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Title: Far Country, a — Volume 3
Author: Churchill, Winston, 1871-1947
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A FAR COUNTRY

By Winston Churchill


BOOK 3.



XVIII.

As the name of our city grew to be more and more a byword for sudden and
fabulous wealth, not only were the Huns and the Slavs, the Czechs and the
Greeks drawn to us, but it became the fashion for distinguished
Englishmen and Frenchmen and sometimes Germans and Italians to pay us a
visit when they made the grand tour of America. They had been told that
they must not miss us; scarcely a week went by in our community--so it
was said--in which a full-fledged millionaire was not turned out. Our
visitors did not always remain a week,--since their rapid journeyings
from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to the Gulf rarely occupied
more than four,--but in the books embodying their mature comments on the
manners, customs and crudities of American civilization no less than a
chapter was usually devoted to us; and most of the adjectives in their
various languages were exhausted in the attempt to prove how symptomatic
we were of the ambitions and ideals of the Republic. The fact that many
of these gentlemen--literary and otherwise--returned to their own shores
better fed and with larger balances in the banks than when they departed
is neither here nor there. Egyptians are proverbially created to be
spoiled.

The wiser and more fortunate of these travellers and students of life
brought letters to Mr. and Mrs. Hambleton Durrett. That household was
symptomatic--if they liked--of the new order of things; and it was rare
indeed when both members of it were at home to entertain them. If Mr.
Durrett were in the city, and they did not happen to be Britons with
sporting proclivities, they simply were not entertained: when Mrs.
Durrett received them dinners were given in their honour on the Durrett
gold plate, and they spent cosey and delightful hours conversing with her
in the little salon overlooking the garden, to return to their hotels and
jot down paragraphs on the superiority of the American women over the
men. These particular foreigners did not lay eyes on Mr. Durrett, who was
in Florida or in the East playing polo or engaged in some other pursuit.
One result of the lavishness and luxury that amazed them they wrote--had
been to raise the standard of culture of the women, who were our leisure
class. But the travellers did not remain long enough to arrive at any
conclusions of value on the effect of luxury and lavishness on the sacred
institution of marriage.

If Mr. Nathaniel Durrett could have returned to his native city after
fifteen years or so in the grave, not the least of the phenomena to
startle him would have been that which was taking place in his own house.
For he would have beheld serenely established in that former abode of
Calvinism one of the most reprehensible of exotic abominations, a
'mariage de convenance;' nor could he have failed to observe, moreover,
the complacency with which the descendants of his friends, the pew
holders in Dr. Pound's church, regarded the matter: and not only these,
but the city at large. The stronghold of Scotch Presbyterianism had
become a London or a Paris, a Gomorrah!

Mrs. Hambleton Durrett went her way, and Mr. Durrett his. The less said
about Mr. Durrett's way--even in this suddenly advanced age--the better.
As for Nancy, she seemed to the distant eye to be walking through life in
a stately and triumphant manner. I read in the newspapers of her doings,
her comings and goings; sometimes she was away for months together, often
abroad; and when she was at home I saw her, but infrequently, under
conditions more or less formal. Not that she was formal,--or I: our
intercourse seemed eloquent of an intimacy in a tantalizing state of
suspense. Would that intimacy ever be renewed? This was a question on
which I sometimes speculated. The situation that had suspended or put an
end to it, as the case might be, was never referred to by either of us.

One afternoon in the late winter of the year following that in which we
had given a dinner to the Scherers (where the Durretts had rather
marvellously appeared together) I left my office about three o'clock--a
most unusual occurrence. I was restless, unable to fix my mind on my
work, filled with unsatisfied yearnings the object of which I sought to
keep vague, and yet I directed my steps westward along Boyne Street until
I came to the Art Museum, where a loan exhibition was being held. I
entered, bought a catalogue, and presently found myself standing before
number 103, designated as a portrait of Mrs. Hambleton Durrett,--painted
in Paris the autumn before by a Polish artist then much in vogue,
Stanislaus Czesky. Nancy--was it Nancy?--was standing facing me, tall,
superb in the maturity of her beauty, with one hand resting on an antique
table, a smile upon her lips, a gentle mockery in her eyes as though
laughing at the world she adorned. With the smile and the
mockery--somehow significant, too, of an achieved inaccessibility--went
the sheen of her clinging gown and the glint of the heavy pearls drooping
from her high throat to her waist. These caught the eye, but failed at
length to hold it, for even as I looked the smile faded, the mockery
turned to wistfulness. So I thought, and looked again--to see the
wistfulness: the smile had gone, the pearls seemed heavier. Was it a
trick of the artist? had he seen what I saw, or thought I saw? or was it
that imagination which by now I might have learned to suspect and
distrust. Wild longings took possession of me, for the portrait had
seemed to emphasize at once how distant now she was from me, and yet how
near! I wanted to put that nearness to the test. Had she really changed?
did anyone really change? and had I not been a fool to accept the
presentment she had given me? I remembered those moments when our glances
had met as across barriers in flashes of understanding. After all, the
barriers were mere relics of the superstition of the past. What if I went
to her now? I felt that I needed her as I never had needed anyone in all
my life.... I was aroused by the sound of lowered voices beside me.

"That's Mrs. Hambleton Durrett," I heard a woman say. "Isn't she
beautiful?"

The note of envy struck me sharply--horribly. Without waiting to listen
to the comment of her companion I hurried out of the building into the
cold, white sunlight that threw into bold relief the mediocre houses of
the street. Here was everyday life, but the portrait had suggested that
which might have been--might be yet. What did I mean by this? I didn't
know, I didn't care to define it,--a renewal of her friendship, of our
intimacy. My being cried out for it, and in the world in which I lived we
took what we wanted--why not this? And yet for an instant I stood on the
sidewalk to discover that in new situations I was still subject to
unaccountable qualms of that thing I had been taught to call
"conscience"; whether it were conscience or not must be left to the
psychologists. I was married--terrible word! the shadow of that
Institution fell athwart me as the sun went under a cloud; but the sun
came out again as I found myself walking toward the Durrett house
reflecting that numbers of married men called on Nancy, and that what I
had in mind in regard to her was nothing that the court would have
pronounced an infringement upon the Institution.... I reached her steps,
the long steps still guarded by the curved wrought-iron railings
reminiscent of Nathaniel's day, though the "portals" were gone, a modern
vestibule having replaced them; I rang the bell; the butler, flung open
the doors. He, at any rate, did not seem surprised to see me here, he
greeted me with respectful cordiality and led me, as a favoured guest,
through the big drawing-room into the salon.

"Mr. Paret, Madam!"

Nancy, rose quickly from the low chair where she sat cutting the pages of
a French novel.

"Hugh!" she exclaimed. "I'm out if anyone calls. Bring tea," she added to
the man, who retired. For a moment we stood gazing at each other,
questioningly. "Well, won't you sit down and stay awhile?" she asked.

I took a chair on the opposite side of the fire.

"I just thought I'd drop in," I said.

"I am flattered," said Nancy, "that a person so affaire should find time
to call on an old friend. Why, I thought you never left your office until
seven o'clock."

"I don't, as a rule, but to-day I wasn't particularly busy, and I thought
I'd go round to the Art Museum and look at your portrait."

"More flattery! Hugh, you're getting quite human. What do you think of
it?"

"I like it. I think it quite remarkable."

"Have a cigarette!"

I took one.

"So you really like it," she said.

"Don't you?"

"Oh, I think it's a trifle--romantic," she replied "But that's Czesky. He
made me quite cross,--the feminine presentation of America, the spoiled
woman who has shed responsibilities and is beginning to have a
glimpse--just a little one--of the emptiness of it all."

I was stirred.

"Then why do you accept it, if it isn't you?" I demanded. "One doesn't
refuse Czesky's canvases," she replied. "And what difference does it
make? It amused him, and he was fairly subtle about it. Only those who
are looking for romance, like you, are able to guess what he meant, and
they would think they saw it anyway, even if he had painted me--extinct."

"Extinct!" I repeated.

She laughed.

"Hugh, you're a silly old goose!"

"That's why I came here, I think, to be told so," I said.

Tea was brought in. A sense of at-homeness stole over me,--I was more at
home here in this room with Nancy, than in any other place in the world;
here, where everything was at once soothing yet stimulating, expressive
of her, even the smaller objects that caught my eye,--the crystal
inkstand tipped with gold, the racks for the table books, her
paper-cutter. Nancy's was a discriminating luxury. And her talk! The
lightness with which she touched life, the unexplored depths of her,
guessed at but never fathomed! Did she feel a little the need of me as I
felt the need of her?

"Why, I believe you're incurably romantic, Hugh," she said laughingly,
when the men had left the room. "Here you are, what they call a paragon
of success, a future senator, Ambassador to England. I hear of those
remarkable things you have done--even in New York the other day a man was
asking me if I knew Mr. Paret, and spoke of you as one of the coming men.
I suppose you will be moving there, soon. A practical success! It always
surprises me when I think of it, I find it difficult to remember what a
dreamer you were and here you turn out to be still a dreamer! Have you
discovered, too, the emptiness of it all?" she inquired provokingly. "I
must say you don't look it"--she gave me a critical, quizzical
glance--"you look quite prosperous and contented, as though you enjoyed
your power."

I laughed uneasily.

"And then," she continued, "and then one day when your luncheon has
disagreed with you--you walk into a gallery and see a portrait of--of an
old friend for whom in youth, when you were a dreamer, you professed a
sentimental attachment, and you exclaim that the artist is a discerning
man who has discovered the secret that she has guarded so closely. She's
sorry that she ever tried to console herself with baubles it's what
you've suspected all along. But you'll just run around to see for
yourself--to be sure of it." And she handed me my tea. "Come now,
confess. Where are your wits--I hear you don't lack them in court."

"Well," I said, "if that amuses you--"

"It does amuse me," said Nancy, twining her fingers across her knee and
regarding me smilingly, with parted lips, "it amuses me a lot--it's so
characteristic."

"But it's not true, it's unjust," I protested vigorously, smiling, too,
because the attack was so characteristic of her.

"What then?" she demanded.

"Well, in the first place, my luncheon didn't disagree with me. It never
does."

She laughed. "But the sentiment--come now--the sentiment? Do you perceive
any hint of emptiness--despair?"

Our chairs were very close, and she leaned forward a little.

"Emptiness or no emptiness," I said a little tremulously, "I know that I
haven't been so contented, so happy for a long time."

She sat very still, but turned her gaze on the fire.

"You really wouldn't want to find that, Hugh," she said in another voice,
at which I exclaimed. "No, I'm not being sentimental. But, to be serious,
I really shouldn't care to think that of you. I'd like to think of you as
a friend--a good friend--although we don't see very much of one another."

"But that's why I came, Nancy," I explained. "It wasn't just an
impulse--that is, I've been thinking of you a great deal, all along. I
miss you, I miss the way you look at things--your point of view. I can't
see any reason why we shouldn't see something of each other--now--"

She continued to stare into the fire.

"No," she said at length, "I suppose there isn't any reason." Her mood
seemed suddenly to change as she bent over and extinguished the flame
under the kettle. "After all," she added gaily, "we live in a tolerant
age, we've reached the years of discretion, and we're both too
conventional to do anything silly--even if we wanted to--which we don't.
We're neither of us likely to quarrel with the world as it is, I think,
and we might as well make fun of it together. We'll begin with our
friends. What do you think of Mr. Scherer's palace?"

"I hear you're building it for him."

"I told him to get Eyre," said Nancy, laughingly, "I was afraid he'd
repeat the Gallatin Park monstrosity on a larger scale, and Eyre's the
only man in this country who understands the French. It's been rather
amusing," she went on, "I've had to fight Hilda, and she's no mean
antagonist. How she hates me! She wanted a monstrosity, of course, a
modernized German rock-grotto sort of an affair, I can imagine. She's
been so funny when I've met her at dinner. 'I understand you take a great
interest in the house, Mrs. Durrett.' Can't you hear her?"

"Well, you did get ahead of her," I said.

"I had to. I couldn't let our first citizen build a modern Rhine castle,
could I? I have some public spirit left. And besides, I expect to build
on Grant Avenue myself."

"And leave here?"

"Oh, it's too grubby, it's in the slums," said Nancy. "But I really owe
you a debt of gratitude, Hugh, for the Scherers."

"I'm told Adolf's lost his head over you."

"It's not only over me, but over everything. He's so ridiculously proud
of being on the board of the Children's Hospital.... You ought to hear
him talking to old Mrs. Ogilvy, who of course can't get used to him at
all,--she always has the air of inquiring what he's doing in that galley.
She still thinks of him as Mr. Durrett's foreman."

The time flew. Her presence was like a bracing, tingling atmosphere in
which I felt revived and exhilarated, self-restored. For Nancy did not
question--she took me as I was. We looked out on the world, as it were,
from the same window, and I could not help thinking that ours, after all,
was a large view. The topics didn't matter--our conversation was fragrant
with intimacy; and we were so close to each other it seemed incredible
that we ever should be parted again. At last the little clock on the
mantel chimed an hour, she started and looked up.

"Why, it's seven, Hugh!" she exclaimed, rising. "I'd no idea it was so
late, and I'm dining with the Dickinsons. I've only just time to dress."

"It's been like a reunion, hasn't it?--a reunion after many years," I
said. I held her hand unconsciously--she seemed to be drawing me to her,
I thought she swayed, and a sudden dizziness seized me. Then she drew
away abruptly, with a little cry. I couldn't be sure about the cry,
whether I heard it or not, a note was struck in the very depths of me.

"Come in again," she said, "whenever you're not too busy." And a minute
later I found myself on the street.

This was the beginning of a new intimacy with Nancy, resembling the old
intimacy yet differing from it. The emotional note of our parting on the
occasion I have just related was not again struck, and when I went
eagerly to see her again a few days later I was conscious of
limitations,--not too conscious: the freedom she offered and which I
gladly accepted was a large freedom, nor am I quite sure that even I
would have wished it larger, though there were naturally moments when I
thought so: when I asked myself what I did wish, I found no answer.
Though I sometimes chafed, it would have been absurd of me to object to a
certain timidity or caution I began to perceive in her that had been
absent in the old Nancy; but the old Nancy had ceased to exist, and here
instead was a highly developed, highly specialized creature in whom I
delighted; and after taking thought I would not have robbed her of fine
acquired attribute. As she had truly observed, we were both conventional;
conventionality was part of the price we had willingly paid for
membership in that rarer world we had both achieved. It was a world, to
be sure, in which we were rapidly learning to take the law into our own
hands without seeming to defy it, in order that the fear of it might
remain in those less fortunately placed and endowed: we had begun with
the appropriation of the material property of our fellow-citizens, which
we took legally; from this point it was, of course, merely a logical step
to take--legally, too other gentlemen's human property--their wives, in
short: the more progressive East had set us our example, but as yet we
had been chary to follow it.

About this time rebellious voices were beginning to make themselves heard
in the literary wilderness proclaiming liberty--liberty of the sexes.
There were Russian novels and French novels, and pioneer English novels
preaching liberty with Nietzschean stridency, or taking it for granted. I
picked these up on Nancy's table.

"Reading them?" she said, in answer to my query. "Of course I'm reading
them. I want to know what these clever people are thinking, even if I
don't always agree with them, and you ought to read them too. It's quite
true what foreigners say about our men,--that they live in a groove, that
they haven't any range of conversation."

"I'm quite willing to be educated," I replied. "I haven't a doubt that I
need it."

She was leaning back in her chair, her hands behind her head, a posture
she often assumed. She looked up at me amusedly.

"I'll acknowledge that you're more teachable than most of them," she
said. "Do you know, Hugh, sometimes you puzzle me greatly. When you are
here and we're talking together I can never think of you as you are out
in the world, fighting for power--and getting it. I suppose it's part of
your charm, that there is that side of you, but I never consciously
realize it. You're what they call a dual personality."

"That's a pretty hard name!" I exclaimed.

She laughed.

"I can't help it--you are. Oh, not disagreeably so, quite
normally--that's the odd thing about you. Sometimes I believe that you
were made for something different, that in spite of your success you have
missed your 'metier.'"

"What ought I to have been?"

"How can I tell? A Goethe, perhaps--a Goethe smothered by a
twentieth-century environment. Your love of adventure isn't dead, it's
been merely misdirected, real adventure, I mean, forth faring, straying
into unknown paths. Perhaps you haven't yet found yourself."

"How uncanny!" I said, stirred and startled.

"You have a taste for literature, you know, though you've buried it. Give
me Turgeniev. We'll begin with him...."

Her reading and the talks that followed it were exciting, amazingly
stimulating.... Once Nancy gave me an amusing account of a debate which
had taken place in the newly organized woman's discussion club to which
she belonged over a rather daring book by an English novelist. Mrs.
Dickinson had revolted.

"No, she wasn't really shocked, not in the way she thought she was," said
Nancy, in answer to a query of mine.

"How was she shocked, then?"

"As you and I are shocked."

"But I'm not shocked," I protested.

"Oh, yes, you are, and so am I--not on the moral side, nor is it the
moral aspect that troubles Lula Dickinson. She thinks it's the moral
aspect, but it's really the revolutionary aspect, the menace to those
precious institutions from which we derive our privileges and comforts."

I considered this, and laughed.

"What's the use of being a humbug about it," said Nancy.

"But you're talking like a revolutionary," I said.

"I may be talking like one, but I'm not one. I once had the makings of
one--of a good one,--a 'proper' one, as the English would say." She
sighed.

"You regret it?" I asked curiously.

"Of course I regret it!" she cried. "What woman worth her salt doesn't
regret it, doesn't want to live, even if she has to suffer for it? And
those people--the revolutionaries, I mean, the rebels--they live, they're
the only ones who do live. The rest of us degenerate in a painless
paralysis we think of as pleasure. Look at me! I'm incapable of
committing a single original act, even though I might conceive one. Well,
there was a time when I should have been equal to anything and wouldn't
have cared a--a damn."

I believed her....

I fell into the habit of dropping in on Nancy at least twice a week on my
way from the office, and I met her occasionally at other houses. I did
not tell Maude of that first impulsive visit; but one evening a few weeks
later she asked me where I had been, and when I told her she made no
comment. I came presently to the conclusion that this renewed intimacy
did not trouble her--which was what I wished to believe. Of course I had
gone to Nancy for a stimulation I failed to get at home, and it is the
more extraordinary, therefore, that I did not become more discontented
and restless: I suppose this was because I had grown to regard marriage
as most of the world regarded it, as something inevitable and humdrum, as
a kind of habit it is useless to try to shake off. But life is so full of
complexities and anomalies that I still had a real affection for Maude,
and I liked her the more because she didn't expect too much of me, and
because she didn't complain of my friendship with Nancy although I should
vehemently have denied there was anything to complain of. I respected
Maude. If she was not a squaw, she performed religiously the traditional
squaw duties, and made me comfortable: and the fact that we lived
separate mental existences did not trouble me because I never thought of
hers--or even that she had one. She had the children, and they seemed to
suffice. She never renewed her appeal for my confidence, and I forgot
that she had made it.

Nevertheless I always felt a tug at my heartstrings when June came around
and it was time for her and the children to go to Mattapoisett for the
summer; when I accompanied them, on the evening of their departure, to
the smoky, noisy station and saw deposited in the sleeping-car their
luggage and shawls and bundles. They always took the evening train to
Boston; it was the best. Tom and Susan were invariably there with candy
and toys to see them off--if Susan and her children had not already
gone--and at such moments my heart warmed to Tom. And I was astonished as
I clung to Matthew and Moreton and little Biddy at the affection that
welled up within me, saddened when I kissed Maude good-bye. She too was
sad, and always seemed to feel compunctions for deserting me.

"I feel so selfish in leaving you all alone!" she would say. "If it
weren't for the children--they need the sea air. But I know you don't
miss me as I miss you. A man doesn't, I suppose.... Please don't work so
hard, and promise me you'll come on and stay a long time. You can if you
want to. We shan't starve." She smiled. "That nice room, which is yours,
at the southeast corner, is always waiting for you. And you do like the
sea, and seeing the sail-boats in the morning."

I felt an emptiness when the train pulled out. I did love my family,
after all! I would go back to the deserted house, and I could not bear to
look in at the nursery door, at the little beds with covers flung over
them. Why couldn't I appreciate these joys when I had them?

One evening, as we went home in an open street-car together, after such a
departure, Tom blurted out:--"Hugh, I believe I care for your family as
much as for my own. I often wonder if you realize how wonderful these
children are! My boys are just plain ruffians--although I think they're
pretty decent ruffians, but Matthew has a mind--he's thoughtful--and an
imagination. He'll make a name for himself some day if he's steered
properly and allowed to develop naturally. Moreton's more like my boys.
And as for Chickabiddy!--" words failed him.

I put my hand on his knee. I actually loved him again as I had loved and
yearned for him as a child,--he was so human, so dependable. And why
couldn't this feeling last? He disapproved--foolishly, I thought--of my
professional career, and this was only one of his limitations. But I knew
that he was loyal. Why hadn't I been able to breathe and be reasonably
happy in that atmosphere of friendship and love in which I had been
placed--or rather in which I had placed myself?.... Before the summer was
a day or two older I had grown accustomed to being alone, and enjoyed the
liberty; and when Maude and the children returned in the autumn,
similarly, it took me some days to get used to the restrictions imposed
by a household. I run the risk of shocking those who read this by
declaring that if my family had been taken permanently out of my life, I
should not long have missed them. But on the whole, in those years my
marriage relation might be called a negative one. There were moments, as
I have described, when I warmed to Maude, moments when I felt something
akin to a violent antagonism aroused by little mannerisms and tricks she
had. The fact that we got along as well as we did was probably due to the
orthodox teaching with which we had been inoculated,--to the effect that
matrimony was a moral trial, a shaking-down process. But moral trials
were ceasing to appeal to people, and more and more of them were refusing
to be shaken down. We didn't cut the Gordian knot, but we managed to
loosen it considerably.

I have spoken of a new species of titans who inhabited the giant
buildings in Wall Street, New York, and fought among themselves for
possession of the United States of America. It is interesting to note
that in these struggles a certain chivalry was observed among the
combatants, no matter how bitter the rivalry: for instance, it was deemed
very bad form for one of the groups of combatants to take the public into
their confidence; cities were upset and stirred to the core by these
conflicts, and the citizens never knew who was doing the fighting, but
imagined that some burning issue was at stake that concerned them. As a
matter of fact the issue always did concern them, but not in the way they
supposed.

Gradually, out of the chaotic melee in which these titans were engaged
had emerged one group more powerful than the rest and more respectable,
whose leader was the Personality to whom I have before referred. He and
his group had managed to gain control of certain conservative fortresses
in various cities such as the Corn National Bank and the Ashuela
Telephone Company--to mention two of many: Adolf Scherer was his ally,
and the Boyne Iron Works, Limited, was soon to be merged by him into a
greater corporation still. Leonard Dickinson might be called his local
governor-general. We manned the parapets and kept our ears constantly to
the ground to listen for the rumble of attacks; but sometimes they burst
upon us fiercely and suddenly, without warning. Such was the assault on
the Ashuela, which for years had exercised an apparently secure monopoly
of the city's telephone service, which had been able to ignore with
complacency the shrillest protests of unreasonable subscribers. Through
the Pilot it was announced to the public that certain benevolent "Eastern
capitalists" were ready to rescue them from their thraldom if the city
would grant them a franchise. Mr. Lawler, the disinterestedness of whose
newspaper could not be doubted, fanned the flame day by day, sent his
reporters about the city gathering instances of the haughty neglect of
the Ashuela, proclaiming its instruments antiquated compared with those
used in more progressive cities, as compared with the very latest
inventions which the Automatic Company was ready to install provided they
could get their franchise. And the prices! These, too, would fall--under
competition. It was a clever campaign. If the city would give them a
franchise, that Automatic Company--so well named! would provide automatic
instruments. Each subscriber, by means of a numerical disk, could call up
any other, subscriber; there would be no central operator, no listening,
no tapping of wires; the number of calls would be unlimited. As a proof
of the confidence of these Eastern gentlemen in our city, they were
willing to spend five millions, and present more than six hundred
telephones free to the city departments! What was fairer, more generous
than this! There could be no doubt that popular enthusiasm was enlisted
in behalf of the "Eastern Capitalists," who were made to appear in the
light of Crusaders ready to rescue a groaning people from the thrall of
monopoly. The excitement approached that of a presidential election, and
became the dominant topic at quick-lunch counters and in street-cars.
Cheap and efficient service! Down with the Bastille of monopoly!

As counsel for the Ashuela, Mr. Ogilvy sent for me, and by certain secret
conduits of information at my disposal I was not long in discovering the
disquieting fact that a Mr. Orthwein, who was described as a gentleman
with fat fingers and a plausible manner, had been in town for a week and
had been twice seen entering and emerging from Monahan's saloon. In
short, Mr. Jason had already been "seen." Nevertheless I went to him
myself, to find him for the first time in my experience absolutely
non-committal.

"What's the Ashuela willing to do?" he demanded.

I mentioned a sum, and he shook his head. I mentioned another, and still
he shook his head.

"Come 'round again," he said...

I was compelled to report this alarming situation to Ogilvy and Dickinson
and a few chosen members of a panicky board of directors.

"It's that damned Grannis crowd," said Dickinson, mentioning an
aggressive gentleman who had migrated from Chicago to Wall Street some
five years before in a pink collar.

"But what's to be done?" demanded Ogilvy, playing nervously with a gold
pencil on the polished table. He was one of those Americans who in a
commercial atmosphere become prematurely white, and today his boyish,
smooth-shaven face was almost as devoid of colour as his hair. Even
Leonard Dickinson showed anxiety, which was unusual for him.

"You've got to fix it, Hugh," he said.

I did not see my way, but I had long ago learned to assume the unruffled
air and judicial manner of speaking that inspires the layman with almost
superstitious confidence in the lawyer....

"We'll find a way out," I said.

Mr. Jason, of course, held the key to the situation, and just how I was
to get around him was problematical. In the meantime there was the
public: to permit the other fellow to capture that was to be lacking in
ordinary prudence; if its votes counted for nothing, its savings were
desirable; and it was fast getting into a state of outrage against
monopoly. The chivalry of finance did not permit of a revelation that Mr.
Grannis and his buccaneers were behind the Automatic, but it was possible
to direct and strengthen the backfire which the Era and other
conservative newspapers had already begun. Mr. Tallant for delicate
reasons being persona non grata at the Boyne Club, despite the fact that
he had so many friends there, we met for lunch in a private room at the
new hotel, and as we sipped our coffee and smoked our cigars we planned a
series of editorials and articles that duly appeared. They made a strong
appeal to the loyalty of our citizens to stand by the home company and
home capital that had taken generous risks to give them service at a time
when the future of the telephone business was by no means assured; they
belittled the charges made by irresponsible and interested "parties," and
finally pointed out, not without effect, that one logical consequence of
having two telephone companies would be to compel subscribers in
self-defence to install two telephones instead of one. And where was the
saving in that?

"Say, Paret," said Judah B. when we had finished our labours; "if you
ever get sick of the law, I'll give you a job on the Era's staff. This is
fine, the way you put it. It'll do a lot of good, but how in hell are you
going to handle Judd?...."

For three days the inspiration was withheld. And then, as I was strolling
down Boyne Street after lunch gazing into the store windows it came
suddenly, without warning. Like most inspirations worth anything, it was
very simple. Within half an hour I had reached Monahan's saloon and found
Mr. Jason out of bed, but still in his bedroom, seated meditatively at
the window that looked over the alley.

"You know the crowd in New York behind this Automatic company as well as
I do, Jason," I said. "Why do you want to deal with them when we've
always been straight with you, when we're ready to meet them and go one
better? Name your price."

"Suppose I do--what then," he replied. "This thing's gone pretty far.
Under that damned new charter the franchise has got to be bid for--hasn't
it? And the people want this company. There'll be a howl from one end of
this town to the other if we throw 'em down."

"We'll look out for the public," I assured him, smiling.

"Well," he said, with one of his glances that were like flashes, "what
you got up your sleeve?"

"Suppose another telephone company steps in, and bids a little higher for
the franchise. That relieves, your aldermen of all responsibility,
doesn't it?"

"Another telephone company!" he repeated.

I had already named it on my walk.

"The Interurban," I said.

"A dummy company?" said Mr. Jason.

"Lively enough to bid something over a hundred thousand to the city for
its franchise," I replied.

Judd Jason, with a queer look, got up and went to a desk in a dark
corner, and after rummaging for a few moments in one of the pigeon-holes,
drew forth a glass cylinder, which he held out as he approached me.

"You get it, Mr. Paret," he said.

"What is it?" I asked, "a bomb!"

"That," he announced, as he twisted the tube about in his long fingers,
holding it up to the light, "is the finest brand of cigars ever made in
Cuba. A gentleman who had every reason to be grateful to me--I won't say
who he was--gave me that once. Well, the Lord made me so's I can't
appreciate any better tobacco than those five-cent 'Bobtails' Monahan's
got downstairs, and I saved it. I saved it for the man who would put
something over me some day, and--you get it."

"Thank you," I said, unconsciously falling in with the semi-ceremony of
his manner. "I do not flatter myself that the solution I have suggested
did not also occur to you."

"You'll smoke it?" he asked.

"Surely."

"Now? Here with me?"

"Certainly," I agreed, a little puzzled. As I broke the seal, pulled out
the cork and unwrapped the cigar from its gold foil he took a stick and
rapped loudly on the floor. After a brief interval footsteps were heard
on the stairs and Mike Monahan, white aproned and scarlet faced, appeared
at the door.

"Bobtails," said Mr. Jason, laconically.

"It's them I thought ye'd be wanting," said the saloon-keeper, holding
out a handful. Judd Jason lighted one, and began smoking reflectively.

I gazed about the mean room, with its litter of newspapers and reports,
its shabby furniture, and these seemed to have become incongruous, out of
figure in the chair facing me keeping with the thoughtful figure in the
chair facing me.

"You had a college education, Mr. Paret," he remarked at length.

"Yes."

"Life's a queer thing. Now if I'd had a college education, like you, and
you'd been thrown on the world, like me, maybe I'd be livin' up there on
Grant Avenue and you'd be down here over the saloon."

"Maybe," I said, wondering uneasily whether he meant to imply a
similarity in our gifts. But his manner remained impassive, speculative.

"Ever read Carlyle's 'French Revolution'?" he asked suddenly.

"Why, yes, part of it, a good while ago."

"When you was in college?"

"Yes."

"I've got a little library here," he said, getting up and raising the
shades and opening the glass doors of a bookcase which had escaped my
attention. He took down a volume of Carlyle, bound in half calf.

"Wouldn't think I cared for such things, would you?" he demanded as he
handed it to me.

"Well, you never can tell what a man's real tastes are until you know
him," I observed, to conceal my surprise.

"That's so," he agreed. "I like books--some books. If I'd had an
education, I'd have liked more of 'em, known more about 'em. Now I can
read this one over and over. That feller Carlyle was a genius, he could
look right into the bowels of the volcano, and he was on to how men and
women feet down there, how they hate, how they square 'emselves when they
get a chance."

He had managed to bring before me vividly that terrible, volcanic flow on
Versailles of the Paris mob. He put back the book and resumed his seat.

"And I know how these people fed down here, below the crust," he went on,
waving his cigar out of the window, as though to indicate the whole of
that mean district. "They hate, and their hate is molten hell. I've been
through it."

"But you've got on top," I suggested.

"Sure, I've got on top. Do you know why? it's because I hated--that's
why. A man's feelings, if they're strong enough, have a lot to do with
what he becomes."

"But he has to have ability, too," I objected.

"Sure, he has to have ability, but his feeling is the driving power if he
feels strong enough, he can make a little ability go a long way."

I was struck by the force of this remark. I scarcely recognized Judd
Jason. The man, as he revealed himself, had become at once more sinister
and more fascinating.

"I can guess how some of those Jacobins felt when they had the
aristocrats in the dock. They'd got on top--the Jacobins, I mean. It's
human nature to want to get on top--ain't it?" He looked at me and
smiled, but he did not seem to expect a reply. "Well, what you call
society, rich, respectable society like you belong to would have made a
bum and a criminal out of me if I hadn't been too smart for 'em, and it's
a kind of satisfaction to have 'em coming down here to Monahan's for
things they can't have without my leave. I've got a half Nelson on 'em. I
wouldn't live up on Grant Avenue if you gave me Scherer's new house."

I was silent.

"Instead of starting my career in college, I started in jail," he went
on, apparently ignoring any effect he may have produced. So subtly, so
dispassionately indeed was he delivering himself of these remarks that it
was impossible to tell whether he meant their application to be personal,
to me, or general, to my associates. "I went to jail when I was fourteen
because I wanted a knife to make kite sticks, and I stole a razor from a
barber. I was bitter when they steered me into a lockup in Hickory
Street. It was full of bugs and crooks, and they put me in the same cell
with an old-timer named 'Red' Waters; who was one of the slickest
safe-blowers around in those days. Red took a shine to me, found out I
had a head piece, and said their gang could use a clever boy. If I'd go
in with him, I could make all kinds of money. I guess I might have joined
the gang if Red hadn't kept talking--about how the boss of his district
named Gallagher would come down and get him out,--and sure enough
Gallagher did come down and get him out. I thought I'd rather be
Gallagher than Red--Red had to serve time once in a while. Soon as he got
out I went down to Gallagher's saloon, and there was Red leaning over the
bar. 'Here's a smart kid! he says, 'He and me were room-mates over in
Hickory Street.' He got to gassing me, and telling me I'd better come
along with him, when Gallagher came in. 'What is it ye'd like to be, my
son?' says he. A politician, I told him. I was through going to jail.
Gallagher had a laugh you could hear all over the place. He took me on as
a kind of handy boy around the establishment, and by and by I began to
run errands and find out things for him. I was boss of that ward myself
when I was twenty-six.... How'd you like that cigar?"

I praised it.

"It ought to have been a good one," he declared. "Well, I don't want to
keep you here all afternoon telling you my life story."

I assured him I had been deeply interested.

"Pretty slick idea of yours, that dummy company, Mr. Paret. Go ahead and
organize it." He rose, which was contrary to his custom on the departure
of a visitor. "Drop in again. We'll talk about the books."...

I walked slowly back reflecting on this conversation, upon the motives
impelling Mr. Jason to become thus confidential; nor was it the most
comforting thought in the world that the artist in me had appealed to the
artist in him, that he had hailed me as a breather. But for the grace of
God I might have been Mr. Jason and he Mr. Paret: undoubtedly that was
what he had meant to imply... And I was forced to admit that he had
succeeded--deliberately or not--in making the respectable Mr. Paret just
a trifle uncomfortable.

In the marble vestibule of the Corn National Bank I ran into Tallant,
holding his brown straw hat in his hand and looking a little more
moth-eaten than usual.

"Hello, Paret," he said "how is that telephone business getting along?"

"Is Dickinson in?" I asked.

Tallant nodded.

We went through the cool bank, with its shining brass and red mahogany,
its tiled floor, its busy tellers attending to files of clients, to the
president's sanctum in the rear. Leonard Dickinson, very spruce and
dignified in a black cutaway coat, was dictating rapidly to a woman,
stenographer, whom he dismissed when he saw us. The door was shut.

"I was just asking Paret about the telephone affair," said Mr. Tallant.

"Well, have you found a way out?" Leonard Dickinson looked questioningly
at me.

"It's all right," I answered. "I've seen Jason."

"All right!" they both ejaculated at once.

"We win," I said.

They stood gazing at me. Even Dickinson, who was rarely ruffled, seemed
excited.

"Do you mean to say you've fixed it?" he demanded.

I nodded. They stared at me in amazement.

"How the deuce did you manage it?"

"We organize the Interurban Telephone Company, and bid for the
franchise--that's all."

"A dummy company!" cried Tallant. "Why, it's simple as ABC!"

Dickinson smiled. He was tremendously relieved, and showed it.

"That's true about all great ideas, Tallant," he said. "They're simple,
only it takes a clever man to think of them."

"And Jason agrees?" Tallant demanded.

I nodded again. "We'll have to outbid the Automatic people. I haven't
seen Bitter yet about the--about the fee."

"That's all right," said Leonard Dickinson, quickly. "I take off my hat
to you. You've saved us. You can ask any fee you like," he added
genially. "Let's go over to--to the Ashuela and get some lunch." He had
been about to say the Club, but he remembered Mr. Tallant's presence in
time. "Nothing's worrying you, Hugh?" he added, as we went out, followed
by the glances of his employees.

"Nothing," I said....



XVIX.

Making money in those days was so ridiculously easy! The trouble was to
know how to spend it. One evening when I got home I told Maude I had a
surprise for her.

"A surprise?" she asked, looking up from a little pink smock she was
making for Chickabiddy.

"I've bought that lot on Grant Avenue, next to the Ogilvys'."

She dropped her sewing, and stared at me.

"Aren't you pleased?" I asked. "At last we are going to have a house of
our very own. What's the matter?"

"I can't bear the thought of leaving here. I'm so used to it. I've grown
to love it. It's part of me."

"But," I exclaimed, a little exasperated, "you didn't expect to live here
always, did you? The house has been too small for us for years. I thought
you'd be delighted." (This was not strictly true, for I had rather
expected some such action on her part.) "Most women would. Of course, if
it's going to make such a difference to you as that, I'll sell the lot.
That won't be difficult."

I got up, and started to go into my study. She half rose, and her sewing
fell to the floor.

"Oh, why are we always having misunderstandings? Do sit down a minute,
Hugh. Don't think I'm not appreciative," she pleaded. "It was--such a
shock."

I sat down rather reluctantly.

"I can't express what I think," she continued, rather breathlessly, "but
sometimes I'm actually frightened, we're going through life so fast in
these days, and it doesn't seem as if we were getting the real things out
of it. I'm afraid of your success, and of all the money you're making."

I smiled.

