The Second Generation
David Graham Phillips
Part 5 out of 7
Madelene felt what lay behind that timid, subtle statement of the
case. Her face shadowed. She had been picturing a life, a home, with
just Arthur and herself; here was a far different prospect opening up.
But Mrs. Ranger was waiting, expectant; she must be answered. "I
couldn't take him away from you," Madelene said. "I'd only lose him
myself if I tried."
Tears came into Ellen's eyes and her hands clasped in her lap to steady
their trembling. "I know how it is," she said. "I'm an old woman,
and"--with an appeal for contradiction that went straight to Madelene's
heart--"I'm afraid I'd be in the way?"
"In the way!" cried Madelene. "Why, you're the only one that can teach me
how to take care of him. He says you've always taken care of him, and I
suppose he's too old now to learn how to look after himself."
"You wouldn't mind coming here to live?" asked Ellen humbly. She hardly
dared speak out thus plainly; but she felt that never again would there
be such a good chance of success.
It was full a minute before Madelene could trust her voice to make reply,
not because she hesitated to commit herself, but because she was moved to
the depths of her tender heart by this her first experience of about the
most tragic of the everyday tragedies in human life--a lone old woman
pleading with a young one for a little corner to sit in and wait for
death. "I wish it weren't quite such a grand house," she said at last
with a look at the old woman--how old she seemed just then!--a look that
was like light. "We're too poor to have the right to make any such start.
But, if you'd let me--if you're sure you wouldn't think me an
intruder--I'd be glad to come."
"Then that's settled," said Mrs. Ranger, with a deep sigh of relief.
But her head and her hands were still trembling from the nervous shock
of the suspense, the danger that she would be left childless and alone.
"We'll get along once you're used to the idea of having me about. I
know my place. I never was a great hand at meddling. You'll hardly know
Again Madelene had the choke in her throat, the ache at the heart. "But
you wouldn't throw the care of this house on my hands!" she exclaimed in
well-pretended dismay. "Oh, no, you've simply got to look after things!
Why, I was even counting on your helping me with my practice."
Ellen Ranger thrilled with a delight such as she had not had in many a
year--the matchless delight of a new interest. Her mother had been famous
throughout those regions in the pioneer days for skill at "yarbs" and at
nursing, and had taught her a great deal. But she had had small chance to
practice, she and her husband and her children being all and always so
healthy. All those years she had had to content herself with thinking and
talking of hypothetical cases and with commenting, usually rather
severely, upon the conduct of every case in the town of which she heard.
Now, in her old age, just as she was feeling that she had no longer an
excuse for being alive, here, into her very house, was coming a career
for her, and it the career of which she had always dreamed!
She forgot about the marriage and its problems, and plunged at once into
an exposition of her views of medicine--her hostility to the allopaths,
with their huge, fierce doses of dreadful poisons that had ruined most of
the teeth and stomachs in the town; her disdain of the homeopaths, with
their petty pills and their silly notion that the hair of the dog would
cure its bite. She was all for the medicine of nature and common sense;
and Madelene, able honestly to assent, rose in her esteem by leaps and
bounds. Before the end of that conversation Mrs. Ranger was convinced
that she had always believed the doctors should be women. "Who
understands a woman but a woman? Who understands a child but a woman? And
what's a man when he's sick but a child?" She was impatient for the
marriage. And when Madelene asked if she'd object to having a small
doctor's sign somewhere on the front fence, she looked astounded at the
question. "We must do better than that," she said. "I'll have you an
office--just two or three rooms--built down by the street so as to save
people coming clear up here. That'd lose you many a customer."
"Yes, it might lose us a good many," said Madelene, and you'd never have
thought the "us" deliberate.
That capped the climax. Mrs. Ranger was her new daughter's thenceforth.
And Madelene went away, if possible happier than when she and Arthur had
straightened it all out between themselves the night before. Had she not
lifted that fine old woman up from the grave upon which she was wearily
lying, waiting for death? Had she not made her happy by giving her
something to live for? Something to live for! "She looked years
younger immediately," thought Madelene. "That's the secret of
happiness--something to live for, something real and useful."
"I never thought you'd find anybody good enough for you," said Mrs.
Ranger to her son that evening. "But you have. She's got a heart and a
head both--and most of the women nowadays ain't got much of either."
And it was that night as Ellen was saying her prayers, that she asked God
to forgive her the sin of secret protest she had let live deep in a dark
corner of her heart--reproach of Hiram for having cut off their son. "It
was for the best," she said. "I see it now."
When Charles Whitney heard Arthur was about to be married, he offered him
a place on the office staff of the Ranger-Whitney Company at fifteen
hundred a year. "It is less than you deserve on your record," he wrote,
"but there is no vacancy just now, and you shall go up rapidly. I take
this opportunity to say that I regard your father's will as the finest
act of the finest man I ever knew, and that your conduct, since he left
us, is a vindication of his wisdom. America has gone stark mad on the
subject of money. The day is not far distant when it has got to decide
whether property shall rule work or work shall rule property. Your father
was a courageous pioneer. All right-thinking men honor him."
This, a fortnight after his return from Europe, from marrying Janet to
Aristide, Viscount Brunais. He had yielded to his secret
snobbishness--Matilda thought it was her diplomacy--and had given Janet a
dowry so extravagant that when old Saint Berthe heard the figures, he
took advantage of the fact that only the family lawyer was present to
permit a gleam of nature to show through his mask of elegant indifference
to the "coarse side of life." Whitney had the American good sense to
despise his wife, his daughter, and himself for the transaction. For
years furious had been his protestations to his family, to his
acquaintances, and to himself against "society," and especially against
the incursions of that "worm-eaten titled crowd from the other side." So
often had he repeated those protests that certain phrases had become
fixedly part of his conversation, to make the most noise when he was
violently agitated, as do the dead leaves of a long-withered but still
firmly attached bough. Thus he was regarded in Chicago as an American of
the old type; but being human, his strength had not been strong enough to
resist the taint in the atmosphere he had breathed ever since he began to
be very rich and to keep the company of the pretentious. His originally
sound constitution had been gradually undermined, just as "doing like
everybody else"--that is, everybody in his set of pirates disguised under
merchant flag and with a few deceptive bales of goods piled on deck--had
undermined his originally sound business honor.
Arthur answered, thanking him for the offered position, but declining it.
"What you say about my work," he wrote, "encourages me to ask a favor. I
wish to be transferred from one mechanical department to another until I
have made the round. Then, perhaps, I may venture to ask you to renew
Whitney showed this to Ross. "Now, _there's_ the sort of son I'd be proud
of!" he exclaimed.
Ross lifted his eyebrows. "Really!" said he. "Why?"
"Because he's a _man_," retorted his father, with obvious intent of
satirical contrast. "Because within a year or two he'll know the business
from end to end--as his father did--as I do."
"And what good will that do him?" inquired Ross, with fine irony. "You
know it isn't in the manufacturing end that the money's made nowadays. We
can hire hundreds of good men to manufacture for us. I should say he'd be
wiser were he trying to get a _practical_ education."
"Precisely. Studying how to stab competitors in the back and establish
monopoly. As a manager, he may some day rise to ten or fifteen thousand a
year--unless managers' salaries go down, as it's likely they will. As a
financier, he might rise to--to _our_ class."
Whitney grunted, the frown of his brows and the smile on his sardonic
mouth contradicting each other. He could not but be pleased by the
shrewdness of his son's criticism of his own half-sincere,
half-hypocritical tribute to virtues that were on the wane; but at the
same time he did not like such frank expression of cynical truth from a
son of his. Also, he at the bottom still had some of the squeamishness
that was born into him and trained into him in early youth; he did not
like to be forced squarely to face the fact that real business had been
relegated to the less able or less honest, while the big rewards of
riches and respect were for the sly and stealthy. Enforcing what Ross had
said, there came into his mind the reflection that he himself had just
bribed through the Legislature, for a comparatively trifling sum, a law
that would swell his fortune and income within the next five years more
than would a lifetime of devotion to business.
He would have been irritated far more deeply had he known that Arthur
was as well aware of the change from the old order as was Ross, and that
deliberately and on principle he was refusing to adapt himself to the
new order, the new conditions of "success." When Arthur's manliness
first asserted itself, there was perhaps as much of vanity as of pride
in his acceptance of the consequences of Hiram's will. But to an
intelligent man any environment, except one of inaction or futile
action, soon becomes interesting; the coming of Madelene was all that
was needed to raise his interest to enthusiasm. He soon understood his
fellow-workers as few of them understood themselves. Every human group,
of whatever size or kind, is apt to think its characteristics peculiar
to itself, when in fact they are as universal as human nature, and the
modifications due to the group's environment are insignificant matters
of mere surface. Nationality, trade, class no more affect the oneness of
mankind than do the ocean's surface variations of color or weather
affect its unchangeable chemistry. Waugh, who had risen from the ranks,
Howells, who had begun as shipping clerk, despised those above whom they
had risen, regarded as the peculiar weaknesses of the working classes
such universal failings as prejudice, short-sightedness, and shirking.
They lost no opportunity to show their lack of sympathy with the class
from which they had sprung and to which they still belonged in reality,
their devotion to the class plutocratic to which they aspired. Arthur,
in losing the narrowness of the class from which he had been ejected,
lost all class narrowness. The graduates from the top have the best
chance to graduate into the wide, wide world of human brotherhood. By an
artificial process--by compulsion, vanity, reason, love--he became what
Madelene was by nature. She was one of those rare human beings born with
a just and clear sense of proportion. It was thus impossible for her to
exaggerate into importance the trivial differences of mental stature.
She saw that they were no greater than the differences of men's physical
stature, if men be compared with mountains or any other just measure of
the vast scale on which the universe is constructed. And so it came
naturally to her to appreciate that the vital differences among men are
matters of character and usefulness, just as among things they are
matters of beauty and use.
Arthur's close friend was now Laurent Tague, a young cooper--huge,
deep-chested, tawny, slow of body and swift of mind. They had been
friends as boys at school. When Arthur came home from Exeter from his
first long vacation, their friendship had been renewed after a fashion,
then had ended abruptly in a quarrel and a pitched battle, from which
neither had emerged victor, both leaving the battle ground exhausted and
anguished by a humiliating sense of defeat. From that time Laurent had
been a "damned mucker" to Arthur, Arthur a "stuck-up smart Alec" to
Laurent. The renewal of the friendship dated from the accident to
Arthur's hand; it rapidly developed as he lost the sense of patronizing
Laurent, and as Laurent for his part lost the suspicion that Arthur was
secretly patronizing him. Then Arthur discovered that Lorry had, several
years before, sent for a catalogue of the University of Michigan, had
selected a course leading to the B.S. degree, had bought the necessary
text-books, had studied as men work only at that which they love for its
own sake and not for any advantage to be got from it. His father, a
captain of volunteers in the Civil War, was killed in the Wilderness; his
mother was a washerwoman. His father's father--Jean Montague, the first
blacksmith of Saint X--had shortened the family name. In those early,
nakedly practical days, long names and difficult names, such as naturally
develop among peoples of leisure, were ruthlessly taken to the chopping
block by a people among whom a man's name was nothing in itself, was
simply a convenience for designating him. Everybody called Jean Montague
"Jim Tague," and pronounced the Tague in one syllable; when he finally
acquiesced in the sensible, popular decision, from which he could not
well appeal, his very children were unaware that they were Montagues.
