. What is it?"
"I am not at all sick, and I slept very well last night." I drew a
little further from the flame of the fire. "I'm sorry if my eyes--"
"Belie your bluff? They always do. Resist as you will, they give
you away. You've been working yourself to death doing absurd things
for unthankful people. Who is that sick person downstairs? Where'd
you pick her up?"
"I didn't pick her up. She had a hemorrhage and fainted in front of
the house. I happened to see her and--and--"
"Had her brought in. I understand. In a neighborhood of this sort
you don't know who you're bringing in, but I suppose that doesn't
"No, it doesn't--when the bringing in is a matter of life and death,
perhaps! As long as I am here and Mrs. Mundy is here, any one can
come in who for the moment has nowhere else to go. Scarborough
Square has no walls around its houses. Whoever needs us is a
neighbor. The girl was ill."
My voice was indignant. There are times when Selwyn makes me
absolutely furious. He apparently takes pleasure in pretending to
have no heart. Then, too, he was talking and acting in such contrast
to the way I had expected him to talk and act at our first meeting
alone after the past weeks, that in amazement I stared at him. Of
self-consciousness or embarrassment there was no sign. It had
obviously not occurred to him that his acquaintanceship with a girl
he had given no evidence of knowing when I was present, and three
days later had been seen walking with on the street, absorbed in deep
and earnest conversation, was a matter I would like to have
explained. The density of men for a moment kept me dumb.
Selwyn has been reared in a school honest in its belief that a woman
is too fine and fair a thing to face life frankly; that personal
knowledge and understanding on her part of certain verities, certain
actualities, did the world no good and woman harm. But the woman of
whom he thought was the sheltered, cultured, cared-for woman of his
world. Protection of her was a man's privilege and obligation. Of
the woman who has to do her own protecting, fight her way through,
meet the demands of those dependent on her, he personally knew
little. It was what he needed much to know.
But because his handsome, haughty mother had lived in high-bred,
self-congratulatory ignorance of what she believed did not concern
her, and because he has for a sister, who's a step-sister, a silly,
snobby person, he is not justified in withholding from me what he
naturally withheld from them. One can be a human being as well as a
lady. It's this that is difficult to make him understand.
For a half-moment longer I looked at him, then away. Apparently he
had not heard what I said.
"I should not trouble you. I have no right, but I don't know what to
do. I've so long come to you--" He turned to me uncertainly.
"What is it?" I got up from the footstool and took my seat in the
corner of the sofa. "Why shouldn't you come to me?"
"You have enough on you now." He bit his lip. "It's about
Harrie--the boy must be crazy. For the past few weeks he has kept me
close to hell. I never imagined the time would come when I would
thank God my father was dead. It's come now."
"What is it, Selwyn? There is nothing you cannot tell me." I leaned
forward, my hands twisting in my lap. I knew more of Harrie than
Selwyn knew I knew, but because he was the one person I did know with
whom I had no measure of patience, I rarely mentioned his name.
Harrie is Selwyn's weakness, and to his faults and failings the
latter is, outwardly, at least, most inexplicably blind. He is as
handsome as he is unprincipled and irresponsible, and his power to
fascinate is seemingly limited only by his desire to exercise it.
"What is it?" I repeated. "What has he been doing?"
"Everything he shouldn't." Selwyn leaned forward and looked in the
fire. "I was wrong, I suppose, but something had to be done. For
some time he's been drinking and gambling, and I told him it had to
stop. I stood it as long as I could, but when I found he would
frequently come home too drunk to get in bed, and would have to be
put there by Wingfield, who would be listening for him, I had a talk
with him which it isn't pleasant to remember. I'd had a good many
before. God knows I've tried--"
Selwyn got up, went over to the window and stood for a moment at it
with his back to me. Presently he left it and began to walk up and
down the room, hands in his pockets.
