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Title: Inside of the Cup, the — Volume 04
Author: Churchill, Winston, 1871-1947
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Inside of the Cup, the — Volume 04" ***

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THE INSIDE OF THE CUP

By Winston Churchill



Volume 4.

XIII.   WINTERBOURNE
XIV.   A SATURDAY AFTERNOON
XV.    THE CRUCIBLE
XVI.   AMID THE ENCIRCLING GLOOM



CHAPTER XIII

WINTERBOURNE


I

Hodder fell asleep from sheer exhaustion, awaking during the night at
occasional intervals to recall chimerical dreams in which the events of
the day before were reflected, but caricatured and distorted. Alison
Parr was talking to the woman in the flat, and both were changed, and yet
he identified both: and on another occasion he saw a familiar figure
surrounded by romping, ragged children--a figure which turned out to be
Eldon Parr's!

Finally he was aroused by what seemed a summons from the unknown--the
prolonged morning whistle of the shoe factory. For a while he lay as one
benumbed, and the gradual realization that ensued might be likened to the
straining of stiffened wounds. Little by little he reconstructed, until
the process became unbearable, and then rose from his bed with one object
in mind,--to go to Horace Bentley. At first--he seized upon the excuse
that Mr. Bentley would wish to hear the verdict of Dr. Jarvis, but
immediately abandoned it as dishonest, acknowledging the true reason,
that in all the--world the presence of this one man alone might assuage
in some degree the terror in his soul. For the first time in his life,
since childhood, he knew a sense of utter dependence upon another human
being. He felt no shame, would make no explanation for his early visit.

He turned up Tower, deliberately avoiding Dalton Street in its lower
part, reached Mr. Bentley's door. The wrinkled, hospitable old darky
actually seemed to radiate something of the personality with which he had
so long been associated, and Hodder was conscious of a surge of relief,
a return of confidence at sight of him. Yes, Mr. Bentley was at home,
in the dining room. The rector said he would wait, and not disturb him.

"He done tole me to bring you out, sah, if you come," said Sam.

"He expects me?" exclaimed Hodder, with a shock of surprise.

"That's what he done tole me, sah, to ax you kindly for to step out when
you come."

The sun was beginning to penetrate into the little back yard, where the
flowers were still glistening with the drops of their morning bath; and
Mr. Bentley sat by the window reading his newspaper, his spectacles on
his nose, and a great grey cat rubbing herself against his legs. He rose
with alacrity.

"Good morning, sir," he said, and his welcome implied that early morning
visits were the most common and natural of occurrences. "Sam, a plate
for Mr. Hodder. I was just hoping you would come and tell me what Dr.
Jarvis had said about the case."

But Hodder was not deceived. He believed that Mr. Bentley understood
perfectly why he had come, and the knowledge of the old gentleman's
comprehension curiously added to his sense of refuge. He found himself
seated once more at the mahogany table, permitting Sam to fill his cup
with coffee.

"Jarvis has given a favourable report, and he is coming this morning
himself, in an automobile, to take the boy out to the hospital."

"That is like Jarvis," was Mr. Bentley's comment. "We will go there,
together, after breakfast, if convenient for you," he added.

"I hoped you would," replied the rector. "And I was going to ask
you a favour. I have a check, given me by a young lady to use at my
discretion, and it occurred to me that Garvin might be willing to accept
some proposal from you." He thought of Nan Ferguson, and of the hope he
lead expressed of finding some one in Dalton Street.

"I have been considering the matter," Mr. Bentley said. "I have a friend
who lives on the trolley line a little beyond the hospital, a widow. It
is like the country there, you know, and I think Mrs. Bledsoe could be
induced to take the Garvins. And then something can be arranged for him.
I will find an opportunity to speak to him this morning."

Hodder sipped his coffee, and looked out at the morning-glories opening
to the sun.

"Mrs. Garvin was alone last night. He had gone out shortly after we
left, and had not waited for the doctor. She was greatly worried."

Hodder found himself discussing these matters on which, an hour before,
he had feared to permit his mind to dwell. And presently, not without
feeling, but in a manner eliminating all account of his personal
emotions, he was relating that climactic episode of the woman at the
piano. The old gentleman listened intently, and in silence.

"Yes," he said, when the rector had finished, "that is my observation.
Most of them are driven to the life, and held in it, of course, by a
remorseless civilization. Individuals may be culpable, Mr. Hodder--are
culpable. But we cannot put the whole responsibility on individuals."

"No," Hodder assented, "I can see that now." He paused a moment, and as
his mind dwelt upon the scene and he saw again the woman standing before
him in bravado, the whole terrible meaning of her life and end flashed
through him as one poignant sensation. Her dauntless determination to
accept the consequence of her acts, her willingness to look her future in
the face, cried out to him in challenge.

"She refused unconditionally," he said.

Mr. Bentley seemed to read his thought, divine his appeal.

"We must wait," he answered.

"Do you think?--" Hodder began, and stopped abruptly.

"I remember another case, somewhat similar," said Mr. Bentley. "This
woman, too, had the spirit you describe--we could do nothing with her.
We kept an eye on her--or rather Sally Grover did--she deserves credit
--and finally an occasion presented itself."

"And the woman you speak of was--rehabilitated?" Hodder asked.
He avoided the word "saved."

"Yes, sir. It was one of the fortunate cases. There are others which
are not so fortunate."

Hodder nodded.

"We are beginning to recognize that we are dealing, in, many instances,
with a disease," Mr. Bentley went on. "I am far from saying that it
cannot be cured, but sometimes we are forced to admit that the cure is
not within our power, Mr. Hodder."

Two thoughts struck the rector simultaneously, the: revelation of what
might be called a modern enlightenment in one of Mr. Bentley's age, an
indication of uninterrupted growth, of the sense of continued youth which
had impressed him from the beginning; and, secondly, an intimation from
the use of the plural pronoun we, of an association of workers (informal,
undoubtedly) behind Mr. Bentley. While he was engaged in these
speculations the door opened.

"Heah's Miss Sally, Marse Ho'ace," said Sam.

"Good morning, Sally," said Mr. Bentley, rising from the table with his
customary courtesy, "I'm glad you came in. Let me introduce Mr. Hodder,
of St. John's."

Miss Grover had capability written all over her. She was a young woman
of thirty, slim to spareness, simply dressed in a shirtwaist and a dark
blue skirt; alert, so distinctly American in type as to give a suggestion
of the Indian. Her quick, deep-set eyes searched Hodder's face as she
jerked his hand; but her greeting was cordial, and, matter-of-fact. She
stimulated curiosity.

"Well, Sally, what's the news?" Mr. Bentley asked.

"Gratz, the cabinet-maker, was on the rampage again, Mr. Bentley. His
wife was here yesterday when I got home from work, and I went over with
her. He was in a beastly state, and all the niggers and children in the
neighbourhood, including his own, around the shop. Fusel oil, labelled
whiskey," she explained, succinctly.

"What did you do?"

"Took the bottle away from him," said Miss Grower. The simplicity of
this method, Holder thought, was undeniable. "Stayed there until he came
to. Then I reckon I scared him some."

"How?" Mr. Bentley smiled.

"I told him he'd have to see you. He'd rather serve three months than do
that--said so. I reckon he would, too," she declared grimly. "He's
better than he was last year, I think." She thrust her hand in the
pocket of her skirt and produced some bills and silver, which she
counted. "Here's three thirty-five from Sue Brady. I told her she
hadn't any business bothering you, but she swears she'd spend it."

"That was wrong, Sally."

Miss Grower tossed her head.

"Oh, she knew I'd take it, well enough."

"I imagine she did," Mr. Bentley replied, and his eyes twinkled. He rose
and led the way into the library, where he opened his desk, produced a
ledger, and wrote down the amount in a fine hand.

"Susan Brady, three dollars and thirty-five cents. I'll put it in the
savings bank to-day. That makes twenty-two dollars and forty cents for
Sue. She's growing rich."

"Some man'll get it," said Sally.

"Sally," said Mr. Bentley, turning in his chair, "Mr. Holder's been
telling me about a rather unusual woman in that apartment house just
above Fourteenth Street, on the south side of Dalton."

"I think I know her--by sight," Sally corrected herself. She appealed.
to Holder. "Red hair, and lots of it--I suppose a man would call it
auburn. She must have been something of a beauty, once."

The rector assented, in some astonishment.

"Couldn't do anything with her, could you? I reckoned not. I've noticed
her up and down Dalton Street at night."

Holder was no longer deceived by her matter-of-fact tone.

"I'll tell you what, Mr. Holder," she went on, energetically, "there's
not a particle of use running after those people, and the sooner you find
it out the less worry and trouble you give yourself."

"Mr. Holder didn't run after her, Sally," said Mr. Bentley, in gentle
reproof.

Holder smiled.

"Well," said Miss Grower, "I've had my eye on her. She has a history
--most of 'em have. But this one's out of the common. When they're brazen
like that, and have had good looks, you can nearly always tell. You've.
got to wait for something to happen, and trust to luck to be on the spot,
or near it. It's a toss-up, of course. One thing is sure, you can't
make friends with that kind if they get a notion you're up to anything."

"Sally, you must remember--" Mr. Bentley began.

Her tone became modified. Mr. Bentley was apparently the only human of
whom she stood in awe.

"All I meant was," she said, addressing the rector, "that you've got to
run across 'em in some natural way."

"I understood perfectly, and I agree with you," Holder replied. "I have
come, quite recently, to the same conclusion myself."

She gave him a penetrating glance, and he had to admit, inwardly, that a
certain satisfaction followed Miss Grower's approval.

"Mercy, I have to be going," she exclaimed, glancing at the black marble
clock on the mantel. "We've got a lot of invoices to put through to-day.
See you again, Mr. Holder." She jerked his hand once more. "Good
morning, Mr. Bentley."

"Good morning, Sally."

Mr. Bentley rose, and took his hat and gold-headed stick from the rack in
the hall.

"You mustn't mind Sally," he said, when they had reached the sidewalk.
"Sometimes her brusque manner is not understood. But she is a very
extraordinary woman."

"I can see that," the rector assented quickly, and with a heartiness
that dispelled all doubt of his liking for Miss Grower. Once more many
questions rose to his lips, which he suppressed, since Mr. Bentley
volunteered no information. Hodder became, in fact, so lost in
speculation concerning Mr. Bentley's establishment as to forget the
errand on which--they were bound. And Sally Grower's words, apropos of
the woman in the flat, seemed but an energetic driving home of the severe
lessons of his recent experiences. And how blind he had been, he
reflected, not to have seen the thing for himself! Not to have realized
the essential artificiality of his former method of approach! And then
it struck him that Sally Grower herself must have had a history.

Mr. Bentley, too, was preoccupied.

Presently, in the midst of these thoughts, Hodder's eyes were arrested by
a crowd barring the sidewalk on the block ahead; no unusual sight in that
neighbourhood, and yet one which aroused in him sensations of weakness
and nausea. Thus were the hidden vice and suffering of these sinister
places occasionally brought to light, exposed to the curious and morbid
stares of those whose own turn might come on the morrow. It was only by
degrees he comprehended that the people were gathered in front of the
house to which they were bound. An ambulance was seen to drive away: it
turned into the aide street in front of them.

"A city ambulance!" the rector exclaimed.

Mr. Bentley did not reply.

The murmuring group which overflowed the uneven brick pavement to the
asphalt was characteristic: women in calico, drudges, women in wrappers,
with sleepy, awestricken faces; idlers, men and boys who had run out of
the saloons, whose comments were more audible and caustic, and a fringe
of children ceaselessly moving on the outskirts. The crowd parted at
their approach, and they reached the gate, where a burly policeman, his
helmet in his hand, was standing in the morning sunlight mopping his face
with a red handkerchief. He greeted Mr. Bentley respectfully, by name,
and made way for them to pass in.