Arthur told Lorry of his engagement to Madelene an hour after he told his
mother--he and Lorry were heading a barrel as they talked. This supreme
proof of friendship moved Laurent to give proof of appreciation. That
evening he and Arthur took a walk to the top of Reservoir Hill, to see
the sun set and the moon rise. It was under the softening and expanding
influence of the big, yellow moon upon the hills and valleys and ghostly
river that Laurent told his secret--a secret that in the mere telling,
and still more in itself, was to have a profound influence upon the
persons of this narrative.
"When I was at school," he began, "you may remember I used to carry the
washing to and fro for mother."
"Yes," said Arthur. He remembered how he liked to slip away from home and
help Lorry with the big baskets.
"Well, one of the places I used to go to was old Preston Wilmot's;
they had a little money left in those days and used to hire mother now
"So the Wilmots owe her, too," said Arthur, with a laugh. The
universal indebtedness of the most aristocratic family in Saint X was
the town joke.
Lorry smiled. "Yes, but she don't know it," he replied. "I used to do all
her collecting for her. When the Wilmots quit paying, I paid for 'em--out
of money I made at odd jobs. I paid for 'em for over two years. Then, one
evening--Estelle Wilmot"--Lorry paused before this name, lingered on it,
paused after it--"said to me--she waylaid me at the back gate--I always
had to go in and out by the alley way--no wash by the front gate for
them! Anyhow, she stopped me and said--all red and nervous--'You
mustn't come for the wash any more.'
"'Why not?' says I. 'Is the family complaining?'
"'No,' says she, 'but we owe you for two years.'
"'What makes you think that?' said I, astonished and pretty badly scared
for the minute.
"'I've kept account,' she said. And she was fiery red. 'I keep a list of
all we owe, so as to have it when we're able to pay.'"
"What a woman she is!" exclaimed Arthur. "I suppose she's putting by out
of the profits of that little millinery store of hers to pay off the
family debts. I hear she's doing well."
"A smashing business," replied Lorry, in a tone that made Arthur glance
quickly at him. "But, as I was saying, I being a young fool and
frightened out of my wits, said to her: 'You don't owe mother a cent,
Miss Estelle. It's all been settled--except a few weeks lately. I'm
collectin', and I ought to know.'
"I ain't much of a hand at lying, and she saw straight through me. I
guess what was going on in her head helped her, for she looked as if she
was about to faint. 'It's mighty little for me to do, to get to see you,'
I went on. 'It's my only chance. Your people would never let me in at the
front gate. And seeing you is the only thing I care about.' Then I set
down the washbasket and, being desperate, took courage and looked
straight at her. 'And,' said I, 'I've noticed that for the last year you
always make a point of being on hand to give me the wash.'"
Somehow a lump came in Arthur's throat just then. He gave his
Hercules-like friend a tremendous clap on the knee. "Good for you,
Lorry!" he cried. "_That_ was the talk!"
"It was," replied Lorry. "Well, she got red again, where she had been
white as a dogwood blossom, and she hung her head. 'You don't deny it, do
you?' said I. She didn't make any answer. 'It wasn't altogether to ask me
how I was getting on with my college course, was it, Miss Estelle?' And
she said 'No' so low that I had to guess at it."
Lorry suspended his story. He and Arthur sat looking at the moon.
Finally Arthur asked, rather huskily, "Is that the end, Lorry?"
Lorry's keen, indolent face lit up with an absent and tender smile. "That
was the end of the beginning," replied he.
Arthur thrilled and resisted a feminine instinct to put his arm round his
friend. "I don't know which of you is the luckier," he said.
Lorry laughed. "You're always envying me my good disposition," he went
on. "Now, I've given away the secret of it. Who isn't happy when he's got
what he wants--heaven without the bother of dying first? I drop into her
store two evenings a week to see her. I can't stay long or people would
talk. Then I see her now and again--other places. We have to be
"You must have been," said Arthur. "I never heard a hint of this; and if
anyone suspected, the whole town would be talking."
"I guess the fact that she's a Wilmot has helped us. Who'd ever suspect a
Wilmot of such a thing?"
"Why not?" said Arthur. "She couldn't do better."
Lorry looked amused. "What'd you have said a few months ago, Ranger?"
"But _my_ father was a workingman."
"That was a long time ago," Lorry reminded him. "That was when America
used to be American. Anyhow, she and I don't care, except about the
mother. You know the old lady isn't strong, especially the last year or
so. It wouldn't exactly improve her health to know there was anything
between her daughter and a washerwoman's son, a plain workingman at that.
We--Estelle and I--don't want to be responsible for any harm to her.
"But there's the old gentleman, and Arden--_and_ Verbena!"
Lorry's cheerfulness was not ruffled by this marshaling of the full and
formidable Wilmot array. "It'd be a pleasure to Estelle to give _them_ a
shock, especially Verbena. Did you ever see Verbena's hands?"
"I don't think so," replied Arthur; "but, of course, I've heard of
"Did you know she wouldn't even take hold of a knob to open a door, for
fear of stretching them?"
"She _is_ a lady, sure."
"Well, Estelle's not, thank God!" exclaimed Lorry. "She says one of her
grandmothers was the daughter of a fellow who kept a kind of pawn shop,
and that she's a case of atavism."
"But, Lorry," said Arthur, letting his train of thought come to the
surface, "this ought to rouse your ambition. You could get anywhere you
liked. To win her, I should think you'd exert yourself at the factory as
you did at home when you were going through Ann Arbor."
"To win her--perhaps I would," replied Lorry. "But, you see, I've won
her. I'm satisfied with my position. I make enough for us two to live on
as well as any sensible person'd care to live. I've got four thousand
dollars put by, and I'm insured for ten thousand, and mother's got twelve
thousand at interest that she saved out of the washing. I like to _live_.
They made me assistant foreman once, but I was no good at it. I couldn't
'speed' the men. It seemed to me they got a small enough part of what
they earned, no matter how little they worked. Did you ever think, it
takes one of us only about a day to make enough barrels to pay his week's
wages, and that he has to donate the other five days' work for the
privilege of being allowed to live? If I rose I'd be living off those
five days of stolen labor. Somehow I don't fancy doing it. So I do my ten
hours a day, and have evenings and Sundays for the things I like."
"Doesn't Estelle try to spur you on?"
"She used to, but she soon came round to my point of view. She saw what I
meant, and she hasn't, any more than I, the fancy for stealing time from
being somebody, to use it in making fools think and say you're somebody,
when you ain't."
"It'd be a queer world if everybody were like you."
"It'd be a queer world if everybody were like any particular person,"
Arthur's mind continually returned to this story, to revolve it, to
find some new suggestion as to what was stupid or savage or silly in the
present social system, as to what would be the social system of
to-morrow, which is to to-day's as to-day's is to yesterday's; for Lorry
and Dr. Schulze and Madelene and his own awakened mind had lifted him
out of the silly current notion that mankind is never going to grow any
more, but will wear its present suit of social clothes forever, will
always creep and totter and lisp, will never learn to walk and to talk.
He was in the habit of passing Estelle's shop twice each day--early in
the morning, when she was opening, again when the day's business was
over; and he had often fancied he could see in her evening expression
how the tide of trade had gone. Now, he thought he could tell whether it
was to be one of Lorry's evenings or not. He understood why she had so
eagerly taken up Henrietta Hastings's suggestion, made probably with no
idea that anything would come of it--Henrietta was full of schemes,
evolved not for action, but simply to pass the time and to cause talk in
the town. Estelle's shop became to him vastly different from a mere
place for buying and selling; and presently he was looking on the other
side, the human side, of all the shops and businesses and material
activities, great and small. Just as a knowledge of botany makes every
step taken in the country an advance through thronging miracles, so his
new knowledge was transforming surroundings he had thought commonplace
into a garden of wonders. "How poor and tedious the life I marked out
for myself at college was," he was presently thinking, "in comparison
with this life of realities!" He saw that Lorry, instead of being
without ambitions, was inspired by the highest ambitions. "A good son, a
good lover, a good workman," thought Arthur. "What more can a man be, or
aspire to be?" Before his mind's eyes there was, clear as light, vivid
as life, the master workman--his father. And for the first time Arthur
welcomed that vision, felt that he could look into Hiram's grave, kind
eyes without flinching and without the slightest inward reservation of
blame or reproach.
It was some time before the bearing of the case of Lorry and Estelle
upon the case of Arthur and Madelene occurred to him. Once he saw this he
could think of nothing else. He got Lorry's permission to tell Madelene;
and when she had the whole story he said, "You see its message to us?"
And Madelene's softly shining eyes showed that she did, even before her
lips had the chance to say, "We certainly have no respectable excuse
"As soon as mother gets the office done," suggested Arthur.
* * * * *
On the morning after the wedding, at a quarter before seven, Arthur and
Madelene came down the drive together to the new little house by the
gate. And very handsome and well matched they seemed as they stood before
her office and gazed at the sign: "Madelene Ranger, M.D." She unlocked
and opened the door; he followed her in. When, a moment later, he
reappeared and went swinging down the street to his work, his expression
would have made you like him--and envy him. And at the window watching
him was Madelene. There were tears in her fine eyes, and her bosom was
heaving in a storm of emotion. She was saying, "It almost seems wicked to
feel as happy as I do."
In Hiram Ranger's last year the Ranger-Whitney Company made half a
million; the first year under the trustees there was a small deficit.
Charles Whitney was most apologetic to his fellow trustees who had given
him full control because he owned just under half the stock and was the
business man of the three. "I've relied wholly on Howells," explained he.
"I knew Ranger had the highest opinion of his ability, but evidently he's
one of those chaps who are good only as lieutenants. However, there's no
excuse for me--none. During the coming year I'll try to make up for my
negligence. I'll give the business my personal attention."
But at the end of the second year the books showed that, while the
company had never done so much business, there was a loss of half a
million; another such year and the surplus would be exhausted. At the
trustees' meeting, of the three faces staring gloomily at these ruinous
figures the gloomiest was Charles Whitney's. "There can be only one
explanation," said he. "The shifting of the centers of production is
making it increasingly difficult to manufacture here at a profit."
"Perhaps the railways are discriminating against us," suggested
Whitney smiled slightly. "That's your reform politics," said he. "You
fellows never seek the natural causes for things; you at once accuse the
Scarborough smiled back at him. "But haven't there been instances of
rings in control of railways using their power for plants they were
interested in and against competing plants?"
"Possibly--to a limited extent," conceded Whitney. "But I hold to the
old-fashioned idea. My dear sir, this is a land of opportunity--"
"Still, Whitney," interrupted Dr. Hargrave, "there _may_ be something in
what Senator Scarborough says."
"Undoubtedly," Whitney hastened to answer. "I only hope there is. Then
our problem will be simple. I'll set my lawyers to work at once. If that
is the cause"--he struck the table resolutely with his clenched
fist--"the scoundrels shall be brought to book!"
His eyes shifted as he lifted them to find Scarborough looking at him.
"You have inside connections with the Chicago railway crowd, have you
not, Mr. Whitney?" he inquired.