"I'm not so rich yet, as riches go in these days, that you need be
alarmed," I said.

She looked at me helplessly a moment.

"I feel that it isn't--right, somehow, that you'll pay for it, that we'll
pay for it. Goodness knows, we have everything we want, and more too.
This house--this house is real, and I'm afraid that won't be a home,
won't be real. That we'll be overwhelmed with--with things!"...

She was interrupted by the entrance of the children. But after dinner,
when she had seen them to bed, as was her custom, she came downstairs
into my study and said quietly:--"I was wrong, Hugh. If you want to build
a house, if you feel that you'd be happier, I have no right to object. Of
course my sentiment for this house is natural, the children were born
here, but I've realized we couldn't live here always."

"I'm glad you look at it that way," I replied. "Why, we're already
getting cramped, Maude, and now you're going to have a governess I don't
know where you'd put her."

"Not too large, a house," she pleaded. "I know you think I'm silly, but
this extravagance we see everywhere does make me uneasy. Perhaps it's
because I'm provincial, and always shall be."

"Well, we must have a house large enough to be comfortable in," I said.
"There's no reason why we shouldn't be comfortable." I thought it as well
not to confess my ambitions, and I was greatly relieved that she did not
reproach me for buying the lot without consulting her. Indeed, I was
grateful for this unanticipated acquiescence, I felt nearer to her, than
I had for a long time. I drew up another chair to my desk.

"Sit down and we'll make a few sketches, just for fun," I urged.

"Hugh," she said presently, as we were blacking out prospective rooms,
"do you remember all those drawings and plans we made in England, on our
wedding trip, and how we knew just what we wanted, and changed our minds
every few days? And now we're ready to build, and haven't any ideas at
all!"

"Yes," I answered--but I did not look at her.

"I have the book still--it's in the attic somewhere, packed away in a
box. I suppose those plans would seem ridiculous now."

It was quite true,--now that we were ready to build the home that had
been deferred so long, now that I had the money to spend without stint on
its construction, the irony of life had deprived me of those strong
desires and predilections I had known on my wedding trip. What a joy it
would have been to build then! But now I found myself: wholly lacking in
definite ideas as to style and construction. Secretly, I looked forward
to certain luxuries, such as a bedroom and dressing-room and warm tiled
bathroom all to myself bachelor privacies for which I had longed. Two
mornings later at the breakfast table Maude asked me if I had thought of
an architect.

"Why, Archie Lammerton, I suppose. Who else is there? Have you anyone
else in mind?"

"N-no," said Maude. "But I heard of such a clever man in Boston, who
doesn't charge Mr. Lammerton's prices; and who designs such beautiful
private houses."

"But we can afford to pay Lammerton's prices," I replied, smiling. "And
why shouldn't we have the best?"

"Are you sure--he is the best, Hugh?"

"Everybody has him," I said.

Maude smiled in return.

"I suppose that's a good reason," she answered.

"Of course it's a good reason," I assured her. "These people--the people
we know--wouldn't have had Lammerton unless he was satisfactory. What's
the matter with his houses?"

"Well," said Maude, "they're not very original. I don't say they're not
good, in away, but they lack a certain imagination. It's difficult for me
to express what I mean, 'machine made' isn't precisely the idea, but
there should be a certain irregularity in art--shouldn't there? I saw a
reproduction in one of the architectural journals of a house in Boston by
a man named Frey, that seemed to me to have great charm."

Here was Lucia, unmistakably.

"That's all very well," I said impatiently, "but when one has to live in
a house, one wants something more than artistic irregularity. Lammerton
knows how to build for everyday existence; he's a practical man, as well
as a man of taste, he may not be a Christopher Wrenn, but he understands
conveniences and comforts. His chimneys don't smoke, his windows are
tight, he knows what systems of heating are the best, and whom to go to:
he knows what good plumbing is. I'm rather surprised you don't appreciate
that, Maude, you're so particular as to what kind of rooms the children
shall have, and you want a schoolroom-nursery with all the latest
devices, with sun and ventilation. The Berringers wouldn't have had him,
the Hollisters and Dickinsons wouldn't have had him if his work lacked
taste."

"And Nancy wouldn't have had him," added Maude, and she smiled once more.

"Well, I haven't consulted Nancy, or anyone else," I replied--a little
tartly, perhaps. "You don't seem to realize that some fashions may have a
basis of reason. They are not all silly, as Lucia seems to think. If
Lammerton builds satisfactory houses, he ought to be forgiven for being
the fashion, he ought to have a chance." I got up to leave. "Let's see
what kind of a plan he'll draw up, at any rate."

Her glance was almost indulgent.

"Of course, Hugh. I want you to be satisfied, to be pleased," she said.

"And you?" I questioned, "you are to live in the house more than I."

"Oh, I'm sure it will turn out all right," she replied. "Now you'd better
run along, I know you're late."

"I am late," I admitted, rather lamely. "If you don't care for
Lammerton's drawings, we'll get another architect."

Several years before Mr. Lammerton had arrived among us with a Beaux Arts
moustache and letters of introduction to Mrs. Durrett and others. We
found him the most adaptable, the most accommodating of young men, always
ready to donate his talents and his services to private theatricals,
tableaux, and fancy-dress balls, to take a place at a table at the last
moment. One of his most appealing attributes was his "belief" in our
city,--a form of patriotism that culminated, in later years, in "million
population" clubs. I have often heard him declare, when the ladies had
left the dining-room, that there was positively no limit to our future
growth; and, incidentally, to our future wealth. Such sentiments as these
could not fail to add to any man's popularity, and his success was a
foregone conclusion. Almost before we knew it he was building the new
Union Station of which he had foreseen the need, to take care of the
millions to which our population was to be swelled; building the new Post
Office that the unceasing efforts of Theodore Watling finally procured
for us: building, indeed, Nancy's new house, the largest of our private
mansions save Mr. Scherer's, a commission that had immediately brought
about others from the Dickinsons and the Berringers.... That very day I
called on him in his offices at the top of one of our new buildings,
where many young draftsmen were bending over their boards. I was ushered
into his private studio.

"I suppose you want something handsome, Hugh," he said, looking at me
over his cigarette, "something commensurate with these fees I hear you
are getting."

"Well, I want to be comfortable," I admitted.

We lunched at the Club together, where we talked over the requirements.

When he came to dinner the next week and spread out his sketch on the
living-room table Maude drew in her breath.

"Why, Hugh," she exclaimed in dismay, "it's as big as--as big as the
White House!"

"Not quite," I answered, laughing with Archie. "We may as well take our
ease in our old age."

"Take our ease!" echoed Maude. "We'll rattle 'round in it. I'll never get
used to it."

"After a month, Mrs. Paret, I'll wager you'll be wondering how you ever
got along without it," said Archie.

It was not as big as the White House, yet it could not be called small. I
had seen, to that. The long facade was imposing, dignified, with a touch
of conventionality and solidity in keeping with my standing in the city.
It was Georgian, of plum-coloured brick with marble trimmings and marble
wedges over the ample windows, some years later I saw the house by
Ferguson, of New York, from which Archie had cribbed it. At one end, off
the dining-room, was a semicircular conservatory. There was a small
portico, with marble pillars, and in the ample, swift sloping roof many
dormers; servants' rooms, Archie explained. The look of anxiety on
Maude's face deepened as he went over the floor plans, the
reception-room; dining room to seat thirty, the servants' hall; and
upstairs Maude's room, boudoir and bath and dress closet, my "apartments"
adjoining on one side and the children's on the other, and the
guest-rooms with baths....

Maude surrendered, as one who gives way to the inevitable. When the
actual building began we both of us experienced, I think; a certain mild
excitement; and walked out there, sometimes with the children, in the
spring evenings, and on Sunday afternoons. "Excitement" is, perhaps, too
strong a word for my feelings: there was a pleasurable anticipation on my
part, a looking forward to a more decorous, a more luxurious existence; a
certain impatience at the delays inevitable in building. But a new legal
commercial enterprise of magnitude began to absorb me at his time, and
somehow the building of this home--the first that we possessed was not
the event it should have been; there were moments when I felt cheated,
when I wondered what had become of that capacity for enjoyment which in
my youth had been so keen. I remember indeed, one grey evening when I
went there alone, after the workmen had departed, and stood in the litter
of mortar and bricks and boards gazing at the completed front of the
house. It was even larger than I had imagined it from the plans; in the
Summer twilight there was an air about it,--if not precisely menacing, at
least portentous, with its gaping windows and towering roof. I was a
little tired from a hard day; I had the odd feeding of having raised up
something with which--momentarily at least--I doubted my ability to cope:
something huge, impersonal; something that ought to have represented a
fireside, a sanctuary, and yet was the embodiment of an element quite
alien to the home; a restless element with which our American atmosphere
had, by invisible degrees, become charged. As I stared at it, the odd
fancy seized me that the building somehow typified my own career.... I
had gained something, in truth, but had I not also missed something?
something a different home would have embodied?

Maude and the children had gone, to the seaside.

With a vague uneasiness I turned away from the contemplation of those
walls. The companion mansions were closed, their blinds tightly drawn;
the neighbourhood was as quiet as the country, save for a slight but
persistent noise that impressed itself on my consciousness. I walked
around the house to spy in the back yard; a young girl rather stealthily
gathering laths, and fragments of joists and flooring, and loading them
into a child's express-wagon. She started when she saw me. She was
little, more than a child, and the loose calico dress she wore seemed to
emphasize her thinness. She stood stock-still, staring at me with
frightened yet defiant eyes. I, too, felt a strange timidity in her
presence.

"Why do you stop?" I asked at length.

"Say, is this your heap?" she demanded.

I acknowledged it. A hint of awe widened her eyes. Then site glanced at
the half-filled wagon.

"This stuff ain't no use to you, is it?"

"No, I'm glad to have you take it."

She shifted to the other foot, but did not continue her gathering. An
impulse seized me, I put down my walkingstick and began picking up pieces
of wood, flinging them into the wagon. I looked at her again, rather
furtively; she had not moved. Her attitude puzzled me, for it was one
neither of surprise nor of protest. The spectacle of the "millionaire"
owner of the house engaged in this menial occupation gave her no thrills.
I finished the loading.

"There!" I said, and drew a dollar bill out of my pocket and gave it to
her. Even then she did not thank me, but took up the wagon tongue and
went off, leaving on me a disheartening impression of numbness, of life
crushed out. I glanced up once more at the mansion I had built for myself
looming in the dusk, and walked hurriedly away....

One afternoon some three weeks after we had moved into the new house, I
came out of the Club, where I had been lunching in conference with
Scherer and two capitalists from New York. It was after four o'clock, the
day was fading, the street lamps were beginning to cast sickly streaks of
jade-coloured light across the slush of the pavements. It was the sight
of this slush (which for a brief half hour that morning had been pure
snow, and had sent Matthew and Moreton and Biddy into ecstasies at the
notion of a "real Christmas"), that brought to my mind the immanence of
the festival, and the fact that I had as yet bought no presents. Such was
the predicament in which I usually found myself on Christmas eve; and it
was not without a certain sense of annoyance at the task thus abruptly
confronting me that I got into my automobile and directed the chauffeur
to the shopping district. The crowds surged along the wet sidewalks and
overflowed into the street, and over the heads of the people I stared at
the blazing shop-windows decked out in Christmas greens. My chauffeur, a
bristly-haired Parisian, blew his horn insolently, men and women jostled
each other to get out of the way, their holiday mood giving place to
resentment as they stared into the windows of the limousine. With the
American inability to sit still I shifted from one corner of the seat to
another, impatient at the slow progress of the machine: and I felt a
certain contempt for human beings, that they should make all this fuss,
burden themselves with all these senseless purchases, for a tradition.
The automobile stopped, and I fought my way across the sidewalk into the
store of that time-honoured firm, Elgin, Yates and Garner, pausing
uncertainly before the very counter where, some ten years before, I had
bought an engagement ring. Young Mr. Garner himself spied me, and handing
over a customer to a tired clerk, hurried forward to greet me, his manner
implying that my entrance was in some sort an event. I had become used to
this aroma of deference.

"What can I show you, Mr. Paret?" he asked.

"I don't know--I'm looking around," I said, vaguely, bewildered by the
glittering baubles by which I was confronted. What did Maude want? While
I was gazing into the case, Mr. Garner opened a safe behind him, laying
before me a large sapphire set with diamonds in a platinum brooch; a
beautiful stone, in the depths of it gleaming a fire like a star in an
arctic sky. I had not given Maude anything of value of late. Decidedly,
this was of value; Mr. Garner named the price glibly; if Mrs. Paret
didn't care for it, it might be brought back or exchanged. I took it,
with a sigh of relief. Leaving the store, I paused on the edge of the
rushing stream of humanity, with the problem of the children's gifts
still to be solved. I thought of my own childhood, when at Christmastide
I had walked with my mother up and down this very street, so changed and
modernized now; recalling that I had had definite desires, desperate
ones; but my imagination failed me when I tried to summon up the emotions
connected with them. I had no desires now: I could buy anything in reason
in the whole street. What did Matthew and Moreton want? and little Biddy?
Maude had not "spoiled" them; but they didn't seem to have any definite
wants. The children made me think, with a sudden softening, of Tom
Peters, and I went into a tobacconist's and bought him a box of expensive
cigars. Then I told the chauffeur to take me to a toy-shop, where I stood
staring through a plate-glass window at the elaborate playthings devised
for the modern children of luxury. In the centre was a toy man-of-war,
three feet in length, with turrets and guns, and propellers and a real
steam-engine. As a boy I should have dreamed about it, schemed for it,
bartered my immortal soul for it. But--if I gave it to Matthew, what was
there for Moreton? A steam locomotive caught my eye, almost as elaborate.
Forcing my way through the doors, I captured a salesman, and from a state
bordering on nervous collapse he became galvanized into an intense
alertness and respect when he understood my desires. He didn't know the
price of the objects in question. He brought the proprietor, an
obsequious little German who, on learning my name, repeated it in every
sentence. For Biddy I chose a doll that was all but human; when held by a
young woman for my inspection, it elicited murmurs of admiration from the
women shoppers by whom we were surrounded. The proprietor promised to
make a special delivery of the three articles before seven o'clock....

Presently the automobile, after speeding up the asphalt of Grant Avenue,
stopped before the new house. In spite of the change that house had made
in my life, in three weeks I had become amazingly used to it; yet I had
an odd feeling that Christmas eve as I stood under the portico with my
key in the door, the same feeling of the impersonality of the place which
I had experienced before. Not that for one moment I would have exchanged
it for the smaller house we had left. I opened the door. How often, in
that other house, I had come in the evening seeking quiet, my brain
occupied with a problem, only to be annoyed by the romping of the
children on the landing above. A noise in one end of it echoed to the
other. But here, as I entered the hall, all was quiet: a dignified,
deep-carpeted stairway swept upward before me, and on either side were
wide, empty rooms; and in the subdued light of one of them I saw a dark
figure moving silently about--the butler. He came forward to relieve me,
deftly, of my hat and overcoat. Well, I had it at last, this
establishment to which I had for so long looked forward. And yet that
evening, as I hesitated in the hall, I somehow was unable to grasp that
it was real and permanent, the very solidity of the walls and doors
paradoxically suggested transientness, the butler a flitting ghost. How
still the place was! Almost oppressively still. I recalled oddly a story
of a peasant who, yearning for the great life, had stumbled upon an empty
palace, its tables set with food in golden dishes. Before two days had
passed he had fled from it in horror back to his crowded cottage and his
drudgery in the fields. Never once had the sense of possession of the
palace been realized. Nor did I feel that I possessed this house, though
I had the deeds of it in my safe and the receipted bills in my files. It
eluded me; seemed, in my, bizarre mood of that evening, almost to mock
me. "You have built me," it seemed to say, "but I am stronger than you,
because you have not earned me." Ridiculous, when the years of my labour
and the size of my bank account were considered! Such, however, is the
verbal expression of my feeling. Was the house empty, after all? Had
something happened? With a slight panicky sensation I climbed the stairs,
with their endless shallow treads, to hurry through the silent hallway to
the schoolroom. Reassuring noises came faintly through the heavy door. I
opened it. Little Biddy was careening round and round, crying
out:--"To-morrow's Chris'mas! Santa Claus is coming tonight."

Matthew was regarding her indulgently, sympathetically, Moreton rather
scornfully. The myth had been exploded for both, but Matthew still hugged
it. That was the difference between them. Maude, seated on the floor,
perceived me first, and glanced up at me with a smile.

"It's father!" she said.

Biddy stopped in the midst of a pirouette. At the age of seven she was
still shy with me, and retreated towards Maude.

"Aren't we going to have a tree, father?" demanded Moreton, aggressively.
"Mother won't tell us--neither will Miss Allsop."

Miss Allsop was their governess.

"Why do you want a tree?" I asked.

"Oh, for Biddy," he said.

"It wouldn't be Christmas without a tree," Matthew declared, "--and Santa
Claus," he added, for his sister's benefit.

"Perhaps Santa Claus, when he sees we've got this big house, will think
we don't need anything, and go on to some poorer children," said Maude.
"You wouldn't blame him if he did that,--would you?"

The response to this appeal cannot be said to have been enthusiastic....

After dinner, when at last all of them were in bed, we dressed the tree;
it might better be said that Maude and Miss Allsop dressed it, while I
gave a perfunctory aid. Both the women took such a joy in the process,
vying with each other in getting effects, and as I watched them eagerly
draping the tinsel and pinning on the glittering ornaments I wondered why
it was that I was unable to find the same joy as they. Thus it had been
every Christmas eve. I was always tired when I got home, and after dinner
relaxation set in.

An electrician had come while we were at the table, and had fastened on
the little electric bulbs which did duty as candles.

"Oh," said Maude, as she stood off to survey the effect, "isn't it
beautiful! Come, Miss Allsop, let's get the presents."

They flew out of the room, and presently hurried back with their arms
full of the usual parcels: parcels from Maude's family in Elkington, from
my own relatives, from the Blackwoods and the Peterses, from Nancy. In
the meantime I had had my own contributions brought up, the man of war,
the locomotive, the big doll. Maude stood staring.

"Hugh, they'll be utterly ruined!" she exclaimed.

"The boys might as well have something instructive," I replied, "and as
for Biddy--nothing's too good for her."

"I might have known you wouldn't forget them, although you are so
busy."....

We filled the three stockings hung by the great fireplace. Then, with a
last lingering look at the brightness of the tree, she stood in the
doorway and turned the electric switch.

"Not before seven to-morrow morning, Miss Allsop," she said. "Hugh, you
will get up, won't you? You mustn't miss seeing them. You can go back to
bed again."

I promised.

Evidently, this was Reality to Maude. And had it not been one of my
dreams of marriage, this preparing for the children's Christmas,
remembering the fierce desires of my own childhood? It struck me, after I
had kissed her good night and retired to my dressing-room, that fierce
desires burned within me still, but the objects towards which their
flames leaped out differed. That was all. Had I remained a child, since
my idea of pleasure was still that of youth? The craving far excitement,
adventure, was still unslaked; the craving far freedom as keen as ever.
During the whole of my married life, I had been conscious of an inner
protest against "settling down," as Tom Peters had settled down. The
smaller house from which we had moved, with its enforced propinquity,
hard emphasized the bondage of marriage. Now I had two rooms to myself,
in the undisputed possession of which I had taken a puerile delight. On
one side of my dressing-room Archie Lammerton had provided a huge closet
containing the latest devices for the keeping of a multitudinous
wardrobe; there was a reading-lamp, and the easiest of easy-chairs,
imported from England, while between the windows were shelves of Italian
walnut which I had filled with the books I had bought while at Cambridge,
and had never since opened. As I sank down in my chair that odd feeling
of uneasiness, of transience and unreality, of unsatisfaction I had had
ever since we had moved suddenly became intensified, and at the very
moment when I had gained everything I had once believed a man could
desire! I was successful, I was rich, my health had not failed, I had a
wife who catered to my wishes, lovable children who gave no trouble and
yet--there was still the void to be filled, the old void I had felt as a
boy, the longing for something beyond me, I knew not what; there was the
strange inability to taste any of these things, the need at every turn
for excitement, for a stimulus. My marriage had been a disappointment,
though I strove to conceal this from myself; a disappointment because it
had not filled the requirements of my category--excitement and mystery: I
had provided the setting and lacked the happiness. Another woman
Nancy--might have given me the needed stimulation; and yet my thoughts
did not dwell on Nancy that night, my longings were not directed towards
her, but towards the vision of a calm, contented married happiness I had
looked forward to in youth,--a vision suddenly presented once more by the
sight of Maude's simple pleasure in dressing the Christmas tree. What
restless, fiendish element in me prevented my enjoying that? I had
something of the fearful feeling of a ghost in my own house and among my
own family, of a spirit doomed to wander, unable to share in what should
have been my own, in what would have saved me were I able to partake of
it. Was it too late to make that effort?.... Presently the strains of
music pervaded my consciousness, the chimes of Trinity ringing out in the
damp night the Christmas hymn, Adeste Fideles. It was midnight it was
Christmas. How clear the notes rang through the wet air that came in at
my window! Back into the dim centuries that music led me, into candle-lit
Gothic chapels of monasteries on wind-swept heights above the firs, and
cathedrals in mediaeval cities. Twilight ages of war and scourge and
stress and storm--and faith. "Oh, come, all ye Faithful!" What a strange
thing, that faith whose flame so marvellously persisted, piercing the
gloom; the Christmas myth, as I had heard someone once call it. Did it
possess the power to save me? Save me from what? Ah, in this hour I knew.
In the darkness the Danger loomed up before me, vague yet terrible, and I
trembled. Why was not this Thing ever present, to chasten and sober me?
The Thing was myself.

Into my remembrance, by what suggestion I know not, came that March
evening when I had gone to Holder Chapel at Harvard to listen to a
preacher, a personality whose fame and influence had since spread
throughout the land. Some dim fear had possessed me then. I recalled
vividly the man, and the face of Hermann Krebs as I drew back from the
doorway....

When I awoke my disquieting, retrospective mood had disappeared, and yet
there clung to me, minus the sanction of fear or reward or revealed
truth, a certain determination to behave, on this day at least, more like
a father and a husband: to make an effort to enter into the spirit of the
festival, and see what happened. I dressed in cheerful haste, took the
sapphire pendant from its velvet box, tiptoed into the still silent
schoolroom and hung it on the tree, flooding on the electric light that
set the tinsel and globes ablaze. No sooner had I done this than I heard
the patter of feet in the hallway, and a high-pitched voice--Biddy's
--crying out:--"It's Santa Claus!"

Three small, flannel-wrappered figures stood in the doorway.

"Why, it's father!" exclaimed Moreton.

"And he's all dressed!" said Matthew.

"Oh-h-h!" cried Biddy, staring at the blazing tree, "isn't it beautiful!"

Maude was close behind them. She gave an exclamation of delighted
surprise when she saw me, and then stood gazing with shining eyes at the
children, especially at Biddy, who stood dazzled by the glory of the
constellation confronting her.... Matthew, too, wished to prolong the
moment of mystery. It was the practical Moreton who cried:--"Let's see
what we've got!"

The assault and the sacking began. I couldn't help thinking as I watched
them of my own wildly riotous, Christmas-morning sensations, when all the
gifts had worn the aura of the supernatural; but the arrival of these
toys was looked upon by my children as a part of the natural order of the
universe. At Maude's suggestion the night before we had placed my
presents, pieces de resistance, at a distance from the tree, in the hope
that they would not be spied at once, that they would be in some sort a
climax. It was Matthew who first perceived the ship, and identified it,
by the card, as his property. To him it was clearly wonderful, but no
miracle. He did not cry out, or call the attention of the others to it,
but stood with his feet apart, examining it, his first remark being a
query as to why it didn't fly the American flag. It's ensign was British.
Then Moreton saw the locomotive, was told that it was his, and took
possession of it violently. Why wasn't there more track? Wouldn't I get
more track? I explained that it would go by steam, and he began
unscrewing the cap on the little boiler until he was distracted by the
man-of-war, and with natural acquisitiveness started to take possession
of that. Biddy was bewildered by the doll, which Maude had taken up and
was holding in her lap. She had had talking dolls before, and dolls that
closed their eyes; she recognized this one, indeed, as a sort of
super-doll, but her little mind was modern, too, and set no limits on
what might be accomplished. She patted it, but was more impressed by the
raptures of Miss Allsop, who had come in and was admiring it with some
extravagance. Suddenly the child caught sight of her stocking, until now
forgotten, and darted for the fireplace.

I turned to Maude, who stood beside me, watching them.

"But you haven't looked on the tree yourself," I reminded her.

She gave me an odd, questioning glance, and got up and set down the doll.
As she stood for a moment gazing at the lights, she seemed very girlish
in her dressing-gown, with her hair in two long plaits down her back.

"Oh, Hugh!" She lifted the pendant from the branch and held it up. Her
gratitude, her joy at receiving a present was deeper than the children's!

"You chose it for me?"

I felt something like a pang when I thought how little trouble it had
been.

"If you don't like it," I said, "or wish to have it changed--"

"Changed!" she exclaimed reproachfully. "Do you think I'd change it?
Only--it's much too valuable--"

I smiled.... Miss Allsop deftly undid the clasp and hung it around
Maude's neck.

"How it suits you, Mrs. Paret!" she cried....

This pendant was by no means the only present I had given Maude in recent
years, and though she cared as little for jewels as for dress she seemed
to attach to it a peculiar value and significance that disturbed and
smote me, for the incident had revealed a love unchanged and
unchangeable. Had she taken my gift as a sign that my indifference was
melting?

As I went downstairs and into the library to read the financial page of
the morning newspaper I asked myself, with a certain disquiet, whether,
in the formal, complicated, and luxurious conditions in which we now
lived it might be possible to build up new ties and common interests. I
reflected that this would involve confessions and confidences on my part,
since there was a whole side of my life of which Maude knew nothing. I
had convinced myself long ago that a man's business career was no affair
of his wife's: I had justified that career to myself: yet I had always
had a vague feeling that Maude, had she known the details, would not have
approved of it. Impossible, indeed, for a woman to grasp these problems.
They were outside of her experience.

Nevertheless, something might be done to improve our relationship,
something which would relieve me of that uneasy lack of unity I felt when
at home, of the lassitude and ennui I was wont to feel creeping over me
on Sundays and holidays....



XX.

I find in relating those parts of my experience that seem to be of most
significance I have neglected to tell of my mother's death, which
occurred the year before we moved to Grant Avenue. She had clung the rest
of her days to the house in which I had been born. Of late years she had
lived in my children, and Maude's devotion to her had been unflagging.
Truth compels me to say that she had long ceased to be a factor in my
life. I have thought of her in later years.

Coincident with the unexpected feeling of fruitlessness that came to me
with the Grant Avenue house, of things achieved but not realized or
appreciated, was the appearance of a cloud on the business horizon; or
rather on the political horizon, since it is hard to separate the two
realms. There were signs, for those who could read, of a rising popular
storm. During the earliest years of the new century the political
atmosphere had changed, the public had shown a tendency to grow restless;
and everybody knows how important it is for financial operations, for
prosperity, that the people should mind their own business. In short, our
commercial-romantic pilgrimage began to meet with unexpected resistance.
It was as though the nation were entering into a senseless conspiracy to
kill prosperity.

In the first place, in regard to the Presidency of the United States, a
cog had unwittingly been slipped. It had always been recognized--as I
have said--by responsible financial personages that the impulses of the
majority of Americans could not be trusted, that these--who had inherited
illusions of freedom--must be governed firmly yet with delicacy; unknown
to them, their Presidents must be chosen for them, precisely as Mr.
Watling had been chosen for the people of our state, and the popular
enthusiasm manufactured later. There were informal meetings in New York,
in Washington, where candidates were discussed; not that such and such a
man was settled upon,--it was a process of elimination. Usually the
affair had gone smoothly. For instance, a while before, a benevolent
capitalist of the middle west, an intimate of Adolf Scherer, had become
obsessed with the idea that a friend of his was the safest and sanest man
for the head of the nation, had convinced his fellow-capitalists of this,
whereupon he had gone ahead to spend his energy and his money freely to
secure the nomination and election of this gentleman.

The Republican National Committee, the Republican National Convention
were allowed to squabble to their hearts' content as to whether Smith,
Jones or Brown should be nominated, but it was clearly understood that if
Robinson or White were chosen there would be no corporation campaign
funds. This applied also to the Democratic party, on the rare occasions
when it seemed to have an opportunity of winning. Now, however, through
an unpardonable blunder, there had got into the White House a President
who was inclined to ignore advice, who appealed over the heads of the
"advisers" to the populace; who went about tilting at the industrial
structures we had so painfully wrought, and in frequent blasts of
presidential messages enunciated new and heretical doctrines; who
attacked the railroads, encouraged the brazen treason of labour unions,
inspired an army of "muck-rakers" to fill the magazines with the wildest
and most violent of language. State legislatures were emboldened to pass
mischievous and restrictive laws, and much of my time began to be
occupied in inducing, by various means, our courts to declare these
unconstitutional. How we sighed for a business man or a lawyer in the
White House! The country had gone mad, the stock-market trembled, the cry
of "corporation control" resounded everywhere, and everywhere demagogues
arose to inaugurate "reform campaigns," in an abortive attempt to "clean
up politics." Down with the bosses, who were the tools of the
corporations!

In our own city, which we fondly believed to be proof against the
prevailing madness, a slight epidemic occurred; slight, yet momentarily
alarming. Accidents will happen, even in the best regulated political
organizations,--and accidents in these days appeared to be the rule. A
certain Mr. Edgar Greenhalge, a middle-aged, mild-mannered and
inoffensive man who had made a moderate fortune in wholesale drugs, was
elected to the School Board. Later on some of us had reason to suspect
that Perry Blackwood--with more astuteness than he had been given credit
for--was responsible for Mr. Greenhalge's candidacy. At any rate, he was
not a man to oppose, and in his previous life had given no hint that he
might become a trouble maker. Nothing happened for several months. But
one day on which I had occasion to interview Mr. Jason on a little matter
of handing over to the Railroad a piece of land belonging to the city,
which was known as Billings' Bowl, he inferred that Mr. Greenhaige might
prove a disturber of that profound peace with which the city
administration had for many years been blessed.

"Who the hell is he?" was Mr. Jason's question.

It appeared that Mr. G.'s private life had been investigated, with
disappointingly barren results; he was, seemingly, an anomalistic being
in our Nietzschean age, an unaggressive man; he had never sold any drugs
to the city; he was not a church member; nor could it be learned that he
had ever wandered into those byways of the town where Mr. Jason might
easily have got trace of him: if he had any vices, he kept them locked up
in a safe-deposit box that could not be "located." He was very genial,
and had a way of conveying disturbing facts--when he wished to convey
them--under cover of the most amusing stories. Mr. Jason was not a man to
get panicky. Greenhalge could be handled all right, only--what was there
in it for Greenhalge?--a nut difficult for Mr. Jason to crack. The two
other members of the School Board were solid. Here again the wisest of
men was proved to err, for Mr. Greenhalge turned out to have powers of
persuasion; he made what in religious terms would have been called a
conversion in the case of another member of the board, an hitherto
staunch old reprobate by the name of Muller, an ex-saloon-keeper in
comfortable circumstances to whom the idea of public office had appealed.

Mr. Greenhalge, having got wind of certain transactions that interested
him extremely, brought them in his good-natured way to the knowledge of
Mr. Gregory, the district attorney, suggesting that he investigate. Mr.
Gregory smiled; undertook, as delicately as possible, to convey to Mr.
Greenhalge the ways of the world, and of the political world in
particular, wherein, it seemed, everyone was a good fellow. Mr.
Greenhalge was evidently a good fellow, and didn't want to make trouble
over little things. No, Mr. Greenhalge didn't want to make trouble; he
appreciated a comfortable life as much as Mr. Gregory; he told the
district attorney a funny story which might or might not have had an
application to the affair, and took his leave with the remark that he had
been happy to make Mr. Gregory's acquaintance. On his departure the
district attorney's countenance changed. He severely rebuked a
subordinate for some trivial mistake, and walked as rapidly as he could
carry his considerable weight to Monahan's saloon.... One of the things
Mr. Gregory had pointed out incidentally was that Mr. Greenhalge's
evidence was vague, and that a grand jury wanted facts, which might be
difficult to obtain. Mr. Greenhalge, thinking over the suggestion, sent
for Krebs. In the course of a month or two the investigation was
accomplished, Greenhalge went back to Gregory; who repeated his homilies,
whereupon he was handed a hundred or so typewritten pages of evidence.

It was a dramatic moment.

Mr. Gregory resorted to pleading. He was sure that Mr. Greenhalge didn't
want to be disagreeable, it was true and unfortunate that such things
were so, but they would be amended: he promised all his influence to
amend them. The public conscience, said Mr. Gregory, was being aroused.
Now how much better for the party, for the reputation, the fair name of
the city if these things could be corrected quietly, and nobody indicted
or tried! Between sensible and humane men, wasn't that the obvious way?
After the election, suit could be brought to recover the money. But Mr.
Greenhalge appeared to be one of those hopeless individuals without a
spark of party loyalty; he merely continued to smile, and to suggest that
the district attorney prosecute. Mr. Gregory temporized, and presently
left the city on a vacation. A day or two after his second visit to the
district attorney's office Mr. Greenhalge had a call from the city
auditor and the purchasing agent, who talked about their families,--which
was very painful. It was also intimated to Mr. Greenhalge by others who
accosted him that he was just the man for mayor. He smiled, and modestly
belittled his qualifications....

Suddenly, one fine morning, a part of the evidence Krebs had gathered
appeared in the columns of the Mail and State, a new and enterprising
newspaper for which the growth and prosperity of our city were
responsible; the sort of "revelations" that stirred to amazement and
wrath innocent citizens of nearly every city in our country: politics and
"graft" infesting our entire educational system, teachers and janitors
levied upon, prices that took the breath away paid to favoured firms for
supplies, specifications so worded that reasonable bids were barred. The
respectable firm of Ellery and Knowles was involved. In spite of our
horror, we were Americans and saw the humour of the situation, and
laughed at the caricature in the Mail and State representing a scholar
holding up a pencil and a legend under it, "No, it's not gold, but it
ought to be."

Here I must enter into a little secret history. Any affair that
threatened the integrity of Mr. Jason's organization was of serious
moment to the gentlemen of the financial world who found that
organization invaluable and who were also concerned about the fair name
of their community; a conference in the Boyne Club decided that the city
officials were being persecuted, and entitled therefore to "the very best
of counsel,"--in this instance, Mr. Hugh Paret. It was also thought wise
by Mr. Dickinson, Mr. Gorse, and Mr. Grierson, and by Mr. Paret himself
that he should not appear in the matter; an aspiring young attorney, Mr.
Arbuthnot, was retained to conduct the case in public. Thus capital came
to the assistance of Mr. Jason, a fund was raised, and I was given carte
blanche to defend the miserable city auditor and purchasing agent, both
of whom elicited my sympathy; for they were stout men, and rapidly losing
weight. Our first care was to create a delay in the trial of the case in
order to give the public excitement a chance to die down. For the public
is proverbially unable to fix its attention for long on one object,
continually demanding the distraction that our newspapers make it their
business to supply. Fortunately, a murder was committed in one of our
suburbs, creating a mystery that filled the "extras" for some weeks, and
this was opportunely followed by the embezzlement of a considerable sum
by the cashier of one of our state banks. Public interest was divided
between baseball and the tracking of this criminal to New Zealand.

Our resentment was directed, not so much against Commissioner Greenhalge
as against Krebs. It is curious how keen is the instinct of men like
Grierson, Dickinson, Tallant and Scherer for the really dangerous
opponent. Who the deuce was this man Krebs? Well, I could supply them
with some information: they doubtless recalled the Galligan, case; and
Miller Gorse, who forgot nothing, also remembered his opposition in the
legislature to House Bill 709. He had continued to be the obscure legal
champion of "oppressed" labour, but how he had managed to keep body and
soul together I knew not. I had encountered him occasionally in court
corridors or on the street; he did not seem to change much; nor did he
appear in our brief and perfunctory conversations to bear any resentment
against me for the part I had taken in the Galligan affair. I avoided him
when it was possible.... I had to admit that he had done a remarkably
good piece of work in collecting Greenhalge's evidence, and how the,
erring city officials were to be rescued became a matter of serious
concern. Gregory, the district attorney, was in an abject funk; in any
case a mediocre lawyer, after the indictment he was no help at all. I had
to do all the work, and after we had selected the particular "Railroad"
judge before whom the case was to be tried, I talked it over with him.
His name was Notting, he understood perfectly what was required of him,
and that he was for the moment the chief bulwark on which depended the
logical interests of capital and sane government for their defence; also,
his re-election was at stake. It was indicated to newspapers (such as the
Mail and State) showing a desire to keep up public interest in the affair
that their advertising matter might decrease; Mr. Sherrill's great
department store, for instance, did not approve of this sort of
agitation. Certain stationers, booksellers and other business men had got
"cold feet," as Mr. Jason put it, the prospect of bankruptcy suddenly
looming ahead of them,--since the Corn National Bank held certain
paper....

In short, when the case did come to trial, it "blew up," as one of our
ward leaders dynamically expressed it. Several important witnesses were
mysteriously lacking, and two or three school-teachers had suddenly
decided--to take a trip to Europe. The district attorney was ill, and
assigned the prosecution to a mild assistant; while a sceptical
jury--composed largely of gentlemen who had the business interests of the
community, and of themselves, at heart returned a verdict of "not
guilty." This was the signal for severely dignified editorials in Mr.
Tallant's and other conservative newspapers, hinting that it might be
well in the future for all well-meaning but misguided reformers to think
twice before subjecting the city to the cost of such trials, and
uselessly attempting to inflame public opinion and upset legitimate
business. The Era expressed the opinion that no city in the United States
was "more efficiently and economically governed than our own."
"Irregularities" might well occur in every large organization; and it
would better have become Mr. Greenhalge if, instead of hiring an unknown
lawyer thirsting for notoriety to cook up charges, he had called the
attention of the proper officials to the matter, etc., etc. The Pilot
alone, which relied on sensation for its circulation, kept hammering away
for a time with veiled accusations. But our citizens had become weary....

