The Second Generation
David Graham Phillips
Part 6 out of 7
the somewhat unexpected conclusion, "And I'll not see him again."
She wrote Dory that night a long, long letter, the nearest to a love
letter she had ever written him. She brought Ross in quite casually;
yet--What is the mystery of the telltale penumbra round the written word?
Why was it that Dory, in far-away Vienna, with the memory of her strong
and of the Villa d'Orsay dim, reading the letter for the first time,
thought it the best he had ever got from her; and the next morning,
reading it again, could think of nothing but Ross, and what Adelaide had
really thought about him deep down in that dark well of the heart where
we rarely let even our own eyes look intently?
A STROLL IN A BYPATH
Ross had intended to dine at the club; but Mrs. Hastings's trap was
hardly clear of the grounds when he, to be free to think uninterruptedly,
set out through the woods for Point Helen.
Even had he had interests more absorbing than pastimes, display, and
money-making by the "brace" game of "high finance" with its small risks
of losing and smaller risks of being caught, even if he had been married
to a less positive and incessant irritant than Theresa was to him, he
would still not have forgotten Adelaide. Forgetfulness comes with the
finished episode, never with the unfinished. In the circumstances, there
could be but one effect from seeing her again. His regrets blazed up into
fierce remorse, became the reckless raging of a passion to which
obstacles and difficulties are as fuel to fire.
Theresa, once the matter of husband-getting was safely settled, had no
restraint of prudence upon her self-complacence. She "let herself go"
completely, with results upon her character, her mind, and her personal
appearance that were depressing enough to the casual beholder, but
appalling to those who were in her intimacy of the home. Ross watched her
deteriorate in gloomy and unreproving silence. She got herself together
sufficiently for as good public appearance as a person of her wealth and
position needed to make, he reasoned; what did it matter how she looked
and talked at home where, after all, the only person she could hope to
please was herself? He held aloof, drawn from his aloofness occasionally
by her whim to indulge herself in what she regarded as proofs of his
love. Her pouting, her whimpering, her abject but meaningless
self-depreciation, her tears, were potent, not for the flattering reason
she assigned, but because he, out of pity for her and self-reproach, and
dread of her developing her mother's weakness, would lash himself into
the small show of tenderness sufficient to satisfy her.
And now, steeped in the gall of as bitter a draught as experience forces
folly to drink anew each day to the dregs--the realization that, though
the man marries the money only, he lives with the wife only--Ross had met
Adelaide again. "I'll go to Chicago in the morning," was his conclusion.
"I'll do the honorable thing"--he sneered at himself--"since trying the
other would only result in her laughing at me and in my being still more
But when morning came he was critical of the clothes his valet offered
him, spent an hour in getting himself groomed for public appearance, then
appeared at the Country Club for breakfast instead of driving to the
station. And after breakfast, he put off his departure "until to-morrow
or next day," and went to see Mr. and Mrs. Hastings. And what more
natural then than that Henrietta should take him to the Villa d'Orsay "to
show you how charmingly Del has installed herself." "And perhaps," said
Henrietta, "she and Arden Wilmot will go for a drive. He has quit the
bank because they objected to his resting two hours in the middle of the
day." What more natural than that Adelaide should alter her resolution
under the compulsion of circumstance, should spend the entire morning in
the gardens, she with Ross, Henrietta with Arden? Finally, to avoid
strain upon her simple domestic arrangements in that period of
retrenchment, what more natural than falling in with Ross's proposal of
lunch at Indian Mound? And who ever came back in a hurry from Indian
Mound, with its quaint vast earthworks, its ugly, incredibly ancient
potteries and flint instruments that could be uncovered anywhere with the
point of a cane or parasol; its superb panorama, bounded by the far blue
hills where, in days that were ancient when history began, fires were
lighted by sentinels to signal the enemy's approach to a people whose
very dust, whose very name has perished? It was six o'clock before they
began the return drive; at seven they were passing the Country Club, and,
of course, they dined there and joined in the little informal dance
afterwards; and later, supper and cooling drinks in a corner of the
veranda, with the moon streaming upon them and the enchanted breath of
the forest enchaining the senses.
What a day! How obligingly all unpleasant thoughts fled! How high and
bright rose the mountains all round the horizon of the present, shutting
out yesterday and to-morrow! "This has been _the_ happy day of my life,"
said Ross as they lingered behind the other two on the way to the last
'bus for the town. "The happiest"--in a lower tone--"thus far."
And Del was sparkling assent, encouragement even; and her eyes were
gleaming defiantly at the only-too-plainly-to-be-read faces of the few
hilltop people still left at the club house. "Surely a woman has the
right to enjoy herself innocently in the twentieth century," she was
saying to herself. "Dory wouldn't want me to sit moping alone. I am
young; I'll have enough of that after I'm old--one is old so much longer
than young." And she looked up at Ross, and very handsome he was in that
soft moonlight, his high-blazing passion glorifying his features. "I,
too, have been happy," she said to him. Then, with a vain effort to seem
and to believe herself at ease, "I wish Dory could have been along."
But Ross was not abashed by the exorcism of that name; her bringing it in
was too strained, would have been amusing if passion were not devoid of
the sense of humor. "She _does_ care for me!" he was thinking dizzily.
"And I can't live without her--and _won't_!"
His mother had been writing him her discoveries that his father, in
wretched health and goaded by physical torment to furious play at the
green tables of "high finance," was losing steadily, swiftly, heavily.
But Ross read her letters as indifferently as he read Theresa's appeals
to him to come to Windrift. It took a telegram--"Matters much worse than
I thought. You must be here to talk with him before he begins business
to-morrow"--to shock him into the realization that he had been imperiling
the future he was dreaming of and planning--his and Del's future.
On the way to the train he stopped at the Villa d'Orsay, saw her and
Henrietta at the far end of Mrs. Dorsey's famed white-and-gold garden.
Henrietta was in the pavilion reading. A few yards away Adelaide, head
bent and blue sunshade slowly turning as it rested on her shoulder, was
strolling round the great flower-rimmed, lily-strewn outer basin of Mrs.
Dorsey's famed fountain, the school of crimson fish, like a streak of
fire in the water, following her. When she saw him coming toward them in
traveling suit, instead of the white serge he always wore on such days
as was that, she knew he was going away--a fortunate forewarning, for
she thus had time to force a less telltale expression before he
announced the reason for his call. "But," he added, "I'll be back in a
few days--a very few."
"Oh!" was all Del said; but her tone of relief, her sudden brightening,
were more significant than any words could have been.
Henrietta now joined them. "You take the afternoon express?" said she.
Ross could not conceal how severe a test of his civility this
interruption was. "Yes," said he. "My trap is in front of the house."
There he colored before Henrietta's expression, a mingling of amusement,
indignation, and contempt, a caustic comment upon his disregard of the
effect of such indiscretion upon a Saint X young married woman's
reputation. "Then," said she, looking straight and significantly at him,
"you'll be able to drop me at my house on the way."
"Certainly," was his prompt assent. When Saint X's morality police should
see him leaving the grounds with her, they would be silenced as to this
particular occurrence at least. After a few minutes of awkward
commonplaces, he and Henrietta went up the lawns, leaving Del there. At
the last point from which the end of the garden could be seen, he
dropped behind, turned, saw her in exactly the same position, the
fountain and the water lilies before her, the center and climax of those
stretches of white-and-gold blossoms. The sunshade rested lightly upon
her shoulder, and its azure concave made a harmonious background for her
small, graceful head with the airily plumed hat set so becomingly upon
those waves of dead-gold hair. He waved to her; but she made no sign of
When Henrietta returned, Adelaide had resumed her reverie and her slow
march round the fountain. Henrietta watched with a quizzical expression
for some time before saying: "If I hadn't discouraged him, I believe he'd
have blurted it all out to me--all he came to say to you."
Del was still absent-minded as she answered: "It's too absurd. People are
so censorious, so low-minded."
"They are," rejoined Mrs. Hastings. "And, I'm sorry to say, as a rule
The curve of Del's delicate eyebrows and of her lips straightened.
"All the trouble comes through our having nothing to do," pursued
Henrietta, disregarding those signs that her "meddling" was unwelcome.
"The idle women! We ought to be busy at something useful--you and I and
the rest of 'em. Then we'd not be tempted to kill time doing things that
cause gossip, and may cause scandal." Seeing that Adelaide was about to
make some curt retort, she added: "Now, don't pretend, Del. You know,
yourself, that they're always getting into mischief and getting the men
"Don't you ever feel, Henrietta, that we're simply straws in the
"Fate sometimes does force mischief on men and women," was Henrietta's
retort, "and it ceases to be mischief--becomes something else, I'm not
sure just what. But usually fate has nothing to do with the matter. It's
we ourselves that course for mischief, like a dog for rabbits."
Del, in sudden disdain of evasion, faced her with, "Well, Henrietta,
what of it?"
Mrs. Hastings elevated and lowered her shoulders. "Simply that you're
seeing too much of Ross--too much for his good, if not for your own."
Del's sunshade was revolving impatiently.
"It's as plain as black on white," continued Mrs. Hastings, "that he's
madly in love with you--in love as only an experienced man can be with an
experienced and developed woman."
"Well, what of it?" Del's tone was hostile, defiant.
"You can't abruptly stop seeing him. Everyone'd say you and he were
"But you can be careful how you treat him. You can show him, and
everybody, that there's nothing in it. You must--" Henrietta hesitated,
dared; "you must be just friendly, as you are with Arden and the rest
of the men."
Hiram's daughter was scarlet. Full a minute, and a very full minute, of
silence. Then Adelaide said coldly: "Thank you. And now that you've freed
your mind I hope you'll keep it free for your own affairs."
"Ouch!" cried Henrietta, making a wry face. And she devoted the rest of
the afternoon to what she realized, at the parting, was the vain task of
mollifying Del. She knew that thenceforth she and Adelaide would drift
apart; and she was sorry, for she liked her--liked to talk with her,
liked to go about with her. Adelaide's beauty attracted the men, and a
male audience was essential to Henrietta's happiness; she found the
conversation of women--the women she felt socially at ease with--tedious,
and their rather problematic power of appreciation limited to what came
from men. As she grew older, and less and less pleasing to the eye, the
men showed more and more clearly how they had deceived themselves in
thinking it was her brains that had made them like her. As Henrietta,
with mournful cynicism, put it: "Men the world over care little about
women beyond their physical charm. To realize it, look at us American
women, who can do nothing toward furthering men's ambitions. We've only
our physical charms to offer; we fall when we lose them. And so our old
women and our homely women, except those that work or that have big
houses and social power, have no life of their own, live on sufferance,
alone or the slaves of their daughters or of some pretty young woman to
whom they attach themselves."
The days dragged for Adelaide. "I'm afraid he'll write," said
she--meaning that she hoped he would. Indeed, she felt that he had
written, but had destroyed the letters. And she was right; almost all
the time he could spare from his efforts to save his father from a sick
but obstinately active man's bad judgment was given to writing to
her--formal letters which he tore up as too formal, passionate letters
which he destroyed as unwarranted and unwise, when he had not yet, face
to face, in words, told her his love and drawn from her what he believed
was in her heart. The days dragged; she kept away from Henrietta, from
all "our set," lest they should read in her dejected countenance the
truth, and more.