"I think I have," said Whitney, with easy candor. "That's why I feel
confident your suggestion has no foundation--beyond your suspicion of all
men engaged in large enterprises. It's a wonder you don't suspect me.
Indeed, you probably will."
He spoke laughingly. Scarborough's answer was a grave smile.
"My personal loss may save me from you," Whitney went on. "I hesitate to
speak of it, but, as you can see, it is large--almost as large as the
"Yes," said Scarborough absently, though his gaze was still fixed on
Whitney. "You think you can do nothing?"
"Indeed I do not!" exclaimed Whitney. "I shall begin with the assumption
that you are right. And if you are, I'll have those scoundrels in court
within a month."
The young senator's expression and tone were calm, but Whitney seemed to
find covert hostility in them. "Then--justice!" he replied angrily.
Dr. Hargrave beamed benevolent confidence. "Justice!" he echoed. "Thank
God for our courts!"
"But _when_?" said Scarborough. As there was no answer, he went on: "In
five--ten--fifteen--perhaps twenty years. The lawyers are in no hurry--a
brief case means a small fee. The judges--they've got their places for
life, so there's no reason why they should muss their silk gowns in
undignified haste. Besides--It seems to me I've heard somewhere the
phrase 'railway judges.'"
Dr. Hargrave looked gentle but strong disapproval. "You are too
pessimistic, Hampden," said he.
"The senator should not let the wounds from his political fights
gangrene," suggested Whitney, with good-humored raillery.
"Have you nothing but the court remedy to offer?" asked Scarborough, a
slight smile on his handsome face, so deceptively youthful.
"That's quite enough," answered Whitney. "In my own affairs I've never
appealed to the courts in vain."
"I can believe it," said Scarborough, and Whitney looked as if he had
scented sarcasm, though Scarborough was correctly colorless. "But, if you
should be unable to discover any grounds for a case against the
"Then all we can do is to work harder than ever along the old lines--cut
down expenses, readjust wages, stop waste." Whitney sneered politely.
"But no doubt you have some other plan to propose."
Scarborough continued to look at him with the same faint smile. "I've
nothing to suggest--to-day," said he. "The court proceedings will do no
harm--you see, Mr. Whitney, I can't get my wicked suspicion of your
friends out of my mind. But we must also try something less--less
leisurely than courts. I'll think it over."
Whitney laughed rather uncomfortably; and when they adjourned he lingered
with Dr. Hargrave. "We must not let ourselves be carried away by our
young friend's suspicions," said he to his old friend. "Scarborough is a
fine fellow. But he lacks your experience and my knowledge of practical
business. And he has been made something of a crank by combating the
opposition his extreme views have aroused among conservative people."
"You are mistaken, Whitney," replied the doctor. "Hampden's views are
sound. He is misrepresented by the highly placed rascals he has exposed
and dislodged. But in these business matters we rely upon you." He linked
his arm affectionately in that of the powerful and successful "captain of
industry" whom he had known from boyhood. "I know how devoted you are to
Tecumseh, and how ably you manage practical affairs; and I have not for a
moment lost confidence that you will bring us safely through."
Whitney's face was interesting. There was a certain hangdog look in it,
but there was also a suggestion--very covert--of cynical amusement, as of
a good player's jeer at a blunder by his opponent. His tone, however, was
melancholy, tinged with just resentment, as he said: "Scarborough forgets
how my own personal interest is involved. I don't like to lose two
hundred and odd thousand a year."
"Scarborough meant nothing, I'm sure," said Hargrave soothingly. "He
knows we are all single hearted for the university."
"I don't like to be distrusted," persisted Whitney sadly. Then
brightening: "But you and I understand each other, doctor. And we will
carry the business through. Every man who tries to do anything in this
world must expect to be misunderstood."
"You are mistaken about Scarborough, I know you are," said Hargrave
Whitney listened to Hargrave, finally professed to be reassured; but,
before he left, a strong doubt of Scarborough's judgment had been
implanted by him in the mind of the old doctor. That was easy enough;
for, while Hargrave was too acute a man to give his trust impulsively, he
gave without reserve when he did give--and he believed in Charles
Whitney. The ability absolutely to trust where trust is necessary is as
essential to effective character as is the ability to withhold trust
until its wisdom has been justified; and exceptions only confirm a rule.
Scarborough, feeling that he had been neglecting his trusteeship, now
devoted himself to the Ranger-Whitney Company.
He had long consultations with Howells, and studied the daily and weekly
balance sheets which Howells sent him. In the second month after the
annual meeting he cabled Dory to come home. The entire foundation upon
which Dory was building seemed to be going; Saint X was, therefore, the
place for him, not Europe.
"And there you have all I have been able to find out," concluded
Scarborough, when he had given Dory the last of the facts and figures.
"What do you make of it?"
"There's something wrong--something rotten," replied Dory.
"But where?" inquired Scarborough, who had taken care not to speak or
hint his vague doubts of Whitney. "Everything _looks_ all right, except
the totals on the balance sheets."
"We must talk this over with some one who knows more about the business
than either of us." Then he added, as if the idea had just come to him,
"Why not call in Arthur--Arthur Ranger?"
Scarborough looked receptive, but not enthusiastic.
"He has been studying this business in the most practical way ever since
his father died," urged Dory. "It can't do any harm to consult with him.
We don't want to call in outside experts if we can help it."
"If we did we'd have to let Mr. Whitney select them," said Scarborough.
And he drew Dory out upon the subject of Arthur and got such complete and
intelligent answers that he presently had a wholly new and true idea of
the young man whose boyish follies Saint X had not yet forgotten. "Yes,
let's give Arthur a chance," he finally said.
Accordingly, they laid the case in its entirety before Arthur, and he
took home with him the mass of reports which Scarborough had gathered.
Night after night he and Madelene worked at the problem; for both knew
that its solution would be his opportunity, _their_ opportunity.
It was Madelene who discovered the truth--not by searching the figures,
not by any process of surface reasoning, but by that instinct for motive
which woman has developed through her ages of dealing with and in
motives only. "They must get a new management," said she; "one that
Charles Whitney has no control over."
"Because he's wrecking the business to get hold of it. He wants the whole
thing, and he couldn't resist the chance the inexperience and confidence
of the other two gave him."
"I see no indication of it," objected Arthur, to draw her out. "On the
contrary, wherever he directly controls there's a good showing."
"That's it!" exclaimed Madelene, feeling that she now had her feet on
the firm ground of reason on which alone stupid men will discuss
Arthur had lived with Madelene long enough to learn that her mind was
indeed as clear as her eyes, that when she looked at anything she saw it
as it was, and saw all of it. Like any man who has the right material in
him, he needed only the object lesson of her quick dexterity at stripping
a problem of its shell of nonessentials. He had become what the
ineffective call a pessimist. He had learned the primer lesson of large
success--that one must build upon the hard, pessimistic facts of human
nature's instability and fate's fondness for mischief, not upon the
optimistic clouds of belief that everybody is good and faithful and
friendly disposed and everything will "come out all right somehow." The
instant Madelene suggested Whitney as the cause, Arthur's judgment echoed
approval; but, to get her whole mind as one gives it only in combating
opposition, he continued to object. "But suppose," said he, "Whitney
insists on selecting the new management? As he's the only one competent,
how can they refuse?"
"We must find a way round that," replied Madelene. "It's perfectly plain,
isn't it, that there's only one course--an absolutely new management. And
how can Mr. Whitney object? If he's not guilty he won't object, because
he'll be eager to try the obvious remedy. If he's guilty he won't
object--he'll be afraid of being suspected."
"Dory suggested--" began Arthur, and stopped.
"That you be put in as manager?"
"How did _you_ know _that_?"
"It's the sensible thing. It's the only thing," answered his wife. "And
Dory has the genius of good sense. You ought to go to Scarborough and ask
for the place. Take Dory with you."
"That's good advice," said Arthur, heartily.
Madelene laughed. "When a man praises a woman's advice, it means she has
told him to do what he had made up his mind to do anyhow."
* * * * *
Next day Scarborough called a meeting of the trustees. Down from Chicago
came Whitney--at the greatest personal inconvenience, so he showed his
colleagues, but eager to do anything for Tecumseh. Scarborough gave a
clear and appalling account of how the Ranger-Whitney Company's
prosperity was slipping into the abyss like a caving sand bank, on all
sides, apparently under pressure of forces beyond human control. "In view
of the facts," said he, in conclusion, "our sole hope is in putting
ourselves to one side and giving an entirely new management an entirely
Whitney had listened to Scarborough's speech with the funereal
countenance befitting so melancholy a recital. As Scarborough finished
and sank back in his chair, he said, with energy and heartiness, "I agree
with you, senator. The lawyers tell me there are as yet no signs of a
case against the railways. Besides, the trouble seems to be, as I feared,
deeper than this possible rebating. Jenkins--one of my best men--I sent
him down to help Howells out--he's clearly an utter failure--utter! And I
am getting old. The new conditions of business life call for young men
with open minds."
"No, no!" protested Dr. Hargrave. "I will not consent to any change that
takes your hand off the lever, my friend. These are stormy times in our
industrial world, and we need the wise, experienced pilot."
Scarborough had feared this; but he and Dory, forced to choose between
taking him into their confidence and boldly challenging the man in whom
he believed implicitly, had chosen the far safer course. "While Mr.
Whitney must appreciate your eulogy, doctor," said he, suave yet with a
certain iciness, "I think he will insist upon the trial of the only plan
that offers. In our plight we must not shrink from desperate
remedies--even a remedy as desperate as eliminating the one man who
understands the business from end to end." This last with slight emphasis
and a steady look at Whitney.
Whitney reddened. "We need not waste words," said he, in his bluff, sharp
voice. "The senator and I are in accord, and we are the majority."
"At least, Mr. Whitney," said the doctor, "you must suggest the new man.
You know the business world. We don't."
A long pause; then from Whitney: "Why not try young Ranger?"
Scarborough looked at him in frank amazement. By what process of infernal
telepathy had he found out? Or was there some deep reason why Arthur
would be the best possible man for his purpose, if his purpose was indeed
malign? Was Arthur his tool? Or was Arthur subtly making tools of both
Whitney and himself?
Dr. Hargrave was dumfounded. When he recovered himself sufficiently to
speak, it was to say, "Why, he's a mere boy, Whitney--not yet thirty. He
has had no experience!"
"Inexperience seems to be what we need," replied Whitney, eyes twinkling
sneeringly at Scarborough. "We have tried experience, and it is a
Scarborough was still reflecting.
"True," pursued Whitney, "the young man would also have the motive of
self-interest to keep him from making a success."
"How is that?" inquired Scarborough.
"Under the will," Whitney reminded him, "he can buy back the property
at its market value. Obviously, the less the property is worth, the
better for him."
Scarborough was staggered. Was Arthur crafty as well as able? With the
human conscience ever eager to prove that what is personally advantageous
is also right, how easy for a man in his circumstances to convince
himself that any course would be justifiable in upsetting the "injustice"
of Hiram Ranger's will.
"However," continued Whitney, "I've no doubt he's as honest as his
father--and I couldn't say more than that. The only question is whether
we can risk giving him the chance to show what there is in him."
Dr. Hargrave was looking dazedly from one of his colleagues to the other,
as if he thought his mind were playing him a trick. "It is
impossible--preposterous!" he exclaimed.