As a topic, however, this effective suppression of reform was referred to
with some delicacy by my friends and myself. Our interference had been
necessary and therefore justified, but we were not particularly proud of
it, and our triumph had a temporarily sobering effect. It was about this
time, if I remember correctly, that Mr. Dickinson gave the beautiful
stained-glass window to the church....

Months passed. One day, having occasion to go over to the Boyne Iron
Works to get information at first hand from certain officials, and having
finished my business, I boarded a South Side electric car standing at the
terminal. Just before it started Krebs came down the aisle of the car and
took the seat in front of me.

"Well," I said, "how are you?" He turned in surprise, and thrust his big,
bony hand across the back of the seat. "Come and sit here." He came. "Do
you ever get back to Cambridge in these days?" I asked cordially.

"Not since I graduated from newspaper work in Boston. That's a good many
years ago. By the way, our old landlady died this year."

"Do you mean--?" "Granite Face," I was about to say. I had forgotten her
name, but that homesick scene when Tom and I stood before our open
trunks, when Krebs had paid us a visit, came back to me. "You've kept in
touch with her?" I asked, in surprise.

"Well," said Krebs, "she was one of the few friends I had at Cambridge. I
had a letter from the daughter last week. She's done very well, and is an
instructor in biology in one of the western universities."

I was silent a moment.

"And you,--you never married, did you?" I inquired, somewhat
irrelevantly.

His semi-humorous gesture seemed to deny that such a luxury was for him.
The conversation dragged a little; I began to feel the curiosity he
invariably inspired. What was his life? What were his beliefs? And I was
possessed by a certain militancy, a desire to "smoke him out." I did not
stop to reflect that mine was in reality a defensive rather than an
aggressive attitude.

"Do you live down here, in this part of the city?" I asked.

No, he boarded in Fowler Street. I knew it as in a district given over to
the small houses of working-men.

"I suppose you are still a socialist."

"I suppose I am," he admitted, and added, "at any rate, that is as near
as you can get to it."

"Isn't it fairly definite?"

"Fairly, if my notions are taken in general as the antithesis of what you
fellows believe."

"The abolition of property, for instance."

"The abolition of too much property."

"What do you mean by 'too much'?"

"When it ceases to be real to a man, when it represents more than his
need, when it drives him and he becomes a slave to it."

Involuntarily I thought of my new house,--not a soothing reflection.

"But who is going to decree how much property, a man should have?"

"Nobody--everybody. That will gradually tend to work itself out as we
become more sensible and better educated, and understand more clearly
what is good for us."

I retorted with the stock, common-sense phrase.

"If we had a division to-morrow, within a few years or so the most
efficient would contrive to get the bulk of it back in their hands."

"That's so," he admitted. "But we're not going to have a division
to-morrow."

"Thank God!" I exclaimed.

He regarded me.

"The 'efficient' will have to die or be educated first. That will take
time."

"Educated!"

"Paret, have you ever read any serious books on what you call socialism?"
he asked.

I threw out an impatient negative. I was going on to protest that I was
not ignorant of the doctrine.

"Oh, what you call socialism is merely what you believe to be the more or
less crude and utopian propaganda of an obscure political party. That
isn't socialism. Nor is the anomalistic attempt that the Christian
Socialists make to unite modern socialistic philosophy with Christian
orthodoxy, socialism."

"What is socialism, then?" I demanded, somewhat defiantly.

"Let's call it education, science," he said smilingly, "economics and
government based on human needs and a rational view of religion. It has
been taught in German universities, and it will be taught in ours
whenever we shall succeed in inducing your friends, by one means or
another, not to continue endowing them. Socialism, in the proper sense,
is merely the application of modern science to government."

I was puzzled and angry. What he said made sense somehow, but it sounded
to me like so much gibberish.

"But Germany is a monarchy," I objected.

"It is a modern, scientific system with monarchy as its superstructure.
It is anomalous, but frank. The monarchy is there for all men to see, and
some day it will be done away with. We are supposedly a democracy, and
our superstructure is plutocratic. Our people feel the burden, but they
have not yet discovered what the burden is."

"And when they do?" I asked, a little defiantly.

"When they do," replied Krebs, "they will set about making the plutocrats
happy. Now plutocrats are discontented, and never satisfied; the more
they get, the more they want, the more they are troubled by what other
people have."

I smiled in spite of myself.

"Your interest in--in plutocrats is charitable, then?"

"Why, yes," he said, "my interest in all kinds of people is charitable.
However improbable it may seem, I have no reason to dislike or envy
people who have more than they know what to do with." And the worst of it
was he looked it. He managed somehow simply by sitting there with his
strange eyes fixed upon me--in spite of his ridiculous philosophy--to
belittle my ambitions, to make of small worth my achievements, to bring
home to me the fact that in spite of these I was neither contented nor
happy though he kept his humour and his poise, he implied an experience
that was far deeper, more tragic and more significant than mine. I was
goaded into making an injudicious remark.

"Well, your campaign against Ennerly and Jackson fell through, didn't
it?" Ennerly and Jackson were the city officials who had been tried.

"It wasn't a campaign against them," he answered. "And considering the
subordinate part I took in it, it could scarcely be called mine."

"Greenhalge turned to you to get the evidence."

"Well, I got it," he said.

"What became of it?"

"You ought to know."

"What do you mean?"

"Just what I say, Paret," he answered slowly. "You ought to know, if
anyone knows."

I considered this a moment, more soberly. I thought I might have counted
on my fingers the number of men cognizant of my connection with the case.
I decided that he was guessing.

"I think you should explain that," I told him.

"The time may come, when you'll have to explain it."

"Is that a threat?" I demanded.

"A threat?" he repeated. "Not at all."

"But you are accusing me--"

"Of what?" he interrupted suddenly.

He had made it necessary for me to define the nature of his charges.

"Of having had some connection with the affair in question."

"Whatever else I may be, I'm not a fool," he said quietly. "Neither the
district attorney's office, nor young Arbuthnot had brains enough to get
them out of that scrape. Jason didn't have influence enough with the
judiciary, and, as I happen to know, there was a good deal of money
spent."

"You may be called upon to prove it," I retorted, rather hotly.

"So I may."

His tone, far from being defiant, had in it a note of sadness. I looked
at him. What were his potentialities? Was it not just possible that I
should have to revise my idea of him, acknowledge that he might become
more formidable than I had thought?

There was an awkward silence.

"You mustn't imagine, Paret, that I have any personal animus against you,
or against any of the men with whom you're associated," he went on, after
a moment. "I'm sorry you're on that side, that's all,--I told you so once
before. I'm not calling you names, I'm not talking about morality and
immorality. Immorality, when you come down to it, is often just the
opposition to progress that comes from blindness. I don't make the
mistake of blaming a few individuals for the evils of modern industrial
society, and on the other hand you mustn't blame individuals for the
discomforts of what you call the reform movement, for that movement is
merely a symptom--a symptom of a disease due to a change in the structure
of society. We'll never have any happiness or real prosperity until we
cure that disease. I was inclined to blame you once, at the capital that
time, because it seemed to me that a man with all the advantages you have
had and a mind like yours didn't have much excuse. But I've thought about
it since; I realize now that I've had a good many more 'advantages' than
you, and to tell you the truth, I don't see how you could have come out
anywhere else than where you are,--all your surroundings and training
were against it. That doesn't mean that you won't grasp the situation
some day--I have an idea you will. It's just an idea. The man who ought
to be condemned isn't the man that doesn't understand what's going on,
but the man who comes to understand and persists in opposing it." He rose
and looked down at me with the queer, disturbing smile I remembered. "I
get off at this corner," he added, rather diffidently. "I hope you'll
forgive me for being personal. I didn't mean to be, but you rather forced
it on me."

"Oh, that's all right," I replied. The car stopped, and he hurried off. I
watched his tall figure as it disappeared among the crowd on the
sidewalk....

I returned to my office in one of those moods that are the more
disagreeable because conflicting. To-day in particular I had been aroused
by what Tom used to call Krebs's "crust," and as I sat at my desk warm
waves of resentment went through me at the very notion of his telling me
that my view was limited and that therefore my professional conduct was
to be forgiven! It was he, the fanatic, who saw things in the larger
scale! an assumption the more exasperating because at the moment he made
it he almost convinced me that he did, and I was unable to achieve for
him the measure of contempt I desired, for the incident, the measure of
ridicule it deserved. My real animus was due to the fact that he had
managed to shake my self-confidence, to take the flavour out of my
achievements,--a flavour that was in the course of an hour to be
completely restored by one of those interesting coincidences occasionally
occurring in life. A young member of my staff entered with a telegram; I
tore it open, and sat staring at it a moment before I realized that it
brought to me the greatest honour of my career.

The Banker-Personality in New York had summoned me for consultation. To
be recognized by him conferred indeed an ennoblement, the Star and
Garter, so to speak, of the only great realm in America, that of high
finance; and the yellow piece of paper I held in my hand instantly
re-magnetized me, renewed my energy, and I hurried home to pack my bag in
order to catch the seven o'clock train. I announced the news to Maude.

"I imagine it's because he knows I have made something of a study of the
coal roads situation," I added.

"I'm glad, Hugh," she said. "I suppose it's a great compliment."

Never had her inadequacy to appreciate my career been more apparent! I
looked at her curiously, to realize once more with peculiar sharpness how
far we were apart; but now the resolutions I had made--and never carried
out--on that first Christmas in the new home were lacking. Indeed, it was
the futility of such resolutions that struck me at this moment. If her
manner had been merely one of indifference, it would in a way have been
easier to bear; she was simply incapable of grasping the significance of
the event, the meaning to me of the years of unceasing, ambitious effort
it crowned.

"Yes, it is something of a recognition," I replied. "Is there anything I
can get for you in New York? I don't know how long I shall have to
stay--I'll telegraph you when I'm getting back." I kissed her and hurried
out to the automobile. As I drove off I saw her still standing in the
doorway looking after me.... In the station I had a few minutes to
telephone Nancy.

"If you don't see me for a few days it's because I've gone to New York,"
I informed her.

"Something important, I'm sure."

"How did you guess?" I demanded, and heard her laugh.

"Come back soon and tell me about it," she said, and I walked,
exhilarated, to the train.... As I sped through the night, staring out of
the window into the darkness, I reflected on the man I was going to see.
But at that time, although he represented to me the quintessence of
achievement and power, I did not by any means grasp the many sided
significance of the phenomenon he presented, though I was keenly aware of
his influence, and that men spoke of him with bated breath. Presidents
came and went, kings and emperors had responsibilities and were subject
daily to annoyances, but this man was a law unto himself. He did exactly
what he chose, and compelled other men to do it. Wherever commerce
reigned,--and where did it not?--he was king and head of its Holy Empire,
Pope and Emperor at once. For he had his code of ethics, his religion,
and those who rebelled, who failed to conform, he excommunicated; a code
something like the map of Europe,--apparently inconsistent in places.
What I did not then comprehend was that he was the American Principle
personified, the supreme individual assertion of the conviction that
government should remain modestly in the background while the efficient
acquired the supremacy that was theirs by natural right; nor had I
grasped at that time the crowning achievement of a unity that fused
Christianity with those acquisitive dispositions said to be inherent in
humanity. In him the Lion and the Lamb, the Eagle and the Dove dwelt
together in amity and power.

New York, always a congenial place to gentlemen of vitality and means and
influential connections, had never appeared to me more sparkling, more
inspiring. Winter had relented, spring had not as yet begun. And as I sat
in a corner of the dining-room of my hotel looking out on the sunlit
avenue I was conscious of partaking of the vigour and confidence of the
well-dressed, clear-eyed people who walked or drove past my window with
the air of a conquering race. What else was there in the world more worth
having than this conquering sense? Religion might offer charms to the
weak. Yet here religion itself became sensible, and wore the garb of
prosperity. The stonework of the tall church on the corner was all lace;
and the very saints in their niches, who had known martyrdom and poverty,
seemed to have renounced these as foolish, and to look down complacently
on the procession of wealth and power.. Across the street, behind a sheet
of glass, was a carrosserie where were displayed the shining yellow and
black panels of a closed automobile, the cost of which would have built a
farm-house and stocked a barn.

At eleven o'clock, the appointed hour, I was in Wall Street. Sending in
my name, I was speedily ushered into a room containing a table, around
which were several men; but my eyes were drawn at once to the figure of
the great banker who sat, massive and preponderant, at one end, smoking a
cigar, and listening in silence to the conversation I had interrupted. He
rose courteously and gave me his hand, and a glance that is
unforgettable.

"It is good of you to come, Mr. Paret," he said simply, as though his
summons had not been a command. "Perhaps you know some of these
gentlemen."

One of them was our United States Senator, Theodore Watling. He, as it
turned out, had been summoned from Washington. Of course I saw him
frequently, having from time to time to go to Washington on various
errands connected with legislation. Though spruce and debonnair as ever,
in the black morning coat he invariably wore, he appeared older than he
had on the day when I had entered his office. He greeted me warmly, as
always.

"Hugh, I'm glad to see you here," he said, with a slight emphasis on the
last word. My legal career was reaching its logical climax, the climax he
had foreseen. And he added, to the banker, that he had brought me up.

"Then he was trained in a good school," remarked that personage, affably.

Mr. Barbour, the president of our Railroad, was present, and nodded to me
kindly; also a president of a smaller road. In addition, there were two
New York attorneys of great prominence, whom I had met. The banker's own
special lieutenant of the law, Mr. Clement T. Grolier, for whom I looked,
was absent; but it was forthwith explained that he was offering, that
morning, a resolution of some importance in the Convention of his Church,
but that he would be present after lunch.

"I have asked you to come here, Mr. Paret," said the banker, "not only
because I know something personally of your legal ability, but because I
have been told by Mr. Scherer and Mr. Barbour that you happen to have
considerable knowledge of the situation we are discussing, as well as
some experience with cases involving that statute somewhat hazy to lay
minds, the Sherman anti-trust law."

A smile went around the table. Mr. Watling winked at me; I nodded, but
said nothing. The banker was not a man to listen to superfluous words.
The keynote of his character was despatch....

The subject of the conference, like many questions bitterly debated and
fought over in their time, has in the year I write these words come to be
of merely academic interest. Indeed, the very situation we discussed that
day has been cited in some of our modern text-books as a classic
consequence of that archaic school of economics to which the name of
Manchester is attached. Some half dozen or so of the railroads running
through the anthracite coal region had pooled their interests,--an
extremely profitable proceeding. The public paid. We deemed it quite
logical that the public should pay--having been created largely for that
purpose; and very naturally we resented the fact that the meddling Person
who had got into the White House without asking anybody's leave,--who
apparently did not believe in the infallibility of our legal Bible, the
Constitution,--should maintain that the anthracite roads had formed a
combination in restraint of trade, should lay down the preposterous
doctrine--so subversive of the Rights of Man--that railroads should not
own coal mines. Congress had passed a law to meet this contention, suit
had been brought, and in the lower court the government had won.

As the day wore on our numbers increased, we were joined by other lawyers
of renown, not the least of whom was Mr. Grolier himself, fresh from his
triumph over religious heresy in his Church Convention. The note of the
conference became tinged with exasperation, and certain gentlemen seized
the opportunity to relieve their pent-up feelings on the subject of the
President and his slavish advisers,--some of whom, before they came under
the spell of his sorcery, had once been sound lawyers and sensible men.
With the exception of the great Banker himself, who made few comments,
Theodore Watling was accorded the most deference; as one of the leaders
of that indomitable group of senators who had dared to stand up against
popular clamour, his opinions were of great value, and his tactical
advice was listened to with respect. I felt more pride than ever in my
former chief, who had lost none of his charm. While in no way minimizing
the seriousness of the situation, his wisdom was tempered, as always,
with humour; he managed, as it were, to neutralize the acid injected into
the atmosphere by other gentlemen present; he alone seemed to bear no
animus against the Author of our troubles; suave and calm, good natured,
he sometimes brought the company into roars of laughter and even
succeeded in bringing occasional smiles to the face of the man who had
summoned us--when relating some characteristic story of the queer genius
whom the fates (undoubtedly as a practical joke) had made the chief
magistrate of the United States of America. All geniuses have weaknesses;
Mr. Wading had made a study of the President's, and more than once had
lured him into an impasse. The case had been appealed to the Supreme
Court, and Mr. Wading, with remarkable conciseness and penetration,
reviewed the characteristics of each and every member of that tribunal,
all of whom he knew intimately. They were, of course, not subject to
"advice," as were some of the gentlemen who sat on our state courts; no
sane and self-respecting American would presume to "approach" them.
Nevertheless they were human, and it were wise to take account, in the
conduct of the case, of the probable bias of each individual.

The President, overstepping his constitutional, Newtonian limits, might
propose laws, Congress might acquiesce in them, but the Supreme Court,
after listening to lawyers like Grolier (and he bowed to the attorney),
made them: made them, he might have added, without responsibility to any
man in our unique Republic that scorned kings and apotheosized lawyers. A
Martian with a sense of humour witnessing a stormy session of Congress
would have giggled at the thought of a few tranquil gentlemen in another
room of the Capitol waiting to decide what the people's representatives
meant--or whether they meant anything....

For the first time since I had known Theodore Watling, however, I saw him
in the shadow of another individual; a man who, like a powerful magnet,
continually drew our glances. When we spoke, we almost invariably
addressed him, his rare words fell like bolts upon the consciousness.
There was no apparent rift in that personality.

When, about five o'clock, the conference was ended and we were dismissed,
United States Senator, railroad presidents, field-marshals of the law,
the great banker fell into an eager conversation with Grolier over the
Canon on Divorce, the subject of warm debate in the convention that day.
Grolier, it appeared, had led his party against the theological liberals.
He believed that law was static, but none knew better its plasticity;
that it was infallible, but none so well as he could find a text on
either side. His reputation was not of the popular, newspaper sort, but
was known to connoisseurs, editors, financiers, statesmen and judges,--to
those, in short, whose business it is to make themselves familiar with
the instruments of power. He was the banker's chief legal adviser, the
banker's rapier of tempered steel, sheathed from the vulgar view save
when it flashed forth on a swift errand.

"I'm glad to be associated with you in this case, Mr. Paret," Mr. Grolier
said modestly, as we emerged into the maelstrom of Wall Street. "If you
can make it convenient to call at my office in the morning, we'll go over
it a little. And I'll see you in a day or two in Washington, Watling.
Keep your eye on the bull," he added, with a twinkle, "and don't let him
break any more china than you can help. I don't know where we'd be if it
weren't for you fellows."

By "you fellows," he meant Mr. Watling's distinguished associates in the
Senate....

Mr. Watling and I dined together at a New York club. It was not a dinner
of herbs. There was something exceedingly comfortable about that club,
where the art of catering to those who had earned the right to be catered
to came as near perfection as human things attain. From the great,
heavily curtained dining-room the noises of the city had been carefully
excluded; the dust of the Avenue, the squalour and smells of the brown
stone fronts and laddered tenements of those gloomy districts lying a
pistol-shot east and west. We had a vintage champagne, and afterwards a
cigar of the club's special importation.

"Well," said Mr. Watling, "mow that you're a member of the royal council,
what do you think of the King?"

"I've been thinking a great deal about him," I said, and indeed it was
true. He had made, perhaps, his greatest impression when I had shaken his
hand in parting. The manner in which he had looked at me then had puzzled
me; it was as though he were seeking to divine something in me that had
escaped him. "Why doesn't the government take him over?" I exclaimed.

Mr. Watling smiled.

"You mean, instead of his mines and railroads and other properties?"

"Yes. But that's your idea. Don't you remember you said something of the
kind the night of the election, years ago? It occurred to me to-day, when
I was looking at him."

"Yes," he agreed thoughtfully, "if some American genius could find a way
to legalize that power and utilize the men who created it the worst of
our problems would be solved. A man with his ability has a right to
power, and none would respond more quickly or more splendidly to a call
of the government than he. All this fight is waste, Hugh, damned waste of
the nation's energy." Mr. Watling seldom swore. "Look at the President!
There's a man of remarkable ability, too. And those two oughtn't to be
fighting each other. The President's right, in a way. Yes, he is, though
I've got to oppose him."

I smiled at this from Theodore Watling, though I admired him the more for
it. And suddenly, oddly, I happened to remember what Krebs had said, that
our troubles were not due to individuals, but to a disease that had
developed in industrial society. If the day should come when such men as
the President and the great banker would be working together, was it not
possible, too, that the idea of Mr. Watling and the vision of Krebs might
coincide? I was struck by a certain seeming similarity in their views;
but Mr. Watling interrupted this train of thought by continuing to
express his own.

"Well,--they're running right into a gale when they might be sailing with
it," he said.

"You think we'll have more trouble?" I asked.

"More and more," he replied. "It'll be worse before it's better I'm
afraid." At this moment a club servant announced his cab, and he rose.
"Well, good-bye, my son," he said. "I'll hope to see you in Washington
soon. And remember there's no one thinks any more of you than I do."

I escorted him to the door, and it was with a real pang I saw him wave to
me from his cab as he drove away. My affection for him was never more
alive than in this hour when, for the first time in my experience, he had
given real evidence of an inner anxiety and lack of confidence in the
future.



XXI.

In spite of that unwonted note of pessimism from Mr. Watling, I went home
in a day or two flushed with my new honours, and it was impossible not to
be conscious of the fact that my aura of prestige was increased
--tremendously increased--by the recognition I had received. A certain
subtle deference in the attitude of the small minority who owed
allegiance to the personage by whom I had been summoned was more
satisfying than if I had been acclaimed at the station by thousands of my
fellow-citizens who knew nothing of my journey and of its significance,
even though it might have a concern for them. To men like Berringer,
Grierson and Tallant and our lesser great lights the banker was a
semi-mythical figure, and many times on the day of my return I was
stopped on the street to satisfy the curiosity of my friends as to my
impressions. Had he, for instance, let fall any opinions,
prognostications on the political and financial situation? Dickinson and
Scherer were the only other men in the city who had the honour of a
personal acquaintance with him, and Scherer was away, abroad, gathering
furniture and pictures for the house in New York Nancy had predicted, and
which he had already begun to build! With Dickinson I lunched in private,
in order to give him a detailed account of the conference. By five
o'clock I was ringing the door-bell of Nancy's new mansion on Grant
Avenue. It was several blocks below my own.

"Well, how does it feel to be sent for by the great sultan?" she asked,
as I stood before her fire. "Of course, I have always known that
ultimately he couldn't get along without you."

"Even if he has been a little late in realizing it," I retorted.

"Sit down and tell me all about him," she commanded.

"I met him once, when Ham had the yacht at Bar Harbor."

"And how did he strike you?"

"As somewhat wrapped up in himself," said Nancy.

We laughed together.

"Oh, I fell a victim," she went on. "I might have sailed off with him, if
he had asked me."

"I'm surprised he didn't ask you."

"I suspect that it was not quite convenient," she said. "Women are
secondary considerations to sultans, we're all very well when they
haven't anything more serious to occupy them. Of course that's why they
fascinate us. What did he want with you, Hugh?"

"He was evidently afraid that the government would win the coal roads
suit unless I was retained."

"More laurels!" she sighed. "I suppose I ought to be proud to know you."

"That's exactly what I've been trying to impress on you all these years,"
I declared. "I've laid the laurels at your feet, in vain."

She sat with her head back on the cushions, surveying me.

"Your dress is very becoming," I said irrelevantly.

"I hoped it would meet your approval," she mocked.

"I've been trying to identify the shade. It's elusive--like you."

"Don't be banal.... What is the colour?"

"Poinsetta!"

"Pretty nearly," she agreed, critically.

I took the soft crepe between my fingers.

"Poet!" she smiled. "No, it isn't quite poinsetta. It's nearer the
red-orange of a tree I remember one autumn, in the White Mountains, with
the setting sun on it. But that wasn't what we were talking about.
Laurels! Your laurels."

"My laurels," I repeated. "Such as they are, I fling them into your lap."

"Do you think they increase your value to me, Hugh?"

"I don't know," I said thickly.

She shook her head.

"No, it's you I like--not the laurels."

"But if you care for me--?" I began.

She lifted up her hands and folded them behind the knot of her hair.

"It's extraordinary how little you have changed since we were children,
Hugh. You are still sixteen years old, that's why I like you. If you got
to be the sultan of sultans yourself, I shouldn't like you any better, or
any worse."

"And yet you have just declared that power appeals to you!"

"Power--yes. But a woman--a woman like me--wants to be first, or
nothing."

"You are first," I asserted. "You always have been, if you had only
realized it."

She gazed up at me dreamily.

"If you had only realized it! If you had only realized that all I wanted
of you was to be yourself. It wasn't what you achieved. I didn't want you
to be like Ralph or the others."

"Myself? What are you trying to say?"

"Yourself. Yes, that is what I like about you. If you hadn't been in such
a hurry--if you hadn't misjudged me so. It was the power in you, the
craving, the ideal in you that I cared for--not the fruits of it. The
fruits would have come naturally. But you forced them, Hugh, for quicker
results."

"What kind of fruits?" I asked.

"Ah," she exclaimed, "how can I tell what they might have been! You have
striven and striven, you have done extraordinary things, but have they
made you any happier? have you got what you want?"

I stooped down and seized her wrists from behind her head.

"I want you, Nancy," I said. "I have always wanted you. You're more
wonderful to-day than you have ever been. I could find myself--with you."

She closed her eyes. A dreamy smile was on her face, and she lay
unresisting, very still. In that tremendous moment, for which it seemed I
had waited a lifetime, I could have taken her in my arms--and yet I did
not. I could not tell why: perhaps it was because she seemed to have
passed beyond me--far beyond--in realization. And she was so still!

"We have missed the way, Hugh," she whispered, at last.

"But we can find it again, if we seek it together," I urged.

"Ah, if I only could!" she said. "I could have once. But now I'm
afraid--afraid of getting lost." Slowly she straightened up, her hands
falling into her lap. I seized them again, I was on my knees in front of
her, before the fire, and she, intent, looking down at me, into me,
through me it seemed--at something beyond which yet was me.

"Hugh," she asked, "what do you believe? Anything?"

"What do I believe?"

"Yes. I don't mean any cant, cut-and-dried morality. The world is getting
beyond that. But have you, in your secret soul, any religion at all? Do
you ever think about it? I'm not speaking about anything orthodox, but
some religion--even a tiny speck of it, a germ--harmonizing with life,
with that power we feel in us we seek to express and continually
violate."

"Nancy!" I exclaimed.

"Answer me--answer me truthfully," she said....

I was silent, my thoughts whirling like dust atoms in a storm.

"You have always taken things--taken what you wanted. But they haven't
satisfied you, convinced you that that is all of life."

"Do you mean--that we should renounce?" I faltered.

"I don't know what I mean. I am asking, Hugh, asking. Haven't you any
clew? Isn't there any voice in you, anywhere, deep down, that can tell
me? give me a hint? just a little one?"

I was wracked. My passion had not left me, it seemed to be heightened,
and I pressed her hands against her knees. It was incredible that my
hands should be there, in hers, feeling her. Her beauty seemed as fresh,
as un-wasted as the day, long since, when I despaired of her. And yet and
yet against the tumult and beating of this passion striving to throb down
thought, thought strove. Though I saw her as a woman, my senses and my
spirit commingled and swooned together.

"This is life," I murmured, scarcely knowing what I said.

"Oh, my dear!" she cried, and her voice pierced me with pain, "are we to
be lost, overpowered, engulfed, swept down its stream, to come up below
drifting--wreckage? Where, then, would be your power? I'm not speaking of
myself. Isn't life more than that? Isn't it in us, too,--in you? Think,
Hugh. Is there no god, anywhere, but this force we feel, restlessly
creating only to destroy? You must answer--you must find out."

I cannot describe the pleading passion in her voice, as though hell and
heaven were wrestling in it. The woman I saw, tortured yet uplifted, did
not seem to be Nancy, yet it was the woman I loved more than life itself
and always had loved.

"I can't think," I answered desperately, "I can only feel--and I can't
express what I feel. It's mixed, it's dim, and yet bright and
shining--it's you."

"No, it's you," she said vehemently. "You must interpret it." Her voice
sank: "Could it be God?" she asked.

"God!" I exclaimed sharply.

Her hands fell away from mine.... The silence was broken only by the
crackling of the wood fire as a log turned over and fell. Never before,
in all our intercourse that I could remember, had she spoken to me about
religion.... With that apparent snap in continuity incomprehensible to
the masculine mind-her feminine mood had changed. Elements I had never
suspected, in Nancy, awe, even a hint of despair, entered into it, and
when my hand found hers again, the very quality of its convulsive
pressure seemed to have changed. I knew then that it was her soul I loved
most; I had been swept all unwittingly to its very altar.

"I believe it is God," I said. But she continued to gaze at me, her lips
parted, her eyes questioning.

"Why is it," she demanded, "that after all these centuries of certainty
we should have to start out to find him again? Why is it when something
happens like--like this, that we should suddenly be torn with doubts
about him, when we have lived the best part of our lives without so much
as thinking of him?"

"Why should you have qualms?" I said. "Isn't this enough? and doesn't it
promise--all?"

"I don't know. They're not qualms--in the old sense." She smiled down at
me a little tearfully. "Hugh, do you remember when we used to go to
Sunday-school at Dr. Pound's church, and Mrs. Ewan taught us? I really
believed something then--that Moses brought down the ten commandments of
God from the mountain, all written out definitely for ever and ever. And
I used to think of marriage" (I felt a sharp twinge), "of marriage as
something sacred and inviolable,--something ordained by God himself. It
ought to be so--oughtn't it? That is the ideal."

"Yes--but aren't you confusing--?" I began.

"I am confusing and confused. I shouldn't be--I shouldn't care if there
weren't something in you, in me, in our--friendship, something I can't
explain, something that shines still through the fog and the smoke in
which we have lived our lives--something which, I think, we saw clearer
as children. We have lost it in our hasty groping. Oh, Hugh, I couldn't
bear to think that we should never find it! that it doesn't really exist!
Because I seem to feel it. But can we find it this way, my dear?" Her
hand tightened on mine.

"But if the force drawing us together, that has always drawn us together,
is God?" I objected.

"I asked you," she said. "The time must come when you must answer, Hugh.
It may be too late, but you must answer."

"I believe in taking life in my own hands," I said.

"It ought to be life," said Nancy. "It--it might have been life.... It is
only when a moment, a moment like this comes that the quality of what we
have lived seems so tarnished, that the atmosphere which we ourselves
have helped to make is so sordid. When I think of the intrigues, and
divorces, the self-indulgences,--when I think of my own marriage--" her
voice caught. "How are we going to better it, Hugh, this way? Am I to get
that part of you I love, and are you to get what you crave in me? Can we
just seize happiness? Will it not elude us just as much as though we
believed firmly in the ten commandments?"

"No," I declared obstinately.

She shook her head.

"What I'm afraid of is that the world isn't made that way--for you--for
me. We're permitted to seize those other things because they're just
baubles, we've both found out how worthless they are. And the worst of it
is they've made me a coward, Hugh. It isn't that I couldn't do without
them, I've come to depend on them in another way. It's because they give
me a certain protection,--do you see? they've come to stand in the place
of the real convictions we've lost. And--well, we've taken the baubles,
can we reach out our hands and take--this? Won't we be punished for it,
frightfully punished?"

"I don't care if we are," I said, and surprised myself.

"But I care. It's weak, it's cowardly, but it's so. And yet I want to
face the situation--I'm trying to get you to face it, to realize how
terrible it is."

"I only know that I want you above everything else in the world--I'll
take care of you--"

I seized her arms, I drew her down to me.

"Don't!" she cried. "Oh, don't!" and struggled to her feet and stood
before me panting. "You must go away now--please, Hugh. I can't bear any
more--I want to think."

I released her. She sank into the chair and hid her face in her hands....

As may be imagined, the incident I have just related threw my life into a
tangle that would have floored a less persistent optimist and romanticist
than myself, yet I became fairly accustomed to treading what the old
moralists called the devious paths of sin. In my passion I had not
hesitated to lay down the doctrine that the courageous and the strong
took what they wanted,--a doctrine of which I had been a consistent
disciple in the professional and business realm. A logical buccaneer,
superman, "master of life" would promptly have extended this doctrine to
the realm of sex. Nancy was the mate for me, and Nancy and I, our
development, was all that mattered, especially my development. Let every
man and woman look out for his or her development, and in the end the
majority of people would be happy. This was going Adam Smith one better.
When it came to putting that theory into practice, however, one needed
convictions: Nancy had been right when she had implied that convictions
were precisely what we lacked; what our world in general lacked. We had
desires, yes convictions, no. What we wanted we got not by defying the
world, but by conforming to it: we were ready to defy only when our
desires overcame the resistance of our synapses, and even then not until
we should have exhausted every legal and conventional means.

A superman with a wife and family he had acquired before a great passion
has made him a superman is in rather a predicament, especially if he be
one who has achieved such superhumanity as he possesses not by
challenging laws and conventions, but by getting around them. My wife and
family loved me; and paradoxically I still had affection for them, or
thought I had. But the superman creed is, "be yourself, realize yourself,
no matter how cruel you may have to be in order to do so." One trouble
with me was that remnants of the Christian element of pity still clung to
me. I would be cruel if I had to, but I hoped I shouldn't have to:
something would turn up, something in the nature of an intervening
miracle that would make it easy for me. Perhaps Maude would take the
initiative and relieve me.... Nancy had appealed for a justifying
doctrine, and it was just what I didn't have and couldn't evolve. In the
meanwhile it was quite in character that I should accommodate myself to a
situation that might well be called anomalous.

This "accommodation" was not unaccompanied by fever. My longing to
realize my love for Nancy kept me in a constant state of tension--of
"nerves"; for our relationship had merely gone one step farther, we had
reached a point where we acknowledged that we loved each other, and
paradoxically halted there; Nancy clung to her demand for new sanctions
with a tenacity that amazed and puzzled and often irritated me. And yet,
when I look back upon it all, I can see that some of the difficulty lay
with me: if she had her weakness--which she acknowledged--I had mine--and
kept it to myself. It was part of my romantic nature not to want to break
her down. Perhaps I loved the ideal better than the woman herself, though
that scarcely seems possible.

We saw each other constantly. And though we had instinctively begun to be
careful, I imagine there was some talk among our acquaintances. It is to
be noted that the gossip never became riotous, for we had always been
friends, and Nancy had a saving reputation for coldness. It seemed
incredible that Maude had not discovered my secret, but if she knew of
it, she gave no sign of her knowledge. Often, as I looked at her, I
wished she would. I can think of no more expressive sentence in regard to
her than the trite one that she pursued the even tenor of her way; and I
found the very perfection of her wifehood exasperating. Our relationship
would, I thought, have been more endurable if we had quarrelled. And yet
we had grown as far apart, in that big house, as though we had been
separated by a continent; I lived in my apartments, she in hers; she
consulted me about dinner parties and invitations; for, since we had
moved to Grant Avenue, we entertained and went out more than before. It
seemed as though she were making every effort consistent with her
integrity and self-respect to please me. Outwardly she conformed to the
mould; but I had long been aware that inwardly a person had developed. It
had not been a spontaneous development, but one in resistance to
pressure; and was probably all the stronger for that reason. At times her
will revealed itself in astonishing and unexpected flashes, as when once
she announced that she was going to change Matthew's school.

"He's old enough to go to boarding-school," I said. "I'll look up a place
for him."

"I don't wish him to go to boarding-school yet, Hugh," she said quietly.

"But that's just what he needs," I objected. "He ought to have the
rubbing-up against other boys that boarding-school will give him. Matthew
is timid, he should have learned to take care of himself. And he will
make friendships that will help him in a larger school."

"I don't intend to send him," Maude said.

"But if I think it wise?"

"You ought to have begun to consider such things many years ago. You have
always been too--busy to think of the children. You have left them to me.
I am doing the best I can with them."

"But a man should have something to say about boys. He understands them."

"You should have thought of that before."

"They haven't been old enough."

"If you had taken your share of responsibility for them, I would listen
to you."

"Maude!" I exclaimed reproachfully.

"No, Hugh," she went on, "you have been too busy making money. You have
left them to me. It is my task to see that the money they are to inherit
doesn't ruin them."

"You talk as though it were a great fortune," I said.

But I did not press the matter. I had a presentiment that to press it
might lead to unpleasant results.

It was this sense of not being free, of having gained everything but
freedom that was at times galling in the extreme: this sense of living
with a woman for whom I had long ceased to care, a woman with a baffling
will concealed beneath an unruffled and serene exterior. At moments I
looked at her across the table; she did not seem to have aged much: her
complexion was as fresh, apparently, as the day when I had first walked
with her in the garden at Elkington; her hair the same wonderful colour;
perhaps she had grown a little stouter. There could be no doubt about the
fact that her chin was firmer, that certain lines had come into her face
indicative of what is called character. Beneath her pliability she was
now all firmness; the pliability had become a mockery. It cannot be said
that I went so far as to hate her for this,--when it was in my mind,--but
my feelings were of a strong antipathy. And then again there were rare
moments when I was inexplicably drawn to her, not by love and passion; I
melted a little in pity, perhaps, when my eyes were opened and I saw the
tragedy, yet I am not referring now to such feelings as these. I am
speaking of the times when I beheld her as the blameless companion of the
years, the mother of my children, the woman I was used to and should--by
all canons I had known--have loved....