DR. MADELENE PRESCRIBES
Madelene's anteroom was full of poor people. They flocked to her, though
she did not pauperize them by giving her services free. She had got the
reputation of miraculous cures, the theory in the tenements being that
her father had swindled his satanic "familiar" by teaching his daughter
without price what he had had to pay for with his immortal soul. Adelaide
refused the chair a sick-looking young artisan awkwardly pressed upon
her. Leaning against the window seat, she tried to interest herself in
her fellow-invalids. But she had not then the secret which unlocks the
mystery of faces; she was still in the darkness in which most of us
proudly strut away our lives, deriding as dreamers or cranks those who
are in the light and see. With almost all of us the innate sympathies of
race, which give even wolves and vultures the sense of fraternal
companionship in the storm and stress of the struggle for existence, are
deep overlaid with various kinds of that egotistic ignorance called class
feeling. Adelaide felt sorry for "the poor," but she had yet to learn
that she was of them, as poor in other and more important ways as they in
money and drawing-room manners. Surfaces and the things of the surface
obscured or distorted all the realities for her, as for most of us; and
the fact that her intelligence laughed at and scorned her perverted
instincts was of as little help to her as it is to most of us.
When Madelene was free she said to her sister-in-law, in mock
seriousness, "Well, and what can I do for _you_!" as if she were
Adelaide's eyes shifted. Clearly Madelene's keen, pretense-scattering
gaze was not one to invite to inspect a matter which might not look at
all well stripped of its envelopes of phrase and haze. She wished she had
not come; indeed, she had been half-wishing it during the whole
three-quarters of an hour of watching and thinking on Madelene's
wonderful life, so crowded with interest, with achievement, with all that
Hiram Ranger's daughter called, and believed, "the real thing."
"Nothing, nothing at all," replied she to Madelene's question. "I just
dropped in to annoy you with my idle self--or, maybe, to please you. You
know we're taught at church that a large part of the joy of the saved
comes from watching the misery of the damned."
But Madelene had the instinct of the physician born. "She has something
on her mind and wants me to help her," she thought. Aloud she said: "I
feel idle, myself. We'll sit about for an hour, and you'll stay to dinner
with Arthur and me--we have it here to-day, as your mother is going out.
Afterwards I must do my round."
A silence, with Adelaide wondering where Ross was and just when he would
return. Then Madelene went on: "I've been trying to persuade your mother
to give up the house, change it into a hospital."
The impudence of it! _Their_ house, _their_ home; and this newcomer into
the family--a newcomer from nowhere--trying to get it away from them!
"Mother said something about it," said Adelaide frostily. "But she
didn't say _you_ had been at her. I think she ought to be left alone in
her old age."
"The main thing is to keep her interested in life, don't you think?"
suggested Madelene, noting how Adelaide was holding herself in check, but
disregarding it. "Your mother's a plain, natural person and never has
felt at home in that big house. Indeed, I don't think any human being
ever does feel at home in a big house. There was a time when they fitted
in with the order of things; but now they've become silly, it seems to
me, except for public purposes. When we all get sensible and go in for
being somebody instead of for showing off, we'll live in convenient,
comfortable, really tasteful and individual houses and have big buildings
only for general use."
"I'm afraid the world will never grow up into your ideals, Madelene,"
said Del with restrained irony. "At least not in our day."
"I'm in no hurry," replied Madelene good-naturedly. "The most
satisfactory thing about common sense is that one can act on it without
waiting for others to get round to it. But we weren't talking of those
who would rather be ignorantly envied than intelligently happy. We were
talking of your mother."
"Mother was content with her mode of life until you put these 'advanced'
ideas into her head."
"'Advanced' is hardly the word," said Madelene. "They used to be her
ideas--always have been, underneath. If it weren't that she is afraid of
hurting your feelings, she'd not hesitate an instant. She'd take the
small house across the way and give herself the happiness of helping with
the hospital she'd install in the big house. You know she always had a
passion for waiting on people. Here's her chance to gratify it to good
purpose. Why should she let the fact that she has money enough not to
have to work stand between her and happy usefulness?"
"What does Arthur think?" asked Del. Her resentment was subsiding in
spite of her determined efforts to keep it glowing; Madelene knew the
secret of manner that enables one to be habitually right without giving
others the sense of being put irritatingly in the wrong. "But," smiling,
"I needn't inquire. Of course he assents to whatever _you_ say."
"You know Arthur better than that," replied Madelene, with no trace of
resentment. She had realized from the beginning of the conversation that
Del's nerves were on edge; her color, alternately rising and fading, and
her eyes, now sparkling now dull, could only mean fever from a tempest of
secret emotion. "He and I usually agree simply because we see things in
about the same light."
"You furnish the light," teased Adelaide.
"That was in part so at first," admitted her sister-in-law. "Arthur had
got many foolish notions in his head through accepting thoughtlessly the
ideas of the people he traveled with. But, once he let his good sense get
the upper hand--He helps me now far more than I help him."
"Has he consented to let them give him a salary yet?" asked Adelaide,
not because she was interested, but because she desperately felt that
the conversation must be kept alive. Perhaps Ross was even now on his
way to Saint X.
"He still gets what he fixed on at first--ten dollars a week more than
"Honestly, Madelene," said Adelaide, in a flush and flash of
irritation, "don't you think that's absurd? With the responsibility of
the whole business on his shoulders, you know he ought to have more
than a common workman."
"In the first place you must not forget that everyone is paid very high
wages at the university works now."
"And he's the cause of that--of the mills doing so well," said Del. She
could see Ross entering the gates--at the house--inquiring--What was she
talking to Madelene about? Yes, about Arthur and the mills. "Even the men
that criticise him--Arthur, I mean--most severely for 'sowing discontent
in the working class,' as they call it," she went on, "concede that he
has wonderful business ability. So he ought to have a huge salary."
"No doubt he earns it," replied Madelene. "But the difficulty is that he
can't take it without it's coming from the other workmen. You see, money
is coined sweat. All its value comes from somebody's labor. He deserves
to be rewarded for happening to have a better brain than most men, and
for using it better. But there's no fund for rewarding the clever for
being cleverer than most of their fellow-beings, any more than there's a
fund to reward the handsome for being above the average in looks. So he
has to choose between robbing his fellow-workmen, who are in his power,
and going without riches. He prefers going without."
"That's very noble of you both, I'm sure," said Adelaide absently.
The Chicago express would be getting in at four o'clock--about five
hours. Absurd! The morning papers said Mr. Whitney had had a relapse.
"Very noble," she repeated absently. "But I doubt if anybody will
Madelene smiled cheerfully. "That doesn't worry Arthur or me," said she,
with her unaffected simplicity. "We're not looking for appreciation.
We're looking for a good time." Del, startled, began to listen to
Madelene. A good time--"And it so happens," came in Madelene's sweet,
honest voice, "that we're unable to have it, unless we feel that we
aren't getting it by making some one else have a not-so-good time or a
very bad time indeed. You've heard of Arthur's latest scheme?"
"Some one told me he was playing smash at the mills, encouraging the
workmen to idleness and all that sort of thing," said Del. Somehow she
felt less feverish, seemed compelled to attention by Madelene's voice and
eyes. "But I didn't hear or understand just how."
"He's going to establish a seven-hours' working day; and, if possible,
cut it down to six." Madelene's eyes were sparkling. Del watched her
longingly, enviously. How interested she was in these useful things. How
fine it must be to be interested where one could give one's whole heart
without concealment--or shame! "And," Madelene was saying, "the
university is to change its schedules so that all its practical courses
will be at hours when men working in the factory can take them. It's
simply another development of his and Dory's idea that a factory
belonging to a university ought to set a decent example--ought not to
compel its men to work longer than is necessary for them to earn at
honest wages a good living for themselves and their families."
"So that they can sit round the saloons longer," suggested Adelaide, and
then she colored and dropped her eyes; she was repeating Ross's comment
on this sort of "concession to the working classes." She had thought it
particularly acute when he made it. Now--
"No doubt most of them will spend their time foolishly at first,"
Madelene conceded. "Working people have had to work so hard for
others--twelve, fourteen, sixteen hours a day, just to be allowed to
live--that they've had really no free time at all; so they've had no
chance to learn how to spend free time sensibly. But they'll learn, those
of them that have capacity for improvement. Those that haven't will soon
"The factories can't make money on such a plan as that," said Adelaide,
again repeating a remark of Ross's, but deliberately, because she
believed it could be answered, wished to hear it answered.
"No, not dividends," replied Madelene. "But dividends are to be abolished
in that department of the university, just as they are in the other
departments. And the money the university needs is to come from tuition
fees. Everyone is to pay for what he gets. Some one has to pay for it;
why not the person who gets the benefit? Especially when the university's
farms and workshops and factories give every student, man and woman, a
chance to earn a good living. I tell you Adelaide, the time is coming
when every kind of school except kindergarten will be self-supporting.
And then you'll see a human race that is really fine, really capable, has
a real standard of self-respect."
As Madelene talked, her face lighted up and all her latent magnetism was
radiating. Adelaide, for no reason that was clear to her, yielded to a
surge of impulse and, half-laughing, half in tears, suddenly kissed
Madelene. "No wonder Arthur is mad about you, stark mad," she cried.
Madelene was for a moment surprised out of that perfect
self-unconsciousness which is probably the rarest of human qualities, and
which was her greatest charm to those who knew her well. She blushed
furiously and angrily. Her and Arthur's love was to her most sacred,
absolutely between themselves. When any outsider could observe them,
even her sister Walpurga, she seemed so much the comrade and
fellow-worker in her attitude toward him that people thought and spoke of
their married life as "charming, but cold." Alone with him, she showed
that which was for him alone--a passion whose strength had made him
strong, as the great waves give their might to the swimmer who does not
shrink from adventuring them. Adelaide's impulsive remark, had violated
her profoundest modesty; and in the shock she showed it.
"I beg your pardon!" exclaimed Adelaide, though she did not realize
wherein she had offended. Love was an unexplored, an unsuspected mystery
to her then--the more a mystery because she thought she knew from having
read about it and discussed it and reasoned about it.
"Oh, I understand," said Madelene, contrite for her betraying expression.
"Only--some day--when you really fall in love--you'll know why I was
Adelaide shrank within herself. "Even Madelene," thought she, "who
has not a glance for other people's affairs, knows how it is between
Dory and me."
It was Madelene's turn to be repentant and apologetic. "I didn't mean
quite that," she stammered. "Of course I know you care for Dory--"
The tears came to Del's eyes and the high color to her cheeks. "You
needn't make excuses," she cried. "It's the truth. I don't care--in
A silence; then Madelene, gently: "Was this what you came to tell me?"
Adelaide nodded slowly. "Yes, though I didn't know it."
"Why tell _me_?"
"Because I think I care for another man." Adelaide was not looking away.
On the contrary, as she spoke, saying the words in an even, reflective
tone, she returned her sister-in-law's gaze fully, frankly. "And I don't
know what to do. It's very complicated--doubly complicated."
"The one you were first engaged to?"
"Yes," said Del. "Isn't it pitiful in me?" And there was real
self-contempt in her voice and in her expression. "I assumed that I
despised him because he was selfish and calculating, and _such_ a snob!
Now I find I don't mind his selfishness, and that I, too, am a snob." She
smiled drearily. "I suppose you feel the proper degree of contempt and
"We are all snobs," answered Madelene tranquilly. "It's one of the
deepest dyes of the dirt we came from, the hardest to wash out."
"Besides," pursued Adelaide, "he and I have both learned by
experience--which has come too late; it always does."
"Not at all," said Madelene briskly. "Experience is never too late. It's
always invaluably useful in some way, no matter when it comes."