"A man has to make a beginning," said Whitney. "How can he show what
there is in him unless he gets a chance? It seems to me, doctor, we owe
it to Hiram to do this for the boy. We can keep an eye and a hand on him.
What do you think, senator?"
Scarborough had won at every stage of his career, not merely because he
had convictions and the courage of them, but chiefly because he had the
courage to carry through the plans he laid in trying to make his
convictions effective. He had come there, fixed that Arthur was the man
for the place; why throw up his hand because Whitney was playing into it?
Nothing had occurred to change his opinion of Arthur. "Let us try Arthur
Ranger," he now said. "But let us give him a free hand."
He was watching Whitney's face; he saw it change expression--a slight
frown. "I advise against the free hand," said Whitney.
"I _protest_ against it!" cried Dr. Hargrave. "I protest against even
considering this inexperienced boy for such a responsibility."
Scarborough addressed himself to Whitney. "If we do not give our new
manager, whoever he may be, a free hand, and if he should fail, how shall
we know whether the fault is his or--yours?"
At the direct "yours" Scarborough thought Whitney winced; but his reply
was bland and frank enough. He turned to Dr. Hargrave. "The senator is
right," said he. "I shall vote with him."
"Then it is settled," said Scarborough. "Ranger is to have absolute
Dr. Hargrave was now showing every sign of his great age; the anguish of
imminent despair was in his deep-set eyes and in his broken, trembling
voice as he cried: "Gentlemen, this is madness! Charles, I implore you,
do not take such precipitate action in so vital a matter! Let us talk it
over--think it over. The life of the university is at stake!"
It was evident that the finality in the tones and in the faces of his
colleagues had daunted him; but with a tremendous effort he put down the
weakness of age and turned fiercely upon Whitney to shame him from
indorsing Scarborough's suicidal policy. But Whitney, with intent of
brutality, took out his watch. "I have just time to catch my train," said
he, indifferently; "I can only use my best judgment, doctor. Sorry to
have to disagree with you, but Senator Scarborough has convinced me." And
having thus placed upon Scarborough the entire responsibility for the
event of the experiment, he shook hands with his colleagues and hurried
out to his waiting carriage.
Dr. Hargrave dropped into a chair and stared into vacancy. In all those
long, long years of incessant struggle against heartbreaking obstacles he
had never lost courage or faith. But this blow at the very life of the
university and from its friends! He could not even lift himself enough to
look to his God; it seemed to him that God had gone on a far journey.
Scarborough, watching him, was profoundly moved. "If at the end of three
months you wish Ranger to resign," said he, "I shall see to it that he
does resign. Believe me, doctor, I have not taken this course without
considering all the possibilities, so far as I could foresee them."
The old president, impressed by his peculiar tone, looked up quickly.
"There is something in this that I don't understand," said he, searching
Scarborough was tempted to explain. But the consequences, should he fail
to convince Hargrave, compelled him to withhold. "I hope, indeed I feel
sure, you will be astonished in our young friend," said he, instead. "I
have been talking with him a good deal lately, and I am struck by the
strong resemblance to his father. It is more than mere physical
With a sternness he could have shown only where principle was at stake,
the old man said: "But I must not conceal from you, senator, that I have
the gravest doubts and fears. You have alienated the university's best
friend--rich, powerful, able, and, until you exasperated him, devoted to
its interests. I regard you as having--unintentionally, and no doubt for
good motives--betrayed the solemn trust Hiram Ranger reposed in you." He
was standing at his full height, with his piercing eyes fixed upon his
All the color left Scarborough's face. "Betrayed is a strong
word," he said.
"A strong word, senator," answered Dr. Hargrave, "and used deliberately.
I wish you good day, sir."
Hargrave was one of those few men who are respected without any
reservation, and whose respect is, therefore, not given up without a
sense of heavy loss. But to explain would be to risk rousing in him an
even deeper anger--anger on account of his friend Whitney; so, without
another word, Scarborough bowed and went. "Either he will be apologizing
to me at the end of three months," said he to himself, "or I shall be
apologizing to Whitney and shall owe Tecumseh a large sum of money."
* * * * *
Both Madelene and Arthur had that instinct for comfort and luxury which
is an even larger factor in advancement than either energy or
intelligence. The idea that clothing means something more than warmth,
food something more than fodder, a house something more than shelter, is
the beginning of progress; the measure of a civilized man or woman is the
measure of his or her passion for and understanding of the art of living.
Madelene, by that right instinct which was perhaps the finest part of her
sane and strong character, knew what comfort really means, knew the
difference between luxury and the showy vulgarity of tawdriness or
expensiveness; and she rapidly corrected, or, rather, restored, Arthur's
good taste, which had been vitiated by his associations with fashionable
people, whose standards are necessarily always poor. She was devoted to
her profession as a science; but she did not neglect the vital material
considerations. She had too much self-respect to become careless about
her complexion or figure, about dress or personal habits, even if she had
not had such shrewd insight into what makes a husband remain a lover, a
wife a mistress. She had none of those self-complacent delusions which
lure vain women on in slothfulness until Love vacates his neglected
temple. And in large part, no doubt, Arthur's appearance--none of the
stains and patches of the usual workingman, and this though he worked
hard at manual labor and in a shop--was due to her influence of example;
he, living with such a woman, would have been ashamed not to keep "up to
the mark." Also her influence over old Mrs. Ranger became absolute; and
swiftly yet imperceptibly the house, which had so distressed Adelaide,
was transformed, not into the exhibit of fashionable ostentation which
had once been Adelaide's and Arthur's ideal, but into a house of comfort
and beauty, with colors harmonizing, the look of newness gone from the
"best rooms," and finally the "best rooms" themselves abolished. And
Ellen thought herself chiefly responsible for the change. "I'm gradually
getting things just about as I want 'em," said she. "It does take a long
time to do anything in this world!" Also she believed, and a boundless
delight it was to her, that she was the cause of Madelene's professional
success. Everyone talked of the way Madelene was getting on, and wondered
at her luck. "She deserves it, though," said they, "for she can all but
raise the dead." In fact, the secret was simple enough. She had been
taught by her father to despise drugs and to compel dieting and exercise.
She had the tact which he lacked; she made the allowances for human
nature's ignorance and superstition which he refused to make; she
lessened the hardship of taking her common-sense prescriptions by veiling
them in medical hocus-pocus--a compromise of the disagreeable truth which
her father had always inveighed against as both immoral and unwholesome.
Within six months after her marriage she was earning as much as her
husband; and her fame was spreading so rapidly that not only women but
also men, and men with a contempt for the "inferior mentality of the
female," were coming to her from all sides. "You'll soon have a huge
income," said Arthur. "Why, you'll be rich, you are so grasping."
"Indeed I am," replied she. "The way to teach people to strive for high
wages and to learn thrift is to make them pay full value for what they
get. I don't propose to encourage dishonesty or idleness. Besides, we'll
need the money."
Arthur had none of that mean envy which can endure the prosperity of
strangers only; he would not even have been able to be jealous of his
wife's getting on better than did he. But, if he had been so disposed, he
would have found it hard to indulge such feelings because of Madelene.
She had put their married life on the right basis. She made him feel,
with a certainty which no morbid imagining could have shaken, that she
loved and respected him for qualities which could not be measured by any
of the world's standards of success. He knew that in her eyes he was
already an arrived success, that she was absolutely indifferent whether
others ever recognized it or not. Only those who realize how powerful is
the influence of intimate association will appreciate what an effect
living with Madelene had upon Arthur's character--in withering the ugly
in it, in developing its quality, and in directing its strength.
When Scarborough gave Arthur his "chance," Madelene took it as the matter
of course. "I'm sorry it has come so soon," said she, "and in just this
way. But it couldn't have been delayed long. With so much to be done and
so few able or willing to do it, the world can't wait long enough for a
man really to ripen. It's lucky that you inherit from your father so many
important things that most men have to spend their lives in learning."
"Do you think so?" said he, brightening; for, with the "chance" secure,
he was now much depressed by the difficulties which he had been
resurveying from the inside point of view.
"You understand how to manage men," she replied, "and you understand
"But, unfortunately, this isn't business."
He was right. The problem of business is, in its two main factors,
perfectly simple--to make a wanted article, and to put it where those who
want it can buy. But this was not Arthur Ranger's problem, nor is it the
problem of most business men in our time. Between maker and customer,
nowadays, lie the brigands who control the railways--that is, the
highways; and they with equal facility use or defy the law, according to
their needs. When Arthur went a-buying grain or stave timber, he and
those with whom he was trading had to placate the brigands before they
could trade; when he went a-selling flour, he had to fight his way to the
markets through the brigands. It was the battle which causes more than
ninety out of every hundred in independent business to fail--and of the
remaining ten, how many succeed only because they either escaped the
notice of the brigands or compromised with them?
"I wish you luck," said Jenkins, when, at the end of two weeks of his
tutelage, Arthur told him he would try it alone.
Arthur laughed. "No, you don't, Jenkins," replied he, with good-humored
bluntness. "But I'm going to have it, all the same."
Discriminating prices and freight rates against his grain, discriminating
freight rates against his flour; the courts either powerless to aid him
or under the rule of bandits; and, on the top of all, a strike within two
weeks after Jenkins left--such was the situation. Arthur thought it
hopeless; but he did not lose courage nor his front of serenity, even
when alone with Madelene. Each was careful not to tempt the malice of
fate by concealments; each was careful also not to annoy the other with
unnecessary disagreeable recitals. If he could have seen where good
advice could possibly help him, he would have laid all his troubles
before her; but it seemed to him that to ask her advice would be as if
she were to ask him to tell her how to put life into a corpse. He
imagined that she was deceived by his silence about the details of his
affairs because she gave no sign, did not even ask questions beyond
generalities. She, however, was always watching his handsome face with
its fascinating evidences of power inwardly developing; and, as it was
her habit to get valuable information as to what was going on inside her
fellow-beings from a close study of surface appearances, the growing
gauntness of his features, the coming out of the lines of sternness, did
not escape her, made her heart throb with pride even as it ached with
sympathy and anxiety. At last she decided for speech.
He was sitting in their dressing room, smoking his last cigarette as he
watched her braid her wonderful hair for the night. She, observing him in
the glass, saw that he was looking at her with that yearning for sympathy
which is always at its strongest in a man in the mood that was his at
sight of those waves and showers of soft black hair on the pallid
whiteness of her shoulders. Before he realized what she was about she was
in his lap, her arms round his neck, his face pillowed against her cheek
and her hair. "What is it, little boy?" she murmured, with that mingling
of the mistress and the mother which every woman who ever loved feels for
and, at certain times, shows the man she loves.
He laughed. "Business--business," said he. "But let's not talk about
it. The important thing is that I have _you_. The rest is--smoke!" And
he blew out a great cloud of it and threw the cigarette through the
"Tell me," she said; "I've been waiting for you to speak, and I can't
wait any longer."
"I couldn't--just now. It doesn't at all fit in with my thoughts." And
he kissed her.
She moved to rise. "Then I'll go back to the dressing table. Perhaps
you'll be able to tell me with the width of the room between us."