"What is the trouble, Ryan?" Mr. Bentley asked.

"Suicide, sir," the policeman replied. "Jumped off the bridge this
morning. A tug picked him up, but he never came to--the strength wasn't
in him. Sure it's all wore out he was. There was a letter on him, with
the home number, so they knew where to fetch him. It's a sad case, sir,
with the woman in there, and the child gone to the hospital not an hour
ago."

"You mean Garvin?" Mr. Bentley demanded.

"It's him I mean, sir."

"We'd like to go in," said Mr. Bentley. "We came to see them."

"You're welcome, air, and the minister too. It's only them I'm holdin'
back," and the policeman shook his stick at the people.

Mr. Bentley walked up the steps, and took off his hat as he went through
the battered doorway. Hodder followed, with a sense of curious faces
staring at them from the thresholds as they passed; they reached the
upper passage, and the room, and paused: the shutters were closed, the
little couch where the child had been was empty. On the bed lay a form
--covered with a sheet, and beside it a woman kneeling, shaken by sobs,
ceaselessly calling a name . . . .

A stout figure, hitherto unperceived, rose from a corner and came
silently toward them--Mrs. Breitmann. She beckoned to them, and they
followed her into a room on the same floor, where she told them what she
knew, heedless of the tears coursing ceaselessly down her cheeks.

It seemed that Mrs. Garvin had had a premonition which she had not wholly
confided to the rector. She had believed her husband never would come
back; and early in the morning, in spite of all that Mrs. Breitmann could
do, had insisted at intervals upon running downstairs and scanning the
street. At half past seven Dr. Jarvis had come and himself carried down
the child and put him in the back of his automobile. The doctor had had
a nurse with him, and had begged the mother to accompany them to the
hospital, saying that he would send her back. But she would not be
persuaded to leave the house. The doctor could not wait, and had finally
gone off with little. Dicky, leaving a powder with Mrs. Breitmann for
the mother. Then she had become uncontrollable.

"Ach, it was terrible!" said the kind woman. "She was crazy, yes--she
was not in her mind. I make a little coffee, but she will not touch it.
All those things about her home she would talk of, and how good he was,
and how she lofed him more again than the child.

"Und then the wheels in the street, and she makes a cry and runs to see
--I cannot hold her . . . ."

"It would be well not to disturb her for a while," said Mr. Bentley,
seating himself on one of the dilapidated chairs which formed apart of
the German woman's meagre furniture. "I will remain here if you, Mr.
Hodder, will make the necessary arrangements for the funeral. Have you
any objections, sir?"

"Not at all," replied the rector, and left the house, the occupants of
which had already returned to the daily round of their lives: the rattle
of dishes and the noise of voices were heard in the 'ci devant' parlour,
and on the steps he met the little waif with the pitcher of beer; in the
street the boys who had gathered around the ambulance were playing
baseball. Hodder glanced up, involuntarily, at the window of the woman
he had visited the night before, but it was empty. He hurried along the
littered sidewalks to the drug store, where he telephoned an undertaker;
and then, as an afterthought, telephoned the hospital. The boy had
arrived, and was seemingly no worse for the journey.

All this Hodder performed mechanically. Not until he was returning--not,
indeed, until he entered the house did the whiff of its degrading, heated
odours bring home to him the tragedy which it held, and he grasped the
banister on the stairs. The thought that shook him now was of the
cumulative misery of the city, of the world, of which this history on
which he had stumbled was but one insignificant incident. But he went on
into Mrs. Breitmann's room, and saw Mr. Bentley still seated where he had
left him. The old gentleman looked up at him.

"Mrs. Breitmann and I are agreed, Mr. Hodder, that Mrs. Garvin ought not
to remain in there. What do you think?"

"By all means, no," said the rector.

The German woman burst into a soliloquy of sympathy that became
incoherent.

"She will not leave him,--nein--she will not come. . . ."

They went, the three of them, to the doorway of the death chamber and
stood gazing at the huddled figure of the woman by the bedside. She had
ceased to cry out: she was as one grown numb under torture; occasionally
a convulsive shudder shook her. But when Mrs. Breitmann touched her,
spoke to her, her grief awoke again in all its violence, and it was more
by force than persuasion that she was finally removed. Mrs. Breitmann
held one arm, Mr. Bentley another, and between them they fairly carried
her out, for she was frail indeed.

As for Hodder, something held him back--some dread that he could not at
once define. And while he groped for it, he stood staring at the man on
the bed, for the hand of love had drawn back the sheet from the face.
The battle was over of this poor weakling against the world; the torments
of haunting fear and hate, of drink and despair had triumphed. The sight
of the little group of toys brought up the image of the home in Alder
Street as the wife had pictured it. Was it possible that this man, who
had gone alone to the bridge in the night, had once been happy, content
with life, grateful for it, possessed of a simple trust in his
fellow-men--in Eldon Parr? Once more, unsummoned, came the memory of that
evening of rain and thunder in the boy's room at the top of the great
horse in Park Street. He had pitied Eldon Parr then. Did he now?

He crossed the room, on tiptoe, as though he feared to wake once more
this poor wretch to his misery and hate, Gently he covered again the face
with the sheet.

Suddenly he knew the reason of his dread,--he had to face the woman!
He was a minister of Christ, it was his duty to speak to her, as he had
spoken to others in the hour of sorrow and death, of the justice and
goodness of the God to whom she had prayed in the church. What should he
say, now? In an agony of spirit, he sat down on the little couch beside
the window and buried his face in his hands. The sight of poor Garvin's
white and wasted features, the terrible contrast between this miserable
tenement and the palace with its unseen pictures and porcelains and
tapestries, brought home to him with indescribable poignancy his own
predicament. He was going to ask this woman to be comforted by faith and
trust in the God of the man who had driven her husband to death! He
beheld Eldon Parr in his pew complacently worshipping that God, who had
rewarded him with riches and success--beheld himself as another man in
his white surplice acquiescing in that God, preaching vainly . . . .

At last he got to his feet, went out of the room, reached the doorway of
that other room and looked in. Mr. Bentley sat there; and the woman,
whose tears had ceased to flow, was looking up into his face.



II

"The office ensuing," says the Book of Common Prayer, meaning the Burial
of the Dead, "is not to be used for any Unbaptized adult, any who die
excommunicate, or who have laid violent hands on themselves."

Hodder had bought, with a part of Nan Ferguson's money, a tiny plot in a
remote corner of Winterbourne Cemetery. And thither, the next morning,
the body of Richard Garvin was taken.

A few mourners had stolen into the house and up the threadbare stairs
into the miserable little back room, somehow dignified as it had never
been before, and laid their gifts upon the coffin. An odd and pitiful
assortment they were--mourners and gifts: men and women whose only bond
with the man in life had been the bond of misery; who had seen him as he
had fared forth morning after morning in the hopeless search for work,
and slunk home night after night bitter and dejected; many of whom had
listened, jeeringly perhaps, to his grievance against the world, though
it were in some sort their own. Death, for them, had ennobled him. The
little girl whom Hodder had met with the pitcher of beer came tiptoeing
with a wilted bunch of pansies, picked heaven knows where; stolen, maybe,
from one of the gardens of the West End. Carnations, lilies of the
valley, geraniums even--such were the offerings scattered loosely on the
lid until a woman came with a mass of white roses that filled the room
with their fragrance,--a woman with burnished red hair. Hodder started
as he recognized her; her gaze was a strange mixture of effrontery and
--something else; sorrow did not quite express it. The very lavishness of
her gift brought to him irresistibly the reminder of another offering.
. . . . She was speaking.

"I don't blame him for what he done--I'd have done it, too, if I'd been
him. But say, I felt kind of bad when I heard it, knowing about the kid,
and all. I had to bring something--"

Instinctively Hodder surmised that she was in doubt as to the acceptance
of her flowers. He took them from her hand, and laid them at the foot of
the coffin.

"Thank you," he said, simply.

She stared at him a moment with the perplexity she had shown at times on
the night he visited her, and went out. . .

Funerals, if they might be dignified by this name, were not infrequent
occurrences in Dalton Street, and why this one should have been looked
upon as of sufficient importance to collect a group of onlookers at the
gate it is difficult to say. Perhaps it was because of the seeming
interest in it of the higher powers--for suicide and consequent widows
and orphans were not unknown there. This widow and this orphan were to
be miraculously rescued, were to know Dalton Street no more. The rector
of a fashionable church, of all beings, was the agent in the miracle.
Thus the occasion was tinged with awe. As for Mr. Bentley, his was a
familiar figure, and had been remarked in Dalton Street funerals before.

They started, the three mourners, on the long drive to the cemetery,
through unfrequented streets lined with mediocre dwellings, interspersed
with groceries and saloons--short cuts known only to hearse drivers: they
traversed, for some distance, that very Wilderness road where Mr.
Bentley's old-fashioned mansion once had stood on its long green slope,
framed by ancient trees; the Wilderness road, now paved with hot blocks
of granite over which the carriage rattled; spread with car tracks,
bordered by heterogeneous buildings of all characters and descriptions,
bakeries and breweries, slaughter houses and markets, tumble-down
shanties, weedy corner lots and "refreshment-houses" that announced
"Lager Beer, Wines and Liquors." At last they came to a region which was
neither country nor city, where the road-houses were still in evidence,
where the glass roofs of greenhouses caught the burning rays of the sun,
where yards filled with marble blocks and half-finished tombstones
appeared, and then they turned into the gates of Winterbourne.

Like the city itself, there was a fashionable district in Winterbourne:
unlike the city, this district remained stationary. There was no soot
here, and if there had been, the dead would not have minded it. They
passed the Prestons and the Parrs; the lots grew smaller, the tombstones
less pretentious; and finally they came to an open grave on a slope where
the trees were still young, and where three men of the cemetery force
lifted the coffin from the hearse--Richard Garvin's pallbearers.

John Hodder might not read the service, but there was none to tell him
that the Gospel of John was not written for this man. He stood an the
grass beside the grave, and a breeze from across the great river near by
stirred the maple leaves above his head. "I am the resurrection and the
life, saith the Lord; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet
shall he live." Nor was there any canon to forbid the words of Paul:
"It is sown in corruption; it is raised in in corruption; it is sown in
dishonour; it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in
power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body."

They laid the flowers on the fresh earth, even the white roses, and then
they drove back to the city.



CHAPTER XIV

A SATURDAY AFTERNOON


I

The sight of a certain old gentleman as he walked along the shady side of
Twenty-second Street about two o'clock on a broiling Saturday afternoon
in midsummer was one not easily to be forgotten. A younger man, tall and
vigorous, clad in a thin suit of blue serge, walked by his side. They
were followed by a shouting troop of small boys who overran the
pavements, and some of whom were armed with baseball bats. The big
trolley car was hailed by a dozen dirty little hands.

Even the grumpy passengers were disarmed. The conductor took Mr.
Bentley's bill deprecatingly, as much as to say that the newly organized
Traction Company--just out of the receivers' hands--were the Moloch, not
he, and rang off the fares under protest. And Mr. Bentley, as had been
his custom for years, sat down and took off his hat, and smiled so
benignly at those around him that they immediately began to talk, to him.
It was always irresistible, this desire to talk to Mr. Bentley. If you
had left your office irritated and out of sorts, your nerves worn to an
edge by the uninterrupted heat, you invariably got off at your corner
feeling better. It was Phil Goodrich who had said that Horace Bentley
had only to get on a Tower Street car to turn it into a church. And if
he had chosen to establish that 'dernier cri' of modern civilization
where ladies go who have 'welt-schmerz' without knowing why,
--a sanitarium, he might have gained back again all the money he had lost
in giving his Grantham stock to Eldon Parr.

Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, he could have emptied Dalton Street of
its children. In the first place, there was the irresistible inducement
to any boy to ride several miles on a trolley without having this right
challenged by the irate guardian of the vehicle, without being summarily
requested to alight at twenty-five miles an hour: in the second place,
there was the soda water and sweet biscuit partaken of after the baseball
game in that pavilion, more imposing in one's eyes than the Taj Mahal.
Mr. Bentley would willingly have taken all Dalton Street. He had his own
'welt-schmerz', though he did not go to a sanitarium to cure it; he was
forced to set an age limit of ten, and then establish a high court of
appeal; for there were boys whose biographies, if they are ever written,
will be as hazy as those of certain world-wide celebrities who might be
mentioned concerning the date and exact spot of the entrance of their
heroes into the light. The solemn protestations, the tears,
the recrimination even, brought pangs to the old gentleman's heart,
for with all the will in the world he had been forced in the nature
of things, to set a limit.

This limit had recently been increased by the unlooked-for appearance on
these excursions of the tall man in the blue serge suit, whose knowledge
of the national game and of other matters of vital import to youth was
gratifying if sometimes disconcerting; who towered, an unruffled
Gulliver, over their Lilliputian controversies, in which bats were waved
and fists brought into play and language used on the meaning of which
the Century dictionary is silent. On one former occasion, indeed,
Mr. Bentley had found moral suasion, affection, and veneration of no
avail, and had had to invoke the friendly aid of a park policeman to
quell one of these incipient riots. To Mr. Bentley baseball was as a
sealed book. The tall man's justice, not always worthy of the traditions
of Solomon, had in it an element of force. To be lifted off the ground
by strong arms at the moment you are about to dust the home plate with
your adversary is humiliating, but effective. It gradually became
apparent that a decision was a decision. And one Saturday this
inexplicable person carried in his hand a mysterious package which, when
opened, revealed two pairs of diminutive boxing gloves. They instantly
became popular.

By the time they had made the accidental and somewhat astounding
discovery that he was a parson, they were willing to overlook it; in
view, perhaps, of his compensating accomplishments. Instead of advising
them to turn the other cheek, he taught them uppercuts, feints, and jabs,
and on the proof of this unexpected acquaintance with a profession all of
them openly admired, the last vestige of reserve disappeared. He was
accepted without qualifications.



II

Although the field to which they resorted was not in the most frequented
section of the park, pedestrians often passed that way, and sometimes
lingered. Thus, towards the close of a certain Saturday in July, a young
woman walked out of the wood path and stood awhile gazing intently at the
active figure striding among the diminutive, darting forms. Presently,
with an amused expression, she turned her head to discover Mr. Bentley,
who sat on a green bench under a tree, his hat and stick on the grass
beside him. She was unaware that he had been looking at her.

"Aren't they having a good time!" she said, and the genuine thrill in her
voice betrayed a rare and unmistakable pleasure.

"Ah," replied Mr. Bentley, smiling back at her, "you like to see them,
too. Most persons do. Children are not meant for the city, my dear
young lady, their natural home is in the woods and fields, and these
little fellows are a proof of it. When they come out here, they run
wild. You perceive," he added with a twinkle, as an expletive of
unquestionable vigour was hurled across the diamond, "they are not
always so polite as they might be."

The young woman smiled again, but the look she gave him was a puzzled
one. And then, quite naturally, she sank, down on the grass, on the
other side of Mr. Bentley's hat, watching the game for a while in
silence.

"What a tyrant!" she exclaimed. Another uproar had been quelled,
and two vigorously protesting runners sent back to their former bases.

"Oh, a benevolent tyrant," Mr. Bentley corrected her. "Mr. Hodder has
the gift of managing boys,--he understands them. And they require a
strong hand. His generation has had the training which mine lacked. In
my day, at college, we worked off our surplus energy on the unfortunate
professors, and we carried away chapel bells and fought with the
townspeople."

It required some effort, she found, to imagine this benevolent looking
old gentleman assaulting professors.

"Nowadays they play baseball and football, and box!" He pointed to the
boxing gloves on the grass. "Mr. Hodder has taught them to settle their
differences in that way; it is much more sensible."

She picked off the white clover-tops.

"So that is Mr. Hodder, of St. John's," she said.

"Ah, you know him, then?"

"I've met him," she answered quietly. "Are these children connected with
his church?"

"They are little waifs from Dalton Street and that vicinity," said Mr.
Bentley. "Very few of them, I should imagine, have ever been inside of a
church."

She seemed surprised.

"But--is it his habit to bring them out here?" The old gentleman beamed
on her, perhaps with the hint of a smile at her curiosity.

"He has found time for it, this summer. It is very good of him."

She refrained from comment on this remark, falling into reflection,
leaning back, with one hand outstretched, on the grass. The game went on
vociferously, the shrill lithe voices piercing the silence of the summer
afternoon. Mr. Bentley's eyes continued to rest on her.

"Tell me," he inquired, after a while, "are you not Alison Parr?"

She glanced up at him, startled. "Yes."

"I thought so, although I have not seen you since you were a little girl.
I knew your mother very well indeed, but it is too much to expect you to
remember me, after all this time. No doubt you have forgotten my name.
I am Mr. Bentley."

"Mr. Bentley!" she cried, sitting upright and gazing at him. "How stupid
of me not to have known you! You couldn't have been any one else."

It was the old gentleman's turn to start. She rose impulsively and sat
down on the bench beside him, and his hand trembled as he laid it in
hers.

"Yes, my dear, I am still alive. But surely you cannot remember me,
Alison?"

The old look of almost stubborn honesty he recalled in the child came
into her eyes.

"I do--and I don't," she said, perplexed. "It seemed to me as if I ought
to have recognized you when I came up, and yet I hadn't the slightest
notion who you were. I knew you were somebody."

He shook his head, but did not speak.

"But you have always been a fact in my existence--that is what I want to
say," she went on. "It must be possible to remember a person and not
recognize him, that is what I feel. I can remember you coming to our
house in Ransome Street, and how I looked forward to your visits. And
you used to have little candy beans in your pockets," she cried. "Have
you now?"

His eyes were a little dimmed as he reached, smilingly, into the skirts
of a somewhat shiny but scrupulously brushed coat and produced a brightly
colored handful. She took one, and put it in her mouth:

"Oh," she said, "how good they were--Isn't it strange how a taste brings
back events? I can remember it all as if it were yesterday, and how I
used to sit on your knee, and mother would tell me not to bother you."

"And now--you are grown," he said.

"Something more than grown," she smiled. "I was thirty-one in May.
Tell me," she asked, choosing another of the beans which he still
absently held, "do you get them for these?" And she nodded toward the
Dalton Street waifs.

"Yes," he said, "they are children, too."

"I can remember," she said, after a pause, "I can remember my mother
speaking of you to me the year she died. I was almost grown, then. It
was after we had moved up to Park Street, and her health had already
begun to fail. That made an impression on me, but I have forgotten what
she said--it was apropos of some recollection. No--it was a photograph
--she was going over some old things." Alison ceased speaking abruptly,
for the pain in Mr. Bentley's remarkable grey eyes had not escaped her.
What was it about him? Why could she not recall? Long-forgotten,
shadowy episodes of the past tormented her, flitted provokingly through
her mind--ungrasped: words dropped in her presence which had made their
impression, but the gist of which was gone. Why had Mr. Bentley ceased
coming to the house? So strongly did she feel his presence now that the
thought occurred to her,--perhaps her mother had not wished her to forget
him!

"I did not suspect," she heard him saying, "that you would go out into
the world and create the beautiful gardens of which I have heard. But
you had no lack of spirit in those days, too."

"I was a most disagreeable child, perverse,--cantankerous--I can hear my
mother saying it! As for the gardens--they have given me something to
do, they have kept me out of mischief. I suppose I ought to be thankful,
but I still have the rebellious streak when I see what others have done,
what others are doing, and I sometimes wonder what right I ever had to
think that I might create something worth while."

He glanced at her quickly as she sat with bent head.

"Others put a higher value on what you have done."

"Oh, they don't know--" she exclaimed.

If something were revealed to him by her tone, he did not betray it, but
went on cheerfully.

"You have been away a long time, Alison. It must interest you to come
back, and see the changes in our Western civilization. We are moving
very rapidly--in certain directions," he corrected himself.

She appraised his qualification.

"In certain directions,--yes. But they are little better in the East.
I have scarcely been back," she added, "since I went to Paris to study.
I have often thought I should like to return and stay awhile, only
--I never seemed to get time. Now I am going over a garden for my father
which was one of my first efforts, and which has always reproached me."

"And you do not mind the heat?" he asked. "Those who go East to live
return to find our summers oppressive."

"Oh, I'm a salamander, I think," Alison laughed.

Thus they sat chatting, interrupted once or twice by urchins too small
to join in the game, who came running to Mr. Bentley and stood staring
at Alison as at a being beyond the borders of experience: and she would
smile at them quite as shyly,--children being beyond her own. Her
imagination was as keen, as unspoiled as a child's, and was stimulated by
a sense of adventure, of the mystery which hung about this fine old
gentleman who betrayed such sentiment for a mother whom she had loved and
admired and still secretly mourned. Here, if there had been no other,
was a compelling bond of sympathy . . . .

The shadows grew longer, the game broke up. And Hodder, surrounded by
an argumentative group keeping pace with him, came toward them from the
field; Alison watched him curiously as he turned this way and that to
answer the insistent questions with which he was pelted, and once she saw
him stride rapidly after a dodging delinquent and seize him by the collar
amidst piercing yells of approval, and derision for the rebel.

"It's remarkable how he gets along with them," said Mr. Bentley, smiling
at the scene. "Most of them have never known what discipline is."

The chorus approached. And Hodder, recognizing her, dropped the collar
he held: A young woman conversing with Mr. Bentley--was no unusual sight,
--he had made no speculations as to this one's identity. He left the
boys, and drew near.

"You know Miss Parr, I believe," the old gentleman said.

Hodder took her hand. He had often tried to imagine his feelings if he
should meet her again: what he should do and say,--what would be their
footing. And now he had no time to prepare . . . .

"It is so strange," she said, with that note of wonder at life in her
voice which he recalled so well, "that I should have come across Mr.
Bentley here after so many years. How many years, Mr. Bentley?"

"Ah, my dear," he protested, "my measurements would not be yours."

"It is better for both of us not to say, Alison declared, laughingly.

"You knew Mr. Bentley?" asked Hodder, astonished.

"He was a very dear friend of my mother's, although I used to appropriate
him when he came to our house. It was when we lived in Ransome Street,
ages ago. But I don't think Mr. Bentley has grown a bit older."

"He is one of the few who have found the secret of youth," said the
rector.

But the old gentleman had moved off into the path, or perhaps it would be
more accurate to say that he was carried off by the swarm which clustered
around him, two smaller ones tugging at his hand, and all intent upon
arriving at the soda-water pavilion near the entrance. They had followed
him with their eyes, and they saw him turn around and smile at them,
helplessly. Alison presented a perplexed face to Hodder.

"Does he bring them here,--or you?" she asked.

"I--" he hesitated. "Mr. Bentley has done this every Saturday afternoon
for years," he said, "I am merely one of them."