Adelaide was annoyed by Madelene's lack of emotion. She had thought her
sister-in-law would be stirred by a recital so romantic, so dark with the
menace of tragedy. Instead, the doctor was acting as if she were dealing
with mere measles. Adelaide, unconsciously, of course--we are never
conscious of the strong admixture of vanity in our "great" emotions--was
piqued into explaining. "We can never be anything to each other. There's
Dory; then there's Theresa. And I'd suffer anything rather than bring
shame and pain on others."
Madelene smiled--somehow not irritatingly--an appeal to Del's sense of
proportion. "Suffer," repeated she. "That's a good strong word for a
woman to use who has health and youth and beauty, and material
comfort--and a mind capable of an infinite variety of interests."
Adelaide's tragic look was slipping from her. "Don't take too gloomy a
view," continued the physician. "Disease and death and one other thing
are the only really serious ills. In this case of yours everything will
come round quite smooth, if you don't get hysterical and if Ross Whitney
is really in earnest and not"--Madelene's tone grew even more
deliberate--"not merely getting up a theatrical romance along the lines
of the 'high-life' novels you idle people set such store by." She saw, in
Del's wincing, that the shot had landed. "No," she went on, "your case is
one of the commonplaces of life among those people--and they're in all
classes--who look for emotions and not for opportunities to be useful."
Del smiled, and Madelene hailed the returning sense of humor as an
"The one difficult factor is Theresa," said Madelene, pushing on with the
prescription. "She--I judge from what I've heard--she's what's commonly
called a 'poor excuse for a woman.' We all know that type. You may be
sure her vanity would soon find ways of consoling her. Ninety-nine times
out of a hundred where one holds on after the other has let go the reason
is vanity, wounded vanity--where it isn't the material consideration that
explains why there are so many abandoned wives and so few abandoned
husbands. Theresa doesn't really care for her husband; love that isn't
mutual isn't love. So she'd come up smiling for a second husband."
"She's certainly vain," said Del. "Losing him would all but kill her."
"Not if it's done tactfully," replied Madelene. "Ross'll no doubt be glad
to sacrifice his own vanity and so arrange matters that she'll be able to
say and feel that she got rid of him, not he of her. Of course that means
a large sacrifice of his vanity--and of yours, too. But neither of you
will mind that."
Adelaide looked uncomfortable; Madelene took advantage of her abstraction
to smile at the confession hinted in that look.
"As for Dory--"
At that name Del colored and hung her head.
"As for Dory," repeated Madelene, not losing the chance to emphasize the
effect, "he's no doubt fond of you. But no matter what he--or you--may
imagine, his fondness cannot be deeper than that of a man for a woman
between whom and him there isn't the perfect love that makes one of two."
"I don't understand his caring for me," cried Del. "I can't believe he
does." This in the hope of being contradicted.
But Madelene simply said: "Perhaps he'd not feel toward you as he seems
to think he does if he hadn't known you before you went East and got fond
of the sort of thing that attracts you in Ross Whitney. Anyhow, Dory's
the kind of man to be less unhappy over losing you than over keeping you
when you didn't want to stay. You may be like his eyes to him, but you
know if that sort of man loses his sight he puts seeing out of the
calculation and goes on just the same. Dory Hargrave is a _man_; and a
real man is bigger than any love affair, however big."
Del was trying to hide the deep and smarting wound to her vanity. "You
are right, Madelene," said she. "Dory _is_ cold."
"But I didn't say that," replied Madelene. "Most of us prefer people like
those flabby sea creatures that are tossed aimlessly about by the waves
and have no permanent shape or real purposes and desires, but take
whatever their feeble tentacles can hold without effort." Del winced, and
it was the highest tribute to Dr. Madelene's skill that the patient did
not hate her and refuse further surgery. "We're used to that sort,"
continued she. "So when a really alive, vigorous, pushing, and resisting
personality comes in contact with us, we say, 'How hard! How unfeeling!'
The truth, of course, is that Ross is more like the flabby things--his
environment dominates him, while Dory dominates his environment. But you
like the Ross sort, and you're right to suit yourself. To suit yourself
is the only way to avoid making a complete failure of life. Wait till
Dory comes home. Then talk it out with him. Then--free yourself and marry
Ross, who will have freed himself. It's quite simple. People are
broad-minded about divorce nowadays. It never causes serious scandal,
except among those who'd like to do the same, but don't dare."
It certainly was easy, and ought to have been attractive. Yet Del was not
attracted. "One can't deal with love in such a cold, calculating
fashion," thought she, by way of bolstering up her weakening confidence
in the reality and depth of those sensations which had seemed so
thrillingly romantic an hour before. "I've given you the impression that
Ross and I have some--some understanding," said she. "But we haven't. For
all I know, he may not care for me as I care for him."
"He probably doesn't," was Madelene's douche-like reply. "You attract him
physically--which includes his feeling that you'd show off better than
Theresa before the world for which he cares so much. But, after all,
that's much the way you care for him, isn't it?"
Adelaide's bosom was swelling and falling agitatedly. Her eyes flashed;
her reserve vanished. "I'm sure he'd love me!" cried she. "He'd give me
what my whole soul, my whole body cry out for. Madelene, you don't
understand! I am so starved, so out in the cold! I want to go in where
it's warm--and--human!" The truth, the deep-down truth, was out at last;
Adelaide had wrenched it from herself.
"And Dory will not give you that?" said Madelene, all gentleness and
sympathy, and treading softly on this dangerous, delicate ground.
"He gives me nothing!" exclaimed Adelaide bitterly. "He is waiting for me
to learn to love him. He ought to know that a woman has to be taught to
love--at least the sort of woman I am. He treats me as if I were his
equal, when he ought to see that I'm not; that I'm like a child, and have
to be shown what's good for me, and _made_ to take it."
"Then, perhaps, after all," said Madelene slowly, "you do care for Dory."
"Of course I care for him; how could anyone help it? But he won't let
me--he won't let me!" She was on the verge of hysteria, and her loss of
self-control was aggravated by the feeling that she was making a weak,
silly exhibition of herself.
"If you do care for Dory, and Dory cares for you, and you don't care for
Ross--" began Madelene.
"But I do care for Ross, too! Oh, I must be bad--bad! Could a nice woman
care for two men at the same time?"
"I'd have said not," was Madelene's answer. "But now I see that she
could--and I see why."
"Dory means something to me that Ross does not. Ross means something that
Dory does not. I want it all--all that both of them represent. I can't
give up Dory; I can't give up Ross. You don't understand, Madelene,
because you've had the good luck to get it all from Arthur."
After a silence, Madelene said: "Well, Del, what are you going to do?"
"That's sensible!" approved Madelene. "If Ross really loves you, then,
whether he can have you or not, he'll free himself from Theresa. He
simply couldn't go on with her. And if you really care for him, then,
when Dory comes home he'll free you."
"That ought to be so," said Adelaide, not seeing the full meaning of
Madelene's last words. "But it isn't. Neither Ross nor I is strong
enough. We're just ordinary people, the sort that most everybody is and
that most everybody despises when they see them or read about them as
they really are. No, he and I will each do the conventional thing. We'll
go our separate ways "--contemptuously--"the _easiest_ ways. And we'll
regard ourselves as martyrs to duty--that's how they put it in the
novels, isn't it?"
"At least," said Madelene, with a calmness she was far from feeling,
"both you and Ross have had your lesson in the consequence of doing
things in a hurry."
"That's the only way people brought up as we've been ever do anything. If
we don't act on impulse, we don't act at all; we drift on."
"Drifting is action, the most decisive kind of action." Madelene was
again thinking what would surely happen the instant Dory found how
matters stood; but she deemed it tactful to keep this thought to herself.
Just then she was called to the telephone. When she came back she found
Adelaide restored to her usual appearance--the fashionable,
light-hearted, beautiful woman, mistress of herself, and seeming as
secure against emotional violence from within as against discourtesy from
without. But she showed how deep was the impression of Madelene's
common-sense analysis of her romance by saying: "A while ago you said
there were only three serious ills, disease and death, but you didn't
name the third. What is it?"
"Dishonor," said Madelene, with a long, steady look at her.
Adelaide paled slightly, but met her sister-in-law's level gaze. "Yes,"
was all she said.
A silence; then Madelene: "Your problem, Del, is simple; is no problem
at all, so far as Dory or Ross's wife is concerned; or the whole outside
world, for that matter. It's purely personal; it's altogether the
problem of bringing pain and shame on yourself. The others'll get over
it; but can you?"
Del made no reply. A moment later Arthur came; after dinner she left
before he did, and so was not alone with Madelene again. Reviewing her
amazing confessions to her sister-in-law, she was both sorry and not
sorry. Her mind was undoubtedly relieved, but at the price of showing to
another her naked soul, and that other a woman--true, an unusual woman,
by profession a confessor, but still a woman. Thenceforth some one other
than herself would know her as she really was--not at all the nice,
delicate lady with instincts as fine as those of the heroines of novels,
who, even at their most realistic, are pictured as fully and grandly
dressed of soul in the solitude of bedroom as in crowded drawing-room. "I
don't care!" concluded Adelaide. "If she, or anyone, thinks the worse of
me for being a human being, it will show either hypocrisy or ignorance of
MAN AND GENTLEMAN
A few evenings later, Del, in a less strained, less despondent frame of
mind, coming home from supper at her mother's, found Estelle Wilmot on
the front veranda talking with Lorry Tague. She had seen this same sight
perhaps half-a-dozen times since Estelle and Arden had come to stop with
her at the Villa d'Orsay. On this particular evening his manner toward
Estelle was no different from what it had been the other times; yet, as
Del approached them, she felt the electric atmosphere which so often
envelops two who love each other, and betrays their secret carefully
guarded behind formal manner and indifferent look and tone. She wondered
that she had been blind to what was now obvious.
"Well, Arthur has at last compelled you to go to work," said she
smilingly to the big cooper with the waving tawny hair and the keen, kind
gray eyes. Then, to show her respect for the secret, she said to Estelle,
"Perhaps he hasn't told you that he was made superintendent of the
Estelle blushed a little, her eyes dancing. "He was just telling me,"
"I understand why you yielded," continued Adelaide to Lorry. "Arthur has
been showing me the plans for the new factories. Gardens all round, big
windows, high ceilings, everything done by electricity, no smoke or soot,
a big swimming pool for winter or summer, a big restaurant, dressing
rooms--everything! Who'd have believed that work could be carried on in
"It's about time, isn't it," said Lorry, in his slow, musical voice,
"that idleness was deprived of its monopoly of comforts and luxuries?"
"How sensible that is!" said Del admiringly. "Yet nobody thinks of it."
"Why," Lorry went on, "the day'll come when they'll look back on the way
we work nowadays, as we do on the time when a lot of men never went out
to work except in chains and with keepers armed with lashes. The fellows
that call Dory and Arthur crazy dreamers don't realize what ignorant
savages they themselves are."
"They have no imagination," said Estelle.
"No imagination," echoed Lorry. "That's the secret of the stupidity and
the horror of change, and of the notion that the way a thing's done
to-day is the way it'll always be done."
"I'm afraid Arthur is going to get himself into even deeper trouble when
these new plans are announced," said Del.