He drew her head against his again. "Very well--if I must, I will. But
you know all about it. For some mysterious reason, somebody--you say it's
Whitney, and probably it is--won't let me buy grain or anything else as
cheaply as others buy it. And for the same mysterious reason, somebody,
probably Whitney again, won't let me get to market without paying a
heavier toll than our competitors pay. And now for some mysterious reason
somebody, probably Whitney again, has sent labor organizers from Chicago
among the men and has induced them to make impossible demands and to walk
out without warning."
"And you think there's nothing to do but walk out, too," said Madelene.
"Or wait until I'm put out."
His tone made those words mean that his desperate situation had roused
his combativeness, that he would not give up. Her blood beat faster and
her eyes shone. "You'll win," she said, with the quiet confidence which
strengthens when it comes from a person whose judgment one has tested and
found good. And he believed in her as absolutely as she believed in him.
"I've been tempted to resign," he went on. "If I don't everybody'll say
I'm a failure when the crash comes. But--Madelene, there's something in
me that simply won't let me quit."
"There is," replied she; "it's your father."
"Anyhow, _you_ are the only public opinion for me."
"You'll win," repeated Madelene. "I've been thinking over that whole
business. If I were you, Arthur"--she was sitting up so that she could
look at him and make her words more impressive--"I'd dismiss strike and
freight rates and the mill, and I'd put my whole mind on Whitney. There's
a weak spot somewhere in his armor. There always is in a scoundrel's."
Arthur reflected. Presently he drew her head down against his; it seemed
to her that she could feel his brain at work, and soon she knew from the
change in the clasp of his arms about her that that keen, quick mind of
his was serving him well. "What a joy it is to a woman," she thought, "to
know that she can trust the man she loves--trust him absolutely, always,
and in every way." And she fell asleep after awhile, lulled by the
rhythmic beat of his pulse, so steady, so strong, giving her such a
restful sense of security. She did not awaken until he was gently laying
her in the bed.
"You have found it?" said she, reading the news in the altered expression
of his face.
"I hope so," replied he.
She saw that he did not wish to discuss. So she said, "I knew you would,"
and went contentedly back into sleep again.
* * * * *
Next day he carefully read the company's articles of incorporation to
make sure that they contained no obstacle to his plan. Then he went to
Scarborough, and together they went to Judge Torrey. Three days later
there was a special meeting of the board of directors; the president,
Charles Whitney, was unable to attend, but his Monday morning mail
contained this extract from the minutes:
"Mr. Ranger offered a resolution that an assessment of two thousand
dollars be at once laid upon each share of the capital stock, the
proceeds to be expended by the superintendent in betterments. Seconded
by Mr. Scarborough. Unanimously passed."
Whitney reread this very carefully. He laid the letter down and stared at
it. Two thousand dollars a share meant that he, owner of four hundred and
eighty-seven shares, would have to pay in cash nine hundred and
seventy-four thousand dollars. He ordered his private car attached to the
noon express, and at five o'clock he was in Scarborough's library.
"What is the meaning of this assessment?" he demanded, as
"Mr. Ranger explained the situation to us," replied Scarborough. "He
showed us we had to choose between ruin and a complete reorganization
with big improvements and extensions."
"Lunacy, sheer lunacy!" cried Whitney. "A meeting of the board must be
called and the resolution rescinded."
Scarborough simply looked at him, a smile in his eyes.
"I never heard of such an outrage! You ask me to pay an assessment of
nearly a million dollars on stock that is worthless."
"And," replied Scarborough, "at the end of the year we expect to levy
another assessment of a thousand a share."
Whitney had been tramping stormily up and down the room. As Scarborough
uttered those last words he halted. He eyed his tranquil fellow-trustee,
then seated himself, and said, with not a trace of his recent fury: "You
must know, Scarborough, the mills have no future. I hadn't the heart to
say so before Dr. Hargrave. But I supposed you were reading the signs
right. The plain truth is, this is no longer a good location for the
Scarborough waited before replying; when he did speak his tones were
deliberate and suggestive of strong emotion well under control. "True,"
said he, "not just at present. But Judge Beverwick, your friend and
silent partner who sits on the federal bench in this district, is at the
point of death. I shall see to it that his successor is a man with a less
intense prejudice against justice. Thus we may be able to convince some
of your friends in control of the railways that Saint X is as good a
place for mills as any in the country."
Whitney grunted. His face was inscrutable. He paced the length of the
room twice; he stood at the window gazing out at the arbors, at the bees
buzzing contentedly, at the flies darting across the sifting sunbeams.
"Beautiful place, this," said he at last; "very homelike. No wonder
you're a happy man." A pause. "As to the other matter, I'll see. No
doubt I can stop this through the courts, if you push me to it."
"Not without giving us a chance to explain," replied Scarborough; "and
the higher courts may agree with us that we ought to defend the
university's rights against your railway friends and your 'labor' men
whom you sent down here to cause the strike."
"Rubbish!" said Whitney; and he laughed. "Rubbish!" he repeated. "It's
not a matter either for argument or for anger." He took his hat, made a
slight ironic bow, and was gone.
He spent the next morning with Arthur, discussing the main phases of the
business, with little said by either about the vast new project. They
lunched together in the car, which was on a siding before the offices,
ready to join the early afternoon express. Arthur was on his guard
against Whitney, but he could not resist the charm of the financier's
manner and conversation. Like all men of force, Whitney had great
magnetism, and his conversation was frank to apparent indiscretion, a
most plausible presentation of the cynical philosophy of practical life
as it is lived by men of bold and generous nature.
"That assessment scheme was yours, wasn't it?" he said, when he and
Arthur had got on terms of intimacy.
"The first suggestion came from me," admitted Arthur.
"A great stroke," said Whitney. "You will arrive, young man. I thought it
was your doing, because it reminded me of your father. I never knew a
more direct man than he, yet he was without an equal at flanking
movements. What a pity his mind went before he died! My first impulse was
to admire his will. But, now that I've come to know you, I see that if he
had lived to get acquainted with you he'd have made a very; different
disposition of the family property. As it is, it's bound to go to pieces.
No board ever managed anything successfully. It's always a man--one man.
In this case it ought to be you. But the time will come--soon,
probably--when your view will conflict with that of the majority of the
board. Then out you'll go; and your years of intelligent labor will be
It was plain in Arthur's face that this common-sense statement of the
case produced instant and strong effect. He merely said: "Well, one must
take that risk."
"Not necessarily," replied Whitney; he was talking in the most careless,
impersonal way. "A man of your sort, with the strength and the ability
you inherit, and with the power that they give you to play an important
part in the world, doesn't let things drift to ruin. I intend,
ultimately, to give my share of the Ranger-Whitney Company to
Tecumseh--I'm telling you this in confidence."
Arthur glanced quickly at the great financier, suspicion and wonder
in his eyes.
"But I want it to be a value when I give it," continued Whitney; "not the
worse than worthless paper it threatens to become. Scarborough and Dr.
Hargrave are splendid men. No one honors them more highly than I do. But
they are not business men. And who will be their successors? Probably men
even less practical."
Arthur, keen-witted but young, acute but youthfully ready to attribute
the generous motive rather than the sinister, felt that he was getting a
new light on Whitney's character. Perhaps Whitney wasn't so unworthy,
after all. Perhaps, in trying to wreck the business and so get hold of
it, he had been carrying out a really noble purpose, in the unscrupulous
way characteristic of the leaders of the world of commerce and finance.
To Whitney he said: "I haven't given any thought to these matters." With
a good-natured laugh of raillery: "You have kept me too busy."
Whitney smiled--an admission that yet did not commit him. "When you've
lived a while longer, Arthur," said he, "you'll not be so swift and harsh
in your judgments of men who have to lay the far-sighted plans and have
to deal with mankind as it is, not as it ought to be. However, by that
time the Ranger-Whitney Company will be wiped out. It's a pity. If only
there were some way of getting the control definitely in your
hands--where your father would have put it if he had lived. It's a shame
to permit his life work and his plans for the university to be
demolished. In your place I'd not permit it."
Arthur slowly flushed. Without looking at Whitney, he said: "I don't see
how I could prevent it."
Whitney studied his flushed face, his lowered eyes, reflected carefully
on the longing note in the voice in which he had made that statement, a
note that changed it to a question. "Control could be got only by
ownership," explained he. "If I were sure you were working with a
definite, practical purpose really to secure the future of the company,
I'd go heartily into your assessment plan. In fact, I'd--" Whitney was
feeling his way. The change in Arthur's expression, the sudden tightening
of the lips, warned him that he was about to go too far, that he had
sowed as much seed as it was wise to sow at that time. He dropped the
subject abruptly, saying: "But I've got to go up to the bank before train
time. I'm glad we've had this little talk. Something of value may grow
out of it. Think it over, and if any new ideas come to you run up to
Chicago and see me."
Arthur did indeed think it over, every moment of that afternoon; and
before going home he took a long walk alone. He saw that Charles Whitney
had proposed a secret partnership, in which he was to play Whitney's game
and, in exchange, was to get control of the Ranger-Whitney Company. And
what Whitney had said about the folly of board managements, about the
insecurity of his own position, was undeniably true; and the sacrifice of
the "smaller morality" for the "larger good" would be merely doing what
the biographies of the world's men of achievement revealed them as doing
again and again. Further, once in control, once free to put into action
the plans for a truly vast concern, of which he had so often dreamed, he
could give Tecumseh a far larger income than it had ever hoped to have
through his father's gift, and also could himself be rich and powerful.
To the men who have operated with success and worldly acclaim under the
code of the "larger good," the men who have aggrandized themselves at the
expense of personal honor and the rights of others and the progress of
the race, the first, the crucial temptation to sacrifice "smaller
morality" and "short-sighted scruples" has always come in some such form
as it here presented itself to Arthur Ranger. The Napoleons begin as
defenders of rational freedom against the insane license of the mob; the
Rockefellers begin as cheapeners of a necessity of life to the straitened
millions of their fellow-beings.
If Arthur had been weak, he would have put aside the temptation through
fear of the consequences of failure. If he had been ignorant, he would
have put it aside through superstition. Being neither weak nor ignorant,
and having a human passion for wealth and power and a willingness to get
them if he could do it without sacrifice of self-respect, he sat calmly
down with the temptation and listened to it and debated with it. He was
silent all through dinner; and after dinner, when he and Madelene were in
their sitting room upstairs, she reading, he sat with his eyes upon her,
and continued to think.
All at once he gave a curious laugh, went to the writing table and wrote
a few moments. Then he brought the letter to her. "Read that," said he,
standing behind her, his hands on her shoulders and an expression in his
face that made his resemblance to Hiram startling.
"MY DEAR MR. WHITNEY: I've been 'thinking it over' as you suggested. I've
decided to plug along in the old way, between the old landmarks. Let me
add that, if you should offer to give your stock to Tecumseh now, I'd
have to do my utmost to persuade the trustees not to take it until the
company was once more secure. You see, I feel it is absolutely necessary
that you have a large pecuniary interest in the success of our plans."
When Madelene had read she turned in the chair until she was looking up
at him. "Well?" she inquired. "What does it mean?"
He told her. "And," he concluded, "I wish I could be a great man, but I
can't. There's something small in me that won't permit it. No doubt
Franklin was right when he said life was a tunnel and one had to stoop,
and even occasionally to crawl, in order to get through it successfully.