And there were the children. Days and weeks passed when I scarcely saw
them, and then some little incident would happen to give me an unexpected
wrench and plunge me into unhappiness. One evening I came home from a
long talk with Nancy that had left us both wrought up, and I had entered
the library before I heard voices. Maude was seated under the lamp at the
end of the big room reading from "Don Quixote"; Matthew and Biddy were at
her feet, and Moreton, less attentive, at a little distance was taking
apart a mechanical toy. I would have tiptoed out, but Biddy caught sight
of me.

"It's father!" she cried, getting up and flying to me.

"Oh, father, do come and listen! The story's so exciting, isn't it,
Matthew?"

I looked down into the boy's eyes shining with an expression that
suddenly pierced my heart with a poignant memory of myself. Matthew was
far away among the mountains and castles of Spain.

"Matthew," demanded his sister, "why did he want to go fighting with all
those people?"

"Because he was dotty," supplied Moreton, who had an interesting habit of
picking up slang.

"It wasn't at all," cried Matthew, indignantly, interrupting Maude's
rebuke of his brother.

"What was it, then?" Moreton demanded.

"You wouldn't understand if I told you," Matthew was retorting, when
Maude put her hand on his lips.

"I think that's enough for to-night," she said, as she closed the book.
"There are lessons to do--and father wants to read his newspaper in
quiet."

This brought a protest from Biddy.

"Just a little more, mother! Can't we go into the schoolroom? We shan't
disturb father there."

"I'll read to them--a few minutes," I said.

As I took the volume from her and sat down Maude shot at me a swift look
of surprise. Even Matthew glanced at me curiously; and in his glance I
had, as it were, a sudden revelation of the boy's perplexity concerning
me. He was twelve, rather tall for his age, and the delicate modelling of
his face resembled my father's. He had begun to think.. What did he think
of me?

Biddy clapped her hands, and began to dance across the carpet.

"Father's going to read to us, father's going to read to us," she cried,
finally clambering up on my knee and snuggling against me.

"Where is the place?" I asked.

But Maude had left the room. She had gone swiftly and silently.

"I'll find it," said Moreton.

I began to read, but I scarcely knew what I was reading, my fingers
tightening over Biddy's little knee....

Presently Miss Allsop, the governess, came in. She had been sent by
Maude. There was wistfulness in Biddy's voice as I kissed her good night.

"Father, if you would only read oftener!" she said, "I like it when you
read--better than anyone else."....

Maude and I were alone that night. As we sat in the library after our
somewhat formal, perfunctory dinner, I ventured to ask her why she had
gone away when I had offered to read.

"I couldn't bear it, Hugh," she answered.

"Why?" I asked, intending to justify myself.

She got up abruptly, and left me. I did not follow her. In my heart I
understood why....

Some years had passed since Ralph's prophecy had come true, and Perry and
the remaining Blackwoods had been "relieved" of the Boyne Street line.
The process need not be gone into in detail, being the time-honoured one
employed in the Ribblevale affair of "running down" the line, or perhaps
it would be better to say "showing it up." It had not justified its
survival in our efficient days, it had held out--thanks to Perry--with
absurd and anachronous persistence against the inevitable consolidation.
Mr. Tallant's newspaper had published many complaints of the age and
scarcity of the cars, etc.; and alarmed holders of securities, in whose
vaults they had lain since time immemorial, began to sell.... I saw
little of Perry in those days, as I have explained, but one day I met him
in the Hambleton Building, and he was white.

"Your friends are doing thus, Hugh," he said.

"Doing what?"

"Undermining the reputation of a company as sound as any in this city, a
company that's not overcapitalized, either. And we're giving better
service right now than any of your consolidated lines."...

He was in no frame of mind to argue with; the conversation was distinctly
unpleasant. I don't remember what I said sething to the effect that he
was excited, that his language was extravagant. But after he had walked
off and left me I told Dickinson that he ought to be given a chance, and
one of our younger financiers, Murphree, went to Perry and pointed out
that he had nothing to gain by obstruction; if he were only reasonable,
he might come into the new corporation on the same terms with the others.

All that Murphree got for his pains was to be ordered out of the office
by Perry, who declared that he was being bribed to desert the other
stockholders.

"He utterly failed to see the point of view," Murphree reported in some
astonishment to Dickinson.

"What else did he say?" Mr. Dickinson asked.

Murphree hesitated.

"Well--what?" the banker insisted.

"He wasn't quite himself," said Murphree, who was a comparative newcomer
in the city and had a respect for the Blackwood name. "He said that that
was the custom of thieves: when they were discovered, they offered to
divide. He swore that he would get justice in the courts."

Mr. Dickinson smiled....

Thus Perry, through his obstinacy and inability to adapt himself to new
conditions, had gradually lost both caste and money. He resigned from the
Boyne Club. I was rather sorry for him. Tom naturally took the matter to
heart, but he never spoke of it; I found that I was seeing less of him,
though we continued to dine there at intervals, and he still came to my
house to see the children. Maude continued to see Lucia. For me, the
situation would have been more awkward had I been less occupied, had my
relationship with Maude been a closer one. Neither did she mention Perry
in those days. The income that remained to him being sufficient for him
and his family to live on comfortably, he began to devote most of his
time to various societies of a semipublic nature until--in the spring of
which I write his activities suddenly became concentrated in the
organization of a "Citizens Union," whose avowed object was to make a
campaign against "graft" and political corruption the following autumn.
This announcement and the call for a mass-meeting in Kingdon Hall was
received by the newspapers with a good-natured ridicule, and in
influential quarters it was generally hinted that this was Mr.
Blackwood's method of "getting square" for having been deprived of the
Boyne Street line. It was quite characteristic of Ralph Hambleton that he
should go, out of curiosity, to the gathering at Kingdon Hall, and drop
into my office the next morning.

"Well, Hughie, they're after you," he said with a grin.

"After me? Why not include yourself?"

He sat down and stretched his long legs and his long arms, and smiled as
he gaped.

"Oh, they'll never get me," he said. And I knew, as I gazed at him, that
they never would.

"What sort of things did they say?" I asked.

"Haven't you read the Pilot and the Mail and State?"

"I just glanced over them. Did they call names?"

"Call names! I should say they did. They got drunk on it, worked
themselves up like dervishes. They didn't cuss you personally,--that'll
come later, of course. Judd Jason got the heaviest shot, but they said he
couldn't exist a minute if it wasn't for the 'respectable'
crowd--capitalists, financiers, millionaires and their legal tools. Fact
is, they spoke a good deal of truth, first and last, in a fool kind of
way."

"Truth!" I exclaimed irritatedly.

Ralph laughed. He was evidently enjoying himself.

"Is any of it news to you, Hughie, old boy?"

"It's an outrage."

"I think it's funny," said Ralph. "We haven't had such a circus for
years. Never had. Of course I shouldn't like to see you go behind the
bars,--not that. But you fellows can't expect to go on forever skimming
off the cream without having somebody squeal sometime. You ought to be
reasonable."

"You've skimmed as much cream as anybody else."

"You've skimmed the cream, Hughie,--you and Dickinson and Scherer and
Grierson and the rest,--I've only filled my jug. Well, these fellows are
going to have a regular roof-raising campaign, take the lid off of
everything, dump out the red-light district some of our friends are so
fond of."

"Dump it where?" I asked curiously.

"Oh," answered Ralph, "they didn't say. Out into the country, anywhere."

"But that's damned foolishness," I declared.

"Didn't say it wasn't," Ralph admitted. "They talked a lot of that, too,
incidentally. They're going to close the saloons and dance halls and make
this city sadder than heaven. When they get through, it'll all be over
but the inquest."

"What did Perry do?" I asked.

"Well, he opened the meeting,--made a nice, precise, gentlemanly speech.
Greenhalge and a few young highbrows and a reformed crook named Harrod
did most of the hair-raising. They're going to nominate Greenhalge for
mayor; and he told 'em something about that little matter of the school
board, and said he would talk more later on. If one of the ablest lawyers
in the city hadn't been hired by the respectable crowd and a lot of other
queer work done, the treasurer and purchasing agent would be doing time.
They seemed to be interested, all right."

I turned over some papers on my desk, just to show Ralph that he hadn't
succeeded in disturbing me.

"Who was in the audience? anyone you ever heard of?" I asked.

"Sure thing. Your cousin Robert Breck; and that son-in-law of his--what's
his name? And some other representatives of our oldest families,--Alec
Pound. He's a reformer now, you know. They put him on the resolutions
committee. Sam Ogilvy was there, he'd be classed as respectably
conservative. And one of the Ewanses. I could name a few others, if you
pressed me. That brother of Fowndes who looks like an up-state minister.
A lot of women--Miller Gorse's sister, Mrs. Datchet, who never approved
of Miller. Quite a genteel gathering, I give you my word, and all
astonished and mad as hell when the speaking was over. Mrs. Datchet said
she had been living in a den of iniquity and vice, and didn't know it."

"It must have been amusing," I said.

"It was," said Ralph. "It'll be more amusing later on. Oh, yes, there was
another fellow who spoke I forgot to mention--that queer Dick who was in
your class, Krebs, got the school board evidence, looked as if he'd come
in by freight. He wasn't as popular as the rest, but he's got more sense
than all of them put together."

"Why wasn't he popular?"

"Well, he didn't crack up the American people,--said they deserved all
they got, that they'd have to learn to think straight and be straight
before they could expect a square deal. The truth was, they secretly
envied these rich men who were exploiting their city, and just as long as
they envied them they hadn't any right to complain of them. He was going
into this campaign to tell the truth, but to tell all sides of it, and if
they wanted reform, they'd have to reform themselves first. I admired his
nerve, I must say."

"He always had that," I remarked. "How did they take it?"

"Well, they didn't like it much, but I think most of them had a respect
for him. I know I did. He has a whole lot of assurance, an air of knowing
what he's talking about, and apparently he doesn't give a continental
whether he's popular or not. Besides, Greenhalge had cracked him up to
the skies for the work he'd done for the school board."

"You talk as if he'd converted you," I said.

Ralph laughed as he rose and stretched himself.

"Oh, I'm only the intelligent spectator, you ought to know that by this
time, Hughie. But I thought it might interest you, since you'll have to
go on the stump and refute it all. That'll be a nice job. So long."

And he departed. Of course I knew that he had been baiting me, his scent
for the weaknesses of his friends being absolutely fiendish. I was angry
because he had succeeded,--because he knew he had succeeded. All the
morning uneasiness possessed me, and I found it difficult to concentrate
on the affairs I had in hand. I felt premonitions, which I tried in vain
to suppress, that the tide of the philosophy of power and might were
starting to ebb: I scented vague calamities ahead, calamities I
associated with Krebs; and when I went out to the Club for lunch this
sense of uneasiness, instead of being dissipated, was increased.
Dickinson was there, and Scherer, who had just got back from Europe; the
talk fell on the Citizens Union, which Scherer belittled with an air of
consequence and pompousness that struck me disagreeably, and with an eye
newly critical I detected in him a certain disintegration, deterioration.
Having dismissed the reformers, he began to tell of his experiences
abroad, referring in one way or another to the people of consequence who
had entertained him.

"Hugh," said Leonard Dickinson to me as we walked to the bank together,
"Scherer will never be any good any more. Too much prosperity. And he's
begun to have his nails manicured."

After I had left the bank president an uncanny fancy struck me that in
Adolf Scherer I had before me a concrete example of the effect of my
philosophy on the individual....

Nothing seemed to go right that spring, and yet nothing was absolutely
wrong. At times I became irritated, bewildered, out of tune, and unable
to understand why. The weather itself was uneasy, tepid, with long spells
of hot wind and dust. I no longer seemed to find refuge in my work. I was
unhappy at home. After walking for many years in confidence and security
along what appeared to be a certain path, I had suddenly come out into a
vague country in which it was becoming more and more difficult to
recognize landmarks. I did not like to confess this; and yet I heard
within me occasional whispers. Could it be that I, Hugh Paret, who had
always been so positive, had made a mess of my life? There were moments
when the pattern of it appeared to have fallen apart, resolved itself
into pieces that refused to fit into each other.

Of course my relationship with Nancy had something to do with this....

One evening late in the spring, after dinner, Maude came into the
library.

"Are you busy, Hugh?" she asked.

I put down my newspapers.

"Because," she went on, as she took a chair near the table where I was
writing, "I wanted to tell you that I have decided to go to Europe, and
take the children."

"To Europe!" I exclaimed. The significance of the announcement failed at
once to register in my brain, but I was aware of a shock.

"Yes."

"When?" I asked.

"Right away. The end of this month."

"For the summer?"

"I haven't decided how long I shall stay."

I stared at her in bewilderment. In contrast to the agitation I felt
rising within me, she was extraordinarily calm, unbelievably so.

"But where do you intend to go in Europe?"

"I shall go to London for a month or so, and after that to some quiet
place in France, probably at the sea, where the children can learn French
and German. After that, I have no plans."

"But--you talk as if you might stay indefinitely."

"I haven't decided," she repeated.

"But why--why are you doing this?"

I would have recalled the words as soon as I had spoken them. There was
the slightest unsteadiness in her voice as she replied:--"Is it necessary
to go into that, Hugh? Wouldn't it be useless as well as a little
painful? Surely, going to Europe without one's husband is not an unusual
thing in these days. Let it just be understood that I want to go, that
the children have arrived at an age when it will do them good."

I got up and began to walk up and down the room, while she watched me
with a silent calm which was incomprehensible. In vain I summoned my
faculties to meet it.

I had not thought her capable of such initiative.

"I can't see why you want to leave me," I said at last, though with a
full sense of the inadequacy of the remark, and a suspicion of its
hypocrisy.

"That isn't quite true," she answered. "In the first place, you don't
need me. I am not of the slightest use in your life, I haven't been a
factor in it for years. You ought never to have married me,--it was all a
terrible mistake. I began to realize that after we had been married a few
months--even when we were on our wedding trip. But I was too
inexperienced--perhaps too weak to acknowledge it to myself. In the last
few years I have come to see it plainly. I should have been a fool if I
hadn't. I am not your wife in any real sense of the word, I cannot hold
you, I cannot even interest you. It's a situation that no woman with
self-respect can endure."

"Aren't those rather modern sentiments, for you, Maude?" I said.

She flushed a little, but otherwise retained her remarkable composure.

"I don't care whether they are 'modern' or not, I only know that my
position has become impossible."

I walked to the other end of the room, and stood facing the carefully
drawn curtains of the windows; fantastically, they seemed to represent
the impasse to which my mind had come. Did she intend, ultimately, to get
a divorce? I dared not ask her. The word rang horribly in my ears, though
unpronounced; and I knew then that I lacked her courage, and the
knowledge was part of my agony.

I turned.

"Don't you think you've overdrawn things, Maude exaggerated them? No
marriages are perfect. You've let your mind dwell until it has become
inflamed on matters which really don't amount to much."

"I was never saner, Hugh," she replied instantly. And indeed I was forced
to confess that she looked it. That new Maude I had seen emerging of late
years seemed now to have found herself; she was no longer the woman I had
married,--yielding, willing to overlook, anxious to please, living in me.

"I don't influence you, or help you in any way. I never have."

"Oh, that's not true," I protested.

But she cut me short, going on inexorably:--"I am merely your
housekeeper, and rather a poor one at that, from your point of view. You
ignore me. I am not blaming you for it--you are made that way. It's true
that you have always supported me in luxury,--that might have been enough
for another woman. It isn't enough for me--I, too, have a life to live, a
soul to be responsible for. It's not for my sake so much as for the
children's that I don't want it to be crushed."

"Crushed!" I repeated.

"Yes. You are stifling it. I say again that I'm not blaming you, Hugh.
You are made differently from me. All you care for, really, is your
career. You may think that you care, at times, for--other things, but it
isn't so."

I took, involuntarily, a deep breath. Would she mention Nancy? Was it in
reality Nancy who had brought about this crisis? And did Maude suspect
the closeness of that relationship?

Suddenly I found myself begging her not to go; the more astonishing
since, if at any time during the past winter this solution had presented
itself to me as a possibility, I should eagerly have welcomed it! But
should I ever have had the courage to propose a separation? I even wished
to delude myself now into believing that what she suggested was in
reality not a separation. I preferred to think of it as a trip.... A
vision of freedom thrilled me, and yet I was wracked and torn. I had an
idea that she was suffering, that the ordeal was a terrible one for her;
and at that moment there crowded into my mind, melting me, incident after
incident of our past.

"It seems to me that we have got along pretty well together, Maude. I
have been negligent--I'll admit it. But I'll try to do better in the
future. And--if you'll wait a month or so, I'll go to Europe with you,
and we'll have a good time."

She looked at me sadly,--pityingly, I thought.

"No, Hugh, I've thought it all out. You really don't want me. You only
say this because you are sorry for me, because you dislike to have your
feelings wrung. You needn't be sorry for me, I shall be much happier away
from you."

"Think it over, Maude," I pleaded. "I shall miss you and the children. I
haven't paid much attention to them, either, but I am fond of them, and
depend upon them, too."

She shook her head.

"It's no use, Hugh. I tell you I've thought it all out. You don't care
for the children, you were never meant to have any."

"Aren't you rather severe in your judgments?"

"I don't think so," she answered. "I'm willing to admit my faults, that I
am a failure so far as you are concerned. Your ideas of life and mine are
far apart."

"I suppose," I exclaimed bitterly, "that you are referring to my
professional practices."

A note of weariness crept into her voice. I might have known that she was
near the end of her strength.

"No, I don't think it's that," she said dispassionately. "I prefer to put
it down, that part of it, to a fundamental difference of ideas. I do not
feel qualified to sit in judgment on that part of your life, although
I'll admit that many of the things you have done, in common with the men
with whom you are associated, have seemed to me unjust and inconsiderate
of the rights and feelings of others. You have alienated some of your
best friends. If I were to arraign you at all, it would be on the score
of heartlessness. But I suppose it isn't your fault, that you haven't any
heart."

"That's unfair," I put in.

"I don't wish to be unfair," she replied. "Only, since you ask me, I have
to tell you that that is the way it seems to me. I don't want to
introduce the question of right and wrong into this, Hugh, I'm not
capable of unravelling it; I can't put myself into your life, and see
things from your point of view, weigh your problems and difficulties. In
the first place, you won't let me. I think I understand you, partly--but
only partly. You have kept yourself shut up. But why discuss it? I have
made up my mind."

The legal aspect of the matter occurred to me. What right had she to
leave me? I might refuse to support her. Yet even as these thoughts came
I rejected them; I knew that it was not in me to press this point. And
she could always take refuge with her father; without the children, of
course. But the very notion sickened me. I could not bear to think of
Maude deprived of the children. I had seated myself again at the table. I
put my hand to my forehead.

"Don't make it hard, Hugh," I heard her say, gently. "Believe me, it is
best. I know. There won't be any talk about it,--right away, at any rate.
People will think it natural that I should wish to go abroad for the
summer. And later--well, the point of view about such affairs has
changed. They are better understood."

She had risen. She was pale, still outwardly composed,--but I had a
strange, hideous feeling that she was weeping inwardly.

"Aren't you coming back--ever?" I cried.

She did not answer at once.

"I don't know," she said, "I don't know," and left the room abruptly....

I wanted to follow her, but something withheld me. I got up and walked
around the room in a state of mind that was near to agony, taking one of
the neglected books out of the shelves, glancing at its meaningless
print, and replacing it; I stirred the fire, opened the curtains and
gazed out into the street and closed them again. I looked around me, a
sudden intensity of hatred seized me for this big, silent, luxurious
house; I recalled Maude's presentiment about it. Then, thinking I might
still dissuade her, I went slowly up the padded stairway--to find her
door locked; and a sense of the finality of her decision came over me. I
knew then that I could not alter it even were I to go all the lengths of
abjectness. Nor could I, I knew, have brought myself to have feigned a
love I did not feel.

What was it I felt? I could not define it. Amazement, for one thing, that
Maude with her traditional, Christian view of marriage should have come
to such a decision. I went to my room, undressed mechanically and got
into bed....

She gave no sign at the breakfast table of having made the decision of
the greatest moment in our lives; she conversed as usual, asked about the
news, reproved the children for being noisy; and when the children had
left the table there were no tears, reminiscences, recriminations. In
spite of the slight antagonism and envy of which I was conscious,--that
she was thus superbly in command of the situation, that she had developed
her pinions and was thus splendidly able to use them,--my admiration for
her had never been greater. I made an effort to achieve the frame of mind
she suggested: since she took it so calmly, why should I be tortured by
the tragedy of it? Perhaps she had ceased to love me, after all! Perhaps
she felt nothing but relief. At any rate, I was grateful to her, and I
found a certain consolation, a sop to my pride in the reflection that the
initiative must have been hers to take. I could not have deserted her.

"When do you think of leaving?" I asked.

"Two weeks from Saturday on the Olympic, if that is convenient for you."
Her manner seemed one of friendly solicitude. "You will remain in the
house this summer, as usual, I suppose?"

"Yes," I said.

It was a sunny, warm morning, and I went downtown in the motor almost
blithely. It was the best solution after all, and I had been a fool to
oppose it.... At the office, there was much business awaiting me; yet
once in a while, during the day, when the tension relaxed, the
recollection of what had happened flowed back into my consciousness.
Maude was going!

I had telephoned Nancy, making an appointment for the afternoon.
Sometimes--not too frequently--we were in the habit of going out into the
country in one of her motors, a sort of landaulet, I believe, in which we
were separated from the chauffeur by a glass screen. She was waiting for
me when I arrived, at four; and as soon as we had shot clear of the city,
"Maude is going away," I told her.

"Going away?" she repeated, struck more by the tone of my voice than by
what I had said.

"She announced last night that she was going abroad indefinitely."

I had been more than anxious to see how Nancy would take the news. A
flush gradually deepened in her cheeks.

"You mean that she is going to leave you?"

"It looks that way. In fact, she as much as said so."

"Why?" said Nancy.

"Well, she explained it pretty thoroughly. Apparently, it isn't a sudden
decision," I replied, trying to choose my words, to speak composedly as I
repeated the gist of our conversation. Nancy, with her face averted,
listened in silence--a silence that continued some time after I had
ceased to speak.

"She didn't--she didn't mention--?" the sentence remained unfinished.

"No," I said quickly, "she didn't. She must know, of course, but I'm sure
that didn't enter into it."

Nancy's eyes as they returned to me were wet, and in them was an
expression I had never seen before,--of pain, reproach, of questioning.
It frightened me.

"Oh, Hugh, how little you know!" she cried.

"What do you mean?" I demanded.

"That is what has brought her to this decision--you and I."

"You mean that--that Maude loves me? That she is jealous?" I don't know
how I managed to say it.

"No woman likes to think that she is a failure," murmured Nancy.

"Well, but she isn't really," I insisted. "She could have made another
man happy--a better man. It was all one of those terrible mistakes our
modern life seems to emphasize so."

"She is a woman," Nancy said, with what seemed a touch of vehemence.
"It's useless to expect you to understand.... Do you remember what I said
to you about her? How I appealed to you when you married to try to
appreciate her?"

"It wasn't that I didn't appreciate her," I interrupted, surprised that
Nancy should have recalled this, "she isn't the woman for me, we aren't
made for each other. It was my mistake, my fault, I admit, but I don't
agree with you at all, that we had anything to do with her decision. It
is just the--the culmination of a long period of incompatibility. She has
come to realize that she has only one life to live, and she seems
happier, more composed, more herself than she has ever been since our
marriage. Of course I don't mean to say it isn't painful for her.... But
I am sure she isn't well, that it isn't because of our seeing one
another," I concluded haltingly.

"She is finer than either of us, Hugh,--far finer."

I did not relish this statement.

"She's fine, I admit. But I can't see how under the circumstances any of
us could have acted differently." And Nancy not replying, I continued:
"She has made up her mind to go,--I suppose I could prevent it by taking
extreme measures,--but what good would it do? Isn't it, after all, the
most sensible, the only way out of a situation that has become
impossible? Times have changed, Nancy, and you yourself have been the
first to admit it. Marriage is no longer what it was, and people are
coming to look upon it more sensibly. In order to perpetuate the
institution, as it was, segregation, insulation, was the only course. Men
segregated their wives, women their husbands,--the only logical method of
procedure, but it limited the individual. Our mothers and fathers thought
it scandalous if husband or wife paid visits alone. It wasn't done. But
our modern life has changed all that. A marriage, to be a marriage,
should be proof against disturbing influences, should leave the
individuals free; the binding element should be love, not the force of an
imposed authority. You seemed to agree to all this."

"Yes, I know," she admitted. "But I cannot think that happiness will ever
grow out of unhappiness."

"But Maude will not be unhappy," I insisted. "She will be happier, far
happier, now that she has taken the step."

"Oh, I wish I thought so," Nancy exclaimed. "Hugh, you always believe
what you want to believe. And the children. How can you bear to part with
them?"

I was torn, I had a miserable sense of inadequacy.

"I shall miss them," I said. "I have never really appreciated them. I
admit I don't deserve to have them, and I am willing to give them up for
you, for Maude..."

We had made one of our favourite drives among the hills on the far side
of the Ashuela, and at six were back at Nancy's house. I did not go in,
but walked slowly homeward up Grant Avenue. It had been a trying
afternoon. I had not expected, indeed, that Nancy would have rejoiced,
but her attitude, her silences, betraying, as they did, compunctions,
seemed to threaten our future happiness.



XXII.

One evening two or three days later I returned from the office to gaze up
at my house, to realize suddenly that it would be impossible for me to
live there, in those great, empty rooms, alone; and I told Maude that I
would go to the Club--during her absence. I preferred to keep up the
fiction that her trip would only be temporary. She forbore from
contradicting me, devoting herself efficiently to the task of closing the
house, making it seem, somehow, a rite,--the final rite in her capacity
as housewife. The drawing-room was shrouded, and the library; the books
wrapped neatly in paper; a smell of camphor pervaded the place; the
cheerful schoolroom was dismantled; trunks and travelling bags appeared.
The solemn butler packed my clothes, and I arranged for a room at the
Club in the wing that recently had been added for the accommodation of
bachelors and deserted husbands. One of the ironies of those days was
that the children began to suggest again possibilities of happiness I had
missed--especially Matthew. With all his gentleness, the boy seemed to
have a precocious understanding of the verities, and the capacity for
suffering which as a child I had possessed. But he had more self-control.
Though he looked forward to the prospect of new scenes and experiences
with the anticipation natural to his temperament, I thought he betrayed
at moments a certain intuition as to what was going on.

"When are you coming over, father?" he asked once. "How soon will your
business let you?"

He had been brought up in the belief that my business was a tyrant.

"Oh, soon, Matthew,--sometime soon," I said.

I had a feeling that he understood me, not intellectually, but
emotionally. What a companion he might have been!.... Moreton and Biddy
moved me less. They were more robust, more normal, less introspective and
imaginative; Europe meant nothing to them, but they were frankly
delighted and excited at the prospect of going on the ocean, asking
dozens of questions about the great ship, impatient to embark.....

"I shan't need all that, Hugh," Maude said, when I handed her a letter of
credit. "I--I intend to live quite simply, and my chief expenses will be
the children's education. I am going to give them the best, of course."

"Of course," I replied. "But I want you to live over there as you have
been accustomed to live here. It's not exactly generosity on my part,--I
have enough, and more than enough."

She took the letter.

"Another thing--I'd rather you didn't go to New York with us, Hugh. I
know you are busy--"

"Of course I'm going," I started to protest.

"No," she went on, firmly. "I'd rather you didn't. The hotel people will
put me on the steamer very comfortably,--and there are other reasons why
I do not wish it." I did not insist.... On the afternoon of her
departure, when I came uptown, I found her pinning some roses on her
jacket.

"Perry and Lucia sent them," she informed me. She maintained the
friendly, impersonal manner to the very end; but my soul, as we drove to
the train, was full of un-probed wounds. I had had roses put in her
compartments in the car; Tom and Susan Peters were there with more roses,
and little presents for the children. Their cheerfulness seemed forced,
and I wondered whether they suspected that Maude's absence would be
prolonged.

"Write us often, and tell us all about it, dear," said Susan, as she sat
beside Maude and held her hand; Tom had Biddy on his knee. Maude was
pale, but smiling and composed.

"I hope to get a little villa in France, near the sea," she said. "I'll
send you a photograph of it, Susan."

"And Chickabiddy, when she comes back, will be rattling off French like a
native," exclaimed Tom, giving her a hug.

"I hate French," said Biddy, and she looked at him solemnly. "I wish you
were coming along, Uncle Tom."

Bells resounded through the great station. The porter warned us off. I
kissed the children one by one, scarcely realizing what I was doing. I
kissed Maude. She received my embrace passively.

"Good-bye, Hugh," she said.

I alighted, and stood on the platform as the train pulled out. The
children crowded to the windows, but Maude did not appear.... I found
myself walking with Tom and Susan past hurrying travellers and porters to
the Decatur Street entrance, where my automobile stood waiting.

"I'll take you home, Susan," I said.

"We're ever so much obliged, Hugh," she answered, "but the street-cars go
almost to ferry's door. We're dining there."

Her eyes were filled with tears, and she seemed taller, more ungainly
than ever--older. A sudden impression of her greatness of heart was borne
home to me, and I grasped the value of such rugged friendship as hers--as
Tom's.

"We shouldn't know how to behave in an automobile," he said, as though to
soften her refusal. And I stood watching their receding figures as they
walked out into the street and hailed the huge electric car that came to
a stop beyond them. Above its windows was painted "The Ashuela Traction
Company," a label reminiscent of my professional activities. Then I heard
the chauffeur ask:--"Where do you wish to go, sir?"

"To the Club," I said.

My room was ready, my personal belongings, my clothes had been laid out,
my photographs were on the dressing-table. I took up, mechanically, the
evening newspaper, but I could not read it; I thought of Maude, of the
children, memories flowed in upon me,--a flood not to be dammed....
Presently the club valet knocked at my door. He had a dinner card.

"Will you be dining here, sir?" he inquired.

I went downstairs. Fred Grierson was the only man in the dining-room.

"Hello, Hugh," he said, "come and sit down. I hear your wife's gone
abroad."

"Yes," I answered, "she thought she'd try it instead of the South Shore
this summer."

Perhaps I imagined that he looked at me queerly. I had made a great deal
of money out of my association with Grierson, I had valued very highly
being an important member of the group to which he belonged; but
to-night, as I watched him eating and drinking greedily, I hated him even
as I hated myself. And after dinner, when he started talking with a
ridicule that was a thinly disguised bitterness about the Citizens Union
and their preparations for a campaign I left him and went to bed.

Before a week had passed my painful emotions had largely subsided, and
with my accustomed resiliency I had regained the feeling of self-respect
so essential to my happiness. I was free. My only anxiety was for Nancy,
who had gone to New York the day after my last talk with her; and it was
only by telephoning to her house that I discovered when she was expected
to return.... I found her sitting beside one of the open French windows
of her salon, gazing across at the wooded hills beyond the Ashuela. She
was serious, a little pale; more exquisite, more desirable than ever; but
her manner implied the pressure of control, and her voice was not quite
steady as she greeted me.

"You've been away a long time," I said.

"The dressmakers," she answered. Her colour rose a little. "I thought
they'd never get through."

"But why didn't you drop me a line, let me know when you were coming?" I
asked, taking a chair beside her, and laying my hand on hers. She drew it
gently away.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"I've been thinking it all over--what we're doing. It doesn't seem right,
it seems terribly wrong."

"But I thought we'd gone over all that," I replied, as patiently as I
could. "You're putting it on an old-fashioned, moral basis."

"But there must be same basis," she urged. "There are responsibilities,
obligations--there must be!--that we can't get away from. I can't help
feeling that we ought to stand by our mistakes, and by our bargains; we
made a choice--it's cheating, somehow, and if we take this--what we
want--we shall be punished for it."

"But I'm willing to be punished, to suffer, as I told you. If you loved
me--"

"Hugh!" she exclaimed, and I was silent. "You don't understand," she went
on, a little breathlessly, "what I mean by punishment is deterioration.
Do you remember once, long ago, when you came to me before I was married,
I said we'd both run after false gods, and that we couldn't do without
them? Well, and now this has come; it seems so wonderful to me, coming
again like that after we had passed it by, after we thought it had gone
forever; it's opened up visions for me that I never hoped to see again.
It ought to restore us, dear--that's what I'm trying to say--to redeem
us, to make us capable of being what we were meant to be. If it doesn't
do that, if it isn't doing so, it's the most horrible of travesties, of
mockeries. If we gain life only to have it turn into death--slow death;
if we go to pieces again, utterly. For now there's hope. The more I
think, the more clearly I see that we can't take any step without
responsibilities. If we take this, you'll have me, and I'll have you. And
if we don't save each other--"

"But we will," I said.

"Ah," she exclaimed, "if we could start new, without any past. I married
Ham with my eyes open."

"You couldn't know that he would become--well, as flagrant as he is. You
didn't really know what he was then."

"There's no reason why I shouldn't have anticipated it. I can't claim
that I was deceived, that I thought my marriage was made in heaven. I
entered into a contract, and Ham has kept his part of it fairly well. He
hasn't interfered with my freedom. That isn't putting it on a high plane,
but there is an obligation involved. You yourself, in your law practice,
are always insisting upon the sacredness of contract as the very basis of
our civilization."

Here indeed would have been a home thrust, had I been vulnerable at the
time. So intent was I on overcoming her objections, that I resorted
unwittingly to the modern argument I had more than once declared in court
to be anathema-the argument of the new reform in reference to the common
law and the constitution.

"A contract, no matter how seriously entered into at the time it was
made, that later is seen to violate the principles of humanity should be
void. And not only this, but you didn't consent that he should disgrace
you."

Nancy winced.

"I never told you that he paid my father's debts, I never told anyone,"
she said, in a low voice.

"Even then," I answered after a moment, "you ought to see that it's too
terrible a price to pay for your happiness. And Ham hasn't ever pretended
to consider you in any way. It's certain you didn't agree that he should
do--what he is doing."

"Suppose I admitted it," she said, "there remain Maude and your children.
Their happiness, their future becomes my responsibility as well as
yours."

"But I don't love Maude, and Maude doesn't love me. I grant it's my
fault, that I did her a wrong in marrying her, but she is right in
leaving me. I should be doing her a double wrong. And the children will
be happy with her, they will be well brought up. I, too, have thought
this out, Nancy," I insisted, "and the fact is that in our respective
marriages we have been, each of us, victims of our time, of our
education. We were born in a period of transition, we inherited views of
life that do not fit conditions to-day. It takes courage to achieve
happiness, initiative to emancipate one's self from a morality that
begins to hamper and bind. To stay as we are, to refuse to take what is
offered us, is to remain between wind and water. I don't mean that we
should do anything--hastily. We can afford to take a reasonable time, to
be dignified about it. But I have come to the conclusion that the only
thing that matters in the world is a love like ours, and its fulfilment.
Achievement, success, are empty and meaningless without it. And you do
love me--you've admitted it."

"Oh, I don't want to talk about it," she exclaimed, desperately.

"But we have to talk about it," I persisted. "We have to thrash it out,
to see it straight, as you yourself have said."

"You speak of convictions, Hugh,--new convictions, in place of the old we
have discarded. But what are they? And is there no such thing as
conscience--even though it be only an intuition of happiness or
unhappiness? I do care for you, I do love you--"

"Then why not let that suffice?" I exclaimed, leaning towards her.

She drew back.

"But I want to respect you, too," she said.

I was shocked, too shocked to answer.

"I want to respect you," she repeated, more gently. "I don't want to
think that--that what we feel for each other is--unconsecrated."

"It consecrates itself," I declared.

She shook her head.

"Surely it has its roots in everything that is fine in both of us."

"We both went wrong," said Nancy. "We both sought to wrest power and
happiness from the world, to make our own laws. How can we assert
that--this is not merely a continuation of it?"

"But can't we work out our beliefs together?" I demanded. "Won't you
trust me, trust our love for one another?"

Her breath came and went quickly.

"Oh, you know that I want you, Hugh, as much as you want me, and more.
The time may come when I can't resist you."

"Why do you resist me?" I cried, seizing her hands convulsively, and
swept by a gust of passion at her confession.

"Try to understand that I am fighting for both of us!" she pleaded--an
appeal that wrung me in spite of the pitch to which my feelings had been
raised. "Hugh, dear, we must think it out. Don't now."

I let her hands drop....

Beyond the range of hills rising from the far side of the Ashuela was the
wide valley in which was situated the Cloverdale Country Club, with its
polo field, golf course and tennis courts; and in this same valley some
of our wealthy citizens, such as Howard Ogilvy and Leonard Dickinson, had
bought "farms," week-end playthings for spring and autumn. Hambleton
Durrett had started the fashion. Capriciously, as he did everything else,
he had become the owner of several hundred acres of pasture, woodland and
orchard, acquired some seventy-five head of blooded stock, and proceeded
to house them in model barns and milk by machinery; for several months he
had bored everyone in the Boyne Club whom he could entice into
conversation on the subject of the records of pedigreed cows, and spent
many bibulous nights on the farm in company with those parasites who
surrounded him when he was in town. Then another interest had intervened;
a feminine one, of course, and his energies were transferred (so we
understood) to the reconstruction and furnishing of a little residence in
New York, not far from Fifth Avenue. The farm continued under the expert
direction of a superintendent who was a graduate of the State
Agricultural College, and a select clientele, which could afford to pay
the prices, consumed the milk and cream and butter. Quite consistent with
their marital relations was the fact that Nancy should have taken a fancy
to the place after Ham's interest had waned. Not that she cared for the
Guernseys, or Jerseys, or whatever they may have been; she evinced a
sudden passion for simplicity,--occasional simplicity, at least,--for a
contrast to and escape from a complicated life of luxury. She built
another house for the superintendent banished him from the little
farmhouse (where Ham had kept two rooms); banished along with the
superintendent the stiff plush furniture, the yellow-red carpets, the
easels and the melodeon, and decked it out in bright chintzes, with
wall-papers to match, dainty muslin curtains, and rag-carpet rugs on the
hardwood floors. The pseudo-classic porch over the doorway, which had
suggested a cemetery, was removed, and a wide piazza added, furnished
with wicker lounging chairs and tables, and shaded with gay awnings.