Arthur's revolution had already inflamed the other manufacturers at Saint
X against him. Huge incomes were necessary to the support of their
extravagant families and to the increase of the fortunes they were piling
up "to save their children from fear of want"--as if that same "fear of
want" were not the only known spur to the natural lethargy of the human
animal! They explained to their workmen that the university industries
were not business enterprises at all, and therefore must not be confused
and compared with enterprises that were "practical"; but the workmen
fixed tenaciously upon the central fact that the university's men worked
at mechanical labor fewer hours each day by four to seven, and even
eight, got higher wages, got more out of life in every way. Nor was there
any of the restraint and degradation of the "model town." The workers
could live and act as they pleased; it was by the power of an intelligent
public opinion that Arthur was inducing his fellows and their families to
build for themselves attractive homes, to live in tasteful comfort, to
acquire sane habits of eating, drinking, and personal appearance. And no
one was more amazed than himself at the swiftness with which the
overwhelming majority responded to the opportunity. Small wonder that
the other manufacturers, who at best never went beyond the crafty,
inexpensive schemes of benevolent charity, were roaring against the
university as a "hotbed of anarchy."
At Adelaide's suggestion of the outburst that would follow the new and
still more "inflammatory" revolution, Lorry shrugged his shoulders and
laughed easily. "Nobody need worry for that brother of yours, Mrs.
Hargrave," said he. "There may be some factories for sale cheap before
many years. If so, the university can buy them in and increase its
usefulness. Dory and Arthur are going to have a university that will be
up to the name before they get through--one for all ages and kinds, and
both sexes, and for everybody all his life long and in all his
"It's a beautiful dream," said Del. She was remembering how Dory used to
enlarge upon it in Paris until his eloquence made her feel that she loved
him at the same time that it also gave her a chilling sense of his being
far from her, too big and impersonal for so intimate and personal a thing
as the love she craved. "A beautiful dream," she repeated with a sigh.
"That's the joy of life," said Estelle, "isn't it? To have beautiful
dreams, and to help make them come true."
"And this one is actually coming true," said Lorry. "Wait a few years,
only a few, and you'll see the discoveries of science make everything so
cheap that vulgar, vain people will give up vulgarity and vanity in
despair. A good many of the once aristocratic vulgarities have been
cheapened into absurdity already. The rest will follow."
"Only a few years?" said Del, laughing, yet more than half-convinced.
"Use your imagination, Mrs. Hargrave," replied Lorry, in his large,
good-humored way. "Don't be afraid to be sensible just because most
people look on common sense as insanity. A hundred things that used to be
luxuries for the king alone are now so cheap that the day-laborer has
them--all in less than two lifetimes of real science! To-morrow or next
day some one will discover, say, the secret of easily and cheaply
interchanging the so-called elements. Bang! the whole structure of
swagger and envy will collapse!"
They all laughed, and Del went into the house. "Estelle--no woman, no
matter who--could hope to get a better husband than Lorry," she was
thinking. "And, now that he's superintendent, there's no reason why they
shouldn't marry. What a fine thing, what an American thing, that a man
with no chance at all in the start should be able to develop himself so
that a girl like Estelle could--yes, and should--be proud of his love and
proud to love him." She recalled how Lorry at the high school was about
the most amusing of the boys, with the best natural manner, and far and
away the best dancer; how he used to be invited everywhere, until
excitement about fashion and "family" reached Saint X; how he was then
gradually dropped until he, realizing what was the matter, haughtily
"cut" all his former friends and associates. "We've certainly been racing
downhill these last few years. Where the Wilmots used to be about the
only silly people in town, there are scores of families now with noses in
the air and eyes looking eagerly about for chances to snub. But, on the
other hand, there's the university, and Arthur--and Dory." She dismissed
Lorry and Estelle and Saint X's fashionable strivings and, in the
library, sat down to compose a letter to Dory--no easy task in those
days, when there were seething in her mind and heart so much that she
longed to tell him but ought not, so much that she ought to tell but
Lorry had acted as if he were about to depart, while Adelaide was there;
he resumed his seat on the steps at Estelle's feet as soon as she
disappeared. "I suppose I ought to go," said he, with a humorous glance
up at her face with its regular features and steadfast eyes.
She ran her slim fingers through his hair, let the tips of them linger an
instant on his lips before she took her hand away.
"I couldn't let you go just yet," said she slowly, absently. "This is the
climax of the day. In this great, silent, dim light all my dreams--all
our dreams--seem to become realities and to be trooping down from the sky
to make us happy."
A pause, then he: "I can see them now." But soon he moved to rise. "It
frightens me to be as happy as I am this evening. I must go, dear. We're
getting bolder and bolder. First thing you know, your brother will be
suspecting--and that means your mother."
"I don't seem to care any more," replied the girl. "Mother is really in
much better health, and has got pretty well prepared to expect almost
anything from me. She has become resigned to me as a 'working person.'
Then, too, I'm thoroughly inoculated with the habit of doing as I please.
I guess that's from being independent and having my own money. What a
good thing money is!"
"So long as it means independence," suggested Lorry; "but not after it
But Estelle was thinking of their future. The delay, the seemingly
endless delay, made her even more impatient than it made him, as is
always the case where the woman is really in love. In the man love holds
the impetuosity of passion in leash; in the woman it rouses the deeper,
the more enduring force of the maternal instinct--not merely the
unconscious or, at most, half-conscious longing for the children that are
to be, but the desire to do for the man--to look after his health, his
physical comfort, to watch over and protect him; for, to the woman in
love, the man seems in those humble ways less strong than she--a helpless
creature, dependent on her. "It's going to be much harder to wait," said
she, "now that you are superintendent and I have bought out Mrs.
Hastings's share of my business."
They both laughed, but Lorry said: "It's no joke. A little too much money
has made fools of as wise people as we are--many and many's the time."
"Not as wise a person as you are, and as you'll always make me be, or
seem to be," replied Estelle.
Lorry pressed his big hand over hers for an instant. "Now that I've left
off real work," said he, "I'll soon be able to take your hand without
giving you a rough reminder of the difference between us."
He held out his hands, palms upward. They were certainly not soft and
smooth, but they more than made up in look of use and strength what they
lacked in smoothness. She put her small hands one on either side of his,
and they both thrilled with the keen pleasure the touch of edge of hand
against edge of hand gave them. In the ends of her fingers were the marks
of her needlework. He bent and kissed those slightly roughened finger
ends passionately. "I love those marks!" he exclaimed. "They make me feel
that we belong to each other."
"I'd be sorry to see _your_ hands different," said she, her eyes shining
upon his. "There are many things you don't understand about me--for
instance, that it's just those marks of work that make you so dear to me.
A woman may begin by liking a man because he's her ideal in certain ways,
but once she really cares, she loves whatever is part of him."
In addition to the reasons she had given for feeling "bolder" about her
"plebeian" lover, there was another that was the strongest of all. A few
months before, a cousin of her father's had died in Boston, where he was
the preacher of a most exclusive and fashionable church. He had endeared
himself to his congregation by preaching one Easter Sunday a sermon
called "The Badge of Birth." In it he proceeded to show from the
Scriptures themselves how baseless was the common theory that Jesus was
of lowly origin. "The common people heard Him gladly," cried the Rev.
Eliot Wilmot, "because they instinctively felt His superiority of birth,
felt the dominance of His lineage. In His veins flowed the blood of the
royal house of Israel, the blood of the first anointed kings of Almighty
God." And from this interesting premise the Reverend Wilmot deduced the
divine intent that the "best blood" should have superior
rights--leadership, respect, deference. So dear was he to his flock that
they made him rich in this world's goods as well as in love and honor.
The Wilmots of Saint X had had lively expectations from his estate. They
thought that one holding the views eloquently set forth in "The Badge of
Birth" must dedicate his fortune to restoring the dignity and splendor of
the main branch of the Wilmot family. But, like all their dreams, this
came to naught. His fortune went to a theological seminary to endow
scholarships and fellowships for decayed gentlemen's sons; he remembered
only Verbena Wilmot. On his one visit to the crumbling, weed-choked seat
of the head of the house, he had seen Verbena's wonderful hands, so
precious and so useless that had she possessed rings and deigned to wear
them she would not have permitted the fingers of the one hand to put them
on the fingers of the other. The legacy was five thousand dollars, at
four per cent., an income of two hundred dollars a year. Verbena invested
the first quarterly installment in a long-dreamed-of marble reproduction
of her right hand which, after years of thinking daily about the matter,
she had decided was a shade more perfect than the left.
If one dim eye makes a man king among blind men--to translate to the
vernacular Verbena's elegant reasoning--an income, however trifling, if
it have no taint of toil, no stench of sweat upon it, makes its possessor
entitled to royal consideration in a family of paupers and dead beats,
degraded by harboring a breadwinner of an Estelle. No sudden recipient of
a dazzling, drenching shower of wealth was ever more exalted than was
Verbena, once in possession of "_my_ legacy." Until the Rev. Eliot
Wilmot's posthumous blessing descended upon her, the Wilmots lived
together in comparative peace and loving kindness. They were all, except
for their mania of genealogy, good-humored, extremely well-mannered
people, courteous as much by nature as by deliberate intent. But, with
the coming of the blessing, peace and friendliness in that family were at
an end. Old Preston Wilmot and Arden railed unceasingly against the
"traitor" Eliot; Verbena defended him. Their mother and Estelle were
drawn into the battle from time to time, Estelle always against her will.
Before Verbena had been a woman of property three months, she was hating
her father and brother for their sneers and insults, Arden had gone back
to drinking, and the old gentleman was in a savage and most ungentlemanly
humor from morning until night.
Estelle, the "black sheep" ever since she began to support them by
engaging in trade, drew aloof now, was at home as little as she could
contrive, often ate a cold supper in the back of her shop. She said
nothing to Lorry of the family shame; she simply drew nearer to him. And
out of this changed situation came, unconsciously to herself, a deep
contempt for her father and her brother, a sense that she was indeed as
alien as the Wilmots so often alleged, in scorn of her and her shop;
Verbena's income went to buy adornments for herself, dresses that would
give the hands a fitting background; Estelle's earnings went to her
mother, who distributed them, the old gentleman and Arden ignoring whence
and how the money came.
As Estelle and Lorry lingered on the porch of the Villa d'Orsay that
August evening, alone in the universe under that vast, faintly luminous,
late-twilight sky, Arden Wilmot came up the lawn. Neither Lorry nor
Estelle saw or heard him until his voice, rough with drink and passion,
savagely stung them with, "What the hell does _this_ mean?"
Lorry dropped Estelle's hand and stood up, Estelle behind him, a
restraining hand on his shoulder. Both were white to the lips; their sky,
the moment before so clear and still, was now black and thunderous with a
frightful storm. Estelle saw that her brother was far from sober; and the
sight of his sister caressed by Lorry Tague would have maddened him even
had he not touched liquor. She darted between the two men. "Don't be a
goose, Arden," she panted, with a hysterical attempt to laugh.
"That fellow was touching you!" stormed Arden. "You miserable disgrace!"
And he lifted his hand threateningly to her.
Lorry put his arm round her and drew her back, himself advancing. "You
must be careful how you act toward the woman who is to be my wife, Mr.
Wilmot," he said, afire in all his blood of the man who has the right to
demand of the whole world the justice he gives it.
Arden Wilmot stared dumfounded, first at Lorry, then at Estelle. In the
pause, Adelaide, drawn from the library by the sound of Arden's fury,
reached the front doorway, saw the three, instantly knew the whole cause
of this sudden, harsh commotion. With a twitch that was like the shaking
off of a detaining grasp, with a roar like a mortally wounded beast's,
Arden recovered the use of limbs and voice. "You infernal lump of dirt!"
he yelled. Adelaide saw his arm swing backward, then forward, and up--saw
something bright in his hand. A flash--"O God, God!" she moaned. But she
could not turn her eyes away or close them.
Lorry stood straight as a young sycamore for an instant, turned toward
Estelle. "Good-by--my love!" he said softly, and fell, face downward,
with his hands clasping the edge of her dress.