She looked at him quickly. They had started to follow, in the cool path
beneath the forest trees. Restraint fell upon them, brought about by the
memory of the intimacy of their former meeting, further complicated on
Hodder's part by his new attitude toward her father, and his finding her
in the company, of all persons, of Mr. Bentley. Unuttered queries
pressed on the minds of both.

"Tell me about Mr. Bentley," she said.

Hodder hesitated.

"I scarcely know where to begin," he replied, yet smiling at the
characteristic abruptness of her question. The modulations of her voice
revealed again the searching, inquisitive spirit within her, and his
responded to the intensity of the interest in Mr. Bentley.

"Begin anywhere."

"Anywhere?" he repeated, seeking to gain time.

"Yes--anywhere," she said impatiently.

"Well, he lives in Dalton Street, if you recall what kind of a place that
is" (she nodded), "and he is known from one end of it to the other."

"I see what he is--he is the most extraordinary person I have ever known.
Just to talk to him gives one such a queer feeling of--of dissatisfaction
with one's self, and seeing him once more seems to have half revived in
me a whole series of dead memories. And I have been trying to think, but
it is all so tantalizing. There is some mystery about him," she
insisted. "He disappeared suddenly, and my mother never mentioned him
but once afterward, but other persons have spoken of him since--I forget
who. He was so well known, and he used to go to St. John's."

"Yes, he used to go to St. John's."

"What happened to him--do you know? The reason he stopped coming to our
house was some misunderstanding with my father, of course. I am positive
my mother never changed her feelings toward him."

"I can only tell you what he has told me, which is all I know
--authoritatively," Hodder replied. How could he say to her that her
father had ruined Mr. Bentley? Indeed, with a woman of her fearlessness
and honesty--and above all, her intuition,--he felt the cruelty of his
position keenly. Hodder did not relish half truths; and he felt
that, however scant his intercourse in the future might be with Alison
Parr, he would have liked to have kept it on that basis of frankness in
which it had begun. But the exact stage of disillusionment she had
reached in regard to Eldon Parr was unknown to him, and he feared that
a further revelation might possibly sever the already precarious tie
between father and daughter.

He recounted, therefore, that Mr. Bentley had failed; and how he had
before that given much of his estate away in charity, how he had been
unable to keep his pew in St. John's, and had retired to the house in
Dalton Street.

For some moments after he had finished Alison did not reply.

"What is his number in Dalton Street?" she asked.

Hodder informed her.

He could not read in her face whether she suspected that he could have
told her more. And in spite of an inordinate, human joy in being again
in her presence, his desire to hide from her that which had taken place
within him, and the inability he felt to read his future, were
instinctive: the more so because of the very spontaneity they had
achieved at their first meeting. As a man, he shrank from confessing
to her, however indirectly, the fact that she herself was so vital an
element in his disillusionment. For the conversation in the garden had
been the immediate cause of the inner ferment ending in his resolution to
go away, and had directed him, by logical steps, to the encounter in the
church with Mrs. Garvin.

"You have not yet finished the garden?" he asked. "I imagined you back
in the East by this time."

"Oh, I am procrastinating," she replied. "It is a fit of sheer laziness.
I ought to be elsewhere, but I was born without a conscience. If I had
one I should try to quiet it by reminding it that I am fulfilling a
long-delayed promise--I am making a garden for Mrs. Larrabbee. You know
her, of course, since she is a member of your congregation."

"Yes, I know her," he assented. And his mind was suddenly filled with
vivid colour,--cobalt seas, and arsenic-green spruces with purple cones,
cardinal-striped awnings that rattled in the salt breeze, and he saw once
more the panorama of the life which had passed from him and the woman in
the midst of it. And his overwhelming thought was of relief that he had
somehow escaped. In spite of his unhappiness now, he would not have gone
back. He realized for the first time that he had been nearer
annihilation then than to-day.

"Grace isn't here to bother me with the ideas she has picked up in Europe
and catalogued," Alison continued.

"Catalogued!" Hodder exclaimed, struck by the pertinency of the word.

"Yes. Did you ever know anybody who had succeeded half so well in
piecing together and absorbing into a harmonized whole all the divergent,
artificial elements that enter into the conventional world to-day? Her
character might be called a triumph of synthesis. For she has actually
achieved an individuality--that is what always surprises me when I think
of her. She has put the puzzle picture together, she has become a
person."

He remembered, with a start, that this was the exact word Mrs. Larrabbee
had used about Alison Parr. If he had searched the world, he could not
have found a greater contrast than that between these two women. And
when she spoke again, he was to be further struck by her power of logical
insight.

"Grace wants me because she thinks I have become the fashion--for the
same reason that Charlotte Plimpton wants me. Only there is this
difference--Grace will know the exact value of what I shall have done.
Not that she thinks me a Le Notre"--Alison laughed--"What I mean is, she
sees behind, she sees why it is fashionable to have a garden, since she
has worked out the values of that existence. But there!" Alison added,
with a provocative touch that did not escape him, "I am picking your
parishioners to pieces again."

"You have more right than I," he replied, "they have been your friends
since childhood."

"I thought you had gone away," she said.

"Why?" he demanded. Had she been to church again?

"My father told me before he left that you were to take a cruise with him
on the yacht he has chartered."

"He wrote me from New York--I was unable to go," Hodder said slowly.

He felt her gaze upon him, but resolutely refused to meet it. . . .
They walked on in silence until they came to the more open spaces near
the edge of the Park, thronged that Saturday evening by crowds which had
sought the, city's breathing space. Perfect trees cast long, fantastic
shadows across the lawns, fountains flung up rainbows from the midst of
lakes; children of the tenements darted hither and thither, rolled and
romped on the grass; family parties picnicked everywhere, and a very
babel of tongues greeted the ear--the languages of Europe from Sweden to
Italy.

Suddenly an exclamation from her aroused and thrilled him.

"Isn't it wonderful how happy they are, and with what simple pleasures
they are satisfied! I often come over here on Saturdays and Sundays,
just to talk to them."

"Talk to them!" he echoed stupidly. "In their own languages?"

"Oh, I know a little German and Italian, though I can't lay claim to
Czech," she answered gayly. "Why are you so surprised that I should
possess such modest accomplishments?"

"It's not the accomplishments." He hesitated.

"No. You are surprised that I should be interested in humanity." She
stood facing him. "Well, I am," she said, half humorously, half
defiantly. "I believe I am more interested in human beings than in
anything else in the world--when they are natural, as these people are
and when they will tell one their joys and their troubles and their
opinions."

"Enthusiasm, self-assertion, had as usual, transformed her, and he saw
the colour glowing under her olive skin. Was she accusing him of a lack
of frankness?

"And why," he asked, collecting himself, "did you think--" he got no
further.

"It's because you have an idea that I'm a selfish Epicurean, if that
isn't tautology--because I'm interested in a form of art, the rest of the
world can go hang. You have a prejudice against artists. I wish I
really were one, but I'm not."

This speech contained so many surprises for him that he scarcely knew how
to answer it.

"Give me a little time," he begged, "and perhaps I'll get over my
prejudices. The worst of them, at any rate. You are helping me to do
so." He tried to speak lightly, but his tone was more serious in the
next sentence. "It seems to me personally that you have proved your
concern for your fellow-creatures."

Her colour grew deeper, her manner changed.

"That gives me the opportunity to say something I have hoped to say, ever
since I saw you. I hoped I should see you again."

"You are not going away soon?" he exclaimed.

The words were spoken before he grasped their significance.

"Not at once. I don't know how long I shall stay," she answered
hurriedly, intent upon what was in her mind. "I have thought a great
deal about what I said to you that afternoon, and I find it more than
ever difficult to excuse myself. I shan't attempt to. I merely mean to
ask you to forgive me."

"There is nothing to forgive," he assured her, under the influence of the
feeling she had aroused.

"It's nice of you to say so, and to take it as you did--nicer than I can
express. I am afraid I shall never learn to appreciate that there may be
other points of view toward life than my own. And I should have realized
and sympathized with the difficulties of your position, and that you were
doing the best under the circumstances."

"No," he exclaimed, "don't say that! Your other instinct was the truer
one, if indeed you have really changed it--I don't believe you have." He
smiled at her again. "You didn't hurt my feelings, you did me a service.
I told you so at the time, and I meant it. And, more than that, I
understood."

"You understood--?"

"You were not criticizing me, you were--what shall I say?--merely trying
to iron out some of the inconsistencies of life. Well, you helped me to
iron out some of the inconsistencies of my own. I am profoundly
grateful."

She gazed at him, puzzled. But he did not, he could not enlighten her.
Some day she would discover what he meant.

"If so, I am glad," she said, in a low voice.

They were standing in the midst of the crowd that thronged around the
pavilion. An urchin caught hold of the rector's coat.

"Here he is! Say, Mr. Hodder, ain't you going to have any sody?"

"Certainly we are," he replied, returning Alison's faint smile . . . .
In the confusion that followed he caught a glimpse of her talking to Mr.
Bentley; and later, after he had taken her hand, his eyes followed her
figure wending its way in the evening light through the groups toward
Park Street, and he saw above the tree-tops the red tiled roof of the
great house in which she was living, alone.



CHAPTER XV

THE CRUCIBLE


I

For better or worse John Hodder had flung his treasured beliefs into the
crucible, and one by one he watched them crumble and consume away. None
but his own soul knew what it cost him to make the test; and some times,
in the early stages of it, he would cast down his book under the lamp and
walk for hours in the night. Curiosity, and the despair of one who is
lost impelled him to persist.

It had been said of him that he had a talent for the law, and he now
discovered that his mind, once freed, weighed the evidence with a
pitiless logic, paid its own tribute--despite the anguish of the heart
--to the pioneers of truth whose trail it followed into the Unknown, who
had held no Mystery more sacred than Truth itself, who had dared to
venture into the nothingness between the whirling worlds.

He considered them, those whirling worlds, at night. Once they had been
the candles of Jehovah, to light the path of his chosen nation, to herald
the birth of his Son. And now? How many billions of blind, struggling
creatures clung to them? Where now was this pin-point of humanity, in
the midst of an appalling spectacle of a grinding, remorseless nature?

And that obscure Event on which he had staked his hopes? Was He, as John
had written, the First Born of the Universe, the Word Incarnate of a
system that defied time and space, the Logos of an outworn philosophy?
Was that Universe conscious, as Berkeley had declared, or the blind
monster of substance alone, or energy, as some modern scientists brutally
and triumphantly maintained? Where was the Spirit that breathed in it of
hope?

Such were some of the questions that thronged for solution. What was
mind, what spirit? an attenuated vapour of the all-pervading substance?

He could not permit himself to dwell on these thoughts--madness lay that
way. Madness, and a watching demon that whispered of substance, and
sought to guide his wanderings in the night. Hodder clung to the shell
of reality, to the tiny panorama of the visible and the finite, to the
infinitesimal gropings that lay recorded before him on the printed page.
Let him examine these first, let him discover--despite the price--what
warrant the mind of man (the only light now vouchsafed to him in his
darkness) gave him to speculate and to hope concerning the existence
of a higher, truer Reality than that which now tossed and wounded him.
It were better to know.

Scarcely had the body been lifted from the tree than the disputes
commenced, the adulterations crept in. The spontaneity, the fire and
zeal of the self-sacrificing itinerant preachers gave place to the
paralyzing logic then pervading the Roman Empire, and which had sent its
curse down the ages to the modern sermon; the geometrical rules of Euclid
were made to solve the secrets of the universe. The simple faith of the
cross which had inspired the martyr along the bloody way from Ephesus to
the Circus at Rome was formalized by degrees into philosophy: the faith
of future ages was settled by compromises, by manipulation, by bribery in
Councils of the Church which resembled modern political conventions, and
in which pagan Emperors did not hesitate to exert their influence over
the metaphysical bishops of the factions. Recriminations, executions,
murders--so the chronicles ran.