"I've doubtless made a mess of looking after him, but I did the best
I knew how. Because of the eleven years' difference in our ages I've
shut my eyes to much I should have seen, and refused to hear what I
should have listened to, perhaps, but I was afraid of being too
severe, too lacking in sympathy with his youth, with the differences
in our natures, and, chiefly, because I knew he was largely the
product of his rearing. He was only fourteen when father died, and
to the day of her death mother allowed no one to correct him. She
indulged him beyond sense or reason; let him grow up with the idea
that whatever he wanted he could have. Restraint and discipline were
never taught him. As for direction, guidance, training--" Selwyn's
shoulders shrugged. "If I said anything to mother, cautioned her of
the mistake she was making, she thought me hard and cruel, and ended
by weeping. After her death it was too late."
"Doesn't he work? Does he do nothing at all?"
"Work!" Selwyn stopped. "He's never done a day's work in his life
that earned what he got for it. When he refused to go back to
college mother bought him a place in Hoge and Howell's office. They
kept him until he'd used up the capital put in the business, then got
rid of him. I offered to put more in, but they wouldn't agree.
Later, I got John Moore to take him in, but John now refuses to renew
their contract. He's absolutely no good. That's a pretty hard thing
to say about one's brother, but it's true. He's the only thing on
earth belonging to me that I've got to love, and now--"
Selwyn's voice was husky, and again he went to the window, looked
long upon the Square, and for a moment I said nothing. I could think
of nothing to say. From various friends of other days who came
occasionally to see me in my new home, I had heard of Harrie's wild
behavior of late, of Selwyn's patient shielding of him, of the
latter's love and loyalty and care of the boy to whom he had been far
more than a brother, and I wanted much to help him, to say something
that would hearten him, and there was nothing I could say. Harrie
was selfish to the core; he was unprincipled and unscrupulous, and
for long I had feared that some day he would give Selwyn sore and
serious trouble. That day had seemingly come.
"He is so young. At twenty-three life isn't taken very seriously by
boys of Harrie's nature. He'll come to himself after a while." I
was fumbling for words. "When his money is entirely gone he'll tire
of his--his way of living and behave himself."
"The lack of money doesn't disturb him. I bought his interest in the
house for fear he'd sell it to some one else. He's pretty nearly
gotten through with that, as with other things he inherited. How in
the name of Heaven my father's son--" Selwyn came over to the sofa
and sat down. "I didn't mean to speak of this, however; of his past
behavior. It's concerning his latest adventure that I want your
help, want you to tell me what to do."
"Why don't you smoke? Haven't you a cigar?" I reached for a box of
matches behind me. "Begin at the beginning and tell me everything."
Selwyn lighted his cigar and for a while smoked in silence. In his
face were deep lines that aged it strangely and for the first time I
noticed graying hair about his temples. Suddenly something clutched
my heart queerly, something that cleared unnaming darkness, and
understanding was upon me. Unsteadily my hand went out toward him.
"There is nothing you cannot ask me to do, Selwyn. There is nothing
I would not do to help you."
He lifted my hand to his lips. "There is no one but you I would talk
to of this. You will not misunderstand. If I could not come to
I drew my hand away. "That's what a woman is for, to--to stand by
when a man needs her." My words came stammeringly. "I heard Harrie
was away. Where is he and why did he go?"
"He's in Texas. He went, I think, because of a mix-up with a girl
here he had no business knowing. There was a row, I believe."
Selwyn frowned, flicked the ashes from his cigar with impatient
movement. "There's no use going into that. I'm not excusing him;
there's no excuse, but so far as that's concerned there's nothing to
be done, so far as I can see. He got involved with this girl, a
little cashier at some restaurant downtown who thought he was going
to marry her. I knew nothing about this until a few weeks ago. When
I heard it, I went to see the girl."
The tension of past weeks, not yet entirely unrelaxed, snapped with
such swiftness that I seemed suffocating, and, lest he hear the sob
in my throat, I got up and went over to the window and opened it a
little. "Was she--" I made effort to speak steadily. "Was she the
girl who was brought in here? The girl you were with some three
Selwyn, who had gotten up as I came back to the sofa, again sat down.