She made no sound. Like a ghost, she knelt and took Lorry's head in her
lap; with one hand against each of his cheeks she turned his head.
"Lorry! Lorry!" she murmured in a heartbreaking voice that carried far
through the stillness.
Arden put the revolver back in his pocket, seized her by the
shoulder. "Come away from that!" he ordered roughly, and half-lifted
her to her feet.
With a cry so awful that Adelaide swayed and almost swooned at hearing
it, Estelle wrenched herself free, flung herself on her lover's body,
buried her fingers in his hair, covered his dead face with kisses, bathed
her lips in the blood that welled from his heart. Shouts and heavy, quick
tramping from many directions--the tempest of murder was drawing people
to its center as a cyclone sucks in leaves. Fright in Arden Wilmot's
face, revealed to Adelaide in the light streaming from the big
drawing-room windows. A group--a crowd--a multitude--pouring upon the
lawns from every direction--swirling round Arden as he stood over the
prostrate intermingled forms of his sister and her dead lover.
Then Adelaide, clinging to the door frame to steady herself, heard Arden
say in a loud blustering voice: "I found this fellow insulting my sister,
and I treated him as a Wilmot always treats an insult." And as the words
reached her, they fired her. All her weakness, all her sense of
Out of the circle came a man bearing unconscious Estelle, blood upon her
face, upon her bosom, blood dripping from her hands. "Where shall I take
her?" asked the man of Adelaide. "A doctor's been sent for."
"Into the hall--on the sofa--at the end--and watch by her," said Del, in
quick, jerking tones. Her eyes were ablaze, her breath came in gusts.
Without waiting to see where he went with his burden, she rushed down the
broad steps and through the crowd, pushing them this way and that. She
faced Arden Wilmot--not a lady, but a woman, a flaming torch of outraged
"You lie!" she cried, and he seemed to wither before her. "You lie about
him and about her! You, with the very clothes you're dressed in, the very
liquor you're drunk with, the very pistol that shot him down, paid for by
_her_ earnings! He never offended you--not by look or word. You murdered
him--I saw--heard. You murdered the man she was to marry, the man she
loved--murdered him because she loved him. Look at him!"
The crowd widened its circle before the sweep of her arm. Lorry's
blood-stained body came into view. His face, beautiful and, in its pale
calm, stronger than life, was open to the paling sky. "There lies a man,"
she sobbed, and her tears were of the kind that make the fires of passion
burn the fiercer. "A man any woman with a woman's heart would have been
proud to be loved by. And you--you've murdered him!"
"Take care, Mrs. Hargrave," a voice whispered in her ear. "They'll
"And why not?" she cried out. "Why should such a creature live?"
A hundred men were reaching for Arden, and from the crowd rose that
hoarse, low, hideous sound which is the first deep bay of the unleashed
blood-madness. "No, no!" she begged in horror, and waved them back.
"Adelaide!" gasped Arden, wrenching himself free and crouching at her
feet and clinging to her skirts. "Save me! I only did my duty as a
She looked down at him in unpitying scorn, then out at the crowd. "Hear
that!" she cried, with a wild, terrible laugh. "A gentleman! Yes, that's
true--a gentleman. Saving your sister from the coarse contamination of an
honest man!" Then to the men who were dragging at him: "No, I say--_no_!
Let him alone! Don't touch the creature! He'll only foul your hands." And
she pushed them back. "Let him live. What worse fate could he have than
to be pointed at every day of a long life as the worthless drunken thing
who murdered a man, and then tried to save himself by defaming his victim
and his own sister?"
Under cover of her barrier of command, the constable led Arden into the
house, past where his sister lay in a swoon, and by the back way got him
to jail. The crowd, fascinated by her beauty, which the tempest of
passion had transfigured into terrible and compelling majesty, was
completely under her control. She stayed on, facing that throng of men,
many of whom she knew by name, until Lorry's body was taken away. She was
about to go into the house, as the crowd began quietly to disperse, when
there arose a murmur that made her turn quickly toward the doors. There
was Estelle, all disheveled and bloodstained. Her face was like death;
her movements were like one walking in a deep sleep as she descended to
the lawn and came toward them.
"Where is he? Where is he?" she wailed, pushing this way and that through
the crowd, her hands outstretched, her long fair hair streaming like a
bridal veil. Her feet slipped on the wet grass--where it was wet with his
blood. She staggered, swayed uncertainly, fell with her arms outstretched
as if the earth were he she sought. She lay there moaning--the cry of her
tortured nerves alone, for her mind was unconscious.
Adelaide and Madelene, who had just come, bent to lift her. But their
strength failed them and they sank to their knees in terror; for, from
the silent crowd there burst a shriek: "Kill him, kill him!" And all in
an instant the grounds were emptied of those thousands; and to the two
women came an ever fainter but not less awful roar as the mob swept on
uptown toward the jail.
Madelene was first to recover. "Let us carry her in," she said. And when
the limp form was once more on the big sofa and the eyelids were
trembling to unclose, she ripped open the right sleeve and thrust in the
needle that gives oblivion.
Adelaide went to the window and listened. Before her in the moonlight was
the place where that tempest of hate and murder had burst and raged. Once
more her heart hardened in the pitiless fury of outraged mercy. A moan
from Estelle stung her, and she leaned forward the better to catch the
music of the mob's distant shriek. Silence for full five minutes; then a
sound like that which bursts from the throats of the bloodhounds as they
bury their fangs in their quarry. She gave a faint scream, covered her
face. "Oh, spare him! Spare him!" she cried. And she sank to the floor in
a faint, for she knew that Arden Wilmot was dead.
* * * * *
Adelaide took Estelle's store until Estelle came back to it, her surface
calm like the smooth river that hides in its tortured bosom the
deep-plunged rapids below the falls. The day after Estelle's return
Adelaide began to study architecture at the university; soon she was made
an instructor, with the dean delighted and not a little mystified by her
energy and enthusiasm. Yet the matter was simple and natural: she had
emerged from her baptism of blood and fire--a woman; at last she had
learned what in life is not worth while; she was ready to learn what it
has to offer that is worth while--the sole source of the joys that have
no reaction, of the content that is founded upon the rock.
CHARLES WHITNEY'S HEIRS
Eight specialists, including Romney, of New York and Saltonstal, of
Chicago, had given Charles Whitney their verdicts on why he was weak and
lethargic. In essential details these diagnoses differed as widely as
opinions always differ where no one knows, or can know, and so everyone
is free to please his own fancy in choosing a cloak for his ignorance.
Some of the doctors declared kidneys sound but liver suspicious; others
exonerated liver but condemned one or both kidneys; others viewed kidneys
and liver with equal pessimism; still others put those organs aside and
shook their heads and unlimbered their Latin at spleen and pancreas. In
one respect, however, the eight narrowed to two groups. "Let's figure it
out trial-balance fashion," said Whitney to his private secretary, Vagen.
"Five, including two-thousand-dollar Romney, say I 'may go soon.' Three,
including our one-thousand-dollar neighbor, Saltonstal, say I am 'in no
immediate danger.' But what the Romneys mean by 'soon,' and what the
Saltonstals mean by 'immediate,' none of the eight says."
"But they all say that 'with proper care'--" began Vagen, with the faith
of the little in the pretentious.
"So they do! So they do!" interrupted Whitney, whom life had taught not
to measure wisdom by profession of it, nor yet by repute for it. And he
went on in a drowsy drawl, significantly different from his wonted rather
explosive method of speech: "But does any of 'em say what 'proper care'
is? Each gives his opinion. Eight opinions, each different and each
cautioning me against the kind of 'care' prescribed by the other seven.
And I paid six thousand dollars!" A cynical smile played round his
thin-lipped, sensual, selfish mouth.
"Sixty-three hundred," corrected Vagen. He never missed this sort of
chance to impress his master with his passion for accuracy.
"Sixty-three, then. I'd better have given you the money to blow in on
your fliers on wheat and pork."
At this Vagen looked much depressed. It was his first intimation that his
chief knew about his private life. "I hope, sir, nobody has been
poisoning your mind against me," said he. "I court the fullest
investigation. I have been honest--"
"Of course, of course," replied Whitney. "There never was a man as timid
as you are that wasn't honest. What a shallow world it is! How often envy
and cowardice pass for virtue!"
"I often say, sir," replied Vagen, with intent to soothe and flatter,
"there ain't one man in ten million that wouldn't have done the things
you've done if they'd had the brains and the nerve."
"And pray what are the 'things I've done'?" inquired Whitney. But the
flame of irritation was so feeble that it died down before his words were
out. "I'm going down to Saint X to see old Schulze," he drawled on.
"Schulze knows more than any of 'em--and ain't afraid to say when he
don't know." A slow, somewhat sardonic smile. "That's why he's unknown.
What can a wise man, who insists on showing that he's wise, expect in a
world of damn fools?" A long silence during which the uncomfortable Vagen
had the consolation of seeing in that haggard, baggy, pasty-white face
that his master's thoughts were serving him much worse than mere
discomfort. Then Whitney spoke again: "Yes, I'm going to Saint X. I'm
going home to--"
He did not finish; he could not speak the word of finality. Vagen saw the
look in his pale, blue-green eyes, saw that the great financier knew he
would never again fling his terrible nets broadcast for vast hauls of
golden fish, knew his days were numbered and that the number was small.
But, instead of this making him feel sympathetic and equal toward his
master, thus unmasked as mere galvanized clay, it filled him with greater
awe; for, to the Vagens, Death seems to wear a special costume and walk
with grander step to summon the rich and the high.
"Yes, I'll go--this very afternoon," said Whitney more loudly, turning
his face toward the door through which came a faint feminine
rustling--the _froufrou_ of the finest, softest silk and finest,
He looked attentively at his wife as she crossed the threshold--looked
with eyes that saw mercilessly but indifferently, the eyes of those who
are out of the game of life, out for good and all, and so care nothing
about it. He noted in her figure--in its solidity, its settledness--the
signs of age the beauty doctors were still almost successful in keeping
out of that masklike face which was their creation rather than nature's;
he noted the rough-looking red of that hair whose thinness was not
altogether concealed despite the elaborate care with which it was
arranged to give the impression of careless abundance. He noted her
hands; his eyes did not linger there, for the hands had the wrinkles and
hollows and age marks which but for art would have been in the face, and
they gave him a feeling--he could not have defined it, but it made him
shudder. His eyes rested again upon her face, with an expression of pity
that was slightly satirical. This struggle of hers seemed so petty and
silly to him now; how could any human being think any other fact
important when the Great Fact hung from birth threateningly over all?
"You feel worse to-day, dear?" said she, in the tones that sound
carefully attuned to create an impression of sympathy. Hers had now
become the mechanically saccharine voice which sardonic time ultimately
fastens upon the professionally sympathetic to make them known and mocked
of all, even of the vainest seekers after sympathy.
"On the contrary, I feel better," he drawled, eyes half-shut. "No pain at
all. But--horribly weak, as if I were going to faint in a minute or
two--and I don't give a damn for anything." There was a personal fling
in that last word, an insinuation that he knew her state of mind toward
him, and reciprocated.
"Well, to-morrow Janet and her baby will be here," said Mrs. Whitney, and
her soothing tones seemed to stimulate him by irritation. "Then we'll all
go down to Saint X together, if you still wish it."
"Don't take that tone with me, I tell you!" he said with some energy in
his drawl. "_Don't_ talk to me as if you were hanging over my deathbed
lying to me about my going to live!" And he closed his eyes, and his
breath made his parted, languid lips flutter.