Here, to the farm, accompanied by a maid, she had been in the habit of
retiring from time to time, and here she came in early July. Here,
dressed in the simplest linen gowns of pink or blue or white, I found a
Nancy magically restored to girlhood,--anew Nancy, betraying only traces
of the old, a new Nancy in a new Eden. We had all the setting, all the
illusion of that perfect ideal of domesticity, love in a cottage. Nancy
and I, who all our lives had spurned simplicity, laughed over the joy we
found in it: she made a high art of it, of course; we had our simple
dinners, which Mrs. Olsen cooked and served in the open air; sometimes on
the porch, sometimes under the great butternut tree spreading its shade
over what in a more elaborate country-place, would have been called a
lawn,--an uneven plot of grass of ridges and hollows that ran down to the
orchard. Nancy's eyes would meet mine across the little table, and often
our gaze would wander over the pastures below, lucent green in the level
evening light, to the darkening woods beyond, gilt-tipped in the setting
sun. There were fields of ripening yellow grain, of lusty young corn that
grew almost as we watched it: the warm winds of evening were heavy with
the acrid odours of fecundity. Fecundity! In that lay the elusive yet
insistent charm of that country; and Nancy's, of course, was the
transforming touch that made it paradise. It was thus, in the country, I
suggested that we should spend the rest of our existence. What was the
use of amassing money, when happiness was to be had so simply?

"How long do you think you could stand it?" she asked, as she handed me a
plate of blackberries.

"Forever, with the right woman," I announced.

"How long could the woman stand it?".... She humoured, smilingly, my
crystal-gazing into our future, as though she had not the heart to
deprive me of the pleasure.

"I simply can't believe in it, Hugh," she said when I pressed her for an
answer.

"Why not?"

"I suppose it's because I believe in continuity, I haven't the romantic
temperament,--I always see the angel with the flaming sword. It isn't
that I want to see him."

"But we shall redeem ourselves," I said. "It won't be curiosity and
idleness. We are not just taking this thing, and expecting to give
nothing for it in return."

"What can we give that is worth it?" she exclaimed, with one of her
revealing flashes.

"We won't take it lightly, but seriously," I told her. "We shall find
something to give, and that something will spring naturally out of our
love. We'll read together, and think and plan together."

"Oh, Hugh, you are incorrigible," was all she said.

The male tendency in me was forever strained to solve her, to deduce from
her conversation and conduct a body of consistent law. The effort was
useless. Here was a realm, that of Nancy's soul, in which there was
apparently no such thing as relevancy. In the twilight, after dinner, we
often walked through the orchard to a grassy bank beside the little
stream, where we would sit and watch the dying glow in the sky. After a
rain its swollen waters were turbid, opaque yellow-red with the clay of
the hills; at other times it ran smoothly, temperately, almost clear
between the pasture grasses and wild flowers. Nancy declared that it
reminded her of me. We sat there, into the lush, warm nights, and the
moon shone down on us, or again through long silences we searched the
bewildering, starry chart of the heavens, with the undertones of the
night-chorus of the fields in our ears. Sometimes she let my head rest
upon her knee; but when, throbbing at her touch, with the life-force
pulsing around us, I tried to take her in my arms, to bring her lips to
mine, she resisted me with an energy of will and body that I could not
overcome, I dared not overcome. She acknowledged her love for me, she
permitted me to come to her, she had the air of yielding but never
yielded. Why, then, did she allow the words of love to pass? and how draw
the line between caresses? I was maddened and disheartened by that
elusive resistance in her--apparently so frail a thing!--that neither
argument nor importunity could break down. Was there something lacking in
me? or was it that I feared to mar or destroy the love she had. This,
surely, had not been the fashion of other loves, called unlawful, the
classic instances celebrated by the poets of all ages rose to mock me.

"Incurably romantic," she had called me, in calmer moments, when I was
able to discuss our affair objectively. And once she declared that I had
no sense of tragedy. We read "Macbeth" together, I remember, one rainy
Sunday. The modern world, which was our generation, would seem to be cut
off from all that preceded it as with a descending knife. It was
precisely from "the sense of tragedy" that we had been emancipated: from
the "agonized conscience," I should undoubtedly have said, had I been
acquainted then with Mr. Santayana's later phrase. Conscience--the old
kind of conscience,--and nothing inherent in the deeds themselves, made
the tragedy; conscience was superstition, the fear of the wrath of the
gods: conscience was the wrath of the gods. Eliminate it, and behold!
there were no consequences. The gods themselves, that kind of gods,
became as extinct as the deities of the Druids, the Greek fates, the
terrible figures of German mythology. Yes, and as the God of Christian
orthodoxy.

Had any dire calamities overtaken the modern Macbeths, of whose personal
lives we happened to know something? Had not these great ones broken with
impunity all the laws of traditional morality? They ground the faces of
the poor, played golf and went to church with serene minds, untroubled by
criticism; they appropriated, quite freely, other men's money, and some
of them other men's wives, and yet they were not haggard with remorse.
The gods remained silent. Christian ministers regarded these modern
transgressors of ancient laws benignly and accepted their contributions.
Here, indeed, were the supermen of the mad German prophet and philosopher
come to life, refuting all classic tragedy. It is true that some of these
supermen were occasionally swept away by disease, which in ancient days
would have been regarded as a retributive scourge, but was in fact
nothing but the logical working of the laws of hygiene, the result of
overwork. Such, though stated more crudely, were my contentions when
desire did not cloud my brain and make me incoherent. And I did not fail
to remind Nancy, constantly, that this was the path on which her feet had
been set; that to waver now was to perish. She smiled, yet she showed
concern.

"But suppose you don't get what you want?" she objected. "What then?
Suppose one doesn't become a superman? or a superwoman? What's to happen
to one? Is there no god but the superman's god, which is himself? Are
there no gods for those who can't be supermen? or for those who may
refuse to be supermen?"

To refuse, I maintained, were a weakness of the will.

"But there are other wills," she persisted, "wills over which the
superman may conceivably have no control. Suppose, for example, that you
don't get me, that my will intervenes, granting it to be conceivable that
your future happiness and welfare, as you insist, depend upon your
getting me--which I doubt."

"You've no reason to doubt it."

"Well, granting it, then. Suppose the orthodoxies and superstitions
succeed in inhibiting me. I may not be a superwoman, but my will, or my
conscience, if you choose, may be stronger than yours. If you don't get
what you want, you aren't happy. In other words, you fail. Where are your
gods then? The trouble with you, my dear Hugh, is that you have never
failed," she went on, "you've never had a good, hard fall, you've always
been on the winning side, and you've never had the world against you. No
wonder you don't understand the meaning and value of tragedy."

"And you?" I asked.

"No," she agreed, "nor I. Yet I have come to feel, instinctively, that
somehow concealed in tragedy is the central fact of life, the true
reality, that nothing is to be got by dodging it, as we have dodged it.
Your superman, at least the kind of superman you portray, is petrified.
Something vital in him, that should be plastic and sensitive, has turned
to stone."

"Since when did you begin to feel this?" I inquired uneasily.

"Since--well, since we have been together again, in the last month or
two. Something seems to warn me that if we take--what we want, we shan't
get it. That's an Irish saying, I know, but it expresses my meaning. I
may be little, I may be superstitious, unlike the great women of history
who have dared. But it's more than mere playing safe--my instinct, I
mean. You see, you are involved. I believe I shouldn't hesitate if only
myself were concerned, but you are the uncertain quantity--more uncertain
than you have any idea; you think you know yourself, you think you have
analyzed yourself, but the truth is, Hugh, you don't know the meaning of
struggle against real resistance."

I was about to protest.

"I know that you have conquered in the world of men and affairs," she
hurried on, "against resistance, but it isn't the kind of resistance I
mean. It doesn't differ essentially from the struggle in the animal
kingdom."

I bowed. "Thank you," I said.

She laughed a little.

"Oh, I have worshipped success, too. Perhaps I still do--that isn't the
point. An animal conquers his prey, he is in competition, in constant
combat with others of his own kind, and perhaps he brings to bear a
certain amount of intelligence in the process. Intelligence isn't the
point, either. I know what I'm saying is trite, it's banal, it sounds
like moralizing, and perhaps it is, but there is so much confusion to-day
that I think we are in danger of losing sight of the simpler verities,
and that we must suffer for it. Your super-animal, your supreme-stag
subdues the other stags, but he never conquers himself, he never feels
the need of it, and therefore he never comprehends what we call tragedy."

"I gather your inference," I said, smiling.

"Well," she admitted, "I haven't stated the case with the shade of
delicacy it deserves, but I wanted to make my meaning clear. We have
raised up a class in America, but we have lost sight, a
little--considerably, I think--of the distinguishing human
characteristics. The men you were eulogizing are lords of the forest,
more or less, and we women, who are of their own kind, what they have
made us, surrender ourselves in submission and adoration to the lordly
stag in the face of all the sacraments that have been painfully
inaugurated by the race for the very purpose of distinguishing us from
animals. It is equivalent to saying that there is no moral law; or, if
there is, nobody can define it. We deny, inferentially, a human realm as
distinguished from the animal, and in the denial it seems to me we are
cutting ourselves off from what is essential human development. We are
reverting to the animal. I have lost and you have lost--not entirely,
perhaps, but still to a considerable extent--the bloom of that fervour,
of that idealism, we may call it, that both of us possessed when we were
in our teens. We had occasional visions. We didn't know what they meant,
or how to set about their accomplishment, but they were not, at least,
mere selfish aspirations; they implied, unconsciously no doubt, an
element of service, and certainly our ideal of marriage had something
fine in it."

"Isn't it for a higher ideal of marriage that we are searching?" I asked.

"If that is so," Nancy objected, "then all the other elements of our
lives are sadly out of tune with it. Even the most felicitous union of
the sexes demands sacrifice, an adjustment of wills, and these are the
very things we balk at; and the trouble with our entire class in this
country is that we won't acknowledge any responsibility, there's no
sacrifice in our eminence, we have no sense of the whole."

"Where did you get all these ideas?" I demanded.

She laughed.

"Well," she admitted, "I've been thrashing around a little; and I've read
some of the moderns, you know. Do you remember my telling you I didn't
agree with them? and now this thing has come on me like a judgment. I've
caught their mania for liberty, for self-realization--whatever they call
it--but their remedies are vague, they fail to convince me that
individuals achieve any quality by just taking what they want, regardless
of others."....

I was unable to meet this argument, and the result was that when I was
away from her I too began to "thrash around" among the books in a vain
search for a radical with a convincing and satisfying philosophy. Thus we
fly to literature in crises of the heart! There was no lack of writers
who sought to deal--and deal triumphantly with the very situation in
which I was immersed. I marked many passages, to read them over to Nancy,
who was interested, but who accused me of being willing to embrace any
philosophy, ancient or modern, that ran with the stream of my desires. It
is worth recording that the truth of this struck home. On my way back to
the city I reflected that, in spite of my protests against Maude's
going--protests wholly sentimental and impelled by the desire to avoid
giving pain on the spot--I had approved of her departure because I didn't
want her. On the other hand I had to acknowledge if I hadn't wanted
Nancy, or rather, if I had become tired of her, I should have been
willing to endorse her scruples.... It was not a comforting thought.

One morning when I was absently opening the mail I found at my office I
picked up a letter from Theodore Watling, written from a seaside resort
in Maine, the contents of which surprised and touched me, troubled me,
and compelled me to face a situation with which I was wholly unprepared
to cope. He announced that this was to be his last term in the Senate. He
did not name the trouble his physician had discovered, but he had been
warned that he must retire from active life. "The specialist whom I saw
in New York," he went on, "wished me to resign at once, but when I
pointed out to him how unfair this would be to my friends in the state,
to my party as a whole--especially in these serious and unsettled
times--he agreed that I might with proper care serve out the remainder of
my term. I have felt it my duty to write to Barbour and Dickinson and one
or two others in order that they might be prepared and that no time may
be lost in choosing my successor. It is true that the revolt within the
party has never gained much headway in our state, but in these days it is
difficult to tell when and where a conflagration may break out, or how
far it will go. I have ventured to recommend to them the man who seems to
me the best equipped to carry on the work I have been trying to do
here--in short, my dear Hugh, yourself. The Senate, as you know, is not a
bed of roses just now for those who think as we do; but I have the less
hesitancy in making the recommendation because I believe you are not one
to shun a fight for the convictions we hold in common, and because you
would regard, with me, the election of a senator with the new views as a
very real calamity. If sound business men and lawyers should be
eliminated from the Senate, I could not contemplate with any peace of
mind what might happen to the country. In thus urging you, I know you
will believe me when I say that my affection and judgment are equally
involved, for it would be a matter of greater pride than I can express to
have you follow me here as you have followed me at home. And I beg of you
seriously to consider it.... I understand that Maude and the children are
abroad. Remember me to them affectionately when you write. If you can
find it convenient to come here, to Maine, to discuss the matter, you may
be sure of a welcome. In any case, I expect to be in Washington in
September for a meeting of our special committee. Sincerely and
affectionately yours, Theodore Watling."

It was characteristic of him that the tone of the letter should be
uniformly cheerful, that he should say nothing whatever of the blow this
must be to his ambitions and hopes; and my agitation at the new and
disturbing prospect thus opened up for me was momentarily swept away by
feelings of affection and sorrow. A sharp realization came to me of how
much I admired and loved this man, and this was followed by a pang at the
thought of the disappointment my refusal would give him. Complications I
did not wish to examine were then in the back of my mind; and while I
still sat holding the letter in my hand the telephone rang, and a message
came from Leonard Dickinson begging me to call at the bank at once.

Miller Gorse was there, and Tallant, waving a palm-leaf while sitting
under the electric fan. They were all very grave, and they began to talk
about the suddenness of Mr. Watling's illness and to speculate upon its
nature. Leonard Dickinson was the most moved of the three; but they were
all distressed, and showed it--even Tallant, whom I had never credited
with any feelings; they spoke about the loss to the state. At length
Gorse took a cigar from his pocket and lighted it; the smoke, impelled by
the fan, drifted over the panelled partition into the bank.

"I suppose Mr. Watling mentioned to you what he wrote to us," he said.

"Yes," I admitted.

"Well," he asked, "what do you think of it?"

"I attribute it to Mr. Watling's friendship," I replied.

"No," said Gorse, in his businesslike manner, "Watling's right, there's
no one else." Considering the number of inhabitants of our state, this
remark had its humorous aspect.

"That's true," Dickinson put in, "there's no one else available who
understands the situation as you do, Hugh, no one else we can trust as we
trust you. I had a wire from Mr. Barbour this morning--he agrees. We'll
miss you here, but now that Watling will be gone we'll need you there.
And he's right--it's something we've got to decide on right away, and get
started on soon, we can't afford to wobble and run any chances of a
revolt."

"It isn't everybody the senatorship comes to on a platter--especially at
your age," said Tallant.

"To tell you the truth," I answered, addressing Dickinson, "I'm not
prepared to talk about it now. I appreciate the honour, but I'm not at
all sure I'm the right man. And I've been considerably upset by this news
of Mr. Watling."

"Naturally you would be," said the banker, sympathetically, "and we share
your feelings. I don't know of any man for whom I have a greater
affection than I have for Theodore Wading. We shouldn't have mentioned it
now, Hugh, if Watling hadn't started the thing himself, if it weren't
important to know where we stand right away. We can't afford to lose the
seat. Take your time, but remember you're the man we depend upon."

Gorse nodded. I was aware, all the time Dickinson was speaking, of being
surrounded by the strange, disquieting gaze of the counsel for the
Railroad....

I went back to my office to spend an uneasy morning. My sorrow for Mr.
Watling was genuine, but nevertheless I found myself compelled to
consider an honour no man lightly refuses. Had it presented itself at any
other time, had it been due to a happier situation than that brought
about by the illness of a man whom I loved and admired, I should have
thought the prospect dazzling indeed, part and parcel of my amazing luck.
But now--now I was in an emotional state that distorted the factors of
life, all those things I hitherto had valued; even such a prize as this I
weighed in terms of one supreme desire: how would the acceptance of the
senatorship affect the accomplishment of this desire? That was the
question. I began making rapid calculations: the actual election would
take place in the legislature a year from the following January; provided
I were able to overcome Nancy's resistance--which I was determined to
do--nothing in the way of divorce proceedings could be thought of for
more than a year; and I feared delay. On the other hand, if we waited
until after I had been duly elected to get my divorce and marry Nancy my
chances of reelection would be small. What did I care for the senatorship
anyway--if I had her? and I wanted her now, as soon as I could get her.
She--a life with her represented new values, new values I did not define,
that made all I had striven for in the past of little worth. This was a
bauble compared with the companionship of the woman I loved, the woman
intended for me, who would give me peace of mind and soul and develop
those truer aspirations that had long been thwarted and starved for lack
of her. Gradually, as she regained the ascendency over my mind she
ordinarily held--and from which she had been temporarily displaced by the
arrival of Mr. Watling's letter and the talk in the bank--I became
impatient and irritated by the intrusion. But what answer should I give
to Dickinson and Gorse? what excuse for declining such an offer? I
decided, as may be imagined, to wait, to temporize.

The irony of circumstances--of what might have been--prevented now my
laying this trophy at Nancy's feet, for I knew I had only to mention the
matter to be certain of losing her.



XXIII.

I had bought a small automobile, which I ran myself, and it was my custom
to arrive at the farm every evening about five o'clock. But as I look
back upon those days they seem to have lost succession, to be fused
together, as it were, into one indeterminable period by the intense
pressure of emotion; unsatisfied emotion,--and the state of physical and
mental disorganization set up by it is in the retrospect not a little
terrifying. The world grew more and more distorted, its affairs were
neglected, things upon which I had set high values became as nothing. And
even if I could summon back something of the sequence of our intercourse,
it would be a mere repetition--growing on my part more irrational and
insistent--of what I have already related. There were long, troubled, and
futile silences when we sat together on the porch or in the woods and
fields; when I wondered whether it were weakness or strength that caused
Nancy to hold out against my importunities: the fears she professed of
retribution, the benumbing effects of the conventional years, or the
deep-rooted remnants of a Calvinism which--as she proclaimed--had lost
definite expression to persist as an intuition. I recall something she
said when she turned to me after one of these silences.

"Do you know how I feel sometimes? as though you and I had wandered
together into a strange country, and lost our way. We have lost our way,
Hugh--it's all so clandestine, so feverish, so unnatural, so unrelated to
life, this existence we're leading. I believe it would be better if it
were a mere case of physical passion. I can't help it," she went on, when
I had exclaimed against this, "we are too--too complicated, you are too
complicated. It's because we want the morning stars, don't you see?" She
wound her fingers tightly around mine. "We not only want this, but all of
life besides--you wouldn't be satisfied with anything less. Oh, I know
it. That's your temperament, you were made that way, and I shouldn't be
satisfied if you weren't. The time would come when you would blame me I
don't mean vulgarly--and I couldn't stand that. If you weren't that way,
if that weren't your nature, I mean, I should have given way long ago."

I made some sort of desperate protest.

"No, if I didn't know you so well I believe I should have given in long
ago. I'm not thinking of you alone, but of myself, too. I'm afraid I
shouldn't be happy, that I should begin to think--and then I couldn't
stop. The plain truth, as I've told you over and over again, is that I'm
not big enough." She continued smiling at me, a smile on which I could
not bear to look. "I was wrong not to have gone away," I heard her say.
"I will go away."

I was, at the time, too profoundly discouraged to answer....

One evening after an exhausting talk we sat, inert, on the grass hummock
beside the stream. Heavy clouds had gathered in the sky, the light had
deepened to amethyst, the valley was still, swooning with expectancy,
louder and louder the thunder rolled from behind the distant hills, and
presently a veil descended to hide them from our view. Great drops began
to fall, unheeded.

"We must go in," said Nancy, at length.

I followed her across the field and through the orchard. From the porch
we stood gazing out at the whitening rain that blotted all save the
nearer landscape, and the smell of wet, midsummer grasses will always be
associated with the poignancy of that moment.... At dinner, between the
intervals of silence, our talk was of trivial things. We made a mere
pretence of eating, and I remember having my attention arrested by the
sight of a strange, pitying expression on the face of Mrs. Olsen, who
waited on us. Before that the woman had been to me a mere ministering
automaton. But she must have had ideas and opinions, this transported
Swedish peasant.... Presently, having cleared the table, she retired....
The twilight deepened to dusk, to darkness. The storm, having spent the
intensity of its passion in those first moments of heavy downpour and
wind, had relaxed to a gentle rain that pattered on the roof, and from
the stream came recurringly the dirge of the frogs. All I could see of
Nancy was the dim outline of her head and shoulders: she seemed
fantastically to be escaping me, to be fading, to be going; in sudden
desperation I dropped on my knees beside her, and I felt her hands
straying with a light yet agonized touch, over my head.

"Do you think I haven't suffered, too? that I don't suffer?" I heard her
ask.

Some betraying note for which I had hitherto waited in vain must have
pierced to my consciousness, yet the quiver of joy and the swift,
convulsive movement that followed it seemed one. Her strong, lithe body
was straining in my arms, her lips returning my kisses.... Clinging to
her hands, I strove to summon my faculties of realization; and I began to
speak in broken, endearing sentences.

"It's stronger than we are--stronger than anything else in the world,"
she said.

"But you're not sorry?" I asked.

"I don't want to think--I don't care," she replied. "I only know that I
love you. I wonder if you will ever know how much!"

The moments lengthened into hours, and she gently reminded me that it was
late. The lights in the little farmhouses near by had long been
extinguished. I pleaded to linger; I wanted her, more of her, all of her
with a fierce desire that drowned rational thought, and I feared that
something might still come between us, and cheat me of her.

"No, no," she cried, with fear in her voice. "We shall have to think it
out very carefully--what we must do. We can't afford to make any
mistakes."

"We'll talk it all over to-morrow," I said.

With a last, reluctant embrace I finally left her, walked blindly to
where the motor car was standing, and started the engine. I looked back.
Outlined in the light of the doorway I saw her figure in what seemed an
attitude of supplication....

I drove cityward through the rain, mechanically taking the familiar turns
in the road, barely missing a man in a buggy at a four-corners. He
shouted after me, but the world to which he belonged didn't exist. I
lived again those moments that had followed Nancy's surrender, seeking to
recall and fix in my mind every word that had escaped from her lips--the
trivial things that to lovers are so fraught with meaning. I lived it all
over again, as I say, but the reflection of it, though intensely
emotional, differed from the reality in that now I was somewhat able to
regard the thing, to regard myself, objectively; to define certain
feelings that had flitted in filmy fashion through my consciousness,
delicate shadows I recognized at the time as related to sadness. When she
had so amazingly yielded, the thought for which my mind had been vaguely
groping was that the woman who lay there in my arms, obscured by the
darkness, was not Nancy at all! It was as if this one precious woman I
had so desperately pursued had, in the capture, lost her identity, had
mysteriously become just woman, in all her significance, yes, and
helplessness. The particular had merged (inevitably, I might have known)
into the general: the temporary had become the lasting, with a chain of
consequences vaguely implied that even in my joy gave me pause. For the
first time in my life I had a glimpse of what marriage might
mean,--marriage in a greater sense than I had ever conceived it, a sort
of cosmic sense, implying obligations transcending promises and
contracts, calling for greatness of soul of a kind I had not hitherto
imagined. Was there in me a grain of doubt of my ability to respond to
such a high call? I began to perceive that such a union as we
contemplated involved more obligations than one not opposed to
traditional views of morality. I fortified myself, however,--if indeed I
really needed fortification in a mood prevailingly triumphant and
exalted,--with the thought that this love was different, the real thing,
the love of maturity steeped in the ideals of youth. Here was a love for
which I must be prepared to renounce other things on which I set a high
value; prepared, in case the world, for some reason, should not look upon
us with kindliness. It was curious that such reflections as these should
have been delayed until after the achievement of my absorbing desire,
more curious that they should have followed so closely on the heels of
it. The affair had shifted suddenly from a basis of adventure, of
uncertainty; to one of fact, of commitment; I am exaggerating my concern
in order to define it; I was able to persuade myself without much
difficulty that these little, cloudy currents in the stream of my joy
were due to a natural reaction from the tremendous strain of the past
weeks, mere morbid fancies.

When at length I reached my room at the Club I sat looking out at the
rain falling on the shining pavements under the arc-lights. Though waves
of heat caused by some sudden recollection or impatient longing still ran
through my body, a saner joy of anticipation was succeeding emotional
tumult, and I reflected that Nancy had been right in insisting that we
walk circumspectly in spite of passion. After all, I had outwitted
circumstance, I had gained the prize, I could afford to wait a little. We
should talk it over to-morrow,--no, to-day. The luminous face of the city
hall clock reminded me that midnight was long past....

I awoke with the consciousness of a new joy, suddenly to identify it with
Nancy. She was mine! I kept repeating it as I dressed; summoning her, not
as she had lain in my arms in the darkness--though the intoxicating
sweetness of that pervaded me--but as she had been before the
completeness of her surrender, dainty, surrounded by things expressing an
elusive, uniquely feminine personality. I could afford to smile at the
weather, at the obsidian sky, at the rain still falling persistently; and
yet, as I ate my breakfast, I felt a certain impatience to verify what I
knew was a certainty, and hurried to the telephone booth. I resented the
instrument, its possibilities of betrayal, her voice sounded so
matter-of-fact as she bade me good morning and deplored the rain.

"I'll be out as soon as I can get away," I said. "I have a meeting at
three, but it should be over at four." And then I added irresistibly:
"Nancy, you're not sorry? You--you still--?"

"Yes, don't be foolish," I heard her reply, and this time the telephone
did not completely disguise the note for which I strained. I said
something more, but the circuit was closed....

I shall not attempt to recount the details of our intercourse during the
week that followed. There were moments of stress and strain when it
seemed to me that we could not wait, moments that strengthened Nancy's
resolution to leave immediately for the East: there were other, calmer
periods when the wisdom of her going appealed to me, since our ultimate
union would be hastened thereby. We overcame by degrees the
distastefulness of the discussion of ways and means.... We spent an
unforgettable Sunday among the distant high hills, beside a little lake
of our own discovery, its glinting waters sapphire and chrysoprase. A
grassy wood road, at the inviting entrance to which we left the
automobile, led down through an undergrowth of laurel to a pebbly shore,
and there we lunched; there we lingered through the long summer
afternoon, Nancy with her back against a tree, I with my head in her lap
gazing up at filmy clouds drifting imperceptibly across the sky,
listening to the droning notes of the bees, notes that sometimes rose in
a sharp crescendo, and again were suddenly hushed. The smell of the
wood-mould mingled with the fainter scents of wild flowers. She had
brought along a volume by a modern poet: the verses, as Nancy read them,
moved me,--they were filled with a new faith to which my being responded,
the faith of the forth-farer; not the faith of the anchor, but of the
sail. I repeated some of the lines as indications of a creed to which I
had long been trying to convert her, though lacking the expression. She
had let the book fall on the grass. I remember how she smiled down at me
with the wisdom of the ages in her eyes, seeking my hand with a gesture
that was almost maternal.

"You and the poets," she said, "you never grow up. I suppose that's the
reason why we love you--and these wonderful visions of freedom you have.
Anyway, it's nice to dream, to recreate the world as one would like to
have it."

"But that's what you and I are doing," I insisted.

"We think we're doing it--or rather you think so," she replied. "And
sometimes, I admit that you almost persuade me to think so. Never quite.
What disturbs me," she continued, "is to find you and the poets founding
your new freedom on new justifications, discarding the old law only to
make a new one,--as though we could ever get away from necessities,
escape from disagreeable things, except in dreams. And then, this
delusion of believing that we are masters of our own destiny--" She
paused and pressed my fingers.

"There you go-back to predestination!" I exclaimed.

"I don't go back to anything, or forward to anything," she exclaimed.
"Women are elemental, but I don't expect you to understand it. Laws and
codes are foreign to us, philosophies and dreams may dazzle us for the
moment, but what we feel underneath and what we yield to are the primal
forces, the great necessities; when we refuse joys it's because we know
these forces by a sort of instinct, when we're overcome it's with a full
knowledge that there's a price. You've talked a great deal, Hugh, about
carving out our future. I listened to you, but I resisted you. It wasn't
the morality that was taught me as a child that made me resist, it was
something deeper than that, more fundamental, something I feel but can't
yet perceive, and yet shall perceive some day. It isn't that I'm clinging
to the hard and fast rules because I fail to see any others, it isn't
that I believe that all people should stick together whether they are
happily married or not, but--I must say it even now--I have a feeling I
can't define that divorce isn't for us. I'm not talking about right and
wrong in the ordinary sense--it's just what I feel. I've ceased to
think."

"Nancy!" I reproached her.

"I can't help it--I don't want to be morbid. Do you remember my asking
you about God?--the first day this began? and whether you had a god?
Well, that's the trouble with us all to-day, we haven't any God, we're
wanderers, drifters. And now it's just life that's got hold of us, my
dear, and swept us away together. That's our justification--if we needed
one--it's been too strong for us." She leaned back against the tree and
closed her eyes. "We're like chips in the torrent of it, Hugh."....

It was not until the shadow of the forest had crept far across the lake
and the darkening waters were still that we rose reluctantly to put the
dishes in the tea basket and start on our homeward journey. The tawny
fires of the sunset were dying down behind us, the mist stealing,
ghostlike, into the valleys below; in the sky a little moon curled like a
freshly cut silver shaving, that presently turned to gold, the white star
above it to fire.

Where the valleys widened we came to silent, decorous little towns and
villages where yellow-lit windows gleaming through the trees suggested
refuge and peace, while we were wanderers in the night. It was Nancy's
mood; and now, in the evening's chill, it recurred to me poignantly. In
one of these villages we passed a church, its doors flung open; the
congregation was singing a familiar hymn. I slowed down the car; I felt
her shoulder pressing against my own, and reached out my hand and found
hers.

"Are you warm enough?" I asked....

We spoke but little on that drive, we had learned the futility of words
to express the greater joys and sorrows, the love that is compounded of
these.

It was late when we turned in between the white dates and made our way up
the little driveway to the farmhouse. I bade her good night on the steps
of the porch.

"You do love me, don't you?" she whispered, clinging to me with a sudden,
straining passion. "You will love me, always no matter what happens?"

"Why, of course, Nancy," I answered.

"I want to hear you say it, 'I love you, I shall love you always.'"

I repeated it fervently....

"No matter what happens?"

"No matter what happens. As if I could help it, Nancy! Why are you so sad
to-night?"

"Ah, Hugh, it makes me sad--I can't tell why. It is so great, it is so
terrible, and yet it's so sweet and beautiful."

She took my face in her hands and pressed a kiss against my forehead....

The next day was dark. At two o'clock in the afternoon the electric light
was still burning over my desk when the telephone rang and I heard
Nancy's voice.

"Is that you, Hugh?"

"Yes."

"I have to go East this afternoon."

"Why?" I asked. Her agitation had communicated itself to me. "I thought
you weren't going until Thursday. What's the matter?"

"I've just had a telegram," she said. "Ham's been hurt--I don't know how
badly--he was thrown from a polo pony this morning at Narragansett, in
practice, and they're taking him to Boston to a private hospital. The
telegram's from Johnny Shephard. I'll be at the house in town at four."

Filled with forebodings I tried in vain to suppress I dropped the work I
was doing and got up and paced the room, pausing now and again to gaze
out of the window at the wet roofs and the grey skies. I was aghast at
the idea of her going to Ham now even though he were hurt badly hurt; and
yet I tried to think it was natural, that it was fine of her to respond
to such a call. And she couldn't very well refuse his summons. But it was
not the news of her husband's accident that inspired the greater fear,
which was quelled and soothed only to rise again when I recalled the note
I had heard in her voice, a note eloquent of tragedy--of tragedy she had
foreseen. At length, unable to remain where I was any longer, I descended
to the street and walked uptown in the rain. The Durrett house was
closed, the blinds of its many windows drawn, but Nancy was watching for
me and opened the door. So used had I grown to seeing her in the simple
linen dresses she had worn in the country, a costume associated with
exclusive possession, that the sight of her travelling suit and hat
renewed in me an agony of apprehension. The unforeseen event seemed to
have transformed her once more. Her veil was drawn up, her face was pale,
in her eyes were traces of tears.

"You're going?" I asked, as I took her hands.

"Hugh, I have to go."

She led me through the dark, shrouded drawing room into the little salon
where the windows were open on the silent city-garden. I took her in my
arms; she did not resist, as I half expected, but clung to me with what
seemed desperation.

"I have to go, dear--you won't make it too hard for me! It's
only--ordinary decency, and there's no one else to go to him."

She drew me to the sofa, her eyes beseeching me.

"Listen, dear, I want you to see it as I see it. I know that you will,
that you do. I should never be able to forgive myself if I stayed away
now, I--neither of us could ever be happy about it. You do see, don't
you?" she implored.

"Yes," I admitted agitatedly.

Her grasp on my hand tightened.

"I knew you would. But it makes me happier to hear you say it."

We sat for a moment in helpless silence, gazing at one another. Slowly
her eyes had filled.

"Have you heard anything more?" I managed to ask.

She drew a telegram from her bag, as though the movement were a relief.

"This is from the doctor in Boston--his name is Magruder. They have got
Ham there, it seems. A horse kicked him in the head, after he fell,--he
had just recovered consciousness."

I took the telegram. The wordy seemed meaningless, all save those of the
last sentence. "The situation is serious, but by no means hopeless."
Nancy had not spoken of that. The ignorant cruelty of its convention! The
man must have known what Hambleton Durrett was! Nancy read my thoughts,
and took the paper from my hand.

"Hugh, dear, if it's hard for you, try to understand that it's terrible
for me to think that he has any claim at all. I realize now, as I never
did before, how wicked it was in me to marry him. I hate him, I can't
bear the thought of going near him."

She fell into wild weeping. I tried to comfort her, who could not comfort
myself; I don't remember my inadequate words. We were overwhelmed,
obliterated by the sense of calamity.... It was she who checked herself
at last by an effort that was almost hysterical.

"I mustn't yield to it!" she said. "It's time to leave and the train goes
at six. No, you mustn't come to the station, Hugh--I don't think I could
stand it. I'll send you a telegram." She rose. "You must go now--you
must."

"You'll come back to me?" I demanded thickly, as I held her.

"Hugh, I am yours, now and always. How can you doubt it?"

At last I released her, when she had begged me again. And I found myself
a little later walking past the familiar, empty houses of those
streets....

The front pages of the evening newspapers announced the accident to
Hambleton Durrett, and added that Mrs. Durrett, who had been lingering in
the city, had gone to her husband's bedside. The morning papers contained
more of biography and ancestry, but had little to add to the bulletin;
and there was no lack of speculation at the Club and elsewhere as to
Ham's ability to rally from such a shock. I could not bear to listen to
these comments: they were violently distasteful to me. The unforeseen
accident and Nancy's sudden departure had thrown my life completely out
of gear: I could not attend to business, I dared not go away lest the
news from Nancy be delayed. I spent the hours in an exhausting mental
state that alternated between hope and fear, a state of unmitigated,
intense desire, of balked realization, sometimes heightening into that
sheer terror I had felt when I had detected over the telephone that note
in her voice that seemed of despair. Had she had a presentiment, all
along, that something would occur to separate us? As I went back over the
hours we had passed together since she had acknowledged her love, in
spite of myself the conviction grew on me that she had never believed in
the reality of our future. Indeed, she had expressed her disbelief in
words. Had she been looking all along for a sign--a sign of wrath? And
would she accept this accident of Ham's as such?

Retrospection left me trembling and almost sick.

It was not until the second morning after her departure that I received a
telegram giving the name of her Boston hotel, and saying that there was
to be a consultation that day, and as soon as it had taken place she
would write. Such consolation as I could gather from it was derived from
four words at the end,--she missed me dreadfully. Some tremor of pity for
her entered into my consciousness, without mitigating greatly the
wildness of my resentment, of my forebodings.

I could bear no longer the city, the Club, the office, the daily contact
with my associates and clients. Six hours distant, near Rossiter, was a
small resort in the mountains of which I had heard. I telegraphed Nancy
to address me there, notified the office, packed my bag, and waited
impatiently for midday, when I boarded the train. At seven I reached a
little station where a stage was waiting to take me to Callender's Mill.

It was not until morning that I beheld my retreat, when little wisps of
vapour were straying over the surface of the lake, and the steep green
slopes that rose out of the water on the western side were still in
shadow. The hotel, a much overgrown and altered farm-house, stood,
surrounded by great trees, in an ancient clearing that sloped gently to
the water's edge, where an old-fashioned, octagonal summerhouse
overlooked a landing for rowboats. The resort, indeed, was a survival of
simpler times....