"Yes. She was the girl." His voice was indifferently even. He had
obviously no suspicion of my unworthy wondering, had forgotten,
indeed, his indignation at the question I had asked him after seeing
him with her. Other things more compelling had evidently crowded it
"I had never seen her until the night I saw her here. She, I learned
later, knew me, however, as Harrie's brother. I had been told that
Harrie was infatuated with her, and, knowing there could only be
disaster unless the thing was stopped, I went to see the girl. The
evening you saw me was the second time I had seen her. I was trying
to make her promise to go away. This isn't her home. She came here
to get work."
Selwyn leaned back against the sofa, and his eyes looked into mine
with helpless questioning. "I've been brought in contact
professionally with many types of human beings, but that girl is the
most baffling thing I've come across yet. I can't make her out. The
night after I saw her here I went to see her at what, I supposed, was
her home, just opposite the Hadley box-factory. Later she told me
she didn't live there, and would not say where she lived. All the
time I talked to her her eyes were on her hands in her lap and,
though occasionally her lips would twist, she would say nothing. It
isn't a pleasant thing for a man to tell a girl his brother isn't a
safe person for her to go with, isn't one to be trusted, but I did
tell her. She's an odd little thing, all fire and flame, and to talk
frankly was to be brutal, but some day she should thank me. She
won't do it. She will hate me always for warning her. She knew as
well as I that marriage was out of the question, and yet she would
not promise to give Harrie up. When you saw me I was on my way for a
second talk with her. Meeting her on the street, I did not go to the
house, which she said she had just left, and as she would not tell me
where she was going, I had to do my talking as we walked."
"Did she promise to go away?" I looked into the fire, and the odd,
elfish, frightened face of the girl with the baby in her arms looked
at me out of the bed of coals. "Did she promise to go?" I repeated.
Selwyn shook his head. "She would promise nothing. I could get
nothing out of her, could not make her talk. Harrie has been a
durned fool--perhaps worse, I don't know. I tried to help her, and I
My fingers interlocked in nervous movements. Why hadn't the girl
told Selwyn? Why was she shielding Harrie? Would she tell me or
Mrs. Mundy what she would not tell Selwyn? I could send Mrs. Mundy
to her now--could break the silence which was mystifying to her.
Selwyn's hands moved as though to rid them of all further
responsibility. "You can't do anything with people like that. She'd
rather stay on here and take the chance of seeing Harrie than go away
from temptation. I'm sorry for her, but I'm through."
"No, you're not through. Perhaps we've just begun. Maybe
there--there were reasons of which she couldn't tell you that kept
her here." I looked at him, then away. "The night we heard her
fall, heard her cry out; the night we brought her in here, you met
some one across the street when you went away. Was it--Harrie?"
In Selwyn's face came flush that crimsoned it. "Yes, it was Harrie.
I don't know what happened. He had been drinking, but I can't
believe he struck her. If he did--my God!"
With shuddering movement Selwyn's elbows were on his knees, his face
in his hands, and only the dropping of a coal upon the hearth broke
the stillness of the room. Presently he got up and again went over
to the window. When he next spoke his voice was quiet, but in it a
bitterness and weariness he made no effort to conceal. "It was
Harrie, but he would tell me nothing about the girl. From some one
else I learned where I could find her. A few days after I saw her,
Harrie went away."
"Did you make him go?"
"No. I had a talk with him during which he told me to mind my own
damned business and he would mind his." Selwyn turned from the
window and came back to the sofa, on his lips a faint smile. "When
he went off he didn't tell me he was going, left no address, and for
some time I didn't know where he was. Less than three weeks ago I
had a telegram from him saying he was ill and to send money. I wired
the money and left for El Paso on the first train I could make. I
tried to see you before I went, but you were out."