Now--if I hadn't married you--"
"Always blaming me," she said, tenderly. "But even if you hadn't
married me, I suspect that sooner or later you'd have decided for being
a large man in a valley rather than a very small imitation man on a
mountain." Then, after a moment's thought, and with sudden radiance:
"But a man as big as you are wouldn't be let stay in the valley, no
matter how hard he tried."
He laughed. "I've no objection to the mountain top," said he. "But I see
that, if I get there, it'll have to be in my own way. Let's go out and
mail the letter."
And they went down the drive together to the post box, and, strolling
back, sat under the trees in the moonlight until nearly midnight, feeling
as if they had only just begun life together--and had begun it right.
* * * * *
When Charles Whitney had read the letter he tore it up, saying half-aloud
and contemptuously, "I was afraid there was too big a streak of fool in
him." Then, with a shrug: "What's the use of wasting time on that little
game--especially as I'd probably have left the university the whole
business in my will." He wrote Scarborough, proposing that they delay the
assessment until he had a chance to look further into the railway
situation. "I begin to understand the troubles down there, now that I've
taken time to think them over. I feel I can guarantee that no assessment
will be necessary."
And when the railways had mysteriously and abruptly ceased to misbehave,
and the strike had suddenly fizzled out, he offered his stock to the
university as a gift. "I shall see to it," he wrote, "that the company is
not molested again, but is helped in every way." Arthur was for holding
off, but Scarborough said, "No. He will keep his word." And Scarborough
was right in regarding the matter as settled and acceptance of the
splendid gift as safe. Whitney had his own code of honesty, of honor. It
was not square dealing, but doing exactly what he specifically engaged to
do. He would have stolen anything he could--anything he regarded as worth
his while. On the other hand, he would have sacrificed nearly all, if not
all, his fortune, to live up to the letter of his given word. This,
though no court would have enforced the agreement he had made, though
there was no written record of it, no witness other than himself, the
other party, and the Almighty--for Charles Whitney believed in an
Almighty God and an old-fashioned hell and a Day of Judgment. He
conducted his religious bookkeeping precisely as he conducted his
business bookkeeping, and was confident that he could escape hell as he
had escaped the penitentiary.
Adelaide did not reach home until the troubles with and through Charles
Whitney were settled, and Arthur and Dory were deep in carrying out the
plans to make the mills and factories part of the university and not
merely its property. When Scarborough's urgent cable came, Dory found
that all the steamers were full. Adelaide could go with him only by
taking a berth in a room with three women in the bottom of the ship.
"Impossible accommodations," thought he, "for so luxurious a person and
so poor a sailor"; and he did not tell her that this berth could be had.
"You'll have to wait a week or so," said he. "As you can't well stay on
here alone, why not accept Mrs. Whitney's invitation to join her?"
Adelaide disliked Mrs. Whitney, but there seemed to be no alternative.
Mrs. Whitney was at Paris, on the way to America after the wedding and a
severe cure at Aix and an aftercure in Switzerland. She had come for the
finishing touches of rejuvenation--to get her hair redone and to go
through her biennial agony of having Auguste, beauty specialist to the
royalty, nobility and fashion, and demimonde, of three continents, burn
off her outer skin that nature might replace it with one new and fresh
and unwrinkled. She was heavily veiled as she and Adelaide traveled down
to Cherbourg to the steamer. As soon as she got aboard she retired to her
room and remained hidden there during the voyage, seen only by her maid,
her face covered day and night with Auguste's marvelous skin-coaxing
mask. Adelaide did not see her again until the morning of the last day,
when she appeared on deck dressed beautifully and youthfully for the
shore, her skin as fair and smooth as a girl's, and looking like an elder
sister of Adelaide's--at a distance.
She paused in New York; Adelaide hastened to Saint X, though she was
looking forward uneasily to her arrival because she feared she would have
to live at the old Hargrave house in University Avenue. Miss Skeffington
ruled there, and she knew Miss Skeffington--one of those old-fashioned
old maids whose rigid ideas of morality extend to the ordering of
personal habits in minutest detail. Under her military sway everyone had
to rise for breakfast at seven sharp, had to dine exactly at noon, sup
when the clock struck the half hour after five. Ingress and egress for
members of the family was by the side door only, the front door being
reserved for company. For company also was the parlor, and for company
the front stairs with their brilliant carpet, new, though laid for the
first time nearly a quarter of a century before; for company also was the
best room in the house, which ought to have been attractive, but was a
little damp from being shut up so much, and was the cause of many a cold
to guests. "I simply can't stand it to live by the striking of clocks!"
thought Adelaide. "I must do something! But what?"
Her uneasiness proved unnecessary, however. Dory disappointed his aunt,
of a new and interestingly difficult spirit to subdue, by taking rooms at
the Hendricks Hotel until they should find a place of their own. Mrs.
Ranger asked them to live with her; but Adelaide shrank from putting
herself in a position where her mother and Arthur could, and her
sister-in-law undoubtedly would, "know too much about our private
affairs." Mrs. Ranger did not insist. She would not admit it to herself,
but, while she worshiped Del and thought her even more beautiful than she
was, and just about perfection in every way, still Madelene was more
satisfactory for daily companionship. Also, Ellen doubted whether two
such positive natures as Madelene's and Adelaide's would be harmonious
under the same roof. "What's more," she reflected, "there may be a
Within a fortnight of Del's return, and before she and Dory had got
quite used to each other again, she fixed on an abode. "Mrs. Dorsey was
here this afternoon," said she, with enthusiasm which, to Dory's acute
perceptions, seemed slightly exaggerated, in fact, forced, "and offered
us her house for a year, just to have somebody in it whom she could trust
to look after things. You know she's taking her daughter abroad to
finish. It was too good a chance to let pass; so I accepted at once."
Dory turned away abruptly. With slow deliberation he took a cigarette
from his case, lighted it, watched the smoke drift out at the open
window. She was observing him, though she seemed not to be. And his
expression made her just a little afraid. Unlike most men who lead
purely intellectual lives, he had not the slightest suggestion of
sexlessness; on the contrary, he seemed as strong, as positive
physically, as the look of his forehead and eyes showed him to be
mentally. And now that he had learned to dress with greater care, out of
deference to her, she could find nothing about him to help her in
protecting herself by criticising him.
"Do you think, Del," said he, "that we'll be able to live in that big
place on eighteen hundred a year?"
It wasn't as easy for him thus to remind her of their limited means as it
theoretically should have been. Del was distinctly an expensive-looking
luxury. That dress of hers, pale green, with hat and everything to match
or in harmony, was a "simple thing," but the best dressmaker in the Rue
de la Paix had spent a great deal of his costly time in producing that
effect of simplicity. Throughout, she had the cleanness, the freshness,
the freedom from affectations which Dory had learned could be got only by
large expenditure. Nor would he have had her any different. He wanted
just the settings she chose for her fair, fine beauty. The only change he
would have asked would have been in the expression of those violet eyes
of hers when they looked at him.
"You wish I hadn't done it!" she exclaimed. And if he had not glanced
away so quickly he would have seen that she was ready to retreat.
"Well, it's not exactly the start I'd been thinking of," replied he,
reluctantly but tentatively.
It is not in human nature to refuse to press an offered advantage. Said
Del: "Can't we close up most of the house--use only five or six rooms on
the ground floor? And Mrs. Dorsey's gardener and his helpers will be
there. All we have to do is to see that they've not neglected the
grounds." She was once more all belief and enthusiasm. "It seemed to me,
taking that place was most economical, and so comfortable. Really, Dory,
I didn't accept without thinking."
Dory was debating with himself: To take that house--it was one of those
trifles that are anything but trifles--like the slight but crucial motion
at the crossroads in choosing the road to the left instead of the road to
the right. Not to take the house--Del would feel humiliated, reasoned he,
would think him unreasonably small, would chafe under the restraint their
limited means put upon them, whereas, if he left the question of living
on their income entirely to her good sense, she would not care about the
deprivations, would regard them as self-imposed.
"Of course, if you don't like it, Dory," she now said, "I suppose Mrs.
Dorsey will let me off. But I'm sure you'd be delighted, once we got
settled. The house is so attractive--at least, I think I can make it
attractive by packing away her showy stuff and rearranging the furniture.
And the grounds--Dory, I don't see how you can object!"
Dory gave a shrug and a smile. "Well, go ahead. We'll scramble through
somehow." He shook his head at her in good-humored warning. "Only, please
don't forget what's coming at the end of your brief year of grandeur."
Adelaide checked the reply that was all but out. She hastily reflected
that it might not be wise to let him know, just then, that Mrs. Dorsey
had said they could have the house for two years, probably for three,
perhaps for five. Instead, she said, "It isn't the expense, after all,
that disturbs you, is it?"
He smiled confession. "No."
"I know it's snobbish of me to long for finery so much that I'm even
willing to live in another person's and show off in it," she sighed.
"But--I'm learning gradually."
He colored. Unconsciously she had put into her tone--and this not for the
first time, by any means--a suggestion that there wasn't the slightest
danger of his wearying of waiting, that she could safely take her time in
getting round to sensible ideas and to falling in love with him. His eyes
had the look of the veiled amusement that deliberately shows through, as
he said, "That's good. I'll try to be patient."
It was her turn to color. But, elbowing instinctive resentment, came
uneasiness. His love seemed to her of the sort that flowers in the
romances--the love that endures all, asks nothing, lives forever upon its
own unfed fire. As is so often the case with women whose charms move men
to extravagance of speech and emotion, it was a great satisfaction to
her, to her vanity, to feel that she had inspired this wonderful immortal
flame; obviously, to feed such a flame by giving love for love would
reduce it to the commonplace. All women start with these exaggerated
notions of the value of being loved; few of them ever realize and rouse
themselves, or are aroused, from their vanity to the truth that the value
is all the other way. Adelaide was only the natural woman in blindly
fancying that Dory was the one to be commiserated, in not seeing that she
herself was a greater loser than he, that to return his love would not be
a concession but an acquisition. Most men are content to love, to compel
women to receive their love; they prefer the passive, the receptive
attitude in the woman, and are even bored by being actively loved in
return; for love is exacting, and the male is impatient of exaction.
Adelaide did not understand just this broad but subtle difference between
Dory and "most men"--that he would feel that he was violating her were he
to sweep her away in the arms of his impetuous released passion, as he
knew he could. He felt that such a yielding was, after all, like the
inert obedience of the leaf to the storm wind--that what he could compel,
what women call love, would be as utterly without substance as an image
in a mirror, indeed, would be a mere passive reflection of his own
love--all most men want, but worthless to him.
Could it be that Dory's love had become--no, not less, but less ardent?
She saw that he was deep in thought--about her, she assumed, with an
unconscious vanity which would have excited the mockery of many who have
more vanity than had she, and perhaps with less excuse. In fact, he was
not thinking of her; having the ability to turn his mind completely where
he willed--the quality of all strong men, and the one that often makes
the weak-willed think them hard--he was revolving the vast and inspiring
plans Arthur and he had just got into practical form--plans for new
factories and mills such as a university, professing to be in the
forefront of progress need not be ashamed to own or to offer to its
students as workshops. All that science has bestowed in the way of making
labor and its surroundings clean and comfortable, healthful and
attractive, was to be provided; all that the ignorance and the
shortsighted greediness of employers, bent only on immediate profits and
keeping their philanthropy for the smug penuriousness and degrading
stupidity of charity, deny to their own self-respect and to justice for
their brothers in their power. Arthur and he had wrought it all out, had
discovered as a crowning vindication that the result would be profitable
in dollars, that their sane and shrewd utopianism would produce larger
dividends than the sordid and slovenly methods of their competitors. "It
is always so. Science is always economical as well as enlightened and
humane," Dory was thinking when Adelaide's voice broke into his reverie.