The prophet, the idealist disappeared, the priest with his rites and
ceremonies and sacrifices, his power to save and damn, was once more in
possession of the world.

The Son of Man was degraded into an infant in his mother's arms. An
unhealthy, degenerating asceticism, drawn from pagan sources, began with
the monks and anchorites of Egypt and culminated in the spectacle of
Simeon's pillar. The mysteries of Eleusis, of Attis, Mithras, Magna
Mater and Isis developed into Christian sacraments--the symbol became
the thing itself. Baptism the confession of the new life, following
the customs of these cults, became initiation; and from the same
superstitious origins, the repellent materialistic belief that to eat
of the flesh and drink of the blood of a god was to gain immortality:
immortality of the body, of course.


Ah, when the superstitions of remote peoples, the fables and myths, were
taken away; when the manufactured history and determinism of the
Israelites from the fall of man to the coming of that Messiah, whom the
Jews crucified because he failed to bring them their material Kingdom,
were discredited; when the polemic and literal interpretations of
evangelists had been rejected, and the pious frauds of tampering monks;
when the ascetic Buddhism was removed; the cults and mysteries, the
dogmas of an ancient naive philosophy discarded; the crude science of a
Ptolemy who conceived the earth as a flat terrestrial expanse and hell
as a smoking pit beneath proved false; the revelation of a Holy City of
jasper and gold and crystal, the hierarchy with its divine franchise to
save and rule and conquer,--when all these and more were eliminated from
Christianity, what was left?

Hodder surveyed the ruins. And his mind recalled, that Sunday of rain in
New York which had been the turning-point in his life, when he had
listened to the preacher, when he had walked the streets unmindful of the
wet, led on by visions, racked by fears. And the same terror returned to
him now after all the years of respite, tenfold increased, of falling in
the sight of man from the topmost tower.

What was to become of him, now that the very driving power of life was
gone? Where would he go? to what might he turn his hand, since all were
vanity and illusion? Careers meant nothing, had any indeed been possible
to a man forty, left staring at stark reality after the rainbow had
vanished. Nineveh had mocked and conquered him who had thought himself
a conqueror. Self flew back and swung on its central pivot and took
command. His future, his fate, what was to become of him. Who else now
was to be considered? And what was to restrain him from reaching out his
hand to pluck the fruit which he desired? . . .



II

What control from the Unknown is this which now depresses and now
releases the sensitive thing called the soul of man, and sends it upward
again until the green light of hope shines through the surface water?
He might have grown accustomed, Holder thought, to the obscurity of the
deeps; in which, after a while, the sharp agony of existence became
dulled, the pressure benumbing. He was conscious himself, at such times,
of no inner recuperation. Something drew him up, and he would find
himself living again, at length to recognize the hand if not to
comprehend the power.

The hand was Horace Bentley's.

What was the source of that serenity which shone on the face of his
friend? Was it the light of faith? Faith in--what? Humanity, Mr.
Bentley had told him on that first evening when they had met: faith in a
world filled with cruelties, disillusionments, lies, and cheats! On what
Authority was it based? Holder never asked, and no word of theology ever
crossed Mr. Bentley's lips; not by so much as a sign did he betray any
knowledge he may have had of the drama taking place in Holder's soul; no
comment escaped him on the amazing anomalies of the life the rector was
leading, in the Church but not of it.

It was only by degrees Holder came to understand that no question would
be asked, and the frequency of his visits to Dalton Street increased.
He directed his steps thither sometimes hurriedly, as though pursued, as
to a haven from a storm. And a haven it was indeed! At all hours of the
day he came, and oftener in the night, in those first weeks, and if Mr.
Bentley were not at home the very sight of the hospitable old darky
brought surging up within him a sense of security, of, relief; the
library itself was filled with the peace of its owner. How many others
had brought their troubles here, had been lightened on the very threshold
of this sanctuary!

Gradually Hodder began to realize something of their numbers. Gradually,
as he was drawn more and more into the network of the relationships of
this extraordinary man,--nay, as he inevitably became a part of that
network,--a period of bewilderment ensued. He found himself involved,
and quite naturally, in unpremeditated activities, running errands,
forming human ties on a human basis. No question was asked, no
credentials demanded or rejected. Who he was made no difference
--he was a friend of Horace Bentley's. He had less time to read, less
time to think, to scan the veil of his future.

He had run through a score of volumes, critical, philosophical,
scientific, absorbing their contents, eagerly anticipating their
conclusions; filled, once he had begun, with a mania to destroy,
a savage determination to leave nothing,--to level all . . . .

And now, save for the less frequent relapsing moods, he had grown
strangely unconcerned about his future, content to live in the presence
of this man; to ignore completely the aspects of a life incomprehensible
to the few, besides Mr. Bentley, who observed it.

What he now mostly felt was relief, if not a faint self-congratulation
that he had had the courage to go through with it, to know the worst.
And he was conscious even, at times, of a faint reviving sense of freedom
he had not known since the days at Bremerton. If the old dogmas were
false, why should he regret them? He began to see that, once he had
suspected their falsity, not to have investigated were to invite decay;
and he pictured himself growing more unctuous, apologetic, plausible.
He had, at any rate, escaped the more despicable fate, and if he went to
pieces now it would be as a man, looking the facts in the face,--not as
a coward and a hypocrite.

Late one afternoon, when he dropped in at Mr. Bentley's house, he was
informed by Sam that a lady was awaiting Mr. Bentley in the library.
As Hodder opened the door he saw a tall, slim figure of a woman with her
back toward him. She was looking at the photographs on the mantel.

It was Alison Parr!

He remembered now that she had asked for Mr. Bentley's number, but it had
never occurred to him that he might one day find her here. And as she
turned he surprised in her eyes a shyness he had never seen in them
before. Thus they stood gazing at each other a moment before either
spoke.

"Oh, I thought you were Mr. Bentley," she said.

"Have you been waiting long?" he asked.

"Three quarters of an hour, but I haven't minded it. This is such an
interesting room, with its pictures and relics and books. It has a
soothing effect, hasn't it? To come here is like stepping out of the
turmoil of the modern world into a peaceful past."

He was struck by the felicity of her description.

"You have been here before?" he asked.

"Yes." She settled herself in the armchair; and Hodder, accepting the
situation, took the seat beside her. "Of course I came, after I had found
out who Mr. Bentley was. The opportunity to know him again--was not to
be missed."

"I can understand that," he assented.

"That is, if a child can even be said to know such a person as Mr.
Bentley. Naturally, I didn't appreciate him in those days--children
merely accept, without analyzing. And I have not yet been able to
analyze,--I can only speculate and consider."

Her enthusiasm never failed to stir and excite Hodder. Nor would he have
thought it possible that a new value could be added to Mr. Bentley in his
eyes. Yet so it was.

He felt within him, as she spoke, the quickening of a stimulus.

"When I came in a little while ago," Alison continued, "I found a woman
in black, with such a sweet, sad face. We began a conversation. She had
been through a frightful experience. Her husband had committed suicide,
her child had been on the point of death, and she says that she lies
awake nights now thinking in terror of what might have happened to her
if you and Mr. Bentley hadn't helped her. She's learning to be a
stenographer. Do you remember her?--her name is Garvin."

"Did she say--anything more?" Hodder anxiously demanded.

"No," said Alison, surprised by his manner, "except that Mr. Bentley had
found her a place to live, near the hospital, with a widow who was a
friend of his. And that the child was well, and she could look life in
the face again. Oh, it is terrible to think that people all around us
are getting into such straits, and that we are so indifferent to it!"

Hodder did not speak at once. He was wondering, now that she had renewed
her friendship with Mr. Bentley, whether certain revelations on her part
were not inevitable . . . .

She was regarding him, and he was aware that her curiosity was aflame.
Again he wondered whether it were curiosity or--interest.

"You did not tell me, when we met in the Park, that you were no longer
at St. John's."

Did Mr. Bentley tell you?"

"No. He merely said he saw a great deal of you. Martha Preston told me.
She is still here, and goes to church occasionally. She was much
surprised to learn that you were in the city.

"I am still living in the parish house," he said. "I am--taking my
vacation."

"With Mr. Bentley?" Her eyes were still on his face.

"With Mr. Bentley," he replied.

He had spoken without bitterness. Although there had indeed been
bitterness in his soul, it passed away in the atmosphere of Mr. Bentley's
house. The process now taking place in him was the same complication of
negative and positive currents he had felt in her presence before. He
was surprised to find that his old antipathy to agnosticism held over,
in her case; to discover, now, that he was by no means, as yet, in view
of the existence of Horace Bentley, to go the full length of unbelief!
On the other hand, he saw that she had divined much of what had happened
to him, and he felt radiating from her a sympathetic understanding which
seemed almost a claim. She had a claim, although he could not have said
of what it was constituted. Their personal relationship bore
responsibilities. It suddenly came over him, in fact, that the two
persons who in all the world were nearest him were herself and Mr.
Bentley! He responded, scarce knowing why he did so, to the positive
current.

"With Mr. Bentley," he repeated, smiling, and meeting her eyes, "I have
been learning something about the actual conditions of life in a modern
city."

She bent a little toward him in one of those spontaneous movements that
characterized her.

"Tell me--what is his life?" she asked. "I have seen so little of it,
and he has told me nothing himself. At first, in the Park, I saw only a
kindly old gentleman, with a wonderful, restful personality, who had been
a dear friend of my mother's. I didn't connect those boys with him. But
since then--since I have been here twice, I have seen other things which
make me wonder how far his influence extends." She paused.

"I, too, have wondered," said the rector, thoughtfully. "When I met him,
I supposed he were merely living in simple relationships with his
neighbours here in Dalton Street, but by degrees I have discovered that
his relationships are as wide as the city itself. And they have grown
naturally--by radiation, as it were. One incident has led to another,
one act of kindness to another, until now there seems literally no end to
the men and women with whom he is in personal touch, who are ready to do
anything in their power for him at any time. It is an institution, in
fact, wholly unorganized, which in the final analysis is one man. And
there is in it absolutely nothing of that element which has come to be
known as charity."

Alison listened with parted lips.

"To give you an example," he went on, gradually be coming fired by his
subject, by her absorption, "since you have mentioned Mrs. Garvin, I will
tell you what happened in that case. It is typical of many. It was a
question of taking care of this woman, who was worn out and crushed,
until she should recover sufficiently to take care of herself. Mr.
Bentley did not need any assistance from me to get the boy into the
hospital--Dr. Jarvis worships him. But the mother. I might possibly
have got her into an institutional home--Mr. Bentley did better than
that, far better. On the day of the funeral we went directly from the
cemetery to the house of a widow who owns a little fruit farm beyond the
Park. Her name is Bledsoe, and it is not an exaggeration to say that her
house, small as it is, contains an endowed room always at Mr. Bentley's
disposal.

"Mrs. Garvin is there now. She was received as a friend, as a guest
--not as an inmate, a recipient of charity. I shall never forget how that
woman ran out in the sun when she saw us coming, how proud she was to be
able to do this thing, how she ushered us into the little parlour, that
was all swept and polished, and how naturally and warmly she welcomed the
other woman, dazed and exhausted, and took her hat and veil and almost
carried her up the stairs. And later on I found out from Miss Grower,
who lives here, Mrs. Bledsoe's history. Eight or nine years ago her
husband was sent to prison for forgery, and she was left with four small
children, on the verge of a fate too terrible to mention. She was
brought to Mr. Bentley's attention, and he started her in life.