"Why didn't you write?"
"I couldn't. Once or twice I tried, but gave it up. I found that
Harrie had undoubtedly been ill, but when I reached him he was up and
about. Two hours before I took the train to return home he informed
me of his engagement to--"
"His what?" For a moment I sat rigidly upright, in my eyes indignant
unbelief. Then I sat back limp and relaxed, my hands, palms upward,
in my lap.
Selwyn's shoulders shrugged. "Your amazement is feeble to what mine
was. On the train going down he had renewed his acquaintance with a
girl and her mother he had met somewhere; here, I believe, and a week
after reaching her home the girl was engaged to him. Her name is
"Is she crazy?"
"No. Her mother is crazy. I don't blame the girl. She's young,
pretty, silly, and doubtless in love. Harrie has fatal facility in
making love. This mamma person has a good deal of money; no sense,
and large social ambitions. She's determined to get there. If only
fools died as soon as they were born there would be hope for
humanity. A fat fool is beyond the reach of endeavor." With eyes
narrowed and his forehead ridged in tiny folds, Selwyn stared at me.
"Have women no sense, Danny? Have they no understanding, no--"
"Some have. But sense and understanding interfere with comfortable
ignorances that aren't pleasant to be interfered with. Does this
female parent know anything about Harrie? Did she let her daughter
become engaged before making inquiries about him?"
"She knows very well who he is. She's visited here several times.
If told of Harrie's past dissipations, she'd soothe herself with the
usual dope of boys being boys, and men being men, and bygones being
bygones." Selwyn's hands made gesture of disgust. "It's a plain
case of damned fool. She deserves what she'll get if she lets her
daughter marry Harrie. But the daughter doesn't. Somebody ought to
tell the child she mustn't marry him. If there was a father or
brother the responsibility would be on them. There's neither."
"But didn't you tell Harrie--that--that--"
"I did. And the language I used was not learned in a kindergarten.
Among other things I told him was that if he-- Oh, it's no use going
into that. It's easy to say what you'll do, but it isn't easy to
show your brother up as--as everything one's brother shouldn't be."
For a moment or two Selwyn continued his restless walking up and down
the room, in his face no masking of the pain and weariness of spirit
that were possessing him. To no one else would he speak so frankly
of a family affair, and I wanted much to help him, but how? What was
it he wanted me to do? I could not see where I came in to do
"Is Harrie very much in love?" Such questioning was consciously
silly, but something had to be said. "Do you think he really loves
"No, I don't. He says he does, of course, but he doesn't love
anything but himself. Making love is a habit with him. Our girls
know how to take the sort of stuff he talks; rather expect it, but
this little creature is obviously a literalist. I imagine Harrie
hardly remembers how it happened. He probably was surprised to find
himself engaged. However, he's determined to go through with it. A
million-dollar mother-in-law has a good deal in her favor. But
something is the matter with the boy. He's not himself."
"Didn't he go away about a year ago, and stay some time? If he could
begin all over--"
"There's nowhere under heaven I wouldn't send him if he'd go with the
purpose of beginning all over, but he won't stay away. About six
months ago he went to South America and stayed four months. Since he
got home he's been worse than ever--reckless, defiant, and drinking
heavily. His health has gone and most of his money; practically all
of it. I don't know what to do. I want to do what is right. Tell
me what it is, Danny."
My breath was drawn in shiveringly and the frightened face of the
girl with the baby in her arms again seemed close to me. Why was I
so halting, so afraid to speak? Usually I reached decisions quickly,
but I couldn't get rid of the girl's eyes. They seemed appealing for
protection. Until I knew more about her I must say nothing. Mrs.
Mundy must go to see her and then--
"I know I shouldn't bother you with all this." Selwyn's voice
recalled me and the face in the fire vanished. "But there is no one
else I can talk to. I should as soon go to a patient in a nerve
sanitarium as to Mildred. As a sister Mildred is not a success.