"You are right, Dory," said she. "And I shall give up the house. I'll go
to see Mrs. Dorsey now."
"The house?--What--Oh, yes--well--no--What made you change?"
She did not know the real reason--that, studying his face, the curve and
set of his head, the strength of the personality which she was too apt to
take for granted most of the time because he was simple and free from
pretense, she had been reminded that he was not a man to be trifled with,
that she would better bestir herself and give more thought and attention
to what was going on in that superbly shaped head of his--about her,
about her and him. "Oh, I don't just know," replied she, quite honestly.
"It seems to me now that there'll be too much fuss and care and--sham.
And I intend to interest myself in _your_ work. You've hardly spoken of
it since I got back."
"There's been so little time--"
"You mean," she interrupted, "I've been so busy unpacking my silly
dresses and hats and making and receiving silly calls."
"Now you're in one of your penitential moods," laughed Dory. "And
to-morrow you'll wish you hadn't changed about the house. No--that's
settled. We'll take it, and see what the consequences are."
Adelaide brightened. His tone was his old self, and she did want that
house so intensely! "I can be useful to Dory there; I can do so much on
the social side of the university life. He doesn't appreciate the value
of those things in advancing a career. He thinks a career is made by work
only. But I'll show him! I'll make his house the center of the
Mrs. Dorsey had "Villa d'Orsay" carved on the stone pillars of her great
wrought-iron gates, to remind the populace that, while her late
father-in-law, "Buck" Dorsey, was the plainest of butchers and meat
packers, his ancestry was of the proudest. With the rise of its "upper
class" Saint X had gone in diligently for genealogy, had developed
reverence for "tradition" and "blood," had established a Society of
Family Histories, a chapter of the Colonial Dames, another of Daughters
of the Revolution, and was in a fair way to rival the seaboard cities in
devotion to the imported follies and frauds of "family." Dory at first
indulged his sense of humor upon their Dorsey or d'Orsay finery. It
seemed to him they must choose between making a joke of it and having it
make a joke of them. But he desisted when he saw that it grated on Del
for him to speak of her and himself as "caretakers for the rich." And
presently his disposition to levity died of itself. It sobered and
disheartened and, yes, disgusted him as he was forced to admit to himself
the reality of her delight in receiving people in the great drawing room,
of her content in the vacuous, time-wasting habits, of her sense of
superiority through having at her command a troop of servants--Mrs.
Dorsey's servants! He himself disliked servants about, hated to abet a
fellow-being in looking on himself or herself as an inferior; and he
regarded as one of the basest, as well as subtlest poisons of
snobbishness, the habit of telling others to do for one the menial,
personal things which can be done with dignity only by oneself. Once, in
Paris--after Besancon--Janet spoke of some of her aristocratic
acquaintances on the other side as "acting as if they had always been
used to everything; so different from even the best people at home." Dory
remembered how Adelaide promptly took her up, gave instance after
instance in proof that European aristocrats were in fact as vulgar in
their satisfaction in servility as were the newest of the newly
aristocratic at home, but simply had a different way of showing it. "A
more vulgar way," she said, Janet unable to refute her. "Yes, far more
vulgar, Jen, because deliberately concealed; just as vanity that swells
in secret is far worse than frank, childish conceit."
And now--These vanities of hers, sprung from the old roots which in Paris
she had been eager to kill and he was hoping were about dead, sprung in
vigor and spreading in weedy exuberance! He often looked at her in sad
wonder when she was unconscious of it. "What _is_ the matter?" he would
repeat. "She is farther away than in Paris, where the temptation to this
sort of nonsense was at least plausible." And he grew silent with her and
shut himself in alone during the evening hours which he could not spend
at the university. She knew why, knew also that he was right, ceased to
bore herself and irritate him with attempts to make the Villa d'Orsay the
social center of the university. But she continued to waste her days in
the inane pastimes of Saint X's fashionable world, though ashamed of
herself and disgusted with her mode of life. For snobbishness is
essentially a provincial vice, due full as much to narrowness as to
ignorance; and, thus, it is most potent in the small "set" in the small
town. In the city even the narrowest are compelled to at least an
occasional glimpse of wider horizons; but in the small town only the
vigilant and resolute ever get so much as a momentary point of view. She
told herself, in angry attempt at self-excuse, that he ought to take her
in hand, ought to snatch her away from that which she had not the courage
to give up of herself. Yet she knew she would hate him should he try to
do it. She assumed that was the reason he didn't; and it was part of the
reason, but a lesser part than his unacknowledged, furtive fear of what
he might discover as to his own feelings toward her, were there just then
a casting up and balancing of their confused accounts with each other.
Both were relieved, as at a crisis postponed, when it became necessary
for him to go abroad again immediately. "I don't see how _you_ can
leave," said he, thus intentionally sparing her a painful effort in
saying what at once came into the mind of each.
"We could cable Mrs. Dorsey," she suggested lamely. She was at the Louis
Quinze desk in the Louis Quinze sitting room, and her old gold negligee
matched in charmingly, and the whole setting brought out the sheen,
faintly golden, over her clear skin, the peculiarly fresh and intense
shade of her violet eyes, the suggestion of gold in her thick hair, with
its wan, autumnal coloring, such as one sees in a field of dead ripe
grain. She was doing her monthly accounts, and the showing was not
pleasant. She was a good housekeeper, a surprisingly good manager; but
she did too much entertaining for their income.
Dory was too much occupied with the picture she made as she sat there to
reply immediately. "I doubt," he finally replied, "if she could arrange
by cable for some one else whom she would trust with her treasures. No, I
guess you'll have to stay."
"I _wish_ I hadn't taken this place!" she exclaimed. It was the first
confession of what her real, her sane and intelligent self had been
proclaiming loudly since the first flush of interest and pleasure in
her "borrowed plumage" had receded. "Why _do_ you let me make a fool
"No use going into that," replied he, on guard not to take too seriously
this belated penitence. He was used to Del's fits of remorse, so used to
them that he thought them less valuable than they really were, or might
have been had he understood her better--or, not bothered about trying to
understand her. "I shan't be away long, I imagine," he went on, "and I'll
have to rush round from England to France, to Germany, to Austria, to
Switzerland. All that would be exhausting for you, and only a little of
the time pleasant."
His words sounded to her like a tolling over the grave of that former
friendship and comradeship of theirs. "I really believe you'll be glad to
get away alone," cried she, lips smiling raillery, eyes full of tears.
"Do you think so?" said Dory, as if tossing back her jest. But both knew
the truth, and each knew that the other knew it. He was as glad to escape
from those surroundings as she to be relieved of a presence which edged
on her other-self to scoff and rail and sneer at her. It had become
bitterness to him to enter the gates of the Villa d'Orsay. His nerves
were so wrought up that to look about the magnificent but too
palace-like, too hotel-like rooms was to struggle with a longing to run
amuck and pause not until he had reduced the splendor to smithereens. And
in that injustice of chronic self-excuse which characterizes all human
beings who do not live by intelligently formed and intelligently executed
plan, she was now trying to soothe herself with blaming him for her low
spirits; in fact, they were wholly the result of her consciously unworthy
mode of life, and of an incessant internal warfare, exhausting and
depressing. Also, the day would surely come when he would ask how she was
contriving to keep up such imposing appearances on their eighteen hundred
a year; and then she would have to choose between directly deceiving him
and telling him that she had broken--no, not broken, that was too
harsh--rather, had not yet fulfilled the promise to give up the income
her father left her.
After a constrained silence, "I really don't need anyone to stop here
with me," she said to him, as if she had been thinking of it and not of
the situation between them, "but I'll get Stella Wilmot and her brother."
"Arden?" said Dory, doubtfully. "I know he's all right in some ways, and
he has stopped drinking since he got the place at the bank. But--"
"If we show we have confidence in him," replied Adelaide, "I think it
will help him."
"Very well," said Dory. "Besides, it isn't easy to find people of the
sort you'd be willing to have, who can leave home and come here."
Adelaide colored as she smiled. "Perhaps that _was_ my reason, rather
than helping him," she said.
Dory flushed. "Oh, I didn't mean to insinuate that!" he protested, and
checked himself from saying more. In their mood each would search the
other's every word for a hidden thrust, and would find it.
The constraint between them, which thus definitely entered the stage of
deep cleavage where there had never been a joining, persisted until the
parting. Since the wedding he had kissed her but once--on her arrival
from Europe. Then, there was much bustle of greeting from others, and
neither had had chance to be self-conscious. When they were at the
station for his departure, it so happened that no one had come with them.
As the porter warned them that the train was about to move, they shook
hands and hesitated, blushing and conscious of themselves and of
spectators, "Good-by," stammered Dory, with a dash at her cheek.
"Good-by," she murmured, making her effort at the same instant.
The result was a confusion of features and hat brims that threw them
into a panic, then into laughter, and so made the second attempt easy
and successful. It was a real meeting of the lips. His arm went round
her, her hand pressed tenderly on his shoulder, and he felt a trembling
in her form, saw a sudden gleam of light leap into and from her eyes.
And all in that flash the secret of his mistake in managing his love
affair burst upon him.
"Good-by, Dory--dear," she was murmuring, a note in her voice like the
shy answer of a hermit thrush to the call of her mate.
"All aboard!" shouted the conductor, and the wheels began to move.
"Good-by--good-by," he stammered, his blood surging through his head.
It came into her mind to say, "I care for you more than I knew." But his
friend the conductor was thrusting him up the steps of the car. "I wish I
had said it," thought she, watching the train disappear round the curve.
"I'll write it."
But she did not. When the time came to write, that idea somehow would not
fit in with the other things she was setting down. "I think I do care for
him--as a friend," she decided. "If he had only compelled me to find out
the state of my own mind! What a strange man! I don't see how he can love
me, for he knows me as I am. Perhaps he really doesn't; sometimes I think
he couldn't care for a woman as a woman wants to be cared for." Then as
his face as she had last seen it rose before her, and her lips once more
tingled, "Oh, yes, he _does_ care! And without his love how wretched I'd
be! What a greedy I am--wanting his love and taking it, and giving
nothing in return." That last more than half-sincere, though she, like
not a few of her sisters in the "Woman's Paradise," otherwise known as
the United States of America, had been spoiled into greatly exaggerating
the value of her graciously condescending to let herself be loved.
And she was lonely without him. If he could have come back at the end of
a week or a month, he would have been received with an ardor that would
have melted every real obstacle between them. Also, it would have
dissipated the far more obstructive imaginary obstacles from their
infection with the latter-day vice of psychologizing about matters which
lie in the realm of physiology, not of psychology. But he did not come;
and absence, like bereavement, has its climax, after which the thing
that was begins to be as if it had not been.