In spite of the thirty-odd guests, people of very moderate incomes who
knew the place and had come here year after year, I was as much alone as
if I had been the only sojourner. The place was so remote, so peaceful in
contrast to the city I had left, which had become intolerable. And at
night, during hours of wakefulness, the music of the waters falling over
the dam was soothing. I used to walk down there and sit on the stones of
the ruined mill; or climb to the crests on the far side of the pond to
gaze for hours westward where the green billows of the Alleghenies lost
themselves in the haze. I had discovered a new country; here, when our
trials should be over, I would bring Nancy, and I found distraction in
choosing sites for a bungalow. In my soul hope flowered with little
watering. Uncertain news was good news. After two days of an impatience
all but intolerable, her first letter arrived, I learned that the
specialists had not been able to make a diagnosis, and I began to take
heart again. At times, she said, Ham was delirious and difficult to
manage; at other times he sank into a condition of coma; and again he
seemed to know her and Ralph, who had come up from Southampton, where he
had been spending the summer. One doctor thought that Ham's remarkable
vitality would pull him through, in spite of what his life had been. The
shock--as might have been surmised--had affected the brain.... The
letters that followed contained no additional news; she did not dwell on
the depressing reactions inevitable from the situation in which she found
herself--one so much worse than mine; she expressed a continual longing
for me; and yet I had trouble to convince myself that they did not lack
the note of reassurance for which I strained as I eagerly scanned
them--of reassurance that she had no intention of permitting her
husband's condition to interfere with that ultimate happiness on which it
seemed my existence depended. I tried to account for the absence of this
note by reflecting that the letters were of necessity brief, hurriedly
scratched off at odd moments; and a natural delicacy would prevent her
from referring to our future at such a time. They recorded no change in
Ham's condition save that the periods of coma had ceased. The doctors
were silent, awaiting the arrival in this country of a certain New York
specialist who was abroad. She spent most of her days at the hospital,
returning to the hotel at night exhausted: the people she knew in the
various resorts around Boston had been most kind, sending her flowers,
and calling when in town to inquire. At length came the news that the New
York doctor was home again; and coming to Boston. In that letter was a
sentence which rang like a cry in my ears: "Oh, Hugh, I think these
doctors know now what the trouble is, I think I know. They are only
waiting for Dr. Jameson to confirm it."

It was always an effort for me to control my impatience after the first
rattling was heard in the morning of the stage that brought the mail, and
I avoided the waiting group in front of the honeycombed partition of
boxes beside the "office." On the particular morning of which I am now
writing the proprietor himself handed me a letter of ominous thickness
which I took with me down to the borders of the lake before tearing open
the flap. In spite of the calmness and restraint of the first lines,
because of them, I felt creeping over me an unnerving sensation I knew
for dread....

"Hugh, the New York doctor has been here. It is as I have feared for some
weeks, but I couldn't tell you until I was sure. Ham is not exactly
insane, but he is childish. Sometimes I think that is even worse. I have
had a talk with Dr. Jameson, who has simply confirmed the opinion which
the other physicians have gradually been forming. The accident has
precipitated a kind of mental degeneration, but his health, otherwise,
will not be greatly affected.

"Jameson was kind, but very frank, for which I was grateful. He did not
hesitate to say that it would have been better if the accident had been
fatal. Ham won't be helpless, physically. Of course he won't be able to
play polo, or take much active exercise. If he were to be helpless, I
could feel that I might be of some use, at least of more use. He knows
his friends. Some of them have been here to see him, and he talks quite
rationally with them, with Ralph, with me, only once in a while he says
something silly. It seems odd to write that he is not responsible, since
he never has been,--his condition is so queer that I am at a loss to
describe it. The other morning, before I arrived from the hotel and when
the nurse was downstairs, he left the hospital, and we found him several
blocks along Commonwealth Avenue, seated on a bench, without a hat--he
was annoyed that he had forgotten it, and quite sensible otherwise. We
began by taking him out every morning in an automobile. To-day he had a
walk with Ralph, and insisted on going into a club here, to which they
both belong. Two or three men were there whom they knew, and he talked to
them about his fall from the pony and told them just how it happened.

"At such times only a close observer can tell from his manner that
everything is not right.

"Ralph, who always could manage him, prevented his taking anything to
drink. He depends upon Ralph, and it will be harder for me when he is not
with us. His attitude towards me is just about what it has always been. I
try to amuse him by reading the newspapers and with games; we have a
chess-board. At times he seems grateful, and then he will suddenly grow
tired and hard to control. Once or twice I have had to call in Dr.
Magruder, who owns the hospital.

"It has been terribly hard for me to write all this, but I had to do it,
in order that you might understand the situation completely. Hugh dear, I
simply can't leave him. This has been becoming clearer and clearer to me
all these weeks, but it breaks my heart to have to write it. I have
struggled against it, I have lain awake nights trying to find
justification for going to you, but it is stronger than I. I am afraid of
it--I suppose that's the truth. Even in those unforgettable days at the
farm I was afraid of it, although I did not know what it was to be. Call
it what you like, say that I am weak. I am willing to acknowledge that it
is weakness. I wish no credit for it, it gives me no glow, the thought of
it makes my heart sick. I'm not big enough I suppose that's the real
truth. I once might have been; but I'm not now,--the years of the life I
chose have made a coward of me. It's not a question of morals or duty
it's simply that I can't take the thing for which my soul craves. It's
too late. If I believed in prayer I'd pray that you might pity and
forgive me. I really can't expect you to understand what I can't myself
explain. Oh, I need pity--and I pity you, my dear. I can only hope that
you will not suffer as I shall, that you will find relief away to work
out your life. But I will not change my decision, I cannot change it.
Don't come on, don't attempt to see me now. I can't stand any more than I
am standing, I should lose my mind."

Here the letter was blotted, and some words scratched out. I was unable
to reconstruct them.

"Ralph and I," she proceeded irrelevantly, "have got Ham to agree to go
to Buzzard's Bay, and we have taken a house near Wareham. Write and tell
me that you forgive and pity me. I love you even more, if such a thing is
possible, than I have ever loved you. This is my only comfort and
compensation, that I have had and have been able to feel such a love, and
I know I shall always feel it.--Nancy." The first effect of this letter
was a paralyzing one. I was unable to realize or believe the thing that
had happened to me, and I sat stupidly holding the sheet in my hand until
I heard voices along the path, and then I fled instinctively, like an
animal, to hide my injury from any persons I might meet. I wandered down
the shore of the lake, striking at length into the woods, seeking some
inviolable shelter; nor was I conscious of physical effort until I found
myself panting near the crest of the ridge where there was a pasture,
which some ancient glacier had strewn with great boulders. Beside one of
these I sank. Heralded by the deep tones of bells, two steers appeared
above the shoulder of a hill and stood staring at me with bovine
curiosity, and fell to grazing again. A fleet of white clouds, like ships
pressed with sail, hurried across the sky as though racing for some
determined port; and the shadows they cast along the hillsides
accentuated the high brightness of the day, emphasized the vivid and
hateful beauty of the landscape. My numbness began to be penetrated by
shooting pains, and I grasped little by little the fulness of my
calamity, until I was in the state of wild rebellion of one whom life for
the first time has foiled in a supreme desire. There was no fate about
this thing, it was just an absurd accident. The operation of the laws of
nature had sent a man to the ground: another combination of circumstances
would have killed him, still another, and he would have arisen unhurt.
But because of this particular combination my happiness was ruined, and
Nancy's! She had not expected me to understand. Well, I didn't
understand, I had no pity, in that hour I felt a resentment almost
amounting to hate; I could see only unreasoning superstition in the woman
I wanted above everything in the world. Women of other days had indeed
renounced great loves: the thing was not unheard of. But that this should
happen in these times--and to me! It was unthinkable that Nancy of all
women shouldn't be emancipated from the thralls of religious inhibition!
And if it wasn't "conscience," what was it?

Was it, as she said, weakness, lack of courage to take life when it was
offered her?.... I was suddenly filled with the fever of composing
arguments to change a decision that appeared to me to be the result of a
monstrous caprice and delusion; writing them out, as they occurred to me,
in snatches on the backs of envelopes--her envelopes. Then I proceeded to
make the draft of a letter, the effort required for composition easing me
until the draft was finished; when I started for the hotel, climbing
fences, leaping streams, making my way across rock faces and through
woods; halting now and then as some reenforcing argument occurred to me
to write it into my draft at the proper place until the sheets were
interlined and blurred and almost illegible. It was already three o'clock
when I reached my room, and the mail left at four. I began to copy and
revise my scrawl, glancing from time to time at my watch, which I had
laid on the table. Hurriedly washing my face and brushing my hair, I
arrived downstairs just as the stage was leaving....

After the letter had gone still other arguments I might have added began
to occur to me, and I regretted that I had not softened some of the
things I wrote and made others more emphatic. In places argument had
degenerated into abject entreaty. Never had my desire been so importunate
as now, when I was in continual terror of losing her. Nor could I see how
I was to live without her, life lacking a motive being incomprehensible:
yet the fire of optimism in me, though died down to ashes, would not be
extinguished. At moments it flared up into what almost amounted to a
conviction that she could not resist my appeal. I had threatened to go to
her, and more than once I started packing....

Three days later I received a brief note in which she managed to convey
to me, though tenderly and compassionately, that her decision was
unalterable. If I came on, she would refuse to see me. I took the
afternoon stage and went back to the city, to plunge into affairs again;
but for weeks my torture was so acute that it gives me pain to recall it,
to dwell upon it to-day.... And yet, amazing as it may seem, there came a
time when hope began to dawn again out of my despair. Perhaps my life had
not been utterly shattered, after all: perhaps Ham Durrett would get
well: such things happened, and Nancy would no longer have an excuse for
continuing to refuse me. Little by little my anger at what I had now
become convinced was her weakness cooled, and--though paradoxically I had
continued to love her in spite of the torture for which she was
responsible, in spite of the resentment I felt, I melted toward her. True
to my habit of reliance on miracles, I tried to reconcile myself to a
period of waiting.

Nevertheless I was faintly aware--consequent upon if not as a result of
this tremendous experience--of some change within me. It was not only
that I felt at times a novel sense of uneasiness at being a prey to
accidents, subject to ravages of feeling; the unity of mind that had
hitherto enabled me to press forward continuously toward a concrete goal
showed signs of breaking up:--the goal had lost its desirability. I
seemed oddly to be relapsing into the states of questioning that had
characterized my earlier years. Perhaps it would be an exaggeration to
say that I actually began to speculate on the possible existence of a
realm where the soul might find a refuge from the buffetings of life,
from which the philosophy of prosperity was powerless to save it....



XXIV.

It was impossible, of course, that my friends should have failed to
perceive the state of disorganization I was in, and some of them at least
must have guessed its cause. Dickinson, on his return from Maine, at once
begged me to go away. I rather congratulated myself that Tom had chosen
these months for a long-delayed vacation in Canada. His passion for
fishing still persisted.

In spite of the fact I have noted, that I had lost a certain zest for
results, to keep busy seemed to be the only way to relieve my mind of an
otherwise intolerable pressure: and I worked sometimes far into the
evening. In the background of my thoughts lay the necessity of coming to
a decision on the question of the senatorship; several times Dickinson
and Gorse had spoken of it, and I was beginning to get letters from
influential men in other parts of the state. They seemed to take it for
granted that there was no question of my refusing. The time came when I
had grown able to consider the matter with a degree of calmness. What
struck me first, when I began to debate upon it, was that the senatorship
offered a new and possibly higher field for my energies, while at the
same time the office would be a logical continuation of a signal legal
career. I was now unable to deny that I no longer felt any exhilaration
at the prospect of future legal conquests similar to those of the past;
but once in the Senate, I might regain something of that intense
conviction of fighting for a just and sound cause with which Theodore
Wading had once animated me: fighting there, in the Capitol at
Washington, would be different; no stigma of personal gain attached to
it; it offered a nearer approach to the ideal I had once more begun to
seek, held out hopes of a renewal of my unity of mind. Mr. Watling had
declared that there was something to fight for; I had even glimpsed that
something, but I had to confess that for some years I had not been
consciously fighting for it. I needed something to fight for.

There was the necessity, however, of renewing my calculations. If
Hambleton Durrett should recover, even during the ensuing year, and if
Nancy relented it would not be possible for us to be divorced and married
for some time. I still clung tenaciously to the belief that there were no
relationships wholly unaffected by worldly triumphs, and as Senator I
should have strengthened my position. It did not strike me--even after
all my experience--that such a course as I now contemplated had a
parallel in the one that I had pursued in regard to her when I was young.

It seemed fitting that Theodore Watling should be the first to know of my
decision. I went to Washington to meet him. It pained me to see him
looking more worn, but he was still as cheerful, as mentally vigorous as
ever, and I perceived that he did not wish to dwell upon his illness. I
did venture to expostulate with him on the risk he must be running in
serving out his term. We were sitting in the dining room of his house.

"We've only one life to live, Hugh," he answered, smiling at me, "and we
might as well get all out of it we can. A few years more or less doesn't
make much difference--and I ought to be satisfied. I'd resign now, to
please my wife, to please my friends, but we can't trust this governor to
appoint a safe man. How little we suspected when we elected him that he'd
become infected. You never can tell, in these days, can you?"

It was the note of devotion to his cause that I had come to hear: I felt
it renewing me, as I had hoped. The threat of disease, the louder
clamourings of the leaders of the mob had not sufficed to dismay
him--though he admitted more concern over these. My sympathy and
affection were mingled with the admiration he never failed to inspire.

"But you, Hugh," he said concernedly, "you're not looking very well, my
son. You must manage to take a good rest before coming here--before the
campaign you'll have to go through. We can't afford to have anything
happen to you--you're too young."

I wondered whether he had heard anything.... He spoke to me again about
the work to be done, the work he looked to me to carry on.

"We'll have to watch for our opportunity," he said, "and when it comes we
can handle this new movement not by crushing it, but by guiding it. I've
come to the conclusion that there is a true instinct in it, that there
are certain things we have done which have been mistakes, and which we
can't do any more. But as for this theory that all wisdom resides in the
people, it's buncombe. What we have to do is to work out a practical
programme."

His confidence in me had not diminished. It helped to restore confidence
in myself.

The weather was cool and bracing for September, and as we drove in a
motor through the beautiful avenues of the city he pointed out a house
for me on one of the circles, one of those distinguished residences,
instances of a nascent good taste, that are helping to redeem the
polyglot aspect of our national capital. Mr. Watling spoke--rather
tactfully, I thought--of Maude and the children, and ventured the surmise
that they would be returning in a few months. I interpreted this, indeed,
as in rather the nature of a kindly hint that such a procedure would be
wise in view of the larger life now dawning for me, but I made no
comment.... He even sympathized with Nancy Durrett.

"She did the right thing, Hugh," he said, with the admirable casual
manner he possessed of treating subjects which he knew to be delicate.
"Nancy's a fine woman. Poor devil!" This in reference to Ham....

Mr. Watling reassured me on the subject of his own trouble, maintaining
that he had many years left if he took care. He drove me to the station.
I travelled homeward somewhat lifted out of myself by this visit to him;
with some feeling of spaciousness derived from Washington itself, with
its dignified Presidential Mansion among the trees, its granite shaft
drawing the eye upward, with its winged Capitol serene upon the hill.
Should we deliver these heirlooms to the mob? Surely Democracy meant more
than that!

All this time I had been receiving, at intervals, letters from Maude and
the children. Maude's were the letters of a friend, and I found it easy
to convince myself that their tone was genuine, that the separation had
brought contentment to her; and those independent and self-sufficient
elements in her character I admired now rather than deplored. At Etretat,
which she found much to her taste, she was living quietly, but making
friends with some American and English, and one French family of the same
name, Buffon, as the great naturalist. The father was a retired silk
manufacturer; they now resided in Paris, and had been very kind in
helping her to get an apartment in that city for the winter. She had
chosen one on the Avenue Kleber, not far from the Arc. It is interesting,
after her arraignment of me, that she should have taken such pains to
record their daily life for my benefit in her clear, conscientious
handwriting. I beheld Biddy, her dresses tucked above slim little knees,
playing in the sand on the beach, her hair flying in the wind and lighted
by the sun which gave sparkle to the sea. I saw Maude herself in her
beach chair, a book lying in her lap, its pages whipped by the breeze.
And there was Moreton, who must be proving something of a handful, since
he had fought with the French boys on the beach and thrown a "rock"
through the windows of the Buffon family. I remember one of his
letters--made perfect after much correcting and scratching,--in which he
denounced both France and the French, and appealed to me to come over at
once to take him home. Maude had enclosed it without comment. This letter
had not been written under duress, as most of his were.

Matthew's letters--he wrote faithfully once a week--I kept in a little
pile by themselves and sometimes reread them. I wondered whether it were
because of the fact that I was his father--though a most inadequate
one--that I thought them somewhat unusual. He had learned French--Maude
wrote--with remarkable ease. I was particularly struck in these letters
with the boy's power of observation, with his facile use of language,
with the vivid simplicity of his descriptions of the life around him, of
his experiences at school. The letters were thoughtful--not dashed off in
a hurry; they gave evidence in every line of the delicacy of feeling that
was, I think, his most appealing quality, and I put them down with the
impression strong on me that he, too, longed to return home, but would
not say so. There was a certain pathos in this youthful restraint that
never failed to touch me, even in those times when I had been most
obsessed with love and passion.... The curious effect of these letters
was that of knowing more than they expressed. He missed me, he wished to
know when I was coming over. And I was sometimes at a loss whether to be
grateful to Maude or troubled because she had as yet given him no hint of
our separation. What effect would it have on him when it should be
revealed to him?.... It was through Matthew I began to apprehend certain
elements in Maude I had both failed to note and appreciate; her little
mannerisms that jarred, her habits of thought that exasperated, were
forgotten, and I was forced to confess that there was something fine in
the achievement of this attitude of hers that was without ill will or
resentment, that tacitly acknowledged my continued rights and interest in
the children. It puzzled and troubled me.

The Citizens Union began its campaign early that autumn, long before the
Hons. Jonathan Parks and Timothy MacGuire--Republican and Democratic
candidates for Mayor--thought of going on the stump. For several weeks
the meetings were held in the small halls and club rooms of various
societies and orders in obscure portions of the city.

The forces of "privilege and corruption" were not much alarmed. Perry
Blackwood accused the newspapers of having agreed to a "conspiracy of
silence"; but, as Judah B. Tallant remarked, it was the business of the
press to give the public what it wanted, and the public as yet hadn't
shown much interest in the struggle being waged in its behalf. When the
meetings began to fill up it would be time to report them in the columns
of the Era. Meanwhile, however, the city had been quietly visited by an
enterprising representative of a New York periodical of the new type that
developed with the opening years of the century--one making a specialty
of passionate "muck-raking." And since the people of America love nothing
better than being startled, Yardley's Weekly had acquired a circulation
truly fabulous. The emissary of the paper had attended several of the
Citizens meetings; interviewed, it seemed, many persons: the result was a
revelation to make the blood of politicians, capitalists and corporation
lawyers run cold. I remember very well the day it appeared on our news
stands, and the heated denunciations it evoked at the Boyne Club. Ralph
Hambleton was the only one who took it calmly, who seemed to derive a
certain enjoyment from the affair. Had he been a less privileged person,
they would have put him in chancery. Leonard Dickinson asserted that
Yardley's should be sued for libel.

"There's just one objection to that," said Ralph.

"What?" asked the banker.

"It isn't libel."

"I defy them to prove it," Dickinson snapped. "It's a d--d outrage! There
isn't a city or village in the country that hasn't exactly the same
conditions. There isn't any other way to run a city--"

"That's what Mr. Krebs says," Ralph replied, "that the people ought to
put Judd Jason officially in charge. He tells 'em that Jason is probably
a more efficient man than Democracy will be able to evolve in a coon's
age, that we ought to take him over, instead of letting the capitalists
have him."

"Did Krebs say that?" Dickinson demanded.

"You can't have read the article very thoroughly, Leonard," Ralph
commented. "I'm afraid you only picked out the part of it that
compliments you. This fellow seems to have been struck by Krebs, says
he's a coming man, that he's making original contributions to the
people's cause. Quite a tribute. You ought to read it."

Dickinson, who had finished his lunch, got up and left the table after
lighting his cigar. Ralph's look followed him amusedly.

"I'm afraid it's time to cash in and be good," he observed.

"We'll get that fellow Krebs yet," said Grierson, wrathfully. Miller
Gorse alone made no remarks, but in spite of his silence he emanated an
animosity against reform and reformers that seemed to charge the very
atmosphere, and would have repressed any man but Ralph....

I sat in my room at the Club that night and reread the article, and if
its author could have looked into my soul and observed the emotions he
had set up, he would, no doubt, have experienced a grim satisfaction. For
I, too, had come in for a share of the comment. Portions of the matter
referring to me stuck in my brain like tar, such as the reference to my
father, to the honoured traditions of the Parets and the Brecks which I
had deliberately repudiated. I had less excuse than many others. The part
I had played in various reprehensible transactions such as the Riverside
Franchise and the dummy telephone company affair was dwelt upon, and I
was dismissed with the laconic comment that I was a graduate of
Harvard....

My associates and myself were referred to collectively as a "gang," with
the name of our city prefixed; we were linked up with and compared to the
gangs of other cities--the terminology used to describe us being that of
the police reporter. We "operated," like burglars; we "looted": only, it
was intimated in one place, "second-story men" were angels compared to
us, who had never seen the inside of a penitentiary. Here we were, all
arraigned before the bar of public opinion, the relentless Dickinson, the
surfeited Scherer, the rapacious Grierson, the salacious Tallant. I have
forgotten what Miller Gorse was called; nothing so classic as a Minotaur;
Judd Jason was a hairy spider who spread his net and lurked in darkness
for his victims. Every adjective was called upon to do its duty.... Even
Theodore Watling did not escape, but it was intimated that he would be
dealt with in another connection in a future number.

The article had a crude and terrifying power, and the pain it aroused,
following almost immediately upon the suffering caused by my separation
from Nancy, was cumulative in character and effect, seeming actively to
reenforce the unwelcome conviction I had been striving to suppress, that
the world, which had long seemed so acquiescent in conforming itself to
my desires, was turning against me.

Though my hunger for Nancy was still gnawing, I had begun to fear that I
should never get her now; and the fact that she would not even write to
me seemed to confirm this.

Then there was Matthew--I could not bear to think that he would ever read
that article.

In vain I tried that night to belittle to myself its contentions and
probable results, to summon up the heart to fight; in vain I sought to
reconstruct the point of view, to gain something of that renewed hope and
power, of devotion to a cause I had carried away from Washington after my
talk with Theodore Watling. He, though stricken, had not wavered in his
faith. Why should I?

Whether or not as the result of the article in Yardley's, which had been
read more or less widely in the city, the campaign of the Citizens Union
gained ground, and people began to fill the little halls to hear Krebs,
who was a candidate for district attorney. Evidently he was entertaining
and rousing them, for his reputation spread, and some of the larger halls
were hired. Dickinson and Gorse became alarmed, and one morning the
banker turned up at the Club while I was eating my breakfast.

"Look here, Hugh," he said, "we may as well face the fact that we've got
a fight ahead of us,--we'll have to start some sort of a back-fire right
away."

"You think Greenhalge has a chance of being elected?" I asked.

"I'm not afraid of Greenhalge, but of this fellow Krebs. We can't afford
to have him district attorney, to let a demagogue like him get a start.
The men the Republicans and Democrats have nominated are worse than
useless. Parks is no good, and neither is MacGuire. If only we could have
foreseen this thing we might have had better candidates put up--but
there's no use crying over spilt milk. You'll have to go on the stump,
Hugh--that's all there is to it. You can answer him, and the newspapers
will print your speeches in full. Besides it will help you when it comes
to the senatorship."

The mood of extreme dejection that had followed the appearance of the
article in Yardley's did not last. I had acquired aggressiveness: an
aggressiveness, however, differing in quality from the feeling I once
would have had,--for this arose from resentment, not from belief. It was
impossible to live in the atmosphere created by the men with whom I
associated--especially at such a time--without imbibing something of the
emotions animating them,--even though I had been free from these emotions
myself. I, too, had begun to be filled with a desire for revenge; and
when this desire was upon me I did not have in my mind a pack of
reformers, or even the writer of the article in Yardley's. I thought of
Hermann Krebs. He was my persecutor; it seemed to me that he always had
been....

"Well, I'll make speeches if you like," I said to Dickinson.

"I'm glad," he replied. "We're all agreed, Gorse and the rest of us, that
you ought to. We've got to get some ginger into this fight, and a good
deal more money, I'm afraid. Jason sends word we'll need more. By the
way, Hugh, I wish you'd drop around and talk to Jason and get his idea of
how the land lies."

I went, this time in the company of Judah B. Tallant. Naturally we didn't
expect to see Mr. Jason perturbed, nor was he. He seemed to be in an odd,
rather exultant mood--if he can be imagined as exultant. We were not long
in finding out what pleased him--nothing less than the fact that Mr.
Krebs had proposed him for mayor!

"D--d if I wouldn't make a good one, too," he said. "D--d if I wouldn't
show 'em what a real mayor is!"

"I guess there's no danger of your ever being mayor, Judd," Tallant
observed, with a somewhat uneasy jocularity.

"I guess there isn't, Judah," replied the boss, quickly, but with a
peculiar violet flash in his eyes. "They won't ever make you mayor,
either, if I can help it. And I've a notion I can. I'd rather see Krebs
mayor."

"You don't think he meant to propose you seriously," Tallant exclaimed.

"I'm not a d--d fool," said the boss. "But I'll say this, that he half
meant it. Krebs has a head-piece on him, and I tell you if any of this
reform dope is worth anything his is. There's some sense in what he's
talking, and if all the voters was like him you might get a man like me
for mayor. But they're not, and I guess they never will be."

"Sure," said Mr. Jason. "The people are dotty--there ain't one in ten
thousand understands what he's driving at when he gets off things like
that. They take it on the level."

Tallant reflected.

"By gum, I believe you're right," he said. "You think they will blow up?"
he added.

"Krebs is the whole show, I tell you. They wouldn't be anywhere without
him. The yaps that listen to him don't understand him, but somehow he
gets under their skins. Have you seen him lately?"

"Never saw him," replied Tallant.

"Well, if you had, you'd know he was a sick man."

"Sick!" I exclaimed. "How do you know?"

"It's my business to know things," said Judd Jason, and added to Tallant,
"that your reporters don't find out."

"What's the matter with him?" Tallant demanded. A slight exultation in
his tone did not escape me.

"You've got me there," said Jason, "but I have it pretty straight. Any
one of your reporters will tell you that he looks sick."....

The Era took Mr. Jason's advice and began to publish those portions of
Krebs's speeches that were seemingly detrimental to his own cause. Other
conservative newspapers followed suit....

Both Tallant and I were surprised to hear these sentiments out of the
mouth of Mr. Jason.

"You don't think that crowd's going to win, do you?" asked the owner of
the Era, a trifle uneasily.

"Win!" exclaimed the boss contemptuously. "They'll blow up, and you'll
never hear of 'em. I'm not saying we won't need a little--powder," he
added--which was one of the matters we had come to talk about. He gave us
likewise a very accurate idea of the state of the campaign, mentioning
certain things that ought to be done. "You ought to print some of Krebs's
speeches, Judah, like what he said about me. They're talking it all
around that you're afraid to."

"Print things like his proposal to make you mayor!"

The information that I was to enter the lists against Krebs was received
with satisfaction and approval by those of our friends who were called in
to assist at a council of war in the directors' room of the Corn National
Bank. I was flattered by the confidence these men seemed to have in my
ability. All were in a state of anger against the reformers; none of them
seriously alarmed as to the actual outcome of the campaign,--especially
when I had given them the opinion of Mr. Jason. What disturbed them was
the possible effect upon the future of the spread of heretical,
socialistic doctrines, and it was decided to organize a publicity bureau,
independently of the two dominant political parties, to be in charge of a
certain New York journalist who made a business of such affairs, who was
to be paid a sum commensurate with the emergency. He was to have carte
blanche, even in the editorial columns of our newspapers. He was also to
flood the city with "literature." We had fought many wars before this,
and we planned our campaign precisely as though we were dealing with one
of those rebellions in the realm of finance of which I have given an
instance. But now the war chest of our opponents was negligible; and we
were comforted by the thought that, however disagreeable the affair might
be while it lasted, in the long run capital was invincible.

Before setting to work to prepare my speeches it was necessary to make an
attempt to familiarize myself with the seemingly unprecedented line of
argument Krebs had evolved--apparently as disconcerting to his friends as
to his opponents. It occurred to me, since I did not care to attend
Krebs's meetings, to ask my confidential stenographer, Miss McCoy, to go
to Turner's Hall and take down one of his speeches verbatim. Miss McCoy
had never intruded on me her own views, and I took for granted that they
coincided with my own.

"I'd like to get an accurate record of what he is saying," I told her.
"Do you mind going?"

"No, I'll be glad to go, Mr. Paret," she said quietly.

"He's doing more harm than we thought," I remarked, after a moment. "I've
known him for a good many years. He's clever. He's sowing seeds of
discontent, starting trouble that will be very serious unless it is
headed off."

Miss McCoy made no comment....

Before noon the next day she brought in the speech, neatly typewritten,
and laid it on my desk. Looking up and catching her eye just as she was
about to withdraw, I was suddenly impelled to ask:--"Well, what did you
think of it?"

She actually flushed, for the first time in my dealings with her
betraying a feeling which I am sure she deemed most unprofessional.

"I liked it, Mr. Paret," she replied simply, and I knew that she had
understated. It was quite apparent that Krebs had captivated her. I tried
not to betray my annoyance.

"Was there a good audience?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

"How many do you think?"

She hesitated.

"It isn't a very large hall, you know. I should say it would hold about
eight hundred people."

"And--it was full?"--I persisted.

"Oh, yes, there were numbers of people standing."

I thought I detected in her tone-although it was not apologetic--a desire
to spare my feelings. She hesitated a moment more, and then left the
room, closing the door softly behind her...

Presently I took up the pages and began to read. The language was simple
and direct, an appeal to common sense, yet the words strangely seemed
charged with an emotional power that I found myself resisting. When at
length I laid down the sheets I wondered whether it were imagination, or
the uncomfortable result of memories of conversations I had had with him.

I was, however, confronted with the task of refuting his arguments: but
with exasperating ingenuity, he seemed to have taken the wind out of our
sails. It is difficult to answer a man who denies the cardinal principle
of American democracy,--that a good mayor or a governor may be made out
of a dog-catcher. He called this the Cincinnatus theory: that any
American, because he was an American, was fit for any job in the gift of
state or city or government, from sheriff to Ambassador to Great Britain.
Krebs substituted for this fallacy what may be called the doctrine of
potentiality. If we inaugurated and developed a system of democratic
education, based on scientific principles, and caught the dog-catcher,
young enough, he might become a statesman or thinker or scientist and
make his contribution to the welfare and progress of the nation: again,
he might not; but he would have had his chance, he would not be in a
position to complain.

Here was a doctrine, I immediately perceived, which it would be suicidal
to attempt to refute. It ought, indeed, to have been my line. With a
growing distaste I began to realize that all there was left for me was to
flatter a populace that Krebs, paradoxically, belaboured. Never in the
history of American "uplift" had an electorate been in this manner wooed!
upbraided for expediency, a proneness to demand immediate results, an
unwillingness to think, yes, and an inability to think straight. Such an
electorate deserved to be led around by the nose by the Jasons and
Dickinsons, the Gorses and the Griersons and the Parets.

Yes, he had mentioned me. That gave me a queer sensation. How is one to
handle an opponent who praises one with a delightful irony? We, the
Dickinsons, Griersons, Parets, Jasons, etc., had this virtue at least,
and it was by no means the least of the virtues,--that we did think. We
had a plan, a theory of government, and we carried it out. He was
inclined to believe that morality consisted largely, if not wholly, in
clear thinking, and not in the precepts of the Sunday-school. That was
the trouble with the so-called "reform" campaigns, they were conducted on
lines of Sunday-school morality; the people worked themselves up into a
sort of revivalist frenzy, an emotional state which, if the truth were
told, was thoroughly immoral, unreasonable and hypocritical: like all
frenzies, as a matter of course it died down after the campaign was over.
Moreover, the American people had shown that they were unwilling to make
any sacrifices for the permanent betterment of conditions, and as soon as
their incomes began to fall off they turned again to the bosses and
capitalists like an abject flock of sheep.

He went on to explain that he wasn't referring now to that part of the
electorate known as the labour element, the men who worked with their
hands in mills, factories, etc. They had their faults, yet they possessed
at least the virtue of solidarity, a willingness to undergo sacrifices in
order to advance the standard of conditions; they too had a tenacity of
purpose and a plan, such as it was, which the small business men, the
clerks lacked....

We must wake up to the fact that we shouldn't get Utopia by turning out
Mr. Jason and the highly efficient gentlemen who hired and financed him.
It wasn't so simple as that. Utopia was not an achievement after all, but
an undertaking, a state of mind, the continued overcoming of resistance
by a progressive education and effort. And all this talk of political and
financial "wickedness" was rubbish; the wickedness they complained of did
not reside merely in individuals it was a social disorder, or rather an
order that no longer suited social conditions. If the so-called good
citizens would take the trouble to educate themselves, to think instead
of allowing their thinking to be done for them they would see that the
"evils" which had been published broadcast were merely the symptoms of
that disease which had come upon the social body through their collective
neglect and indifference. They held up their hands in horror at the
spectacle of a commercial, licensed prostitution, they shunned the
prostitute and the criminal; but there was none of us, if honest, who
would not exclaim when he saw them, "there, but for the Grace of God, go
I!" What we still called "sin" was largely the result of lack of
opportunity, and the active principle of society as at present organized
tended more and more to restrict opportunity. Lack of opportunity, lack
of proper nutrition,--these made sinners by the wholesale; made, too,
nine-tenths of the inefficient of whom we self-righteously complained. We
had a national philosophy that measured prosperity in dollars and cents,
included in this measurement the profits of liquor dealers who were
responsible for most of our idiots. So long as we set our hearts on that
kind of prosperity, so long as we failed to grasp the simple and
practical fact that the greatest assets of a nation are healthy and sane
and educated, clear-thinking human beings, just so long was prostitution
logical, Riverside Franchises, traction deals, Judd Jasons, and the
respectable gentlemen who continued to fill their coffers out of the
public purse inevitable.

The speaker turned his attention to the "respectable gentlemen" with the
full coffers, amongst whom I was by implication included. We had simply
succeeded under the rules to which society tacitly agreed. That was our
sin. He ventured to say that there were few men in the hall who at the
bottom of their hearts did not envy and even honour our success. He, for
one, did not deem these "respectable gentlemen" utterly reprehensible; he
was sufficiently emancipated to be sorry for us. He suspected that we
were not wholly happy in being winners in such a game,--he even believed
that we could wish as much as any others to change the game and the
prizes. What we represented was valuable energy misdirected and
misplaced, and in a reorganized community he would not abolish us, but
transform us: transform, at least, the individuals of our type, who were
the builders gone wrong under the influence of an outworn philosophy. We
might be made to serve the city and the state with the same effectiveness
that we had served ourselves.

If the best among the scientists, among the university professors and
physicians were willing to labour--and they were--for the advancement of
humanity, for the very love of the work and service without
disproportionate emoluments, without the accumulation of a wealth
difficult to spend, why surely these big business men had been moulded in
infancy from no different clay! All were Americans. Instance after
instance might be cited of business men and lawyers of ability making
sacrifices, giving up their personal affairs in order to take places of
honour in the government in which the salary was comparatively small,
proving that even these were open to inducements other than merely
mercenary ones.

It was unfortunate, he went on, but true, that the vast majority of
people of voting age in the United States to-day who thought they had
been educated were under the obligation to reeducate themselves. He
suggested, whimsically, a vacation school for Congress and all
legislative bodies as a starter. Until the fact of the utter inadequacy
of the old education were faced, there was little or no hope of solving
the problems that harassed us. One thing was certain--that they couldn't
be solved by a rule-of-thumb morality. Coincident with the appearance of
these new and mighty problems, perhaps in response to them, a new and
saner view of life itself was being developed by the world's thinkers,
new sciences were being evolved, correlated sciences; a psychology making
a truer analysis of human motives, impulses, of human possibilities; an
economics and a theory of government that took account of this
psychology, and of the vast changes applied science had made in
production and distribution. We lived in a new world, which we sought to
ignore; and the new education, the new viewpoint was in truth nothing but
religion made practical. It had never been thought practical before. The
motive that compelled men to work for humanity in science, in medicine,
in art--yes, and in business, if we took the right view of it, was the
religious motive. The application of religion was to-day extending from
the individual to society. No religion that did not fill the needs of
both was a true religion.

This meant the development of a new culture, one to be founded on the
American tradition of equality of opportunity. But culture was not a weed
that grew overnight; it was a leaven that spread slowly and painfully,
first inoculating a few who suffered and often died for it, that it might
gradually affect the many. The spread of culture implied the recognition
of leadership: democratic leadership, but still leadership. Leadership,
and the wisdom it implied, did not reside in the people, but in the
leaders who sprang from the people and interpreted their needs and
longings.... He went on to discuss a part of the programme of the
Citizens Union....

What struck me, as I laid down the typewritten sheets, was the
extraordinary resemblance between the philosophies of Hermann Krebs and
Theodore Watling. Only--Krebs's philosophy was the bigger, held the
greater vision of the two; I had reluctantly and rather bitterly to admit
it. The appeal of it had even reached and stirred me, whose task was to
refute it! Here indeed was something to fight for--perhaps to die for, as
he had said: and as I sat there in my office gazing out of the window I
found myself repeating certain phrases he had used--the phrase about
leadership, for instance. It was a tremendous conception of Democracy,
that of acquiescence to developed leadership made responsible; a
conception I was compelled to confess transcended Mr. Watling's, loyal as
I was to him.... I began to reflect how novel all this was in a political
speech--although what I have quoted was in the nature of a preamble. It
was a sermon, an educational sermon. Well, that is what sermons always
had been,--and even now pretended to be,--educational and stirring,
appealing to the emotions through the intellect. It didn't read like the
Socialism he used to preach, it had the ring of religion. He had called
it religion.

With an effort of the will I turned from this ironical and dangerous
vision of a Hugh Paret who might have been enlisted in an inspiring
struggle, of a modern yet unregenerate Saul kicking against the pricks,
condemned to go forth breathing fire against a doctrine that made a true
appeal; against the man I believed I hated just because he had made this
appeal. In the act of summoning my counter-arguments I was interrupted by
the entrance of Grierson. He was calling on a matter of business, but
began to talk about the extracts from Krebs's speech he had read in the
Mail and State.

"What in hell is this fellow driving at, Paret?" he demanded. "It sounds
to me like the ranting of a lunatic dervish. If he thinks so much of us,
and the way we run the town, what's he squawking about?"