She'd first have hysterics and tell me I was brutal to poor Harrie,
and then declare that to marry a million dollars was the chance of a
lifetime for him. One of the ten thousand things I can't understand
about women is their defense of men, their acceptance of
his--shortcomings, and their disregard of the woman who must pay the
price of the latter. Mildred would probably not give Miss Swink a
"Harrie's sister and his mamma-in-law-to-be will doubtless find each
other congenial. They believe in sweet ignorance and blind
acceptance for their sex. But what do you want me to do, Selwyn?
What is it I can do?"
"I don't know." Hand on the back of the sofa, he looked down at me.
"When things go wrong I always come to you. When they go right you
are not nice to me. To-day I had a letter from Harrie. He's coming
back next week. His fiancee and her mother are coming with him. The
engagement is not to be announced just yet, however, and he asks me
to keep it on the quiet."
"And you've told me."
"Told you!" Selwyn's voice was querulous. "Don't I tell you
everything? Mrs. Swink has friends here, strivers like herself--the
only kind of people you won't have anything to do with. But I'm
going to ask you to call. Perhaps you'll be able--"
"She won't want to know me. I'll be no use to her. I can't help her
in any way, and people like that are too keen to waste time on people
like me. I don't give parties."
"But Kitty does. I don't know how you'll go about it, but you'll
find a way to--to make the girl understand she mustn't marry Harrie,
or certainly not for some time. I feel sorry for the child, but--"
"And the other girl--the little cashier-girl? What about her?"
For a moment Selwyn did not seem to understand. "Oh, that girl! I
don't think there'll be any trouble from her. She doesn't seem that
sort. Forget her. You can't do anything. I've tried and failed."
"I may fail, but I haven't tried. You dispose of her as if she
"What can I do? I shouldn't have mentioned her." Selwyn's forehead
ridged frowningly, and, taking out his watch, he looked at it, took
up his hat and coat, and held out his hand.
"Thank you for letting me talk to you. And don't worry about the
other girl. You can't do anything."
"Perhaps I can't, but you said just now one of the many things you
couldn't understand in women was their disregard of other women.
That Mildred would probably give the girl no thought. The rich girl,
"Well--" Selwyn waited. "I did say it, but I don't see what you're
"That sometimes women do remember the woman who has to pay--the
price; do give a thought to the girl who is left to pay it alone.
Come to-morrow--no, not to-morrow. Come next week. It will take
Mrs. Mundy until then to--"
"Mrs. Mundy has nothing to do with Miss Swink. The other girl, I
told you, can take care of herself. You mustn't look into that side
of it. I'll attend to that, do what is necessary. It's only about
her you seem to be thinking."
"I'm thinking about both girls, the poor one and the rich one. But
the rich girl has a million-dollar mother to look after her.
Good-by, and come Tuesday. I forgot--What is the girl's name, the
"Etta--Etta something." Selwyn made effort to think, then took a
note-book out of his pocket and looked at it. "Etta Blake is her
name. I wish you'd forget her. There are some things one can't talk
about, but certainly you know I will do what is right if Harrie--"
His face darkened.
"I know you will, but sometimes a girl needs a woman to do--what is
right. She's such a little thing, and so young. Come Tuesday
evening at eight o'clock."
Late that evening I had a talk with Mrs. Mundy. I told her where Etta
Blake lived, that is, where she could find the house from which I had
seen her come with the baby in her arms, the house whose address had
been given me by Selwyn, and the next morning she was to go and see
her; but the next morning Mrs. Mundy was ill. Acute indigestion was
what the doctor called it, but to Bettina and me it seemed a much more
dreadful thing, and for the time all thought of other matters was put
aside and held in abeyance.
With Bettina's help I tried to do Mrs. Mundy's work, but my first
breakfast was not an artistic product. I shall never know how to cook.