"Mr. Vagen," said Matilda, in her tone of sweet graciousness, "may I
trouble you to go and--"
"Go to the devil, Vagen," said Charles, starting up again that slow
stream of fainting words and sentences. "Anywhere to get you out of the
room so you won't fill the flapping ears of your friends with gossip
about Whitney and his wife. Though why she should send you out I can't
understand. If you and the servants don't hear what's going on, you make
up and tattle worse than what really happens."
Mrs. Whitney gave Vagen a look of sweet resignation and Vagen responded
with an expression which said: "I understand. He is very ill. He is not
responsible. I admire your ladylike patience." As Whitney's eyes were
closed he missed this byplay.
"Here, Vagen--before you go," he drawled, waving a weary hand toward the
table at his elbow. "Here's a check for ten thousand. You don't deserve
it, for you've used your position to try to get rich on the sly. But
inasmuch as I was 'on to' you, and dropped hints that made you lose, I've
no hard feelings. Then, too, you did no worse than any other would have
done in your place. A man's as good, and as bad, as he has the chance to
be. So take it. I've not made my will yet, and as I may not be able to, I
give you the money now. You'll find the check in this top drawer, and
some other checks for the people near me. I suppose they'll expect
something--I've got 'em into the habit of it. Take 'em and run along and
send 'em off right away."
Vagen muttered inarticulate thanks. In fact, the check was making small
impression on him, or the revelation that his chief had eyes as keen for
what was going on under his nose as for the great movements in the big
field. He could think only of that terrifying weakness, that significant
When Vagen was out of the way, Charles repeated: "I'm going this
afternoon." His listless eyes were gazing vacantly at the carved rosewood
ceiling. His hands--the hands of a corpse--looked horribly like sheathed,
crumpled claws in the gold silk cuffs of his dark-blue dressing gown. His
nose, protruding from his sunken cheeks, seemed not like a huge beak, but
indeed a beak.
"But Janet--" began Mrs. Whitney, thinking as she spoke that he surely
would "not be spared to us much longer."
"Janet can follow--or stay here--or--I don't care what she does," droned
Whitney. "Do you suppose I'm thinking about anybody but myself now? Would
you, if you were in my fix. I should say," he amended cynically, "_will_
you, when you're in my fix?"
"Charles!" exclaimed Matilda.
Whitney's smile checked her. "I'm not a fool," he rambled on. "Do you
suppose I haven't seen what was going on? Do you suppose I don't know
all of you wish I was out of it? Yes, out of it. And you needn't bother
to put on that shocked look; it doesn't fool me. I used to say: 'I'll
be generous with my family and give 'em more than they'd have if I was
gone.' 'No children waiting round eager for me to pass off,' said I,
'so that they can divide up my fortune.' I've said that often and
often. And I've acted on it. And I've raised up two as pampered,
selfish children as ever lived. And now--The last seven months I've
been losing money hand over fist. Everything I've gone into has turned
out bad. I'm down to about half what I had a year ago--maybe less than
half. And you and Ross--and no doubt that marchioness ex-daughter of
mine--all know it. And you're afraid if I live on, I'll lose more,
maybe everything. Do you deny it?"
Matilda was unable to speak. She had known he was less rich; but
half!--"maybe less!" The cuirass of steel, whalebone, kid, and linen
which molded her body to a fashionable figure seemed to be closing in on
her heart and lungs with a stifling clutch.
"No, you don't deny it. You couldn't," Whitney drawled on. "And so my
'indulgent father' damned foolishness ends just where I might have known
it'd end. We've brought up the children to love money and show off,
instead of to love us and character and self-respect--God forgive me!"
The room was profoundly silent: Charles thinking drowsily, yet vividly,
too, of his life; Matilda burning in anguish over the lost half, or more,
of the fortune--and Charles had always been secretive about his wealth,
so she didn't know how much the fortune was a year ago and couldn't judge
whether much or little was left! Enough to uphold her social position? Or
only enough to keep her barely clear of the "middle class"?
Soon Whitney's voice broke in upon her torments. "I've been thinking a
great deal, this last week, about Hiram Ranger."
Matilda, startled, gave him a wild look. "Charles!" she exclaimed.
"Exactly," said Whitney, a gleam of enjoyment in his dull eyes.
In fact, ever since Hiram's death his colossal figure had often dominated
the thoughts of Charles and Matilda Whitney. The will had set Charles to
observing, to _seeing_; it had set Matilda to speculating on the
possibilities of her own husband's stealthy relentlessness. At these
definite, dreadful words of his, her vague alarms burst into a deafening
chorus, jangling and clanging in her very ears.
"Arthur Ranger," continued Whitney, languid and absent, "has got out of
the beaten track of business--"
"Yes; look at Hiram's children!" urged Matilda. "Everybody that is
anybody is down on Arthur. See what his wife has brought him to, with her
crazy, upsetting ideas! They tell me a good many of the best people in
Saint X hardly speak to him. Yes, Charles, _look_ at Hiram's doings."
"Thanks to Hiram--what he inherited from Hiram and what Hiram had the
good sense not to let him inherit--he has become a somebody. He's doing
things, and the fact that they aren't just the kind of things I like
doesn't make me fool enough to underestimate them or him. Success is the
test, and in his line he's a success."
"If it hadn't been for his wife he'd not have done much," said
"You've lived long enough, I'd think, to have learned not to say such
shallow things," drawled he. "Of course, he has learned from her--don't
everybody have to learn somewhere? Where a man learns is nothing; the
important thing is his capacity to learn. If a man's got the capacity to
learn, he'll learn, he'll become somebody. If he hasn't, then no man nor
no woman can teach him. No, my dear, you may be sure that anybody who
amounts to anything has got it in himself. And Arthur Ranger is a credit
to any father. He's becoming famous--the papers are full of what he's
accomplishing. And he's respected, honest, able, with a wife that loves
him. Would he have been anybody if his father had left him the money that
would have compelled him to be a fool? As for the girl, she's got a showy
streak in her--she's your regular American woman of nowadays--the kind of
daughter your sort of mother and my sort of damn-fool father breed up.
But Del's mother wasn't like you, Mattie, and she hadn't a fool father
like me, so she's married to a young fellow that's already doing big
things, in his line--and a good line his is, a better line than trimming
dollars and donkeys. Our Jenny--Jane that used to be--We've sold her to a
Frenchman, and she's sold herself to the devil. Hiram's daughter--God
forgive us, Matilda, for what we've done to Janet." All this, including
that last devout appeal, in the manner of a spectator of a scene at which
he is taking a last, indifferent, backward glance as he is leaving.
His wife's brain was too busy making plans and tearing them up to follow
his monotonous garrulity except in a general way. He waited in vain for
her to defend her daughter and herself.
"As for Ross," he went on, "he's keen and quick enough. He's got
together quite a fortune of his own--and he'll hold on to it and get
more. It's easy enough to make money if you've got money--and ain't
too finicky about the look and the smell of the dollars before you
gulp 'em down. Your Ross has a good strong stomach that way--as good
as his father's--and mother's. But--He ain't exactly the man I used to
picture as I was wheeling him up and down the street in his baby
carriage in Saint X."
That vulgar reminiscence seemed to be the signal for which Matilda was
waiting. "Charles Whitney," she said, "you and I have brought up our
children to take their proper place in our aristocracy of wealth and
birth and breeding. And I know you're not going to undo what we've done,
and done well."
"That's your 'bossy' tone, Mattie," he drawled, his desire to talk
getting a fresh excuse for indulging itself. "I guess this is a good
time to let you into a secret. You've thought you ran me ever since we
were engaged. That delusion of yours nearly lost you the chance to lead
these thirty years of wedded bliss with me. If you hadn't happened to
make me jealous and afraid the one man I used to envy in those days
would get you--I laughed the other day when he was appointed postmaster
at Indianapolis--However, I did marry you, and did let you imagine you
wore the pants. It seemed to amuse you, and it certainly amused
me--though not in the same way. Now I want you to look back and think
hard. You can't remember a single time that what you bossed me to do was
ever done. I was always fond of playing tricks and pulling secret wires,
and I did a lot of it in making you think you were bossing me when you
were really being bossed."
It was all Mrs. Whitney could do to keep her mind on how sick he was, and
how imperative it was not to get him out of humor. "I never meant to try
to influence you, Charles," she said, "except as anyone tries to help
those about one. And certainly you've been the one that has put us all in
our present position. That's why it distressed me for you even to talk of
undoing your work."
Whitney smiled satirically, mysteriously. "I'll do what I think best,"
was all he replied. And presently he added, "though I don't feel like
doing anything. It seems to me I don't care what happens, or whether I
live--or--don't. I'll go to Saint X. I'm just about strong enough to
stand the trip--and have Schulze come out to Point Helen this evening."
"Why not save your strength and have him come here?" urged Matilda.
"He wouldn't," replied her husband. "Last time I saw him he looked me
over and said: 'Champagne. If you don't stop it you won't live. Don't
come here again unless you cut out that poison.' But I never could resist
champagne. So I told myself he was an old crank, and found a great doctor
I could hire to agree with me. No use to send for Schulze to come all
this distance. I might even have to go to his office if I was at Saint X.
He won't go to see anybody who's able to move about. 'As they want _me_,
let 'em come _to_ me, just as I'd go to them if I wanted them,' he says.
'The air they get on the way is part of the cure.' Besides, he and I had
a quarrel. He was talking his nonsense against religion, and I said
something, and he implied I wasn't as straight in business as I should
be--quoted something about 'He that hasteth to be rich shall not be
innocent,' and one thing led to another, and finally he said, with that
ugly jeer of his: 'You pious bandits are lucky to have a forgiving God to
go to. Now we poor devils have only our self-respect, and _it_ never
forgives anything.'" Whitney laughed, reflected, laughed again. "Yes, I
must see Schulze. Maybe--Anyhow, I'm going to Saint X--going home, or as
near home as anything my money has left me."
He drowsed off. She sat watching him--the great beak, the bulging
forehead, the thin, cruel lips; and everywhere in the garden of
artificial flowers which formed the surface of her nature, hiding its
reality even from herself, there appeared the poisonous snakes of hateful
thoughts to shoot their fangs and hiss at him. She shrank and shuddered;
yet--"It's altogether his own fault that I feel this way toward him as he
lies dying," she said to herself, resorting to human nature's unfailing,
universally sought comforter in all trying circumstances--self-excuse.
"He always was cold and hard. He has become a monster. And even in his
best days he wasn't worthy to have such a woman as I am. And now he is
thinking of cheating me--and will do it--unless God prevents him."
He drowsed on, more asleep than awake, not even rousing when they put him
to bed. He did not go to Saint X that day. But he did go later--went to
lie in state in the corridor of the splendid hall he had given Tecumseh;
to be gaped at by thousands who could not see that they were viewing a
few pounds of molded clay, so busy were their imaginations with the vast
fortune it was supposed he left; to be preached over, the sermon by Dr.
Hargrave, who believed in him--and so, in estimating the man as
distinguished from what the system he lived under had made of him,
perhaps came nearer the truth than those who talked only of the facts of
his public career--his piracy, his bushwhacking, his gambling with the
marked cards and loaded dice of "high finance"; to be buried in the old
Cedar Grove Cemetery, with an imposing monument presently over him,
before it fresh flowers every day for a year--the Marchioness of St.
Berthe contracted with a florist to attend to that.
* * * * *
Four days after the funeral Janet sent a servant down to Adelaide and to
Mrs. Ranger with notes begging them to come to Point Helen for lunch.