I looked at Grierson, and conceived an intense aversion for him. I
wondered how I had ever been able to stand him, to work with him. I saw
him in a sudden flash as a cunning, cruel bird of prey, a gorged, drab
vulture with beady eyes, a resemblance so extraordinary that I wondered I
had never remarked it before. For he had the hooked vulture nose, while
the pink baldness of his head was relieved by a few scanty tufts of hair.

"The people seem to like what he's got to say," I observed.

"It beats me," said Grierson. "They don't understand a quarter of
it--I've been talking to some of 'em. It's their d--d curiosity, I guess.
You know how they'll stand for hours around a street fakir."

"It's more than that," I retorted.

Grierson regarded me piercingly.

"Well, we'll put a crimp in him, all right," he said, with a laugh.

I was in an unenviable state of mind when he left me. I had an impulse to
send for Miss McCoy and ask her if she had understood what Krebs was
"driving at," but for reasons that must be fairly obvious I refrained. I
read over again that part of Krebs's speech which dealt with the
immediate programme of the Citizens Union. After paying a tribute to
Greenhalge as a man of common sense and dependability who would make a
good mayor, he went on to explain the principle of the new charter they
hoped ultimately to get, which should put the management of the city in
the hands of one man, an expert employed by a commission; an expert whose
duty it would be to conduct the affairs of the city on a business basis,
precisely as those of any efficient corporation were conducted. This plan
had already been adopted, with encouraging results, in several smaller
cities of the country. He explained in some detail, with statistics, the
waste and inefficiency and dishonesty in various departments under the
present system, dwelling particularly upon the deplorable state of
affairs in the city hospital.

I need not dwell upon this portion of his remarks. Since then text-books
and serious periodicals have dealt with these matters thoroughly. They
are now familiar to all thinking Americans.



XXV.

My entrance into the campaign was accompanied by a blare of publicity,
and during that fortnight I never picked up a morning or evening
newspaper without reading, on the first page, some such headline as
"Crowds flock to hear Paret." As a matter of fact, the crowds did flock;
but I never quite knew as I looked down from platforms on seas of faces
how much of the flocking was spontaneous. Much of it was so, since the
struggle had then become sufficiently dramatic to appeal to the larger
public imagination that is but occasionally waked; on the other hand, the
magic of advertising cannot be underestimated; nor must the existence be
ignored of an organized corps of shepherds under the vigilant direction
of Mr. Judd Jason, whose duty it was to see that none of our meetings was
lacking in numbers and enthusiasm. There was always a demonstrative
gathering overflowing the sidewalk in front of the entrance, swaying and
cheering in the light of the street lamps, and on the floor within an
ample scattering of suspiciously bleary-eyed voters to start the stamping
and applauding. In spite of these known facts, the impression of
popularity, of repudiation of reform by a large majority of level-headed
inhabitants had reassuring and reenforcing effects.

Astute citizens, spectators of the fray--if indeed there were any--might
have remarked an unique and significant feature of that campaign: that
the usual recriminations between the two great parties were lacking. Mr.
Parks, the Republican candidate, did not denounce Mr. MacGuire, the
Democratic candidate. Republican and Democratic speakers alike expended
their breath in lashing Mr. Krebs and the Citizens Union.

It is difficult to record the fluctuations of my spirit. When I was in
the halls, speaking or waiting to speak, I reacted to that phenomenon
known as mob psychology, I became self-confident, even exhilarated; and
in those earlier speeches I managed, I think, to strike the note for
which I strove--the judicial note, suitable to a lawyer of weight and
prominence, of deprecation rather than denunciation. I sought to embody
and voice a fine and calm sanity at a time when everyone else seemed in
danger of losing their heads, and to a large extent achieved it. I had
known Mr. Krebs for more than twenty years, and while I did not care to
criticise a fellow-member of the bar, I would go so far as to say that he
was visionary, that the changes he proposed in government would, if
adopted, have grave and far-reaching results: we could not, for instance,
support in idleness those who refused to do their share of the work of
the world. Mr. Krebs was well-meaning. I refrained from dwelling too long
upon him, passing to Mr. Greenhalge, also well-meaning, but a man of
mediocre ability who would make a mess of the government of a city which
would one day rival New York and Chicago. (Loud cheers.) And I pointed
out that Mr. Perry Blackwood had been unable to manage the affairs of the
Boyne Street road. Such men, well-intentioned though they might be, were
hindrances to progress. This led me naturally to a discussion of the
Riverside Franchise and the Traction Consolidation. I was one of those
whose honesty and good faith had been arraigned, but I would not stoop to
refute the accusations. I dwelt upon the benefits to the city, uniform
service, electricity and large comfortable cars instead of rattletrap
conveyances, and the development of a large and growing population in the
Riverside neighbourhood: the continual extension of lines to suburban
districts that enabled hard-worked men to live out of the smoke: I called
attention to the system of transfers, the distance a passenger might be
conveyed, and conveyed quickly, for the sum of five cents. I spoke of our
capitalists as men more sinned against than sinning. Their money was
always at the service of enterprises tending to the development of our
metropolis.

When I was not in the meetings, however, and especially when in my room
at night, I was continually trying to fight off a sense of loneliness
that seemed to threaten to overwhelm me. I wanted to be alone, and yet I
feared to be. I was aware, in spite of their congratulations on my
efforts, of a growing dislike for my associates; and in the appalling
emptiness of the moments when my depression was greatest I was forced to
the realization that I had no disinterested friend--not one--in whom I
could confide. Nancy had failed me; I had scarcely seen Tom Peters that
winter, and it was out of the question to go to him. For the third time
in my life, and in the greatest crisis of all, I was feeling the need of
Something, of some sustaining and impelling Power that must be presented
humanly, possessing sympathy and understanding and love.... I think I had
a glimpse just a pathetic glimpse--of what the Church might be of human
solidarity, comfort and support, of human tolerance, if stripped of the
superstition of an ancient science. My tortures weren't of the flesh, but
of the mind. My mind was the sheep which had gone astray. Was there no
such thing, could there be no such thing as a human association that
might at the same time be a divine organism, a fold and a refuge for the
lost and divided minds? The source of all this trouble was social....

Then toward the end of that last campaign week, madness suddenly came
upon me. I know now how near the breaking point I was, but the immediate
cause of my "flying to pieces"--to use a vivid expression--was a speech
made by Guptill, one of the Citizens Union candidates for alderman, a
young man of a radical type not uncommon in these days, though new to my
experience: an educated man in the ultra-radical sense, yet lacking poise
and perspective, with a certain brilliance and assurance. He was a
journalist, a correspondent of some Eastern newspapers and periodicals.
In this speech, which was reported to me--for it did not get into the
newspapers--I was the particular object of his attack. Men of my kind,
and not the Judd Jasons (for whom there was some excuse) were the least
dispensable tools of the capitalists, the greatest menace to
civilization. We were absolutely lacking in principle, we were ready at
any time to besmirch our profession by legalizing steals; we fouled our
nests with dirty fees. Not all that he said was vituperation, for he knew
something of the modern theory of the law that legal radicals had begun
to proclaim, and even to teach in some tolerant universities.

The next night, in the middle of a prepared speech I was delivering to a
large crowd in Kingdom Hall there had been jeers from a group in a corner
at some assertion I made. Guptill's accusations had been festering in my
mind. The faces of the people grew blurred as I felt anger boiling,
rising within me; suddenly my control gave way, and I launched forth into
a denunciation of Greenhalge, Krebs, Guptill and even of Perry Blackwood
that must have been without license or bounds. I can recall only
fragments of my remarks: Greenhalge wanted to be mayor, and was willing
to put the stigma of slander on his native city in order to gain his
ambition; Krebs had made a failure of his profession, of everything save
in bringing shame on the place of his adoption; and on the single
occasion heretofore when he had been before the public, in the School
Board fiasco, the officials indicted on his supposed evidence had
triumphantly been vindicated--, Guptill was gaining money and notoriety
out of his spleen; Perry Blackwood was acting out of spite.... I returned
to Krebs, declaring that he would be the boss of the city if that ticket
were elected, demanding whether they wished for a boss an agitator
itching for power and recognition....

I was conscious at the moment only of a wild relief and joy in letting
myself go, feelings heightened by the clapping and cheers with which my
characterizations were received. The fact that the cheers were mingled
with hisses merely served to drive me on. At length, when I had returned
to Krebs, the hisses were redoubled, angering me the more because of the
evidence they gave of friends of his in my audiences. Perhaps I had made
some of these friends for him! A voice shouted out above the uproar:--"I
know about Krebs. He's a d--d sight better man than you." And this
started a struggle in a corner of the hall.... I managed, somehow, when
the commotion had subsided, to regain my poise, and ended by uttering the
conviction that the common sense of the community would repudiate the
Citizens Union and all it stood for....

But that night, as I lay awake listening to the street noises and staring
at the glint from a street lamp on the brass knob of my bedstead, I knew
that I had failed. I had committed the supreme violation of the self that
leads inevitably to its final dissolution.... Even the exuberant
headlines of the newspapers handed me by the club servant in the morning
brought but little relief.

On the Saturday morning before the Tuesday of election there was a
conference in the directors' room of the Corn National. The city reeked
with smoke and acrid, stale gas, the electric lights were turned on to
dispel the November gloom. It was not a cheerful conference, nor a
confident one. For the first time in a collective experience the men
gathered there were confronted with a situation which they doubted their
ability to control, a situation for which there was no precedent. They
had to reckon with a new and unsolvable equation in politics and
finance,--the independent voter. There was an element of desperation in
the discussion. Recriminations passed. Dickinson implied that Gorse with
all his knowledge of political affairs ought to have foreseen that
something like this was sure to happen, should have managed better the
conventions of both great parties. The railroad counsel retorted that it
had been as much Dickinson's fault as his. Grierson expressed a regret
that I had broken out against the reformers; it had reacted, he
said,--and this was just enough to sting me to retaliate that things had
been done in the campaign, chiefly through his initiative, that were not
only unwise, but might land some of us in the penitentiary if Krebs were
elected.

"Well," Grierson exclaimed, "whether he's elected or not, I wouldn't give
much now for your chances of getting to the Senate. We can't afford to
fly in the face of the dear public."

A tense silence followed this remark. In the street below the rumble of
the traffic came to us muffled by the heavy plate-glass windows. I saw
Tallant glance at Gorse and Dickinson, and I knew the matter had been
decided between themselves, that they had been merely withholding it from
me until after election. I was besmirched, for the present at least.

"I think you will do me the justice, gentlemen," I remember saying
slowly, with the excessive and rather ridiculous formality of a man who
is near the end of his tether, "that the idea of representing you in the
Senate was yours, not mine. You begged me to take the appointment against
my wishes and my judgment. I had no desire to go to Washington then, I
have less to-day. I have come to the conclusion that my usefulness to you
is at an end."

I got to my feet. I beheld Miller Gorse sitting impassive, with his
encompassing stare, the strongest man of them all. A change of firmaments
would not move him. But Dickinson had risen and put his hand on my
shoulder. It was the first time I had ever seen him white.

"Hold on, Hugh," he exclaimed, "I guess we're all a little cantankerous
today. This confounded campaign has got on our nerves, and we say things
we don't mean. You mustn't think we're not grateful for the services
you've rendered us. We're all in the same boat, and there isn't a man
who's been on our side of this fight who could take a political office at
this time. We've got to face that fact, and I know you have the sense to
see it, too. I, for one, won't be satisfied until I see you in the
Senate. It's where you belong, and you deserve to be there. You
understand what the public is, how it blows hot and cold, and in a few
years they'll be howling to get us back, if these demagogues win.

"Sure," chimed in Grierson, who was frightened, "that's right, Hugh. I
didn't mean anything. Nobody appreciates you more than I do, old man."

Tallant, too, added something, and Berringer,--I've forgotten what. I was
tired, too tired to meet their advances halfway. I said that I had a
speech to get ready for that night, and other affairs to attend to, and
left them grouped together like crestfallen conspirators--all save Miller
Gorse, whose pervasive gaze seemed to follow me after I had closed the
door.

An elevator took me down to the lobby of the Corn Bank Building. I paused
for a moment, aimlessly regarding the streams of humanity hurrying in and
out, streaking the white marble floor with the wet filth of the streets.
Someone spoke my name. It was Bitter, Judd Jason's "legal" tool, and I
permitted myself to be dragged out of the eddies into a quiet corner by
the cigar stand.

"Say, I guess we've got Krebs's goat all right, this time," he told me
confidentially, in a voice a little above a whisper; "he was busy with
the shirt-waist girls last year, you remember, when they were striking.
Well, one of 'em, one of the strike leaders, has taken to easy street;
she's agreed to send him a letter to-night to come 'round to her room
after his meeting, to say that she's sick and wants to see him. He'll go,
all right. We'll have some fun, we'll be ready for him. Do you get me? So
long. The old man's waiting for me."

It may seem odd that this piece of information did not produce an
immediately revolting effect. I knew that similar practices had been
tried on Krebs, but this was the first time I had heard of a definite
plan, and from a man like Bitter. As I made my way out of the building I
had, indeed, a nauseated feeling; Jason's "lawyer" was a dirty little
man, smelling of stale cigars, with a blue-black, unshaven face. In spite
of the shocking nature of his confidence, he had actually not succeeded
in deflecting the current of my thoughts; these were still running over
the scene in the directors' room. I had listened to him passively while
he had held my buttonhole, and he had detained me but an instant.

When I reached the street I was wondering whether Gorse and Dickinson and
the others, Grierson especially, could possibly have entertained the
belief that I would turn traitor? I told myself that I had no intention
of this. How could I turn traitor? and what would be the object? revenge?
The nauseated feeling grew more acute.... Reaching my office, I shut the
door, sat down at my desk, summoned my will, and began to jot down random
notes for the part of my speech I was to give the newspapers, notes that
were mere silly fragments of arguments I had once thought effective. I
could no more concentrate on them than I could have written a poem.
Gradually, like the smoke that settled down on our city until we lived in
darkness at midday, the horror of what Bitter had told me began to
pervade my mind, until I was in a state of terror.

Had I, Hugh Paret, fallen to this, that I could stand by consenting to an
act which was worse than assassination? Was any cause worth it? Could any
cause survive it? But my attempts at reasoning might be likened to the
strainings of a wayfarer lost on a mountain side to pick his way in the
gathering dusk. I had just that desperate feeling of being lost, and with
it went an acute sense of an imminent danger; the ground, no longer firm
under my feet, had become a sliding shale sloping toward an unseen
precipice. Perhaps, like the wayfarer, my fears were the sharper for the
memory of the beauty of the morning on that same mountain, when, filled
with vigour, I had gazed on it from the plain below and beheld the sun
breaking through the mists....

The necessity of taking some action to avert what I now realized as an
infamy pressed upon me, yet in conflict with the pressure of this
necessity there persisted that old rebellion, that bitterness which had
been growing all these years against the man who, above all others,
seemed to me to represent the forces setting at nought my achievements,
bringing me to this pass....

I thought of appealing to Leonard Dickinson, who surely, if he knew of
it, would not permit this thing to be done; and he was the only man with
the possible exception of Miller Gorse who might be able to restrain Judd
Jason. But I delayed until after the luncheon hour, when I called up the
bank on the telephone, to discover that it was closed. I had forgotten
that the day was Saturday. I was prepared to say that I would withdraw
from the campaign, warn Krebs myself if this kind of tactics were not
suppressed. But I could not get the banker. Then I began to have doubts
of Dickinson's power in the matter. Judd Jason had never been tractable,
by any means; he had always maintained a considerable independence of the
financial powers, and to-day not only financial control, but the
dominance of Jason himself was at stake. He would fight for it to the
last ditch, and make use of any means. No, it was of no use to appeal to
him. What then? Well, there was a reaction, or an attempt at one. Krebs
had not been born yesterday, he had avoided the wiles of the politicians
heretofore, he wouldn't be fool enough to be taken in now. I told myself
that if I were not in a state bordering on a nervous breakdown, I should
laugh at such morbid fears, I steadied myself sufficiently to dictate the
extract from my speech that was to be published. I was to make addresses
at two halls, alternating with Parks, the mayoralty candidate. At four
o'clock I went back to my room in the Club to try to get some rest....

Seddon's Hall, the place of my first meeting, was jammed that Saturday
night. I went through my speech automatically, as in a dream, the habit
of long years asserting itself. And yet--so I was told afterwards--my
delivery was not mechanical, and I actually achieved more emphasis, gave
a greater impression of conviction than at any time since the night I had
lost my control and violently denounced the reformers. By some
astonishing subconscious process I had regained my manner, but the
applause came to me as from a distance. Not only was my mind not there;
it did not seem to be anywhere. I was dazed, nor did I feel--save once--a
fleeting surge of contempt for the mob below me with their silly faces
upturned to mine. There may have been intelligent expressions among them,
but they failed to catch my eye.

I remember being stopped by Grierson as I was going out of the side
entrance. He took my hand and squeezed it, and there was on his face an
odd, surprised look.

"That was the best yet, Hugh," he said.

I went on past him. Looking back on that evening now, it would almost
seem as though the volition of another possessed me, not my own:
seemingly, I had every intention of going on to the National Theatre, in
which Parks had just spoken, and as I descended the narrow stairway and
emerged on the side street I caught sight of my chauffeur awaiting me by
the curb.

"I'm not going to that other meeting," I found myself saying. "I'm pretty
tired."

"Shall I drive you back to the Club, sir?" he inquired.

"No--I'll walk back. Wait a moment." I entered the ear, turned on the
light and scribbled a hasty note to Andrews, the chairman of the meeting
at the National, telling him that I was too tired to speak again that
night, and to ask one of the younger men there to take my place. Then I
got out of the car and gave the note to the chauffeur.

"You're all right, sir?" he asked, with a note of anxiety in his voice.
He had been with me a long time.

I reassured him. He started the car, and I watched it absently as it
gathered speed and turned the corner. I began to walk, slowly at first,
then more and more rapidly until I had gained a breathless pace; in ten
minutes I was in West Street, standing in front of the Templar's Hall
where the meeting of the Citizens Union west in progress. Now that I had
arrived there, doubt and uncertainty assailed me. I had come as it were
in spite of myself, thrust onward by an impulse I did not understand,
which did not seem to be mine. What was I going to do? The proceeding
suddenly appeared to me as ridiculous, tinged with the weirdness of
somnambulism. I revolted, walked away, got as far as the corner and stood
beside a lamp post, pretending to be waiting for a car. The street lights
were reflected in perpendicular, wavy-yellow ribbons on the wet asphalt,
and I stood staring with foolish intentness at this phenomenon, wondering
how a painter would get the effect in oils. Again I was walking back
towards the hall, combating the acknowledgment to myself that I had a
plan, a plan that I did not for a moment believe I would carry out. I was
shivering.

I climbed the steps. The wide vestibule was empty except for two men who
stopped a low-toned conversation to look at me. I wondered whether they
recognized me; that I might be recognized was an alarming possibility
which had not occurred to me.

"Who is speaking?" I asked.

"Mr. Krebs," answered the taller man of the two.

The hum of applause came from behind the swinging doors. I pushed them
open cautiously, passing suddenly out of the cold into the reeking,
heated atmosphere of a building packed with human beings. The space
behind the rear seats was filled with men standing, and those nearest
glanced around with annoyance at the interruption of my entrance. I made
my way along the wall, finally reaching a side aisle, whence I could get
sight of the platform and the speaker.

I heard his words distinctly, but at first lacked the faculty of
stringing them together, or rather of extracting their collective sense.
The phrases indeed were set ringing through my mind, I found myself
repeating them without any reference to their meaning; I had reached the
peculiar pitch of excitement that counterfeits abnormal calm, and all
sense of strangeness at being there in that meeting had passed away. I
began to wonder how I might warn Krebs, and presently decided to send him
a note when he should have finished speaking--but I couldn't make up my
mind whether to put my name to the note or not. Of course I needn't have
entered the hall at all: I might have sent in my note at the side door.

I must have wished to see Krebs, to hear him speak; to observe, perhaps,
the effect on the audience. In spite of my inability to take in what he
was saying, I was able to regard him objectively,--objectively, in a
restricted sense. I noticed that he had grown even thinner; the flesh had
fallen away from under his cheek-bones, and there were sharp, deep,
almost perpendicular lines on either side of his mouth. He was emaciated,
that was the word. Once in a while he thrust his hand through his dry,
ashy hair which was of a tone with the paleness of his face. Such was his
only gesture.

He spoke quietly, leaning with one elbow against the side of his reading
stand. The occasional pulsations of applause were almost immediately
hushed, as though the people feared to lose even a word that should fall
from his dry lips. What was it he was talking about? I tried to
concentrate my attention, with only partial success. He was explaining
the new theory of city government that did not attempt to evade, but
dealt frankly with the human needs of to-day, and sought to meet those
needs in a positive way...  What had happened to me, though I did not
realize it, was that I had gradually come under the influence of a tragic
spell not attributable to the words I heard, existing independently of
them, pervading the spacious hall, weaving into unity dissentient minds.
And then, with what seemed a retarded rather than sudden awareness, I
knew that he had stopped speaking. Once more he ran his hand through his
hair, he was seemingly groping for words that would not come. I was
pierced by a strange agony--the amazing source of which, seemed to be a
smile on the face of Hermann Krebs, an ineffable smile illuminating the
place like a flash of light, in which suffering and tragedy, comradeship
and loving kindness--all were mingled. He stood for a moment with that
smile on his face--swayed, and would have fallen had it not been for the
quickness of a man on the platform behind him, and into whose arms he
sank.

In an instant people had risen in their seats, men were hurrying down the
aisles, while a peculiar human murmur or wail persisted like an undertone
beneath the confusion of noises, striking the very note of my own
feelings. Above the heads of those about me I saw Krebs being carried off
the platform.... The chairman motioned for silence and inquired if there
were a physician in the audience, and then all began to talk at once. The
man who stood beside me clutched my arm.

"I hope he isn't dead! Say, did you see that smile? My God, I'll never
forget it!"

The exclamation poignantly voiced the esteem in which Krebs was held. As
I was thrust along out of the hall by the ebb of the crowd still other
expressions of this esteem came to me in fragments, expressions of sorrow
and dismay, of a loyalty I had not imagined. Mingled with these were
occasional remarks of skeptics shaken, in human fashion, by the
suggestion of the inevitable end that never fails to sober and terrify
humanity.

"I guess he was a bigger man than we thought. There was a lot of sense in
what he had to say."

"There sure was," the companion of this speaker answered.

They spoke of him in the past tense. I was seized and obsessed by the
fear that I should never see him again, and at the same moment I realized
sharply that this was the one thing I wanted--to see him. I pushed
through the people, gained the street, and fairly ran down the alley that
led to the side entrance of the hall, where a small group was gathered
under the light that hung above the doorway. There stood on the step, a
little above the others, a young man in a grey flannel shirt, evidently a
mechanic. I addressed him.

"What does the doctor say?"

Before replying he surveyed me with surprise and, I think, with
instinctive suspicion of my clothes and bearing.

"What can he say?" he retorted.

"You mean--?" I began.

"I mean Mr. Krebs oughtn't never to have gone into this campaign," he
answered, relenting a trifle, perhaps at the tone of my voice. "He knew
it, too, and some of us fellows tried to stop him. But we couldn't do
nothing with him," he added dejectedly.

"What is--the trouble?" I asked.

"They tell me it's his heart. He wouldn't talk about it."

"When I think of what he done for our union!" exclaimed a thick-set man,
plainly a steel worker. "He's just wore himself out, fighting that
crooked gang." He stared with sudden aggressiveness at me. "Haven't I
seen you some-wheres?" he demanded.

A denial was on my lips when the sharp, sinister strokes of a bell were
heard coming nearer.

"It's the ambulance," said the man on the step.

Glancing up the alley beyond the figures of two policemen who had arrived
and were holding the people back, I saw the hood of the conveyance as it
came to a halt, and immediately a hospital doctor and two assistants
carrying a stretcher hurried towards us, and we made way for them to
enter. After a brief interval, they were heard coming slowly down the
steps inside. By the white, cruel light of the arc I saw Krebs lying
motionless.... I laid hold of one of the men who had been on the
platform. He did not resent the act, he seemed to anticipate my question.

"He's conscious. The doctors expect him to rally when he gets to the
hospital."

I walked back to the Club to discover that several inquiries had been
made about me. Reporters had been there, Republican Headquarters had
telephoned to know if I were ill. Leaving word that I was not to be
disturbed under any circumstances, I went to my room, and spent most of
the night in distracted thought. When at last morning came I breakfasted
early, searching the newspapers for accounts of the occurrence at
Templar's Hall; and the fact that these were neither conspicuous nor
circumstantial was in the nature of a triumph of self-control on the part
of editors and reporters. News, however sensational, had severely to be
condensed in the interest of a cause, and at this critical stage of the
campaign to make a tragic hero of Hermann Krebs would have been the
height of folly. There were a couple of paragraphs giving the gist of his
speech, and a statement at the end that he had been taken ill and
conveyed to the Presbyterian Hospital....

The hospital itself loomed up before me that Sunday morning as I
approached it along Ballantyne Street, a diluted sunshine washing the
extended, businesslike facade of grimy, yellow brick. We were proud of
that hospital in the city, and many of our foremost citizens had
contributed large sums of money to the building, scarcely ten years old.
It had been one of Maude's interests. I was ushered into the reception
room, where presently came the physician in charge, a Dr. Castle, one of
those quiet-mannered, modern young medical men who bear on their persons
the very stamp of efficiency, of the dignity of a scientific profession.
His greeting implied that he knew all about me, his presence seemed to
increase the agitation I tried not to betray, and must have betrayed.

"Can I do anything for you, Mr. Paret?" he asked.

"I have come to inquire about Mr. Krebs, who was brought here last night,
I believe."

I was aware for an instant of his penetrating, professional glance, the
only indication of the surprise he must have felt that Hermann Krebs, of
all men, should be the object of my solicitude.

"Why, we sent him home this morning. Nineteen twenty six Fowler Street.
He wanted to go, and there was no use in his staying."

"He will recover?" I asked.

The physician shook his head, gazing at me through his glasses.

"He may live a month, Mr. Paret, he may die to-morrow. He ought never to
have gone into this campaign, he knew he had this trouble. Hepburn warned
him three months ago, and there's no man who knows more about the heart
than Hepburn."

"Then there's no hope?" I asked.

"Absolutely none. It's a great pity." He added, after a moment, "Mr.
Krebs was a remarkable man."

"Nineteen twenty-six Fowler Street?" I repeated.

"Yes."

I held out my hand mechanically, and he pressed it, and went with me to
the door.

"Nineteen twenty-six Fowler Street," he repeated...

The mean and sordid aspect of Fowler Street emphasized and seemed to
typify my despair, the pungent coal smoke stifled my lungs even as it
stifled my spirit. Ugly factories, which were little more than
sweatshops, wore an empty, menacing, "Sunday" look, and the faint
November sunlight glistened on dirty pavements where children were making
a semblance of play. Monotonous rows of red houses succeeded one another,
some pushed forward, others thrust back behind little plots of stamped
earth. Into one of these I turned. It seemed a little cleaner, better
kept, less sordid than the others. I pulled the bell, and presently the
door was opened by a woman whose arms were bare to the elbow. She wore a
blue-checked calico apron that came to her throat, but the apron was
clean, and her firm though furrowed face gave evidences of recent
housewifely exertions. Her eyes had the strange look of the cheerfulness
that is intimately acquainted with sorrow. She did not seem surprised at
seeing me.

"I have come to ask about Mr. Krebs," I told her.

"Oh, yes," she said, "there's been so many here this morning already.
It's wonderful how people love him, all kinds of people. No, sir, he
don't seem to be in any pain. Two gentlemen are up there now in his room,
I mean."

She wiped her arms, which still bore traces of soap-suds, and then, with
a gesture natural and unashamed, lifted the corner of her apron to her
eyes.

"Do you think I could see him--for a moment?" I asked. "I've known him
for a long time."

"Why, I don't know," she said, "I guess so. The doctor said he could see
some, and he wants to see his friends. That's not strange--he always did.
I'll ask. Will you tell me your name?"

I took out a card. She held it without glancing at it, and invited me in.

I waited, unnerved and feverish, pulsing, in the dark and narrow hall
beside the flimsy rack where several coats and hats were hung. Once
before I had visited Krebs in that lodging-house in Cambridge long ago
with something of the same feelings. But now they were greatly
intensified. Now he was dying....

The woman was descending.

"He says he wants to see you, sir," she said rather breathlessly, and I
followed her. In the semi-darkness of the stairs I passed the three men
who had been with Krebs, and when I reached the open door of his room he
was alone. I hesitated just a second, swept by the heat wave that follows
sudden shyness, embarrassment, a sense of folly it is too late to avert.

Krebs was propped up with pillows.

"Well, this is good of you," he said, and reached out his hand across the
spread. I took it, and sat down beside the shiny oak bedstead, in a chair
covered with tobacco-colored plush.

"You feel better?" I asked.

"Oh, I feel all right," he answered, with a smile. "It's queer, but I
do."

My eye fell upon the long line of sectional book-cases that lined one
side of the room. "Why, you've got quite a library here," I observed.

"Yes, I've managed to get together some good books. But there is so much
to read nowadays, so much that is really good and new, a man has the
hopeless feeling he can never catch up with it all. A thousand writers
and students are making contributions today where fifty years ago there
was one."

"I've been following your speeches, after a fashion,--I wish I might have
been able to read more of them. Your argument interested me. It's new,
unlike the ordinary propaganda of--"

"Of agitators," he supplied, with a smile.

"Of agitators," I agreed, and tried to return his smile. "An agitator who
appears to suggest the foundations of a constructive programme and who
isn't afraid to criticise the man with a vote as well as the capitalist
is an unusual phenomenon."

"Oh, when we realize that we've only got a little time left in which to
tell what we think to be the truth, it doesn't require a great deal of
courage, Paret. I didn't begin to see this thing until a little while
ago. I was only a crude, hot-headed revolutionist. God knows I'm crude
enough still. But I began to have a glimmering of what all these new
fellows in the universities are driving at." He waved his hand towards
the book-cases. "Driving at collectively, I mean. And there are attempts,
worthy attempts, to coordinate and synthesize the sciences. What I have
been saying is not strictly original. I took it on the stump, that's all.
I didn't expect it to have much effect in this campaign, but it was an
opportunity to sow a few seeds, to start a sense of personal
dissatisfaction in the minds of a few voters. What is it Browning says?
It's in Bishop Blougram, I believe. 'When the fight begins within
himself, a man's worth something.' It's an intellectual fight, of
course."

His words were spoken quietly, but I realized suddenly that the
mysterious force which had drawn me to him now, against my will, was an
intellectual rather than apparently sentimental one, an intellectual
force seeming to comprise within it all other human attractions. And yet
I felt a sudden contrition.

"See here, Krebs," I said, "I didn't come here to bother you about these
matters, to tire you. I mustn't stay. I'll call in again to see how you
are--from time to time."

"But you're not tiring me," he protested, stretching forth a thin,
detaining hand. "I don't want to rot, I want to live and think as long as
I can. To tell you the truth, Paret, I've been wishing to talk to
you--I'm glad you came in."

"You've been wishing to talk to me?" I said.

"Yes, but I didn't expect you'd come in. I hope you won't mind my saying
so, under the circumstances, but I've always rather liked you, admired
you, even back in the Cambridge days. After that I used to blame you for
going out and taking what you wanted, and I had to live a good many years
before I began to see that it's better for a man to take what he wants
than to take nothing at all. I took what I wanted, every man worth his
salt does. There's your great banker friend in New York whom I used to
think was the arch-fiend. He took what he wanted, and he took a good
deal, but it happened to be good for him. And by piling up his
corporations, Ossa on Pelion, he is paving the way for a logical economic
evolution. How can a man in our time find out what he does want unless he
takes something and gives it a trial?"

"Until he begins to feel that it disagrees with him," I said. "But then,"
I added involuntarily, "then it may be too late to try something else,
and he may not know what to try." This remark of mine might have
surprised me had it not been for the feeling--now grown definite--that
Krebs had something to give me, something to pass on to me, of all men.
Indeed, he had hinted as much, when he acknowledged a wish to talk to me.
"What seems so strange," I said, as I looked at him lying back on his
pillows, "is your faith that we shall be able to bring order out of all
this chaos--your belief in Democracy."

"Democracy's an adventure," he replied, "the great adventure of mankind.
I think the trouble in many minds lies in the fact that they persist in
regarding it as something to be made safe. All that can be done is to try
to make it as safe as possible. But no adventure is safe--life itself is
an adventure, and neither is that safe. It's a hazard, as you and I have
found out. The moment we try to make life safe we lose all there is in it
worth while."

I thought a moment.

"Yes, that's so," I agreed. On the table beside the bed in company with
two or three other volumes, lay a Bible. He seemed to notice that my eye
fell upon it.

"Do you remember the story of the Prodigal Son?" he asked. "Well, that's
the parable of democracy, of self-government in the individual and in
society. In order to arrive at salvation, Paret, most of us have to take
our journey into a far country."

"A far country!" I exclaimed. The words struck a reminiscent chord.

"We have to leave what seem the safe things, we have to wander and suffer
in order to realize that the only true safety lies in development. We
have first to cast off the leading strings of authority. It's a delusion
that we can insure ourselves by remaining within its walls--we have to
risk our lives and our souls. It is discouraging when we look around us
to-day, and in a way the pessimists are right when they say we don't see
democracy. We see only what may be called the first stage of it; for
democracy is still in a far country eating the husks of individualism,
materialism. What we see is not true freedom, but freedom run to riot,
men struggling for themselves, spending on themselves the fruits of their
inheritance; we see a government intent on one object alone--exploitation
of this inheritance in order to achieve what it calls prosperity. And God
is far away."

"And--we shall turn?" I asked.

"We shall turn or perish. I believe that we shall turn." He fixed his
eyes on my face. "What is it," he asked, "that brought you here to me,
to-day?"

I was silent.

"The motive, Paret--the motive that sends us all wandering into is
divine, is inherited from God himself. And the same motive, after our
eyes shall have been opened, after we shall have seen and known the
tragedy and misery of life, after we shall have made the mistakes and
committed the sins and experienced the emptiness--the same motive will
lead us back again. That, too, is an adventure, the greatest adventure of
all. Because, when we go back we shall not find the same God--or rather
we shall recognize him in ourselves. Autonomy is godliness, knowledge is
godliness. We went away cringing, superstitious, we saw everywhere omens
and evidences of his wrath in the earth and sea and sky, we burned
candles and sacrificed animals in the vain hope of averting scourges and
other calamities. But when we come back it will be with a knowledge of
his ways, gained at a price,--the price he, too, must have paid--and we
shall be able to stand up and look him in the face, and all our childish
superstitions and optimisms shall have been burned away."

Some faith indeed had given him strength to renounce those things in life
I had held dear, driven him on to fight until his exhausted body failed
him, and even now that he was physically helpless sustained him. I did
not ask myself, then, the nature of this faith. In its presence it could
no more be questioned than the light. It was light; I felt bathed in it.
Now it was soft, suffused: but I remembered how the night before in the
hall, just before he had fallen, it had flashed forth in a smile and
illumined my soul with an ecstasy that yet was anguish....

"We shall get back," I said at length. My remark was not a question--it
had escaped from me almost unawares.

"The joy is in the journey," he answered. "The secret is in the search."

"But for me?" I exclaimed.

"We've all been lost, Paret. It would seem as though we have to be."

"And yet you are--saved," I said, hesitating over the word.

"It is true that I am content, even happy," he asserted, "in spite of my
wish to live. If there is any secret, it lies, I think, in the struggle
for an open mind, in the keeping alive of a desire to know more and more.
That desire, strangely enough, hasn't lost its strength. We don't know
whether there is a future life, but if there is, I think it must be a
continuation of this." He paused. "I told you I was glad you came
in--I've been thinking of you, and I saw you in the hall last night. You
ask what there is for you--I'll tell you,--the new generation."

"The new generation."

"That's the task of every man and woman who wakes up. I've come to see
how little can be done for the great majority of those who have reached
our age. It's hard--but it's true. Superstition, sentiment, the habit of
wrong thinking or of not thinking at all have struck in too deep, the
habit of unreasoning acceptance of authority is too paralyzing. Some may
be stung back into life, spurred on to find out what the world really is,
but not many. The hope lies in those who are coming after us--we must do
for them what wasn't done for us. We really didn't have much of a chance,
Paret. What did our instructors at Harvard know about the age that was
dawning? what did anybody know? You can educate yourself--or rather
reeducate yourself. All this"--and he waved his hand towards his
bookshelves--"all this has sprung up since you and I were at Cambridge;
if we don't try to become familiar with it, if we fail to grasp the point
of view from which it's written, there's little hope for us. Go away from
all this and get straightened out, make yourself acquainted with the
modern trend in literature and criticism, with modern history, find out
what's being done in the field of education, read the modern sciences,
especially biology, and psychology and sociology, and try to get a
glimpse of the fundamental human needs underlying such phenomena as the
labour and woman's movements. God knows I've just begun to get my
glimpse, and I've floundered around ever since I left college.... I don't
mean to say we can ever see the whole, but we can get a clew, an idea,
and pass it on to our children. You have children, haven't you?"

"Yes," I said....

He said nothing--he seemed to be looking out of the window.

"Then the scientific point of view in your opinion hasn't done away with
religion?" I asked presently.

"The scientific point of view is the religious point of view," he said
earnestly, "because it's the only self-respecting point of view. I can't
believe that God intended to make a creature who would not ultimately
weigh his beliefs with his reason instead of accepting them blindly.
That's immoral, if you like--especially in these days."

"And are there, then, no 'over-beliefs'?" I said, remembering the
expression in something I had read.