He was gone; and that impetuous parting caress of his had roused in her
an impulse that would never again sleep, would pace its cage restlessly,
eager for the chance to burst forth. And he had roused it when he would
not be there to make its imperious clamor personal to himself.
As Estelle was at her shop all day, and not a few of the evenings, Del
began to see much of Henrietta Hastings. Grandfather Fuller was now dead
and forgotten in the mausoleum into which he had put one-fifth of his
fortune, to the great discontent of the heirs. Henrietta's income had
expanded from four thousand a year to twenty; and she spent her days in
thinking of and talking of the careers to which she could help her
husband if he would only shake off the lethargy which seized him the year
after his marriage to a Fuller heiress. But Hastings would not; he was
happy in his books and in his local repute for knowing everything there
was to be known. Month by month he grew fatter and lazier and slower of
speech. Henrietta pretended to be irritated against him, and the town had
the habit of saying that "If Hastings had some of his wife's 'get up' he
wouldn't be making her unhappy but would be winning a big name for
himself." In fact, had Hastings tried to bestir himself at something
definite in the way of action, Henrietta would have been really disturbed
instead of simply pretending to be. She had a good mind, a keen wit that
had become bitter with unlicensed indulgence; but she was as indolent and
purposeless as her husband. All her energy went in talk about doing
something, and every day she had a new scheme, with yesterday's forgotten
Adelaide pretended to herself to regard Henrietta as an energetic and
stimulating person, though she knew that Henrietta's energy, like her
own, like that of most women of the sheltered, servant-attended class,
was a mere blowing off of steam by an active but valveless engine of a
mind. But this pretense enabled her to justify herself for long mornings
and afternoons at the Country Club with Henrietta. They talked of
activity, of accomplishing this and that and the other; they read
fitfully at serious books; they planned novels and plays; they separated
each day with a comfortable feeling that they had been usefully employed.
And each did learn much from the other; but, as each confirmed the other
in the habitual mental vices of the women, and of an increasing number of
the men, of our quite comfortable classes, the net result of their
intercourse was pitifully poor, the poorer for their fond delusions that
they were improving themselves. They laughed at the "culture craze"
which, raging westward, had seized upon all the women of Saint X with
incomes, or with husbands or fathers to support them in idleness--the
craze for thinking, reading, and talking cloudily or muddily on cloudy or
muddy subjects. Henrietta and Adelaide jeered; yet they were themselves
the victims of another, and, if possible, more poisonous, bacillus of the
same sluggard family.
One morning Adelaide, in graceful ease in her favorite nook in the small
northwest portico of the club house, was reading a most imposingly bound
and illustrated work on Italian architecture written by a smatterer for
smatterers. She did a great deal of reading in this direction because it
was also the direction of her talent, and so she could make herself think
she was getting ready to join in Dory's work when he returned. She heard
footsteps just round the corner, and looked up. She and Ross Whitney were
face to face.
There was no chance for evasion. He, with heightened color, lifted his
hat; she, with a nonchalance that made her proud of herself, smiled and
stretched out her hand. "Hello, Ross," said she, languidly friendly.
"When did _you_ come to town?" And she congratulated herself that her
hair had gone up so well that morning and that her dress was one of her
most becoming--from Paris, from Paquin--a year old, it is true, but
later than the latest in Saint X and fashionable even for Sherry's at
Ross, the expert, got himself together and made cover without any
seeming of scramble; but his not quite easy eyes betrayed him to her.
"About two hours ago," replied he.
"Is Theresa with you?" She gazed tranquilly at him as she fired this
center shot. She admired the coolness with which he received it.
"No; she's up at her father's place--on the lake shore," he answered. He,
too, was looking particularly well, fresh yet experienced, and in dress a
model, with his serge of a strange, beautiful shade of blue, his red tie
and socks, and his ruby-set cuff-links. "Mr. Howland is ill, and she's
nursing him. I'm taking a few days off--came down to try to sell father's
place for him."
"You're going to sell Point Helen?" said Adelaide, politely regretful.
"Then I suppose we shan't see your people here any more. Your mother'll
no doubt spend most of her time abroad, now that Janet is married there."
Ross did not answer immediately. He was looking into the distance, his
expression melancholy. His abstraction gave Adelaide a chance to verify
the impression she had got from a swift but femininely penetrating first
glance. Yes, he did look older; no, not exactly older--sad, rather.
Evidently he was unhappy, distinctly unhappy. And as handsome and as
tasteful as ever--the band of his straw hat, the flower in his
buttonhole, his tie, his socks--all in harmony; no ostentation, just the
unerring, quiet taste of a gentleman. What a satisfactory person to look
at! To be sure, his character--However, character has nothing to do with
the eye-pleasures, and they are undeniably agreeable. Then there were his
manners, and his mind--such a man of the world! Of course he wasn't for
one instant to be compared with Dory--who was? Still, it was a pity that
Dory had a prejudice against showing all that he really was, a pity he
had to be known to be appreciated--that is, appreciated by the "right
sort" of people. Of course, the observant few could see him in his face,
which was certainly distinguished--yes, far more distinguished than
Ross's, if not so regularly handsome.
"I've been looking over the old place," Ross was saying, "and I've
decided to ask father to keep it. Theresa doesn't like it here; but I do,
and I can't bring myself to cut the last cords. As I wandered over the
place I found myself getting so sad and sentimental that I hurried away
to escape a fit of the blues."
"We're accustomed to that sort of talk," said Adelaide with a mocking
smile in her delightful eyes. "People who used to live here and come back
on business occasionally always tell us how much more beautiful Saint X
is than any other place on earth. But they take the first train for
Chicago or Cincinnati or anywhere at all."
"So you find it dull here?"
"I?" Adelaide shrugged her charming shoulders slightly. "Not so very. My
life is here--the people, the things I'm used to. I've a sense of peace
that I don't have anywhere else." She gazed dreamily away. "And peace is
the greatest asset."
"The greatest asset," repeated Ross absently. "You are to be envied."
"_I_ think so," assented she, a curious undertone of defiance in her
voice. She had a paniclike impulse to begin to talk of Dory; but, though
she cast about diligently, she could find no way of introducing him that
would not have seemed awkward--pointed and provincially prudish.
"What are you reading?" he asked presently.
She turned the book so that he could see the title. His eyes wandered
from it to linger on her slender white fingers--on the one where a plain
band of gold shone eloquently. It fascinated and angered him; and she saw
it, and was delighted. Her voice had a note of triumph in it as she said,
putting the book on the table beside her, "Foolish, isn't it, to be
reading how to build beautiful houses"--she was going to say, "when one
will probably never build any house at all." She bethought her that this
might sound like a sigh over Dory's poverty and over the might-have-been.
So she ended, "when the weather is so deliciously lazy."
"I know the chap who wrote it," said Ross, "Clever--really unusual
talent. But the fashionable women took him up, made him a toady and a
snob, like the rest of the men of their set. How that sort of thing eats
out manhood and womanhood!"
Just what Dory often said! "My husband says," she answered, "that
whenever the world has got a fair start toward becoming civilized, along
have come wealth and luxury to smother and kill. It's very interesting to
read history from that standpoint, instead of taking the usual view--that
luxury produces the arts and graces."
"Dory is a remarkable man," said Ross with enthusiasm. "He's amazingly
modest; but there are some men so big that they can't hide, no matter how
hard they try. He's one of them."
Adelaide was in a glow, so happy did this sincere and just tribute make
her, so relieved did she feel. She was talking to one of Dory's friends
and admirers, not with an old sweetheart of hers about whom her heart,
perhaps, might be--well, a little sore, and from whom radiated a
respectful, and therefore subtle, suggestion that the past was very
much the present for him. She hastened to expand upon Dory, upon his
work; and, as she talked of the university, she found she had a pride
in it, and an interest, and a knowledge, too, which astonished her. And
Ross listened, made appreciative comments. And so, on and on. When
Henrietta came they were laughing and talking like the best of old
friends; and at Ross's invitation the three lunched at the club and
spent the afternoon together.
"I think marriage has improved Ross," said Henrietta, as she and Adelaide
were driving home together after tea--tea with Ross.
"Theresa is a very sweet woman," said Adelaide dutifully.
"Oh, I don't mean that--any more than you do," replied Henrietta. "I mean
marriage has chastened him--the only way it ever improves anybody."
"No doubt he and Theresa are happy together," said Adelaide, clinging to
her pretense with a persistence that might have given her interesting and
valuable light upon herself had she noted it.
"Happy?" Henrietta Hastings laughed. "Only stupid people are happy, my
dear. Theresa may be happy, but not Ross. He's far too intelligent. And
Theresa isn't capable of giving him even those moments of happiness that
repay the intelligent for their routine of the other sort of thing."
"Marriage doesn't mean much in a man's life," said Adelaide. "He has his
business or profession. He is married only part of each day, and that the
least important part to him."
"Yes," replied Henrietta, "marriage is for a man simply a peg in his
shoe--in place or, as with Ross Whitney, out of place. One look at his
face was enough to show me that he was limping and aching and groaning."
Adelaide found this pleasantry amusing far beyond its merits. "You can't
tell," said she. "Theresa doesn't seem the same to him that she does
"Worse," replied Henrietta, "worse. It's fortunate they're rich. If the
better class of people hadn't the money that enables them to put buffers
round themselves, wife-beating wouldn't be confined to the slums. Think
of life in one of two small rooms with a Theresa Howland!"
Adelaide had fallen, as far as could one of her generous and tolerant
disposition, into Henrietta's most infectious habit of girding at
everyone humorously--the favorite pastime of the idle who are profoundly
discontented with themselves. By the time Mrs. Hastings left her at the
lofty imported gates of Villa d'Orsay, they had done the subject of
Theresa full justice, and Adelaide entered the house with that sense of
self-contempt which cannot but come to any decent person after meting out
untempered justice to a fellow-mortal. This did not last, however; the
pleasure in the realization that Ross did not care for Theresa and did
care for herself was too keen. As the feminine test of feminine success
is the impression a woman makes upon men, Adelaide would have been
neither human nor woman had she not been pleased with Ross's discreet and
sincerely respectful, and by no means deliberate or designing disclosure.
It was not the proof of her power to charm the male that had made her
indignant at herself. "How weak we women are!" she said to herself,
trying to assume a penitence she could not make herself feel. "We really
ought to be locked away in harems. No doubt Dory trusts me
absolutely--that's because other women are no temptation to him--that is,
I suppose they aren't. If he were different, he'd be afraid I had his
weakness--we all think everybody has at least a touch of our infirmities.
Of course I can be trusted; I've sense enough not to have my head turned
by what may have been a mere clever attempt to smooth over the past."
Then she remembered Ross's look at her hand, at her wedding ring, and
Henrietta's confirmation of her own diagnosis. "But why should _that_
interest _me_," she thought, impatient with herself for lingering where
her ideal of self-respect forbade. "I don't love Ross Whitney. He pleases
me, as he pleases any woman he wishes to make an agreeable impression
upon. And, naturally, I like to know that he really did care for me and
is ashamed and repentant of the baseness that made him act as he did. But
beyond that, I care nothing about him--nothing. I may not care for Dory
exactly as I should; but at least knowing him has made it impossible for
me to go back to the Ross sort of man."
That seemed clear and satisfactory. But, strangely, her mind jumped to
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