"We are lonely and _so_ dreary," she wrote Adelaide. "We want you--need
you." Only one answer was possible, and at half-past twelve they set out
in Mrs. Ranger's carriage. As they drove away from the Villa d'Orsay Mrs.
Ranger said: "When does Mrs. Dorsey allow to come home?"
"Not for two years more," replied Del.
Ellen's expression suggested that she was debating whether or not to
speak some thought which she feared Del might regard as meddlesome. "When
you finally do have to get out," she said presently, "it'll be like
giving up your own home, won't it?"
"No," said Del. "I hate the place!" A pause, then: "I wrote Mrs. Dorsey
yesterday that we wouldn't stay but three months longer--not in any
The old woman's face brightened. "I'm mighty glad of that," she said
heartily. "Then, you'll have a home of your own at last."
"Not exactly," was Del's reply, in a curious tone. "The fact is, I'm
going to live with Dr. Hargrave."
Ellen showed her astonishment. "And old Martha Skeffington!"
"She's not so difficult, once you get to know her," replied Del. "I find
that everything depends on the point of view you take in looking at
people. I've been getting better acquainted with Dory's aunt the last few
weeks. I think she has begun to like me. We'll get along."
"Don't you think you'd better wait till Dory gets back?"
"No," said Adelaide firmly, a look in her eyes which made her mother say
to herself: "There's the Ranger in her."
They drove in silence awhile; then Del, with an effort which brought a
bright color to her cheeks, began: "I want to tell you, mother, that I
went to Judge Torrey this morning, and made over to you the income
father left me."
"Whatever did you do _that_ for?" cried Ellen, turning in the seat to
stare at her daughter through her glasses.
"I promised Dory I would. I've spent some of the money--about fifteen
hundred dollars--You see, the house was more expensive than I thought.
But everything's paid up now."
"I don't need it, and don't want it," said Ellen. "And I won't take it!"
"I promised Dory I would--before we were married. He thinks I've done it.
I've let him think so. And--lately--I've been having a sort of house
cleaning--straightening things up--and I straightened that up, too."
Ellen Ranger understood. A long pause, during which she looked lovingly
at her daughter's beautiful face. At last she said: "No, there don't seem
to be no other way out of it." Then, anxiously, "You ain't written Dory
what you've done?"
"No," replied Del. "Not yet."
"Not never!" exclaimed her mother. "That's one of the things a body
mustn't ever tell anyone. You did wrong; you've done right--and it's all
settled and over. He'd probably understand if you told him. But he'd
never quite trust you the same again--that's human nature."
"But _you'd_ trust me," objected Del.
"I'm older'n Dory," replied her mother; "and, besides, I ain't your
husband. There's no end of husbands and wives that get into hot water
through telling, where it don't do any earthly good and makes the other
one uneasy and unhappy."
Adelaide reflected. "It _is_ better not to tell him," she concluded.
Ellen was relieved. "That's common sense," said she. "And you can't use
too much common sense in marriage. The woman's got to have it, for the
men never do where women are concerned." She reflected a few minutes,
then, after a keen glance at her daughter and away, she said with an
appearance of impersonality that evidenced diplomatic skill of no mean
order: "And there's this habit the women are getting nowadays of always
peeping into their heads and hearts to see what's going on. How can they
expect the cake to bake right if they're first at the fire door, then at
the oven door, openin' and shuttin' 'em, peepin' and pokin' and
tastin'--that's what _I'd_ like to know."
Adelaide looked at her mother's apparently unconscious face in surprise
and admiration. "What a sensible, wonderful woman you are, Ellen Ranger!"
she exclaimed, giving her mother the sisterly name she always gave her
when she felt a particular delight in the bond between them. And half to
herself, yet so that her mother heard, she added: "And what a fool your
daughter has been!"
"Nobody's born wise," said Ellen, "and mighty few takes the trouble
At Point Helen the mourning livery of the lodge keeper and of the hall
servants prepared Ellen and her daughter for the correct and elegant
habiliments of woe in which Matilda and her son and daughter were garbed.
If Whitney had died before he began to lose his fortune, and while his
family were in a good humor with him because of his careless generosity,
or, rather, indifference to extravagance, he would have been mourned as
sincerely as it is possible for human beings to mourn one by whose death
they are to profit enormously in title to the material possessions they
have been trained to esteem above all else in the world. As it was, those
last few months of anxiety--Mrs. Whitney worrying lest her luxury and
social leadership should be passing, Ross exasperated by the daily
struggle to dissuade his father from fatuous enterprises--had changed
Whitney's death from a grief to a relief. However, "appearances"
constrained Ross to a decent show of sorrow, compelled Mrs. Whitney to a
still stronger exhibit. Janet, who in far-away France had not been
touched by the financial anxieties, felt a genuine grief that gave her an
admirable stimulus to her efflorescent oversoul. She had "prepared for
the worst," had brought from Paris a marvelous mourning wardrobe--dresses
and hats and jewelry that set off her delicate loveliness as it had never
been set off before. She made of herself an embodiment, an apotheosis,
rather, of poetic woe--and so, roused to emulation her mother's passion
for pose. Ross had refused to gratify them even to the extent of taking a
spectator's part in their refined theatricals. The coming of Mrs. Ranger
and Adelaide gave them an audience other than servile; they proceeded to
strive to rise to the opportunity. The result of this struggle between
mother and daughter was a spectacle so painful that even Ellen,
determined to see only sincerity, found it impossible not to suspect a
grief that could find so much and such language in which to vent itself.
She fancied she appreciated why Ross eyed his mother and sister with
unconcealed hostility and spoke almost harshly when they compelled him to
break his silence.
Adelaide hardly gave the two women a thought. She was surprised to find
that she was looking at Ross and thinking of him quite calmly and most
critically. His face seemed to her trivial, with a selfishness that more
than suggested meanness, the eyes looking out from a mind which
habitually entertained ideas not worth a real man's while. What was the
matter with him--"or with me?" What is he thinking about? Why is he
looking so mean and petty? Why had he no longer the least physical
attraction for her? Why did her intense emotions of a few brief weeks
ago seem as vague as an unimportant occurrence of many years ago? What
had broken the spell? She could not answer her own puzzled questions;
she simply knew that it was so, that any idea that she did, or ever
could, love Ross Whitney was gone, and gone forever. "It's so," she
thought. "What's the difference why? Shall I never learn to let the
stove doors alone?"
As soon as lunch was over Matilda took Ellen to her boudoir and Ross went
away, leaving Janet and Adelaide to walk up and down the shaded west
terrace with its vast outlook upon the sinuous river and the hills. To
draw Janet from the painful theatricals, she took advantage of a casual
question about the lynching, and went into the details of that red
evening as she had not with anyone. It was now almost two months into the
past; but all Saint X was still feverish from it, and she herself had
only begun again to have unhaunted and unbroken sleep. While she was
relating Janet forgot herself; but when the story was told--all of it
except Adelaide's own part; that she entirely omitted--Janet went back to
her personal point of view. "A beautiful love story!" she exclaimed. "And
right here in prosaic Saint X!"
"Is it Saint X that is prosaic," said Adelaide, "or is it we, in failing
to see the truth about familiar things?"
"Perhaps," replied Janet, in the tone that means "not at all." To her a
thrill of emotion or a throb of pain felt by a titled person differed
from the same sensation in an untitled person as a bar of supernal or
infernal music differs from the whistling of a farm boy on his way to
gather the eggs; if the title was royal--Janet wept when an empress died
of a cancer and talked of her "heroism" for weeks.
"Of course," she went on musingly, to Adelaide, "it was very beautiful
for Lorry and Estelle to love each other. Still, I can't help feeling
that--At least, I can understand Arden Wilmot's rage. After all, Estelle
stepped out of her class; didn't she, Del?"
"Yes," said Del, not recognizing the remark as one she herself might have
made not many months before. "Both she and Lorry stepped out of their
classes, and into the class where there is no class, but only just men
and women, hearts and hands and brains." She checked herself just in time
to refrain from adding, "the class our fathers and mothers belonged in."
Janet did not inquire into the mystery of this. "And Estelle has gone to
live with poor Lorry's mother!" said she. "How noble and touching! Such
"Why self-sacrifice?" asked Del, irritated. "She couldn't possibly go
home, could she? And she is fond of Lorry's mother."
"Yes, of course. No doubt she's a dear, lovely old woman. But--a
washerwoman, and constant, daily contact--and not as lady and servant,
but on what must be, after all, a sort of equality--" Janet finished her
sentence with a ladylike look.
Adelaide burned with the resentment of the new convert. "A woman who
brought into the world and brought up such a son as Lorry was," said she,
"needn't yield to anybody." Then the silliness of arguing such a matter
with Madame la Marquise de Saint Berthe came over her. "You and I don't
look at life from the same standpoint, Janet," she added, smiling. "You
see, you're a lady, and I'm not--any more."
"Oh, yes, you are," Janet, the devoid of the sense of humor, hastened to
assure her earnestly. "You know we in France don't feel as they do in
America, that one gets or loses caste when one gets or loses money.
Besides, Dory is in a profession that is quite aristocratic, and those
lectures he delivered at Goettingen are really talked about everywhere on
the other side."
But Adelaide refused to be consoled. "No, I'm not a lady--not what you'd
call a lady, even as a Frenchwoman."
"Oh, but _I_'m a good American!" Janet protested, suddenly prudent and
rushing into the pretenses our transplanted and acclimatized sisters are
careful to make when talking with us of the land whence comes their sole
claim to foreign aristocratic consideration--their income. "I'm really
quite famous for my Americanism. I've done a great deal toward
establishing our ambassador at Paris in the best society. Coming from a
republic and to a republic that isn't recognized by our set in France, he
was having a hard time, though he and his wife are all right at home. Now
that there are more gentlemen in authority at Washington, our diplomats
are of a much better class than they used to be. Everyone over there says
so. Of course, you--that is we, are gradually becoming civilized and
building up an aristocracy."
"Yes, I suppose so," said Adelaide, feeling that she must change the
subject or show her exasperation, yet unable to find any subject which
Janet would not adorn with refined and cultured views. "Isn't Ross,
there, looking for you?"
He had just rushed from the house, his face, his manner violently
agitated. As he saw Adelaide looking at him, he folded and put in his
pocket a letter which seemed to be the cause of his agitation. When the
two young women came to where he was standing, he joined them and walked
up and down with them, his sister, between him and Del, doing all the
talking. Out of the corner of her eye Del saw that his gaze was bent
savagely upon the ground and that his struggle for self-control was still
on. At the first opportunity she said: "I must get mother. We'll have to
"Oh, no, not yet," urged Janet, sincerity strong in her affected accents.
Del felt that the sister, for some reason, as strongly wished not to be
left alone with the brother as the brother wished to be left alone with
the sister. In confirmation of this, Janet went on to say: "Anyhow, Ross
will tell your mother."
Ross scowled at his sister, made a hesitating, reluctant movement toward
the steps; just then Matilda and Ellen appeared. Adelaide saw that her
mother had succeeded in getting through Matilda's crust of sham and in
touch with her heart. At sight of her son Mrs. Whitney's softened
countenance changed--hardened, Adelaide thought--and she said to him
eagerly: "Any news, any letters?"
"This," answered Ross explosively. He jerked the letter from his pocket,
gave it to his mother.
"You'll excuse me--Ellen--Adelaide," said Matilda, as she unfolded the
paper with ringers that trembled. "This is very important." Silence, as
she read, her eager glance leaping along the lines. Her expression became
terrible; she burst out in a voice that was both anger and despair: "No
will! He wasn't just trying to torment me when he said he hadn't made
one. No will! Nothing but the draft of a scheme to leave everything to
Tecumseh--there's your Hiram's work, Ellen!"