"That seems to me a relic of the method of ancient science, which was
upside down,--a mere confusion with faith. Faith and belief are two
different things; faith is the emotion, the steam, if you like, that
drives us on in our search for truth. Theories, at a stretch, might be
identified with 'over-beliefs' but when it comes to confusing our
theories with facts, instead of recognizing them as theories, when it
comes to living by 'over-beliefs' that have no basis in reason and
observed facts,--that is fatal. It's just the trouble with so much of our
electorate to-day--unreasoning acceptance without thought."

"Then," I said, "you admit of no other faculty than reason?"

"I confess that I don't. A great many insights that we seem to get from
what we call intuition I think are due to the reason, which is
unconsciously at work. If there were another faculty that equalled or
transcended reason, it seems to me it would be a very dangerous thing for
the world's progress. We'd come to rely on it rather than on ourselves
the trouble with the world is that it has been relying on it. Reason is
the mind--it leaps to the stars without realizing always how it gets
there. It is through reason we get the self-reliance that redeems us."

"But you!" I exclaimed. "You rely on something else besides reason?"

"Yes, it is true," he explained gently, "but that Thing
Other-than-Ourselves we feel stirring in us is power, and that power, or
the Source of it, seems to have given us our reason for guidance--if it
were not so we shouldn't have a semblance of freedom. For there is
neither virtue nor development in finding the path if we are guided. We
do rely on that power for movement--and in the moments when it is
withdrawn we are helpless. Both the power and the reason are God's."

"But the Church," I was moved by some untraced thought to ask, "you
believe there is a future for the Church?"

"A church of all those who disseminate truth, foster open-mindedness,
serve humanity and radiate faith," he replied--but as though he were
speaking to himself, not to me....

A few moments later there was a knock at the door, and the woman of the
house entered to say that Dr. Hepburn had arrived. I rose and shook
Krebs's hand: sheer inability to express my emotion drove me to
commonplaces.

"I'll come in soon again, if I may," I told him.

"Do, Paret," he said, "it's done me good to talk to you--more good than
you imagine."

I was unable to answer him, but I glanced back from the doorway to see
him smiling after me. On my way down the stairs I bumped into the doctor
as he ascended. The dingy brown parlour was filled with men, standing in
groups and talking in subdued voices. I hurried into the street, and on
the sidewalk stopped face to face with Perry Blackwood.

"Hugh!" he exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to inquire for Krebs," I answered. "I've seen him."

"You--you've been talking to him?" Perry demanded.

I nodded. He stared at me for a moment with an astonishment to which I
was wholly indifferent. He did not seem to know just how to act.

"Well, it was decent of you, Hugh, I must say. How does he seem?"

"Not at all like--like what you'd expect, in his manner."

"No," agreed Perry agitatedly, "no, he wouldn't. My God, we've lost a big
man in him."

"I think we have," I said.

He stared at me again, gave me his hand awkwardly, and went into the
house. It was not until I had walked the length of the block that I began
to realize what a shock my presence there must have been to him, with his
head full of the contrast between this visit and my former attitude.
Could it be that it was only the night before I had made a speech against
him and his associates? It is interesting that my mind rejected all sense
of anomaly and inconsistency. Krebs possessed me; I must have been in
reality extremely agitated, but this sense of being possessed seemed a
quiet one. An amazing thing had happened--and yet I was not amazed. The
Krebs I had seen was the man I had known for many years, the man I had
ridiculed, despised and oppressed, but it seemed to me then that he had
been my friend and intimate all my life: more than that, I had an odd
feeling he had always been a part of me, and that now had begun to take
place a merging of personality. Nor could I feel that he was a dying man.
He would live on....

I could not as yet sort and appraise, reduce to order the possessions he
had wished to turn over to me.

It was noon, and people were walking past me in the watery, diluted
sunlight, men in black coats and top hats and women in bizarre,
complicated costumes bright with colour. I had reached the more
respectable portion of the city, where the churches were emptying. These
very people, whom not long ago I would have acknowledged as my own kind,
now seemed mildly animated automatons, wax figures. The day was like
hundreds of Sundays I had known, the city familiar, yet passing strange.
I walked like a ghost through it....



XXVI.

Accompanied by young Dr. Strafford, I went to California. My physical
illness had been brief. Dr. Brooke had taken matters in his own hands and
ordered an absolute rest, after dwelling at some length on the vicious
pace set by modern business and the lack of consideration and knowledge
shown by men of affairs for their bodies. There was a limit to the wrack
and strain which the human organism could stand. He must of course have
suspected the presence of disturbing and disintegrating factors, but he
confined himself to telling me that only an exceptional constitution had
saved me from a serious illness; he must in a way have comprehended why I
did not wish to go abroad, and have my family join me on the Riviera, as
Tom Peters proposed. California had been my choice, and Dr. Brooke
recommended the climate of Santa Barbara.

High up on the Montecito hills I found a villa beside the gateway of one
of the deep canons that furrow the mountain side, and day after day I lay
in a chair on the sunny terrace, with a continually recurring amazement
at the brilliancy of my surroundings. In the early morning I looked down
on a feathery mist hiding the world, a mist presently to be shot with
silver and sapphire-blue, dissolved by slow enchantment until there lay
revealed the plain and the shimmering ocean with its distant islands
trembling in the haze. At sunset my eyes sought the mountains, mountains
unreal, like glorified scenery of grand opera, with violet shadows in the
wooded canon clefts, and crags of pink tourmaline and ruby against the
skies. All day long in the tempered heat flowers blazed around me,
insects hummed, lizards darted in and out of the terrace wall, birds
flashed among the checkered shadows of the live oaks. That grove of
gnarled oaks summoned up before me visions of some classic villa poised
above Grecian seas, shining amidst dark foliage, the refuge of forgotten
kings. Below me, on the slope, the spaced orange trees were heavy with
golden fruit.

After a while, as I grew stronger, I was driven down and allowed to walk
on the wide beach that stretched in front of the gay houses facing the
sea. Cormorants dived under the long rollers that came crashing in from
the Pacific; gulls wheeled and screamed in the soft wind; alert little
birds darted here and there with incredible swiftness, leaving tiny
footprints across the ribs and furrows of the wet sand. Far to the
southward a dark barrier of mountains rose out of the sea. Sometimes I
sat with my back against the dunes watching the drag of the outgoing
water rolling the pebbles after it, making a gleaming floor for the light
to dance.

At first I could not bear to recall the events that had preceded and
followed my visit to Krebs that Sunday morning. My illness had begun that
night; on the Monday Tom Peters had come to the Club and insisted upon my
being taken to his house.... When I had recovered sufficiently there had
been rather a pathetic renewal of our friendship. Perry came to see me.
Their attitude was one of apprehension not unmixed with wonder; and
though they, knew of the existence of a mental crisis, suspected, in all
probability, some of the causes of it, they refrained carefully from all
comments, contenting themselves with telling me when I was well enough
that Krebs had died quite suddenly that Sunday afternoon; that his
death--occurring at such a crucial moment--had been sufficient to turn
the tide of the election and make Edgar Greenhalge mayor. Thousands who
had failed to understand Hermann Krebs, but whom he had nevertheless
stirred and troubled, suddenly awoke to the fact that he had had elements
of greatness....

My feelings in those first days at Santa Barbara may be likened, indeed,
to those of a man who has passed through a terrible accident that has
deprived him of sight or hearing, and which he wishes to forget. What I
was most conscious of then was an aching sense of loss--an ache that by
degrees became a throbbing pain as life flowed back into me, re-inflaming
once more my being with protest and passion, arousing me to revolt
against the fate that had overtaken me. I even began at moments to feel a
fierce desire to go back and take up again the fight from which I had
been so strangely removed--removed by the agency of things still obscure.
I might get Nancy yet, beat down her resistance, overcome her, if only I
could be near her and see her. But even in the midst of these surges of
passion I was conscious of the birth of a new force I did not understand,
and which I resented, that had arisen to give battle to my passions and
desires. This struggle was not mentally reflected as a debate between
right and wrong, as to whether I should or should not be justified in
taking Nancy if I could get her: it seemed as though some new and small
yet dogged intruder had forced an entrance into me, an insignificant
pigmy who did not hesitate to bar the pathway of the reviving giant of my
desires. These contests sapped my strength. It seemed as though in my
isolation I loved Nancy, I missed her more than ever, and the flavour she
gave to life.

Then Hermann Krebs began to press himself on me. I use the word as
expressive of those early resentful feelings,--I rather pictured him then
as the personification of an hostile element in the universe that had
brought about my miseries and accomplished my downfall; I attributed the
disagreeable thwarting of my impulses to his agency; I did not wish to
think of him, for he stood somehow for a vague future I feared to
contemplate. Yet the illusion of his presence, once begun, continued to
grow upon me, and I find myself utterly unable to describe that struggle
in which he seemed to be fighting as against myself for my confidence;
that process whereby he gradually grew as real to me as though he still
lived--until I could almost hear his voice and see his smile. At moments
I resisted wildly, as though my survival depended on it; at other moments
he seemed to bring me peace. One day I recalled as vividly as though it
were taking place again that last time I had been with him; I seemed once
more to be listening to the calm yet earnest talk ranging over so many
topics, politics and government, economics and science and religion. I
did not yet grasp the synthesis he had made of them all, but I saw them
now all focussed in him elements he had drawn from human lives and human
experiences. I think it was then I first felt the quickenings of a new
life to be born in travail and pain.... Wearied, yet exalted, I sank down
on a stone bench and gazed out at the little island of Santa Cruz afloat
on the shimmering sea.

I have mentioned my inability to depict the terrible struggle that went
on in my soul. It seems strange that Nietzsche--that most ruthless of
philosophers to the romantic mind!--should express it for me. "The genius
of the heart, from contact with which every man goes away richer, not
'blessed' and overcome,....but richer himself, fresher to himself than
before, opened up, breathed upon and sounded by a thawing wind; more
uncertain, perhaps, more delicate, more bruised; but full of hopes which
as yet lack names, full of a new will and striving, full of a new
unwillingness and counterstriving."....

Such was my experience with Hermann Krebs. How keenly I remember that new
unwillingness and counter-striving! In spite of the years it has not
wholly died down, even to-day....

Almost coincident with these quickenings of which I have spoken was the
consciousness of a hunger stronger than the craving for bread and meat,
and I began to meditate on my ignorance, on the utter inadequacy and
insufficiency of my early education, on my neglect of the new learning
during the years that had passed since I left Harvard. And I remembered
Krebs's words--that we must "reeducate ourselves." What did I know? A
system of law, inherited from another social order, that was utterly
unable to cope with the complexities and miseries and injustices of a
modern industrial world. I had spent my days in mastering an inadequate
and archaic code--why? in order that I might learn how to evade it? This
in itself condemned it. What did I know of life? of the shining universe
that surrounded me? What did I know of the insect and the flower, of the
laws that moved the planets and made incandescent the suns? of the human
body, of the human soul and its instincts? Was this knowledge acquired at
such cost of labour and life and love by my fellow-men of so little worth
to me that I could ignore it? declare that it had no significance for me?
no bearing on my life and conduct? If I were to rise and go forward--and
I now felt something like a continued impulse, in spite of relaxations
and revolts--I must master this knowledge, it must be my guide, form the
basis of my creed. I--who never had had a creed, never felt the need of
one! For lack of one I had been rudely jolted out of the frail shell I
had thought so secure, and stood, as it were, naked and shivering to the
storms, staring at a world that was no function of me, after all. My
problem, indeed, was how to become a function of it....

I resolved upon a course of reading, but it was a question what books to
get. Krebs could have told me, if he had lived. I even thought once of
writing Perry Blackwood to ask him to make a list of the volumes in
Krebs's little library; but I was ashamed to do this.

Dr. Strafford still remained with me. Not many years out of the medical
school, he had inspired me with a liking for him and a respect for his
profession, and when he informed me one day that he could no longer
conscientiously accept the sum I was paying him, I begged him to stay on.
He was a big and wholesome young man, companionable, yet quiet and
unobtrusive, watchful without appearing to be so, with the innate as well
as the cultivated knowledge of psychology characteristic of the best
modern physicians. When I grew better I came to feel that he had given
his whole mind to the study of my case, though he never betrayed it in
his conversation.

"Strafford," I said to him one morning with such an air of unconcern as I
could muster, "I've an idea I'd like to read a little science. Could you
recommend a work on biology?"

I chose biology because I thought he would know something about it.

"Popular biology, Mr. Paret?"

"Well, not too popular," I smiled. "I think it would do me good to use my
mind, to chew on something. Besides, you can help me over the tough
places."

He returned that afternoon with two books.

"I've been rather fortunate in getting these," he said. "One is fairly
elementary. They had it at the library. And the other--" he paused
delicately, "I didn't know whether you might be interested in the latest
speculations on the subject."

"Speculations?" I repeated.

"Well, the philosophy of it." He almost achieved a blush under his tan.
He held out the second book on the philosophy of the organism. "It's the
work of a German scientist who stands rather high. I read it last winter,
and it interested me. I got it from a clergyman I know who is spending
the winter in Santa Barbara."

"A clergyman!"

Strafford laughed. "An 'advanced' clergyman," he explained. "Oh, a lot of
them are reading science now. I think it's pretty decent of them."

I looked at Strafford, who towered six feet three, and it suddenly struck
me that he might be one of the forerunners of a type our universities
were about to turn out. I wondered what he believed. Of one thing I was
sure, that he was not in the medical profession to make money. That was a
faith in itself.

I began with the elementary work.

"You'd better borrow a Century Dictionary," I said.

"That's easy," he said, and actually achieved it, with the clergyman's
aid.

The absorption in which I fought my way through those books may prove
interesting to future generations, who, at Sunday-school age, when the
fable of Adam and Eve was painfully being drummed into me (without any
mention of its application), will be learning to think straight,
acquiring easily in early youth what I failed to learn until after forty.
And think of all the trouble and tragedy that will have been averted. It
is true that I had read some biology at Cambridge, which I had promptly
forgotten; it had not been especially emphasized by my instructors as
related to life--certainly not as related to religion: such incidents as
that of Adam and Eve occupied the religious field exclusively. I had been
compelled to commit to memory, temporarily, the matter in those books;
but what I now began to perceive was that the matter was secondary
compared to the view point of science--and this had been utterly
neglected. As I read, I experienced all the excitement of an
old-fashioned romance, but of a romance of such significance as to touch
the very springs of existence; and above all I was impressed with the
integrity of the scientific method--an integrity commensurate with the
dignity of man--that scorned to quibble to make out a case, to affirm
something that could not be proved.

Little by little I became familiar with the principles of embryonic
evolution, ontogeny, and of biological evolution, phylogeny; realized,
for the first time, my own history and that of the ancestors from whom I
had developed and descended. I, this marvellously complicated being, torn
by desires and despairs, was the result of the union of two microscopic
cells. "All living things come from the egg," such had been Harvey's
dictum. The result was like the tonic of a cold douche. I began to feel
cleansed and purified, as though something sticky-sweet which all my life
had clung to me had been washed away. Yet a question arose, an insistent
question that forever presses itself on the mind of man; how could these
apparently chemical and mechanical processes, which the author of the
book contented himself with recording, account for me? The spermia darts
for the egg, and pierces it; personal history begins. But what mysterious
shaping force is it that repeats in the individual the history of the
race, supervises the orderly division of the cells, by degrees directs
the symmetry, sets aside the skeleton and digestive tract and supervises
the structure?

I took up the second book, that on the philosophy of the organism, to
read in its preface that a much-to-be-honoured British nobleman had
established a foundation of lectures in a Scotch University for
forwarding the study of a Natural Theology. The term possessed me. Unlike
the old theology woven of myths and a fanciful philosophy of the decadent
period of Greece, natural theology was founded on science itself, and
scientists were among those who sought to develop it. Here was a
synthesis that made a powerful appeal, one of the many signs and portents
of a new era of which I was dimly becoming cognizant; and now that I
looked for signs, I found them everywhere, in my young Doctor, in Krebs,
in references in the texts; indications of a new order beginning to make
itself felt in a muddled, chaotic human world, which might--which must
have a parallel with the order that revealed itself in the egg! Might not
both, physical and social, be due to the influence of the same invisible,
experimenting, creating Hand?

My thoughts lingered lovingly on this theology so well named "natural,"
on its conscientiousness, its refusal to affirm what it did not prove, on
its lack of dogmatic dictums and infallible revelations; yet it gave me
the vision of a new sanction whereby man might order his life, a sanction
from which was eliminated fear and superstition and romantic hope, a
sanction whose doctrines--unlike those of the sentimental theology--did
not fly in the face of human instincts and needs. Nor was it a theology
devoid of inspiration and poetry, though poetry might be called its
complement. With all that was beautiful and true in the myths dear to
mankind it did not conflict, annulling only the vicious dogmatism of
literal interpretation. In this connection I remembered something that
Krebs had said--in our talk about poetry and art,--that these were
emotion, religion expressed by the tools reason had evolved. Music, he
had declared, came nearest to the cry of the human soul....

That theology cleared for faith an open road, made of faith a reasonable
thing, yet did not rob it of a sense of high adventure; cleansed it of
the taints of thrift and selfish concern. In this reaffirmation of
vitalism there might be a future, yes, an individual future, yet it was
far from the smug conception of salvation. Here was a faith conferred by
the freedom of truth; a faith that lost and regained itself in life; it
was dynamic in its operation; for, as Lessing said, the searching after
truth, and not its possession, gives happiness to man. In the words of an
American scientist, taken from his book on Heredity, "The evolutionary
idea has forced man to consider the probable future of his own race on
earth and to take measures to control that future, a matter he had
previously left largely to fate."

Here indeed was another sign of the times, to find in a strictly
scientific work a sentence truly religious! As I continued to read these
works, I found them suffused with religion, religion of a kind and
quality I had not imagined. The birthright of the spirit of man was
freedom, freedom to experiment, to determine, to create--to create
himself, to create society in the image of God! Spiritual creation the
function of cooperative man through the coming ages, the task that was to
make him divine. Here indeed was the germ of a new sanction, of a new
motive, of a new religion that strangely harmonized with the concepts of
the old--once the dynamic power of these was revealed.

I had been thinking of my family--of my family in terms of Matthew--and
yet with a growing yearning that embraced them all. I had not informed
Maude of my illness, and I had managed to warn Tom Peters not to do so. I
had simply written her that after the campaign I had gone for a rest to
California; yet in her letters to me, after this information had reached
her, I detected a restrained anxiety and affection that troubled me.
Sequences of words curiously convey meanings and implications that
transcend their literal sense, true thoughts and feelings are difficult
to disguise even in written speech. Could it be possible after all that
had happened that Maude still loved me? I continually put the thought
away from me, but continually it returned to haunt me. Suppose Maude
could not help loving me, in spite of my weaknesses and faults, even as I
loved Nancy in spite of hers? Love is no logical thing.

It was Matthew I wanted, Matthew of whom I thought, and trivial,
long-forgotten incidents of the past kept recurring to me constantly. I
still received his weekly letters; but he did not ask why, since I had
taken a vacation, I had not come over to them. He represented the medium,
the link between Maude and me that no estrangement, no separation could
break.

All this new vision of mine was for him, for the coming generation, the
soil in which it must be sown, the Americans of the future. And who so
well as Matthew, sensitive yet brave, would respond to it? I wished not
only to give him what I had begun to grasp, to study with him, to be his
companion and friend, but to spare him, if possible, some of my own
mistakes and sufferings and punishments. But could I go back? Happy
coincidences of desires and convictions had been so characteristic of
that other self I had been struggling to cast off: I had so easily been
persuaded, when I had had a chance of getting Nancy, that it was the
right thing to do! And now, in my loneliness, was I not growing just as
eager to be convinced that it was my duty to go back to the family which
in the hour of self-sufficiency I had cast off? I had believed in divorce
then--why not now? Well, I still believed in it. I had thought of a union
with Nancy as something that would bring about the "self-realization that
springs from the gratification of a great passion,"--an appealing phrase
I had read somewhere. But, it was at least a favourable symptom that I
was willing now to confess that the "self-realization" had been a
secondary and sentimental consideration, a rosy, self-created halo to
give a moral and religious sanction to my desire. Was I not trying to do
that very thing now? It tortured me to think so; I strove to achieve a
detached consideration of the problem,--to arrive at length at a thought
that seemed illuminating: that the it "wrongness" or "rightness," utility
and happiness of all such unions depend upon whether or not they become a
part of the woof and warp of the social fabric; in other words, whether
the gratification of any particular love by divorce and remarriage does
or does not tend to destroy a portion of that fabric. Nancy certainly
would have been justified in divorce. It did not seem in the retrospect
that I would have been: surely not if, after I had married Nancy, I had
developed this view of life that seemed to me to be the true view. I
should have been powerless to act upon it. But the chances were I should
not have developed it, since it would seem that any salvation for me at
least must come precisely through suffering, through not getting what I
wanted. Was this equivocating?

My mistake had been in marrying Maude instead of Nancy--a mistake largely
due to my saturation with a false idea of life. Would not the attempt to
cut loose from the consequences of that mistake in my individual case
have been futile? But there was a remedy for it--the remedy Krebs had
suggested: I might still prevent my children from making such a mistake,
I might help to create in them what I might have been, and thus find a
solution for myself. My errors would then assume a value.

But the question tortured me: would Maude wish it? Would it be fair to
her if she did not? By my long neglect I had forfeited the right to go.
And would she agree with my point of view if she did permit me to stay? I
had less concern on this score, a feeling that that development of hers,
which once had irritated me, was in the same direction as my own....

I have still strangely to record moments when, in spite of the
aspirations I had achieved, of the redeeming vision I had gained, at the
thought of returning to her I revolted. At such times recollections came
into my mind of those characteristics in her that had seemed most
responsible for my alienation.... That demon I had fed so mightily still
lived. By what right--he seemed to ask--had I nourished him all these
years if now I meant to starve him? Thus sometimes he defied me, took on
Protean guises, blustered, insinuated, cajoled, managed to make me
believe that to starve him would be to starve myself, to sap all there
was of power in me. Let me try and see if I could do it! Again he
whispered, to what purpose had I gained my liberty, if now I renounced
it? I could not live in fetters, even though the fetters should be
self-imposed. I was lonely now, but I would get over that, and life lay
before me still.

Fierce and tenacious, steel in the cruelty of his desires, fearful in the
havoc he had wrought, could he be subdued? Foiled, he tore and rent
me....

One morning I rode up through the shady canon, fragrant with bay, to the
open slopes stained smoky-blue by the wild lilac, where the twisted
madrona grows. As I sat gazing down on tiny headlands jutting out into a
vast ocean my paralyzing indecision came to an end. I turned my horse
down the trail again. I had seen at last that life was bigger than I,
bigger than Maude, bigger than our individual wishes and desires. I felt
as though heavy shackles had been struck from me. As I neared the house I
spied my young doctor in the garden path, his hands in his pockets
watching a humming-bird poised over the poppies. He greeted me with a
look that was not wholly surprise at my early return, that seemed to have
in it something of gladness.

"Strafford," I said, "I've made up my mind to go to Europe."

"I have been thinking for some time, Mr. Paret," he replied, "that a
sea-voyage is just what you need to set you on your feet."

I started eastward the next morning, arriving in New York in time to
catch one of the big liners sailing for Havre. On my way across the
continent I decided to send a cable to Maude at Paris, since it were only
fair to give her an opportunity to reflect upon the manner in which she
would meet the situation. Save for an impatience which at moments I
restrained with difficulty, the moods that succeeded one another as I
journeyed did not differ greatly from those I had experienced in the past
month. I was alternately exalted and depressed; I hoped and doubted and
feared; my courage, my confidence rose and fell. And yet I was aware of
the nascence within me of an element that gave me a stability I had
hitherto lacked: I had made my decision, and I felt the stronger for it.

It was early in March. The annual rush of my countrymen and women for
foreign shores had not as yet begun, the huge steamer was far from
crowded. The faint throbbing of her engines as she glided out on the
North River tide found its echo within me as I leaned on the heavy rail
and watched the towers of the city receding in the mist; they became
blurred and ghostlike, fantastic in the grey distance, sad, appealing
with a strange beauty and power. Once the sight of them, sunlit, standing
forth sharply against the high blue of American skies, had stirred in me
that passion for wealth and power of which they were so marvellously and
uniquely the embodiment. I recalled the bright day of my home-coming with
Maude, when she too had felt that passion drawing me away from her, after
the briefest of possessions.... Well, I had had it, the power. I had
stormed and gained entrance to the citadel itself. I might have lived
here in New York, secure, defiant of a veering public opinion that envied
while it strove to sting. Why was I flinging it all away? Was this a
sudden resolution of mine, forced by events, precipitated by a failure to
achieve what of all things on earth I had most desired? or was it the
inevitable result of the development of the Hugh Paret of earlier days,
who was not meant for that kind of power?

The vibration of the monster ship increased to a strong, electric
pulsation, the water hummed along her sides, she felt the swell of the
open sea. A fine rain began to fall that hid the land--yes, and the life
I was leaving. I made my way across the glistening deck to the saloon
where, my newspapers and periodicals neglected, I sat all the morning
beside a window gazing out at the limited, vignetted zone of waters
around the ship. We were headed for the Old World. The wind rose, the
rain became pelting, mingling with the spume of the whitecaps racing
madly past: within were warmth and luxury, electric lights, open fires,
easy chairs, and men and women reading, conversing as unconcernedly as
though the perils of the deep had ceased to be. In all this I found an
impelling interest; the naive capacity in me for wonder, so long dormant,
had been marvellously opened up once more. I no longer thought of myself
as the important man of affairs; and when in the progress of the voyage I
was accosted by two or three men I had met and by others who had heard of
me it was only to feel amazement at the remoteness I now felt from a
world whose realities were stocks and bonds, railroads and corporations
and the detested new politics so inimical to the smooth conduct of
"business."

It all sounded like a language I had forgotten.

It was not until near the end of the passage that we ran out of the
storm. A morning came when I went on deck to survey spaces of a blue and
white sea swept by the white March sunlight; to discern at length against
the horizon toward which we sped a cloud of the filmiest and most
delicate texture and design. Suddenly I divined that the cloud was
France! Little by little, as I watched, it took on substance. I made out
headlands and cliffs, and then we were coasting beside them. That night I
should be in Paris with Maude. My bag was packed, my steamer trunk
closed. I strayed about the decks, in and out of the saloons, wondering
at the indifference of other passengers who sat reading in steamer-chairs
or wrote last letters to be posted at Havre. I was filled with
impatience, anticipation, yes, with anxiety concerning the adventure that
was now so imminent; with wavering doubts. Had I done the wisest thing
after all? I had the familiar experience that often comes just before
reunion after absence of recalling intimate and forgotten impressions of
those whom I was about to see again the tones of their voices, little
gestures....

How would they receive me?

The great ship had slowed down and was entering the harbour, carefully
threading her way amongst smaller craft, the passengers lining the rails
and gazing at the animated scene, at the quaint and cheerful French city
bathed in sunlight.... I had reached the dock and was making my way
through the hurrying and shifting groups toward the steamer train when I
saw Maude. She was standing a little aside, scanning the faces that
passed her.

I remember how she looked at me, expectantly, yet timidly, almost
fearfully. I kissed her.

"You've come to meet me!" I exclaimed stupidly. "How are the children?"

"They're very well, Hugh. They wanted to come, too, but I thought it
better not."

Her restraint struck me as extraordinary; and while I was thankful for
the relief it brought to a situation which might have been awkward, I was
conscious of resenting it a little. I was impressed and puzzled. As I
walked along the platform beside her she seemed almost a stranger: I had
difficulty in realizing that she was my wife, the mother of my children.
Her eyes were clear, more serious than I recalled them, and her physical
as well as her moral tone seemed to have improved. Her cheeks glowed with
health, and she wore a becoming suit of dark blue.

"Did you have a good trip, Hugh?" she asked.

"Splendid," I said, forgetting the storm. We took our seats in an empty
compartment. Was she glad to see me? She had come all the way from Paris
to meet me! All the embarrassment seemed to be on my side. Was this
composure a controlled one or had she indeed attained to the
self-sufficiency her manner and presence implied? Such were the questions
running through my head.

"You've really liked Paris?" I asked.

"Yes, Hugh, and it's been very good for us all. Of course the boys like
America better, but they've learned many things they wouldn't have
learned at home; they both speak French, and Biddy too. Even I have
improved."

"I'm sure of it," I said.

She flushed.

"And what else have you been doing?"

"Oh, going to galleries. Matthew often goes with me. I think he quite
appreciates the pictures. Sometimes I take him to the theatre, too, the
Francais. Both boys ride in the Bois with a riding master. It's been
rather a restricted life for them, but it won't have hurt them. It's good
discipline. We have little excursions in an automobile on fine days to
Versailles and other places of interest around Paris, and Matthew and I
have learned a lot of history. I have a professor of literature from the
Sorbonne come in three times a week to give me lessons."

"I didn't know you cared for literature."

"I didn't know it either." She smiled. "Matthew loves it. Monsieur
Despard declares he has quite a gift for language."

Maude had already begun Matthew's education!

"You see a few people?" I inquired.

"A few. And they have been very kind to us. The Buffons, whom I met at
Etretat, and some of their friends, mostly educated French people."

The little railway carriage in which we sat rocked with speed as we flew
through the French landscape. I caught glimpses of solid, Norman farm
buildings, of towers and keeps and delicate steeples, and quaint towns;
of bare poplars swaying before the March gusts, of green fields ablaze in
the afternoon sun. I took it all in distractedly. Here was Maude beside
me, but a Maude I had difficulty in recognizing, whom I did not
understand: who talked of a life she had built up for herself and that
seemed to satisfy her; one with which I had nothing to do. I could not
tell how she regarded my re-intrusion. As she continued to talk, a
feeling that was almost desperation grew upon me. I had things to say to
her, things that every moment of this sort of intercourse was making more
difficult. And I felt, if I did not say them now, that perhaps I never
should: that now or never was the appropriate time, and to delay would be
to drift into an impossible situation wherein the chance of an
understanding would be remote.

There was a pause. How little I had anticipated the courage it would take
to do this thing! My blood was hammering.

"Maude," I said abruptly, "I suppose you're wondering why I came over
here."

She sat gazing at me, very still, but there came into her eyes a
frightened look that almost unnerved me. She seemed to wish to speak, to
be unable to. Passively, she let my hand rest on hers.

"I've been thinking a great deal during the last few months," I went on
unsteadily. "And I've changed a good many of my ideas--that is, I've got
new ones, about things I never thought of before. I want to say, first,
that I do not put forth any claim to come back into your life. I know I
have forfeited any claim. I've neglected you, and I've neglected the
children. Our marriage has been on a false basis from the start, and I've
been to blame for it. There is more to be said about the chances for a
successful marriage in these days, but I'm not going to dwell on that
now, or attempt to shoulder off my shortcomings on my bringing up, on the
civilization in which we have lived. You've tried to do your share, and
the failure hasn't been your fault. I want to tell you first of all that
I recognize your right to live your life from now on, independently of
me, if you so desire. You ought to have the children--" I hesitated a
moment. It was the hardest thing I had to say. "I've never troubled
myself about them, I've never taken on any responsibility in regard to
their bringing up."

"Hugh!" she cried.

"Wait--I've got more to tell you, that you ought to know. I shouldn't be
here to-day if Nancy Durrett had consented to--to get a divorce and marry
me. We had agreed to that when this accident happened to Ham, and she
went back to him. I have to tell you that I still love her--I can't say
how much, or define my feelings toward her now. I've given up all idea of
her. I don't think I'd marry her now, even if I had the chance, and you
should decide to live away from me. I don't know. I'm not so sure of
myself as I once was. The fact is, Maude, circumstances have been too
much for me. I've been beaten. And I'm not at all certain that it wasn't
a cowardly thing for me to come back to you at all."

I felt her hand trembling under mine, but I had not the courage to look
at her. I heard her call my name again a little cry, the very poignancy
of pity and distress. It almost unnerved me.

"I knew that you loved her, Hugh," she said. "It was only--only a little
while after you married me that I found it out. I guessed it--women do
guess such things--long before you realized it yourself. You ought to
have married her instead of me. You would have been happier with her."

I did not answer.

"I, too, have thought a great deal," she went on, after a moment. "I
began earlier than you, I had to." I looked up suddenly and saw her
smiling at me, faintly, through her tears. "But I've been thinking more,
and learning more since I've been over here. I've come to see that that
our failure hasn't been as much your fault as I once thought, as much as
you yourself declare. You have done me a wrong, and you've done the
children a wrong. Oh, it is frightful to think how little I knew when I
married you, but even then I felt instinctively that you didn't love me
as I deserved to be loved. And when we came back from Europe I knew that
I couldn't satisfy you, I couldn't look upon life as you saw it, no
matter how hard I tried. I did try, but it wasn't any use. You'll never
know how much I've suffered all these years.

"I have been happier here, away from you, with the children; I've had a
chance to be myself. It isn't that I'm--much. It isn't that I don't need
guidance and counsel and--sympathy. I've missed those, but you've never
given them to me, and I've been learning more and more to do without
them. I don't know why marriage should suddenly have become such a
mockery and failure in our time, but I know that it is, that ours hasn't
been such an exception as I once thought. I've come to believe that
divorce is often justified."

"It is justified so far as you are concerned, Maude," I replied. "It is
not justified for me. I have forfeited, as I say, any rights over you. I
have been the aggressor and transgressor from the start. You have been a
good wife and a good mother, you have been faithful, I have had
absolutely nothing to complain of."

"Sometimes I think I might have tried harder," she said. "At least I
might have understood better. I was stupid. But everything went wrong.
And I saw you growing away from me all the time, Hugh, growing away from
the friends who were fond of you, as though you were fading in the
distance. It wasn't wholly because--because of Nancy that I left you.
That gave me an excuse--an excuse for myself. Long before that I realized
my helplessness, I knew that whatever I might have done was past doing."

"Yes, I know," I assented.

We sat in silence for a while. The train was skirting an ancient town set
on a hill, crowned with a castle and a Gothic church whose windows were
afire in the setting sun.

"Maude," I said, "I have not come to plead, to appeal to your pity as
against your judgment and reason. I can say this much, that if I do not
love you, as the word is generally understood, I have a new respect for
you, and a new affection, and I think that these will grow. I have no
doubt that there are some fortunate people who achieve the kind of mutual
love for which it is human to yearn, whose passion is naturally
transmuted into a feeling that may be even finer, but I am inclined to
think, even in such a case, that some effort and unselfishness are
necessary. At any rate, that has been denied to us, and we can never know
it from our own experience. We can only hope that there is such a
thing,--yes, and believe in it and work for it."

"Work for it, Hugh?" she repeated.

"For others--for our children. I have been thinking about the children a
great deal in the last few months especially about Matthew."

"You always loved him best," she said.

"Yes," I admitted. "I don't know why it should be so. And in spite of it,
I have neglected him, neglected them, failed to appreciate them all. I
did not deserve them. I have reproached myself, I have suffered for it,
not as much as I deserved. I came to realize that the children were a
bond between us, that their existence meant something greater than either
of us. But at the same time I recognized that I had lost my right over
them, that it was you who had proved yourself worthy.... It was through
the children that I came to think differently, to feel differently toward
you. I have come to you to ask your forgiveness."

"Oh, Hugh!" she cried.

"Wait," I said.... "I have come to you, through them. I want to say again
that I should not be here if I had obtained my desires. Yet there is more
to it than that. I think I have reached a stage where I am able to say
that I am glad I didn't obtain them. I see now that this coming to you
was something I have wanted to do all along, but it was the cowardly
thing to do, after I had failed, for it was not as though I had conquered
the desires, the desires conquered me. At any rate, I couldn't come to
you to encumber you, to be a drag upon you. I felt that I must have
something to offer you. I've got a plan, Maude, for my life, for our
lives. I don't know whether I can make a success of it, and you are
entitled to decline to take the risk. I don't fool myself that it will be
all plain sailing, that there won't be difficulties and discouragements.
But I'll promise to try."

"What is it?" she asked, in a low voice. "I--I think I know."

"Perhaps you have guessed it. I am willing to try to devote what is left
of my life to you and to them. And I need your help. I acknowledge it.
Let us try to make more possible for them the life we have missed."

"The life we have missed!" she said.

"Yes. My mistakes, my failures, have brought us to the edge of a
precipice. We must prevent, if we can, those mistakes and failures for
them. The remedy for unhappy marriages, for all mistaken, selfish and
artificial relationships in life is a preventive one. My plan is that we
try to educate ourselves together, take advantage of the accruing
knowledge that is helping men and women to cope with the problems, to
think straight. We can then teach our children to think straight, to
avoid the pitfalls into which we have fallen."

I paused. Maude did not reply. Her face was turned away from me, towards
the red glow of the setting sun above the hills.

"You have been doing this all along, you have had the vision, the true
vision, while I lacked it, Maude. I offer to help you. But if you think
it is impossible for us to live together, if you believe my feeling
toward you is not enough, if you don't think I can do what I propose, or
if you have ceased to care for me--"

She turned to me with a swift movement, her eyes filled with tears.

"Oh, Hugh, don't say any more. I can't stand it. How little you know, for
all your thinking. I love you, I always have loved you. I grew to be
ashamed of it, but I'm not any longer. I haven't any pride any more, and
I never want to have it again."

"You're willing to take me as I am,--to try?" I said.

"Yes," she answered, "I'm willing to try." She smiled at me. "And I have
more faith than you, Hugh. I think we'll succeed."....

At nine o'clock that night, when we came out through the gates of the
big, noisy station, the children were awaiting us. They had changed, they
had grown. Biddy kissed me shyly, and stood staring up at me.

"We'll take you out to-morrow and show you how we can ride," said
Moreton.

Matthew smiled. He stood very close to me, with his hand through my arm.

"You're going to stay, father?" he asked.

"I'm going to stay, Matthew," I answered, "until we all go back to
America."....





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