I don't want to know how. I don't like to cook. There were many other
things I could do, however, and though Mrs. Mundy wept, being weak from
nausea, at my refusal to leave undone the usual cleaning, I did it with
pride and delight in the realization that, notwithstanding little
practice, I could do it very well. I am a perfect dish-washer, and I
can make up beds as well as a trained nurse.
Mrs. Mundy is much better to-day and to-morrow she will be up. Three
days in bed is for her an unusual and depressing experience, and her
sunny spirit drooped under the combined effects of over-indulgence in
certain delectable dishes, and inability to do her usual work.
"It don't make any difference how much character a person's got, it's
gone when sick-stomach is a-wrenching of 'em." Mrs. Mundy groaned
feebly. "I 'ain't had a spell like this since Bettina was a baby. Pig
feet did it. When they're fried in batter I'm worse than the thing I'm
eating. I et three, and I never can eat more than two. And to think
you had to do everything for Lillie Pierce, to get her off in time!
The doctor says she can't live many months. Outside the doctor, and
Nurse White and Mr. Guard, don't anybody know she's been here. I
reckon it ain't necessary to mention it. People are so--"
"People-ish! They love to stick pins in other people! It's
tyranny--the fear of what people will think about us, say about us, do
about us! I'm going to give myself a present when I get like Mr. Guard
and can tell some people to go--go anywhere they please, if it's where
I won't meet them. Are you all right now and ready for your nap?"
Mrs. Mundy nodded, looked at me with something of anxiety in her eyes
as I straightened the counterpane of her spotless bed; but she said
nothing more, and, lowering the shades at the windows lest the sunlight
bother her, I went out of the room and left her to go asleep.
I am glad of the much work of these past few days. It has kept me from
thinking too greatly of what Selwyn told me of Harrie, of the girl to
whom he is engaged, and of the little cashier-girl whose terror-filled
face is ever with me. It has kept me, also, from dwelling too
constantly on the message Lillie Pierce sent by me to the women of
clean and happy worlds. For herself there was no plea for pity or for
pardon, no effort at palliation or excuse. But with strength born of
bitter knowledge she begged, demanded, that I do something to make good
women understand that worlds like hers will never pass away if men
alone are left to rid earth of them. Ceaselessly I keep busy lest I
realize too clearly what such a message means. I shrink from it,
appalled at what it may imply. I am a coward. As great a coward as
the women whose unconcern I have of late been so condemning.
Yesterday Lillie went away. Mr. Guard took her to the mountains where
a woman he used to know in the days of his mission work will take care
of her. He is coming back to-morrow. The sense of comfort that his
coming means is beyond analysis or definition. Only once or twice in a
lifetime does one meet a man of David Guard's sort, and whatever my
mistakes, whatever my impulses and lack of judgment may lead me to do,
he will never be impatient with me. We have had several long and frank
and friendly talks since the day he brought Lillie in to Mrs. Mundy,
and if Scarborough Square did no more for me than to give me his
friendship I should be forever in its debt.
Early this morning I had a dream I have been trying all day to forget.
Through the first part of the night sleep had been impossible. The
haunting memory of Lillie's eyes could not be shut out, and the sound
of her voice made the stillness of the room unendurable. I tried to
read, to write, to do anything but think. I fought, resisted; refused
to face what I did not want to see, to listen to what I did not want to
hear; and not until the dawn of a new day did I fall asleep.
In my dream Lillie was in front of me, the bit of wall-flower in her
hands, and gaspingly she cried out that something should be done.
"It can never be made clean, the world we women live in. But there
should never be such worlds. Good women pretend they do not know.
They do not want to know!"
"But, Lillie"--I tried to hold her twisting, writhing hands. "There is
much that has been done. Some women do know, and homes and
institutions and societies--"
"Homes and institutions and societies!" She drew her hands away in
scornful gesture. "They are poultice and plaster things. They are for
surface sores, and the trouble is in the blood. To cure, to cleanse,
undo the evil of our world is not in human power. It's the root of the
tree that must be killed. You can cut off its top for a thousand years
and it will come back again. Women have got to go deeper than that and
make men know that they'll be damned the same as we if they sin the
same as we do."