"And now Mrs. Garvin forms another link to that chain, which goes on
growing. In a month she will be earning her own living as stenographer
for a grain merchant whom Mr. Bentley set on his feet several years ago.
One thing has led to the next. And--I doubt if any neighbourhood could
be mentioned, north or south or west, or even in the business portion
of the city itself, where men and women are not to be found ready and
eager to do anything in their power for him. Of course there have been
exceptions, what might be called failures in the ordinary terminology
of charity, but there are not many."

When he had finished she sat quite still, musing over what he had told
her, her eyes alight.

"Yes, it is wonderful," she said at length, in a low voice. "Oh, I can
believe in that, making the world a better place to live in, making
people happier. Of course every one cannot be like Mr. Bentley, but all
may do their share in their own way. If only we could get rid of this
senseless system of government that puts a premium on the acquisition of
property! As it is, we have to depend on individual initiative. Even
the good Mr. Bentley does is a drop in the ocean compared to what might
be done if all this machinery--which has been invented, if all these
discoveries of science, by which the forces of an indifferent nature have
been harnessed, could be turned to the service of all mankind. Think of
how many Mrs. Garvins, of how many Dalton Streets there are in the world,
how many stunted children working in factories or growing up into
criminals in the slums! I was reading a book just the other day on the
effect of the lack of nutrition on character. We are breeding a million
degenerate citizens by starving them, to say nothing of the effect of
disease and bad air, of the constant fear of poverty that haunts the
great majority of homes. There is no reason why that fear should not be
removed, why the latest discoveries in medicine and science should not be
at the disposal of all."

The genuineness of her passion was unmistakable. His whole being
responded to it.

"Have you always felt like this?" he asked. Like what?"

"Indignant--that so many people were suffering."

His question threw her into reflection.

"Why, no," she answered, at length, "I never thought----I see what you
mean. Four or five years ago, when I was going to socialist lectures,
my sense of all this--inequality, injustice was intellectual. I didn't
get indignant over it, as I do now when I think of it."

"And why do you get indignant now?"

"You mean," she asked, "that I have no right to be indignant, since I do
nothing to attempt to better conditions?--"

"Not at all," Hodder disavowed. "Perhaps my question is too personal,
but I didn't intend it to be. I was merely wondering whether any event
or series of events had transformed a mere knowledge of these conditions
into feeling."

"Oh!" she exclaimed, but not in offence. Once more she relapsed into
thought. And as he watched her, in silence, the colour that flowed and
ebbed in her cheeks registered the coming and going of memories; of
incidents in her life hidden from him, arousing in the man the torture
of jealousy. But his faculties, keenly alert, grasped the entire field;
marked once more the empirical trait in her that he loved her unflinching
willingness to submit herself to an experiment.

"I suppose so," she replied at length, her thoughts naturally assuming
speech. "Yes, I can see that it is so. Yet my experience has not been
with these conditions with which Mr. Bentley, with which you have been
brought in contact, but with the other side--with luxury. Oh, I am sick
of luxury! I love it, I am not at all sure that I could do without it,
but I hate it, too, I rebel against it. You can't understand that."

"I think I can," he answered her.

"When I see the creatures it makes," she cried, "I hate it. My
profession has brought me in such close contact with it that I rebelled
at last, and came out here very suddenly, just to get away from it in the
mass. To renew my youth, if I could. The gardens were only an excuse.
I had come to a point where I wanted to be quiet, to be alone, to think,
and I knew my father would be going away. So much of my girlhood was
spent in that Park that I know every corner of it, and I--obeyed the
impulse. I wanted to test it."

"Yes," he said, absorbed.

"I might have gone to the mountains or the sea, but some one would have
come and found me, and I should have been bound again--on the wheel.
I shouldn't have had the strength to resist. But here--have you ever
felt," she demanded, "that you craved a particular locality at a certain
time?"

He followed her still.

"That is how I felt. These associations, that Park, the thought of my
girlhood, of my mother, who understood me as no one else has since,
assumed a certain value. New York became unbearable. It is just
there, in the very centre of our modern civilization, that one sees
the crudest passions. Oh, I have often wondered whether a man, however
disillusioned, could see New York as a woman sees it when the glamour is
gone. We are the natural prey of the conqueror still. We dream of
independence--"

She broke off abruptly.

This confession, with the sudden glimpse it gave him of the fires within
her that would not die down, but burned now more fiercely than ever,
sent the blood to his head. His face, his temples, were hot with the
fierceness of his joy in his conviction that she had revealed herself to
him. Why she had done so, he could not say. . . This was the woman
whom the world thought composed; who had triumphed over its opposition,
compelled it to bow before her; who presented to it that self-possessed,
unified personality by which he had been struck at their first meeting.
Yet, paradoxically, the personality remained,--was more elusive than
before. A thousand revelations, he felt, would not disclose it.

He was no nearer to solving it now. . Yet the fires burned! She, too,
like himself, was aflame and unsatisfied! She, too, had tasted success,
and had revolted!

"But I don't get anywhere," she said wearily. "At times I feel this
ferment, this anger that things are as they are, only to realize what
helpless anger it is. Why not take the world as it appears and live and
feel, instead of beating against the currents?"

"But isn't that inconsistent with what you said awhile ago as to a new
civilization?" Hodder asked.

"Oh, that Utopia has no reality for me. I think it has, at moments, but
it fades. And I don't pretend to be consistent. Mr. Bentley lives in a
world of his own; I envy him with all my heart, I love and admire him,
he cheers and soothes me when I am with him. But I can't see--whatever
he sees. I am only aware of a remorseless universe grinding out its
destinies. We Anglo-Saxons are fond of deceiving ourselves about life,
of dressing it up in beautiful colours, of making believe that it
actually contains happiness. All our fiction reflects this--that is
why I never cared to read English or American novels. The Continental
school, the Russians, the Frenchmen, refuse to be deluded. They are
honest."

"Realism, naturalism," he mused, recalling a course in philosophy, "one
would expect the Russian, in the conditions under which he lives,
possessing an artistic temperament combined with a paralysis of the
initiative and a sense of fate, to write in that way. And the Frenchmen,
Renan, Zola, and the others who have followed, are equally deterministic,
but viewing the human body as a highly organized machine with which we
may amuse ourselves by registering its sensations. These literatures are
true in so far as they reflect the characteristics of the nations from
which they spring. That is not to say that the philosophies of which
they are the expressions are true. Nor is it to admit that such a
literature is characteristic of the spirit of America, and can be applied
without change to our life and atmosphere. We have yet, I believe, to
develop our own literature; which will come gradually as we find
ourselves."

"Find ourselves?" she repeated.

"Yes. Isn't that what we are trying to do? We are not determinists or
fatalists, and to condemn us to such a philosophy would be to destroy us.
We live on hope. In spite of our apparent materialism, we are idealists.
And is it not possible to regard nature as governed by laws--remorseless,
if you like the word--and yet believe, with Kant and Goethe, that there
is an inner realm? You yourself struggle--you cling to ideals."

"Ideals!" she echoed. "Ideals are useless unless one is able to see, to
feel something beyond this ruthless mechanism by which we are surrounded
and hemmed in, to have some perception of another scheme. Why struggle,
unless we struggle for something definite? Oh, I don't mean heavenly
rewards. Nothing could be more insipid and senseless than the orthodox
view of the hereafter. I am talking about a scheme of life here and
now."

"So am I," answered Hodder. "But may there not be a meaning in this very
desire we have to struggle against the order of things as it appears to
us?"

"A meaning?"

"A little while ago you spoke of your indignation at the inequalities and
injustices of the world, and when I asked you if you had always felt
this, you replied that this feeling had grown upon you. My question is
this: whether that indignation would be present at all if it were not
meant to be turned into action."

"You believe that an influence is at work, an influence that impels us
against our reason?"

"I should like to think so," he said. "Why should so many persons be
experiencing such a feeling to-day, persons who, like yourself, are the
beneficiaries of our present system of privilege? Why should you, who
have every reason to be satisfied, materially, with things as they are,
be troubling yourself with thoughts of others who are less-fortunate?
And why should we have the spectacle, today, of men and women all over
this country in social work, in science and medicine and politics,
striving to better conditions while most of them might be much more
comfortable and luxurious letting well enough alone?"

"But it's human to care," she objected.

"Ah--human!" he said, and was silent. "What do we mean by human, unless
it is the distinguishing mark of something within us that the natural
world doesn't possess? Unless it is the desire and willingness to strive
for a larger interest than the individual interest, work and suffer for
others? And you spoke of making people happier. What do you mean by
happiness? Not merely the possession of material comforts, surely. I
grant you that those who are overworked and underfed, who are burning
with the consciousness of wrongs, who have no outlook ahead, are
essentially hopeless and miserable. But by 'happiness' you, mean
something more than the complacency and contentment which clothing and
food might bring, and the removal of the economic fear,--and even the
restoration of self-respect."

"That their lives should be fuller!" she exclaimed.

"That drudgery and despair should be replaced by interest and hope," he
went on, "slavery by freedom. In other words, that the whole attitude
toward life should be changed, that life should appear a bright thing
rather than a dark thing, that labour should be willing vicarious instead
of forced and personal. Otherwise, any happiness worth having is out of
the question."

She was listening now with parted lips, apparently unconscious of the
fixity of her gaze.

"You mean it is a choice between that or nothing," she said, in a low
voice. "That there is no use in lifting people out of the treadmill
--and removing the terror of poverty unless you can give them something
more--than I have got."

"And something more--than I have got,"--he was suddenly moved to reply...

Presently, while the silence still held between them, the door opened and
startled them into reality. Mr. Bentley came in.

The old gentleman gave no sign, as they rose to meet him, of a sense of
tension in the atmosphere he had entered--yet each felt--somehow, that he
knew. The tension was released. The same thought occurred to both as
they beheld the peaceful welcome shining in his face, "Here is what we
are seeking. Why try to define it?"

"To think that I have been gossiping with Mrs. Meyer, while you were
waiting for me!" he said. "She keeps the little florist's shop at the
corner of Tower Street, and she gave me these. I little guessed what
good use I should have for them, my dear."

He held out to her three fragrant, crimson roses that matched the
responsive colour in her cheeks as she thanked him and pinned them on her
gown. He regarded her an instant.

"But I'm sure Mr. Hodder has entertained you," Mr. Bentley turned, and
laid his hand on the rector's shoulder.

"Most successfully," said Alison, cutting short his protest. And she
smiled at Hodder, faintly.



CHAPTER XVI

AMID THE ENCIRCLING GLOOM


I

Hodder, in spite of a pressing invitation to remain for supper, had left
them together. He turned his face westward, in the opposite direction
from the parish house, still under the spell of that moment of communion
which had lasted--he knew not how long, a moment of silent revelation to
them both. She, too, was storm-tossed! She, too, who had fared forth so
gallantly into life, had conquered only to be beaten down--to lose her
way.

This discovery strained the very fibres of his being. So close he had
been to her--so close that each had felt, simultaneously, complete
comprehension of the other, comprehension that defied words, overbore
disagreements. He knew that she had felt it. He walked on at first in a
bewildered ecstasy, careless of aught else save that in a moment they two
had reached out in the darkness and touched hands. Never had his
experience known such communion, never had a woman meant what this woman
meant, and yet he could not define that meaning. What need of religion,
of faith in an unseen order when this existed? To have this woman in the
midst of chaos would be enough!