Adelaide's gentle pressure on her mother's arm was unnecessary; it was
too evident that Matilda, beside herself, could not be held responsible
for anything she said. There was no pretense, no "oversoul" in her
emotion now. She was as different from the Matilda of the luncheon table
as the swollen and guttered face of woe in real life is different from
the graceful tragedy of the stage.
"No will; what of it?" said Ellen gently. "It won't make the least
difference. There's just you and the children."
Adelaide, with clearer knowledge of certain dark phases of human nature
and of the Whitney family, hastily interposed. "Yes, we must go," said
she. "Good-by, Mrs. Whitney," and she put out her hand.
Mrs. Whitney neither saw nor heard. "Ellen!" she cried, her voice like
her wild and haggard face. "What do you think of such a daughter as mine
here? Her father--"
Janet, with eyes that dilated and contracted strangely, interrupted with
a sweet, deprecating, "Good-by, Adelaide dear. As I told you, I am
There Ross laid his hand heavily on Janet's shoulder. "You are going to
stay, young lady," he said between his teeth, "and hear what your mother
has to say about you." His voice made Adelaide shudder, even before she
saw the black hate his eyes were hurling at his sister.
"Yes, we want you, Ellen, and you, Del, to know her as she is," Mrs.
Whitney now raged on. "When she married, her father gave her a dowry,
bought that title for her--paid as much as his whole fortune now amounts
to. He did it solely because I begged him to. She knows the fight I had
to win him over. And now that he's gone, without making a will, she says
she'll have her _legal_ rights! Her _legal_ rights! She'll take
_one-third_ of what he left. She'll rob her brother and her mother!"
Janet was plainly reminding herself that she must not forget that she was
a lady and a marchioness. In a manner in which quiet dignity was mingled
with a delicate soul's shrinking from such brawling vulgarity as this
that was being forced upon her, she said, looking at Adelaide: "Papa
never intended that my dowry should be taken out of my share. It was a
present." She looked calmly at her mother. "Just like your jewels,
mamma." She turned her clear, luminous eyes upon Ross. "Just like the
opportunities he gave you to get your independent fortune."
Mrs. Whitney, trembling so that she could scarcely articulate, retorted:
"At the time he said, and I told you, it was to come out of your share.
And how you thanked me and kissed me and--" She stretched toward Ellen
her shaking old woman's hands, made repellent by the contrasting splendor
of magnificent black pearl rings. "O Ellen, Ellen!" she quavered. "I
think my heart will burst!"
"You did _say_ he said so," replied Janet softly, "but _he_ never
"You--you--" stuttered Ross, flinging out his arms at her in a
paroxysm of fury.
"I refuse to discuss this any further," said Janet, drawing herself up
in the full majesty of her black-robed figure and turning her long
shapely back on Ross. "Mrs. Ranger, I'm sure you and Del realize that
mother and Ross are terribly upset, and not--"
"They'll realize that you are a cheat, a vulture in the guise of woman!"
cried Mrs. Whitney. "Ellen, tell her what she is!"
Mrs. Ranger, her eyes down and her face expressing her agonized
embarrassment, contrived to say: "You mustn't bring me in, Mattie.
Adelaide and I must go."
"No, you _shall_ hear!" shrieked Mrs. Whitney, barring the way. "All the
world shall hear how this treacherous, ingrate daughter of mine--oh, the
sting of that!--how she purposes to steal, yes, steal four times as much
of her father's estate as Ross or I get. Four times as much! I can't
believe the law allows it! But whether it does or not, Janet Whitney,
_God_ won't allow it! God will hear my cry, my curse on you."
"My conscience is clear," said Janet, and her gaze, spiritual, exalted,
patient, showed that she spoke the truth, that her mother's looks and
words left her quite unscathed.
Ross vented a vicious, jeering laugh. His mother, overcome with the
sense of helplessness, collapsed from rage to grief and tears. She
turned to Mrs. Ranger. "Your Hiram was right," she wailed, "and my
Charles said so just before he went. Look at my daughter, Ellen. Look at
my son--for he, too, is robbing me. He has his own fortune that his dead
father made for him; yet he, too, talks about his legal rights. He
demands his full third!"
Adelaide did not look at Ross; yet she was seeing him inside and out, the
inside through the outside.
"My heartless children!" sobbed Matilda. "I can't believe that they are
the same I brought into the world and watched over and saw that they had
everything. God forgive them--and me. Your Hiram was right. Money has
done it. Money has made monsters of them. And I--oh, how I am punished!"
All this time Ellen and Adelaide had been gradually retreating, the
Whitneys following them. When Mrs. Whitney at last opened wide the
casket of her woe and revealed Ross there, too, he wheeled on Adelaide
with a protesting, appealing look. He was confident that he was in the
right, that his case was different from Janet's; confident also that
Adelaide would feel that in defending his rights he was also defending
hers that were to be. But before Del there had risen the scene after the
reading of her own father's will. She recalled her rebellious thoughts,
saw again Arthur's fine face distorted by evil passions, heard again her
mother's terrible, just words: "Don't trample on your father's grave,
Arthur Ranger! I'll put you both out of the house! Go to the Whitneys,
where you belong!" And then she saw Arthur as he now was, and herself
the wife of Dory Hargrave. And she for the first time realized, as we
realize things only when they have become an accepted and unshakable
basic part of our lives, what her father had done, what her father was.
Hiram had won his daughter.
"We are going now," said Ellen, coming from the stupor of shame and
horror into which this volcanic disgorging of the secret minds and hearts
of the Whitneys had plunged her. And the expression she fixed first upon
Janet, then upon Ross, then upon Matilda, killed any disposition they
might have had to try to detain her. As she and Adelaide went toward her
carriage, Ross followed. Walking beside Adelaide, he began to protest in
a low tone and with passionate appeal against the verdict he could not
but read in her face. "It isn't fair, it isn't just!" he pleaded.
"Adelaide, hear me! Don't misjudge me. You know what your--your good
opinion means to me."
She took her mother's arm, and so drew farther away from him.
"Forgive me," he begged. "Janet put me out of my mind. It drove me mad to
have her rob--_us_."
At that "us" Adelaide fixed her gaze on his for an instant. And what he
saw in her eyes silenced him--silenced him on one subject forever.
He left for Chicago without seeing either his sister or his mother
again. His impulse was to renounce to his mother his share of his
father's estate. But one does not act hastily upon an impulse to give up
nearly a million dollars. On reflection he decided against such
expensive and futile generosity. If it would gain him Adelaide--then,
yes. But when it would gain him nothing but the applause of people who
in the same circumstances would not have had even the impulse to forego
a million--"Mother's proper share will give her as much of an income as
a woman needs at her age and alone," reasoned he. "Besides, she may
marry again. And I must not forget that but for her Janet would never
have got that dowry. She brought this upon herself. Her folly has cost
me dearly enough. If I go away to live abroad or in New York--anywhere
to be free of the Howlands--why I'll need all I've got properly to
Janet and her baby left on a later train for the East. Before going she
tried to see her mother. Her mother had wronged her in thought, had
slandered her in word; but Janet forgave her and nobly wished her to have
the consolation of knowing it. Mrs. Whitney, however, prevented the
execution of this exalted purpose by refusing to answer the gentle
persistent knocking and gentle appealing calls of "Mother, mother dear!"
at her locked boudoir door.
THE DOOR AJAR
Judge Torrey succeeded Whitney as chairman of the overseers of Tecumseh
and in the vacant trusteeship of the Ranger bequest. Soon Dr. Hargrave,
insisting that he was too old for the labors of the presidency of such a
huge and varied institution as the university had become, was made
honorary president, and his son, still in Europe, was elected chairman of
the faculty. Toward the middle of a fine afternoon in early September Dr.
Hargrave and his daughter-in-law drove to the railway station in the
ancient and roomy phaeton which was to Saint X as much part of his
personality as the aureole of glistening white hair that framed his
majestic head, or as the great plaid shawl that had draped his big
shoulders with their student stoop every winter day since anyone could
remember. Despite his long exposure to the temptation to sink into the
emasculate life of unapplied intellect, mere talker and writer, and to
adopt that life's flabby ideals, he had remained the man of ideas, the
man of action. His learning was all but universal, yet he had the rugged,
direct vigor of the man of affairs. His was not the knowledge that
enfeebles, but the knowledge that empowers. As his son, the new executive
of the university--with the figure of a Greek athlete, with positive
character, will as well as intellect, stamped upon his young
face--appeared in the crowd, the onlookers had the sense that a
"somebody" had arrived. Dory's always was the air an active mind never
fails to give; as Judge Torrey once said: "You've only got to look at him
to see he's the kind that does things, not the kind that tells how they
used to be done or how they oughtn't to be done." Now there was in his
face and bearing the subtly but surely distinguishing quality that comes
only with the strength a man gets when his fellows acknowledge his
leadership, when he has seen the creations of his brain materialize in
work accomplished. Every successful man has this look, and shows it
according to his nature--the arrogant arrogantly; the well-balanced with
As he moved toward his father and Adelaide, her heart swelled with pride
in him, with pride in her share in him. Ever since the sending of the
cablegram to recall him, she had been wondering what she would feel at
sight of him. Now she forgot all about her once-beloved self-analysis.
She was simply proud of him, enormously proud; other men seemed trivial
beside this personage. Also she was a little afraid; for, as their eyes
met, it seemed to her that his look of recognition and greeting was not
so ardent as she was accustomed to associate with his features when
turned toward her. But before she could be daunted by her misgiving it
vanished; for he impetuously caught her in his arms and, utterly
forgetting the onlookers, kissed her until every nerve in her body was
tingling in the sweeping flame of that passion which his parting caress
had stirred to vague but troublesome restlessness. And she, too, forgot
the crowd, and shyly, proudly gave as well as received; so there began to
vibrate between them the spark that clears brains and hearts of the fogs
and vapors and keeps them clear. And it was not a problem in psychology
that was revealed to those admiring and envying spectators in the
brilliant September sunshine, but a man and a woman in love in the way
that has been "the way of a man with a maid" from the beginning; in love,
and each looking worthy of the other's love--he handsome in his blue
serge, she beautiful in a light-brown fall dress with pale-gold facings,
and the fluffy, feathery boa close round her fair young face.
Civilization has changed methods, but not essentials; it is still not
what goes on in the minds of a man and woman that counts, but what goes
on in their hearts and nerves.
The old doctor did not in the least mind the momentary neglect of
himself. He had always assumed that his son and Del loved each other,
there being every reason why they should and no reason why they
shouldn't; he saw only the natural and the expected in this outburst
which astonished and somewhat embarrassed them with the partial return of
the self-consciousness that had been their curse. He beamed on them from
eyes undimmed by half a century of toil, as bright under his shaggy white
brows as the first spring flowers among the snows. As soon as he had
Dory's hand and his apparent attention, he said: "I hope you've been
getting your address ready on the train, as I suggested in my telegram."
"I've got it in my bag," replied Dory.
In the phaeton Del sat between them and drove. Dory forgot the honors he
had come home to receive; he had eyes and thoughts only for her, was
impatient to be alone with her, to reassure himself of the meaning of the
blushes that tinted her smooth white skin and the shy glances that stole
toward him from the violet eyes under those long lashes of hers. Dr.
Hargrave resumed the subject that was to him paramount. "You see,
Theodore, your steamer's being nearly two days late brings you home just
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