She was slipping from me and I tried to hold her back. "Tell me what
women must do! Tell me where they fail!" In terror I caught her
hands. "Do not go until you tell me--"
In misty grayness she was vanishing. "When women make their sons know
there is no less of sin and shame in sinful, shameful lives for them
than for their sisters our worlds will pass away. You've got to stop
the evil at the source. Men don't do what women won't stand for. Tell
She was gone and, waking, I found I was sitting up in bed, my hands
I had a note from Selwyn to-day telling me the Swinks had come and are
at the Melbourne. Harrie is not well.
Kitty telephoned me late yesterday afternoon that Billie had an
engagement for a club dinner of some sort, and she had appendicitis, or
something that felt like it, and wouldn't I please come up and have
supper with her in her sitting-room. There was something she wanted to
talk to me about.
Kitty has a remarkable voice. It is capable of every variation of
appeal. I went. Mrs. Crimm came in to stay with Mrs. Mundy.
The appendicitis possibility was not disturbing, and in a very lovely
pink velvet negligee, with cap and slippers and stockings to match,
Kitty was waiting for me. She is peculiarly skilful in the settings
she arranges for her pretty self, and as I looked at her they seemed
far-away things, the world of Scarborough Square, with its daily
struggle for daily bread, and the world of Lillie Pierce, with its evil
and polluting life, and the world of the little cashier-girl with its
temptations and denials. I tried to put them from me. The evening was
to be Kitty's. She took her luxuries as the birds of the air take
light and sunshine. Unearned, they seemed a right.
She did not like the dress I had on. It's a perfectly good dress.
"I'll certainly be glad when you stop wearing black. It's too severe
for you; that is, black crepe de chine is. You're too tall and slender
for it, though it gives you a certain distinction. Did Selwyn send you
"He did. Where's your pain? What did the doctor say was the matter?"
"I telephoned him not to come. I haven't got any pain. It's gone. I
just wanted you by myself." Kitty settled herself more comfortably in
her cushion-filled chair and stretched her feet on the stool in front
of her. "Why didn't you come to Grace Peterson's luncheon yesterday?"
"I had something else more important to do. Grace knew I wasn't coming
when she asked me. Society and Scarborough Square can't be served at
the same time." I smiled. "During the days of apprenticeship only a
half-hour is allowed for lunch. Did you have a good time?"
"Of course I didn't. Who does with an anxious hostess? One of the
guests was an out-of-town person who used to know you well. She wanted
to hear all about you and everybody told her something different. All
that's necessary is to mention your name and--"
"The play's begun. To be an inexhaustible subject of chatter is to
serve a purpose in life. I'd prefer a nobler one, still-- Who was my
"I've forgotten her name. She was the most miserable-looking woman I
ever saw. On any one else her clothes would have been stunning. Don't
think she and her husband hit it off very well. There's another lady
he finds more entertaining than she is, and she hasn't the nerve to
tell him to quit it or go to Ballyhack. Women make me tired!"
"They tire men, also. A woman who accepts insult is hardly apt to be
interesting. Tell me about the luncheon. Who was at it?"
"Same old bunch. Grace left out nothing that could be brought in.
Most of the entertaining nowadays is a game of show-down, regular
exhibitions of lace and silver and food and flowers and china and
glass, and gorgeous gowns and stupid people. I'm getting sick of them."
"Why don't you start a new kind? You might have your butler hand a
note to each of your guests on arriving, stating that all the things
other people had for their tables you had for yours, but only what was
necessary would be used. Then you might have a good time. It's
difficult to talk down to an excess of anything."