Faith in an unseen order! As he walked, his mind returned to the
argument by which he had sought to combat her doubts--and his own.
Whence had the argument come? It was new to him--he had never formulated
it before--that pity and longing and striving were a justification and a
proof. Had she herself inspired, by some unknown psychological law, this
first attempt of his to reform the universe, this theory which he had
rather spoken than thought? Or had it been the knowledge of her own
longing, and his desire to assuage it? As twilight fell, as his spirits
ebbed, he could not apply it now--it meant nothing to him, evaded him,
there was in it no solace. To regain his footing once more, to climb
again without this woman whom he needed, and might not have! Better to
fall, to be engulfed. . . The vision of her, tall and straight, with
the roses on her breast, tortured him.

Thus ecstasy ebbed to despondency. He looked around him in the fading
day, to find himself opposite the closed gates of the Botanical Gardens,
in the southwestern portion of the city . . . . An hour later he had
made his way back to Dalton Street with its sputtering blue lights and
gliding figures, and paused for a moment on the far sidewalk to gaze at
Mr. Bentley's gleaming windows. Should he go in? Had that personality
suddenly lost its power over him? How strange that now he could see
nothing glowing, nothing inspiring within that house,--only a kindly old
man reading a newspaper!

He walked on, slowly, to feel stealing on him that desperate longing for
adventure which he had known so well in his younger days. And he did not
resist. The terror with which it had once inspired him was gone, or
lingered only in the form of a delicious sense of uncertainty and
anticipation. Anything might happen to him--anything would be grateful;
the thought of his study in the parish house was unbearable; the Dalton
Street which had mocked and repelled him suddenly became alluring with
its champaigns of light and inviting stretches of darkness. In the block
ahead, rising out of the night like a tower blazing with a hundred
beacons, Hodder saw a hotel, heard the faint yet eager throbbing of
music, beheld silhouetted figures flitting from automobiles and carriages
across the white glare of the pavement,--figures of men and women.

He hastened his steps, the music grew louder and louder in his ears, he
gained the ornamental posts crowned by their incandescent globes, made
his way through the loiterers, descended the stone steps of the
restaurant, and stood staring into it as at a blurred picture. The band
crashed a popular two-step above the mingled voices and laughter. He sat
down at a vacant table near the door, and presently became aware that a
waiter had been for some time at his elbow.

"What will you have, sir?"

Then he remembered that he had not eaten, discovered that he was hungry,
and ordered some sandwiches and beer. Still staring, the figures began
to differentiate themselves, although they all appeared, somehow, in
perpetual motion; hurrying, though seated. It was like gazing at a
quivering cinematograph. Here and there ribbons of smoke curled upward,
adding volume to the blue cloud that hung over the tables, which in turn
was dissipated in spots by the industrious electric fans. Everywhere he
looked he met the glances of women; even at the table next him, they were
not so absorbed in their escorts as to be able to resist flinging
him covert stares between the shrieks of laughter in which they
intermittently indulged. The cumulative effect of all these faces was
intoxicating, and for a long time he was unable to examine closely any
one group. What he saw was a composite woman with flushed cheeks and
soliciting eyes, becomingly gowned and hatted--to the masculine judgment.
On the walls, heavily frescoed in the German style, he read, in Gothic
letters:

          "Wer liebt nicht Wein, Weib, and Gesang,
          Er bleibt ein Narr sein Leben lang."

The waiter brought the sandwiches and beer, yet he did not eat. In the
middle distance certain figures began insistently to stand out,--figures
of women sitting alone wherever he looked he met a provoking gaze. One
woman, a little farther away than the rest, seemed determinedly bent on
getting a nod of recognition, and it was gradually borne in upon Hodder's
consciousness that her features were familiar. In avoiding her eyes he
studied the men at the next table,--or rather one of them, who loudly
ordered the waiters about, who told brief anecdotes that were
uproariously applauded; whose pudgy, bejewelled fingers were continually
feeling for the bottle in the ice beside his chair, or nudging his
companions with easy familiarity; whose little eyes, set in a heavy face,
lighted now and again with a certain expression . . . . .

Suddenly Hodder pushed back his chair and got to his feet, overcome by a
choking sensation like that of being, asphyxiated by foul gases. He must
get out at once, or faint. What he had seen in the man's eyes had
aroused in him sheer terror, for it was the image of something in his
own soul which had summarily gained supremacy and led him hither,
unresisting, to its own abiding-place. In vain he groped to reconstruct
the process by which that other spirit--which he would fain have believed
his true spirit--had been drugged and deadened in its very flight.

He was aware, as he still stood uncertainly beside the table, of the
white-aproned waiter looking at him, and of some one else!--the woman
whose eyes had been fastened on him so persistently. She was close
beside him, speaking to him.

"Seems to me we've met before."

He looked at her, at first uncomprehendingly, then with a dawning
realization of her identity. Even her name came to him, unexpectedly,
--Kate Marcy,--the woman in the flat!

"Ain't you going to invite me to have some supper?" she whispered
eagerly, furtively, as one accustomed to be rebuffed, yet bold in spite
of it. "They'll throw me out if they think I'm accosting you."

How was it that, a moment ago, she had appeared to him mysterious,
inviting? At this range he could only see the paint on her cheeks, the
shadows under her burning eyes, the shabby finery of her gown. Her
wonderful bronze hair only made the contrast more pitiful. He acted
automatically, drawing out for her the chair opposite his own, and sat
down again.

"Say, but I'm hungry!" she exclaimed, pulling off her gloves. She smiled
at him, wanly, yet with a brazen coquettishness become habit.

"Hungry!" he repeated idly.

"I guess you'd be, if you'd only had a fried egg and a cup of coffee
to-day, and nothing last night."

He pushed over to her, hastily, with a kind of horror, the plate of
sandwiches. She began eating them ravenously; but presently paused, and
thrust them back toward him. He shook his head.

"What's the matter with you?" she demanded.

"Nothing," he replied.

"You ordered them, didn't you? Ain't you eating anything?"

"I'm not hungry," he said.

She continued eating awhile without comment. And he watched her as one
fascinated, oblivious to his surroundings, in a turmoil of thought and
emotion.

"I'm dry," she announced meaningly.

He hesitated a moment, and then gave her the bottle of beer. She made a
wry face as she poured it out.

"Have they run out of champagne?" she inquired.

This time he did not hesitate. The women of his acquaintance, at the
dinner parties he attended, drank champagne. Why should he refuse it to
this woman? A long-nosed, mediaeval-looking waiter was hovering about,
one of those bizarre, battered creatures who have long exhausted the
surprises of life, presiding over this amazing situation with all the
sang froid of a family butler. Hodder told him to bring champagne.

"What kind, sir?" he asked, holding out a card.

"The best you have."

The woman stared at him in wonder.

"You're what an English Johnny I know would call a little bit of all
right!" she declared with enthusiastic approval.

"Since you are hungry," he went on, "suppose you have something more
substantial than sandwiches. What would you like?"

She did not answer at once. Amazement grew in her eyes, amazement and a
kind of fear.

"Quit joshing!" she implored him, and he found it difficult to cope with
her style of conversation. For a while she gazed helplessly at the bill
of fare.

"I guess you'll think it's funny," she said hesitatingly, "but I feel
just like a good beefsteak and potatoes. Bring a thick one, Walter."

The waiter sauntered off.

"Why should I think it strange?" Hodder asked.

"Well, if you knew how many evenings I've sat up there in my room and
thought what I'd order if I ever again got hold of some rich guy who'd
loosen up. There ain't any use trying to put up a bluff with you.
Nothing was too good for me once, caviar, pate de foie gras" (her
pronunciation is not to be imitated), "chicken casserole, peach Melba,
filet of beef with mushrooms,--I've had 'em all, and I used to sit up and
say I'd hand out an order like that. You never do what you think you're
going to do in this life."

The truth of this remark struck him with a force she did not suspect;
stung him, as it were, into a sense of reality.

"And now," she added pathetically, "all t want is a beefsteak! Don't
that beat you?"

She appeared so genuinely surprised at this somewhat contemptible trick
fate had played her that Hodder smiled in spite of himself.

"I didn't recognize you at first in that get-up," she observed, looking
at his blue serge suit. "So you've dropped the preacher business, have
you? You're wise, all right."

"Why do you say that?" he asked.

"Didn't I tell you when you came 'round that time that you weren't like
the rest of 'em? You're too human."

Once more the word, and on her lips, startled him.

"Some of the best men I have ever known, the broadest and most
understanding men, have been clergymen," he found himself protesting.

"Well, they haven't dropped in on me. The only one I ever saw that
measured up to something like that was you, and now you've chucked it."

Had he, as she expressed the matter, "chucked it"? Her remark brought
him reluctantly, fearfully, remorselessly--agitated and unprepared as
he was--face to face with his future.

"You were too good for the job," she declared. "What is there in it?
There ain't nobody converted these days that I can see, and what's the
use of gettin' up and preach into a lot of sapheads that don't know what
religion is? Sure they don't."

"Do you?" he asked.

"You've called my bluff." She laughed. "Say, do YOU?" If there was
anything in it you'd have kept on preachin' to that bunch and made some
of 'em believe they was headed for hell; you'd have made one of 'em that
owns the flat house I live in, who gets fancy rents out of us poor girls,
give it up. That's a nice kind of business for a church member, ain't
it?"

"Owns the house in which you live!"

"Sure." She smiled at him compassionately, pitying his innocence and
ignorance. "Now I come to think of it, I guess he don't go to your
church,--it's the big Baptist church on the boulevard. But what's the
difference?"

"None," said Hodder, despondently.

She regarded him curiously.

"You remember when you dropped in that night, when the kid was sick?"

He nodded.

"Well, now you ain't in the business any more, I may as well tell you you
kind of got in on me. I was sorry for you--honest, I was. I couldn't
believe at first you was on the level, but it didn't take me long to see
that they had gold-bricked you, too. I saw you weren't wise to what they
were."

"You thought--" he began and paused dumfounded.

"Why not?" she retorted. "It looked easy to me,--your line. How was I
to know at first that they had you fooled? How was I to know you wasn't
in the game?"

"The game?"

"Say, what else is it but a game? You must be on now, ain't you? Why.
do they put up to keep the churches going? There ain't any coupons
coming out of 'em.

"Maybe some of these millionaires think they can play all the horses and
win,--get into heaven and sell gold bricks on the side. But I guess most
of 'em don't think about heaven. They just use the church for a front,
and take in strangers in the back alley,--downtown."

Hodder was silent, overwhelmed by the brutal aptness of her figures. Nor
did he take the trouble of a defence, of pointing out that hers was not
the whole truth. What really mattered--he saw--was what she and those
like her thought. Such minds were not to be disabused by argument; and
indeed he had little inclination for it then.

"There's nothing in it."

By this expression he gathered she meant life. And some hidden impulse
bade him smile at her.

"There is this," he answered.

She opened her mouth, closed it and stared at him, struck by his
expression, striving uneasily to fathom hidden depths in his remark.

"I don't get on to you," she said lamely. "I didn't that other time.
I never ran across anybody like you."

He tried to smile again.

"You mustn't mind me," he answered.

They fell into an oasis of silence, surrounded by mad music and laughter.
Then came the long-nosed waiter carrying the beefsteak aloft, followed by
a lad with a bucket of ice, from which protruded the green and gold neck
of a bottle. The plates were put down, the beefsteak carved, the
champagne opened and poured out with a flourish. The woman raised her
glass.

"Here's how!" she said, with an attempt at gayety. And she drank to him.
"It's funny how I ran across you again, ain't it?" She threw back her
head and laughed.

He raised his glass, tasted the wine, and put it down again. A sheet of
fire swept through him.

"What's the matter with it? Is it corked?" she demanded. "It goes to
the right spot with me."