"Wish I had the nerve to do it!" Kitty again changed her position;
fixed more comfortably the pink-lined, embroidered pillows at her back,
and looked at me uncertainly. I waited. Presently she leaned toward
"People are talking about you, Danny. You won't mind if I tell you?"
Her blue eyes, greatly troubled, looked into mine, then away, and her
hand slipped into my hand and held it tightly. "Sometimes I hate
people! They are so mean, so nasty!"
"What are they saying?" I straightened the slender fingers curled
about mine and stroked them. "Only dead people aren't talked about.
What is being said about me?"
"Horrid things--not to me, of course. They'd better not be! But--Mrs.
Herbert came to see me yesterday afternoon. She wasn't at the luncheon
and Grace got the first rap, but most of her hatefulness she took out
on you. She's worse than a germ disease. I always feel I ought to be
disinfected after I see her. If she were a leper she wouldn't be
allowed at large, and she's much more deadly. People like that ought
to be locked up."
"What did she tell you about me?" I smiled in Kitty's flushed face,
smiled also at the remembrance of Alice Herbert's would-be cut some
time ago, but I did not mention it. "You oughtn't to be so hard on
her. She's crazy."
"But crazy people are dangerous. A mosquito can kill a king, and a
king has to be careful about mosquitoes. I'm more afraid of people
than I am of insects. If you could only label them--"
"People label themselves. What did Alice Herbert say about me?"
"First, of course, how strange it was that you should care to live in
Scarborough Square, especially as you were a person who held yourself
so aloof from--"
"People like her. I do. What else did she say?"
"That you met all sorts of people, had all sorts to come and see you.
A trained nurse who is with a sick friend of her aunt's told her she'd
heard you let a--let a bad woman come in your house." Kitty's voice
trailed huskily. "She said it would ruin you if things like that got
out. I told her it was a lie--it wasn't so."
"It was so." I held Kitty's eyes, horror-filled and unbelieving. "She
stayed with Mrs. Mundy a week. Yesterday she went away to the
For a moment longer Kitty stared at me, and in her face crept deep and
crimson color. "You mean--that you let a--a woman like that come in
your house and stay a week? Mean--"
For a long time we sat by the fire in Kitty's sitting-room with its
rose-colored hangings, its mellow furnishings, its soft burning logs on
their brass andirons, its elusive fragrance of fresh flowers, and
unsparingly I told her what all women should know. In the twilight
that of which I talked made pictures come and go that gave her
understanding never glimpsed before, and, slipping on her knees, she
buried her face, shudderingly, in my lap.
"Is it I, Danny? Is it women like me who could do something and
don't?" she said, after a long, long while. "Oh, Danny, is it I?"
[Illustration: "Is it I, Danny? Is it women like me who could do
something and don't?"]
"It is all of us." My fingers smoothed the beautiful brown hair.
"Every woman of to-day who thinks there's a halo on her head ought to
take it off and look at it. She wouldn't see much. We like halos. We
imagine we deserve them. And we like the pretty speeches which have
spoiled us. What we need is plain truth, Kitty. We need to see
without confusion. Sometimes I wonder if we are not the colossal
failure of life--we women who have hardly begun to use the power God
put in our hands when He made us the mothers of sons and daughters--"
"But we've only been educated such a little while--most of us aren't
educated yet. I'm not." Her arms on my knees, Kitty looked up in my
face, in hers the dawning light of vision long delayed. "Men haven't
wanted us to think. They want to think for us."
"But ours is the first chance at starting men to thinking right.
Through babyhood and boyhood they are ours. If all women could
"All women haven't got anything to understand with even if they wanted
to understand. Some who have sense don't want responsibility." Kitty
bit her lip. "I haven't wanted it. It's so much easier not--not to
have it. And now--now you've put it on me."
"When women know, they will not shirk. So many of us are children yet.
We've got to grow up." Stooping, I kissed her. "In Scarborough Square
I've learned to see it's a pretty wasteful world I've lived in. And
life is short, Kitty. There's not a moment of it to be wasted."
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