"It seems very good," he said, trying to smile, and turning to the food
on his plate. The very idea of eating revolted him--and yet he made the
attempt: he had a feeling, ill defined, that consequences of vital
importance depended upon this attempt, on his natural acceptance of the
situation. And, while he strove to reduce the contents of his plate,
he racked his brain for some subject of conversation. The flamboyant
walls of the room pressed in on every side; comment of that which lay
within their limits was impossible,--but he could not, somehow, get
beyond them. Was there in the whole range of life one easy topic which
they might share in common? Yet a bond existed between this woman and
himself--a bond of which he now became aware, and which seemed strangely
to grow stronger as the minutes passed and no words were spoken. Why was
it that she, too, to whom speech came so easily, had fallen dumb? He
began to long for some remark, however disconcerting. The tension
increased.

She put down her knife and fork. Tears sprang into her eyes,--tears of
anger, he thought.

"Say, it's no use trying to put up a bluff with me," she cried.

"Why do you say that?" he asked.

"You know what I mean, all right. What did you come in here for,
anyway?"

"I don't know--I couldn't tell you," he answered.

The very honesty of his words seemed, for an instant, to disconcert her;
and she produced a torn lace handkerchief, which she thrust in her eyes.

"Why can't you leave me alone?" she demanded. "I'm all right."

If he did not at once reply, it was because of some inner change which
had taken place in himself; and he seemed to see things, suddenly, in
their true proportions. He no longer feared a scene and its
consequences. By virtue of something he had cast off or taken on,
he was aware of a newly acquired mastery of the situation, and by a
hidden and unconscious process he had managed to get at the real woman
behind the paint: had beaten down, as it were without a siege, her
defences. And he was incomparably awed by the sight of her quivering,
frightened self.

Her weeping grew more violent. He saw the people at the next table turn
and stare, heard the men laughing harshly. For the spectacle was
evidently not an uncommon one here. She pushed away her unfinished
glass, gathered up her velvet bag and rose abruptly.

"I guess I ain't hungry after all," she said, and started toward the
door. He turned to the waiter, who regarded him unmoved, and asked for a
check.

"I'll get it," he said.

Hodder drew out a ten dollar bill, and told him to keep the change. The
waiter looked at him. Some impulse moved him to remark, as he picked up
the rector's hat:

"Don't let her put it over you, sir."

Hodder scarcely heard him. He hurried up the steps and gained the
pavement, and somewhere in the black shadows beyond the arc-lights he saw
her disappearing down the street. Careless of all comment he hastened
on, overtook her, and they walked rapidly side by side. Now and again he
heard a sob, but she said nothing. Thus they came to the house where the
Garvins had lived, and passed it, and stopped in front of the dimly
lighted vestibule of the flats next door. In drawing the key from her
bag she dropped it: he picked it up and put it in the lock himself. She
led the way without comment up the darkened stairs, and on the landing
produced another key, opened the door of her rooms, fumbled for the
electric button, and suddenly the place was flooded with light. He
glanced in, and recoiled.



II

Oddly enough, the first thing he noticed in the confusion that reigned
was the absence of the piano. Two chairs were overturned, and one of
them was broken; a siphon of vichy lay on the floor beside a crushed
glass and two or three of the cheap ornaments that had been swept off
the mantel and broken on the gaudy tiles of the hearth. He glanced at
the woman, who had ceased crying, and stood surveying the wreckage with
the calmness, the philosophic nonchalance of a class that comes to look
upon misfortune as inevitable.

"They didn't do a thing to this place, did they?" was her comment.
"There was two guys in here to-night who got a notion they were funny."

Hodder had thought to have fathomed all the horrors of her existence, but
it was not until he looked into this room that the bottomless depths of
it were brought home to him. Could it be possible that the civilization
in which he lived left any human being so defenceless as to be at the
mercy of the ghouls who had been here? The very stale odours of the
spilled whiskey seemed the material expression of the essence of degraded
souls; for a moment it overpowered him. Then came the imperative need of
action, and he began to right one of the chairs. She darted forward.

"Cut it out!" she cried. "What business have you got coming in here and
straightening up? I was a fool to bring you, anyway."

It was in her eyes that he read her meaning, and yet could not credit it.
He was abashed--ashamed; nay, he could not define the feeling in his
breast. He knew that what he read was the true interpretation of her
speech, for in some manner--he guessed not how--she had begun to idealize
him, to feel that the touch of these things defiled him.

"I believe I invited myself," he answered, with attempted cheerfulness.
Then it struck him, in his predicament, that this was precisely what
others had done!

"When you asked me a little while ago whether I had left the Church, I
let you think I had. I am still connected with St. John's, but I do not
know how long I shall continue to be."

She was on her knees with dustpan and whiskbroom, cleaning up the
fragments of glass on the stained carpet. And she glanced up at him
swiftly, diviningly.

"Say--you're in trouble yourself, ain't you?"

She got up impulsively, spilling some of the contents of the pan. A
subtle change had come in her, and under the gallantly drooping feathers
of her hat he caught her eye--the human eye that so marvellously reflects
the phases of the human soul: the eye which so short a time before
hardily and brazenly had flashed forth its invitation, now actually shone
with fellowship and sympathy. And for a moment this look was more
startling, more appalling than the other; he shrank from it, resented it
even more. Was it true that they had something in common? And if so,
was it sin or sorrow, or both?

"I might have known," she said, staring at him. In spite of his gesture
of dissent, he saw that she was going over the events of the evening from
her new point of view.

"I might have known, when we were sitting there in Harrods, that you were
up against it, too, but I couldn't think of anything but the way I was
fixed. The agent's been here twice this week for the rent, and I was
kind of desperate for a square meal."

Hodder took the dustpan from her hand, and flung its contents into the
fireplace.

"Then we are both fortunate," he said, "to have met each other."

"I don't see where you come in," she told him.

He turned and smiled at her.

"Do you remember when I was here that evening about two months ago I said
I should like to be your friend? Well, I meant it. And I have often
hoped, since then, that some circumstance might bring us together again.
You seemed to think that no friendship was possible between us, but I
have tried to make myself believe that you said so because you didn't
know me."

"Honest to God?" she asked. "Is that on the level?"

"I only ask for an opportunity to prove it," he replied, striving to
speak naturally. He stooped and laid the dustpan on the hearth.
"There! Now let's sit down."

She sank on the sofa, her breast rising and falling, her gaze dumbly
fixed on him, as one under hypnosis. He took the rocker.

"I have wanted to tell you how grateful Mrs. Garvin, the boy's mother
--was for the roses you brought. She doesn't know who sent them, but I
intend to tell her, and she will thank you herself. She is living out
in the country. And the boy--you would scarcely recognize him."

"I couldn't play the piano for a week after--that thing happened." She
glanced at the space where the instrument had stood.

"You taught yourself to play?" he asked.

"I had music lessons."

"Music lessons?"

"Not here--before I left home--up the State, in a little country town,
--Madison. It seems like a long time ago, but it's only seven years in
September. Mother and father wanted all of us children to know a little
more than they did, and I guess they pinched a good deal to give us a
chance. I went a year to the high school, and then I was all for coming
to the city--I couldn't stand Madison, there wasn't anything going on.
Mother was against it,--said I was too good-looking to leave home. I
wish I never had. You wouldn't believe I was good-looking once, would
you?"

She spoke dispassionately, not seeming to expect assent, but Hodder
glanced involuntarily at her wonderful crown of hair. She had taken off
her hat. He was thinking of the typical crime of American parents,--and
suddenly it struck him that her speech had changed, that she had dropped
the suggestive slang of the surroundings in which she now lived.

"I was a fool to come, but I couldn't see it then. All I could think of
was to get away to a place where something was happening. I wanted to
get into Ferguson's--everybody in Madison knew about Ferguson's, what a
grand store it was,--but I couldn't. And after a while I got a place at
the embroidery counter at Pratt's. That's a department store, too, you
know. It looked fine, but it wasn't long before I fell wise to a few
things." (She relapsed into slang occasionally.) "Have you ever tried
to stand on your feet for nine hours, where you couldn't sit down for a
minute? Say, when Florry Kinsley and me--she was the girl I roomed with
--would get home at night, often we'd just lie down and laugh and cry, we
were so tired, and our feet hurt so. We were too used up sometimes to
get up and cook supper on the little stove we had. And sitting around a
back bedroom all evening was worse than Madison. We'd go out, tired as
we were, and walk the streets."

He nodded, impressed by the fact that she did not seem to be appealing
to his sympathy. Nor, indeed, did she appear--in thus picking up the
threads of her past--to be consciously accounting for her present.
She recognized no causation there.

"Say, did you ever get to a place where you just had to have something
happen? When you couldn't stand bein' lonely night after night, when you
went out on the streets and saw everybody on the way to a good time but
you? We used to look in the newspapers for notices of the big balls, and
we'd take the cars to the West End and stand outside the awnings watching
the carriages driving up and the people coming in. And the same with
the weddings. We got to know a good many of the swells by sight. There
was Mrs. Larrabbee,"--a certain awe crept into her voice--"and Miss
Ferguson--she's sweet--and a lot more. Some of the girls used to copy
their clothes and hats, but Florry and me tried to live honest. It was
funny," she added irrelevantly, "but the more worn out we were at night,
the more we'd want a little excitement, and we used to go to the
dance-halls and keep going until we were ready to drop."

She laughed at the recollection.

"There was a floorwalker who never let me alone the whole time I was at
Pratt's--he put me in mind of a pallbearer. His name was Selkirk, and he
had a family in Westerly, out on the Grade Suburban . . . . Some of
the girls never came back at all, except to swagger in and buy expensive
things, and tell us we were fools to work. And after a while I noticed
Florry was getting discouraged. We never had so much as a nickel left
over on Saturdays and they made us sign a paper, when they hired us, that
we lived at home. It was their excuse for paying us six dollars a week.
They do it at Ferguson's, too. They say they can get plenty of girls who
do live at home. I made up my mind I'd go back to Madison, but I kept
putting it off, and then father died, and I couldn't!

"And then, one day, Florry left. She took her things from the room when
I was at the store, and I never saw her again. I got another roommate.
I couldn't afford to pay for the room alone. You wouldn't believe I kept
straight, would you?" she demanded, with a touch of her former defiance.
"I had plenty of chances better than that floorwalker. But I knew I was
good looking, and I thought if I could only hold out I might get married
to some fellow who was well fixed. What's the matter?"

Hodder's exclamation had been involuntary, for in these last words she
had unconsciously brought home to him the relentless predicament in the
lives of these women. She had been saving herself--for what? A more
advantageous, sale!

"It's always been my luck," she went on reflectingly, "that when what I
wanted to happen did happen, I never could take advantage of it. It was
just like that to-night, when you handed me out the bill of fare, and
I ordered beefsteak. And it was like that when--when he came along
--I didn't do what I thought I was going to do. It's terrible to fall in
love, isn't it? I mean the real thing. I've read in books that it only
comes once, and I guess it's so."

Fortunately she seemed to expect no answer to this query. She was
staring at the wall with unseeing eyes.

"I never thought of marrying him, from the first. He could have done
anything with me--he was so good and generous--and it was him I was
thinking about. That's love, isn't it? Maybe you don't believe a woman
like me knows what love is. You've got a notion that goin' downhill, as
I've been doing, kills it, haven't you? I Wish to God it did--but it
don't: the ache's there, and sometimes it comes in the daytime, and
sometimes at night, and I think I'll go crazy. When a woman like me is
in love there isn't anything more terrible on earth, I tell you. If a
girl's respectable and good it's bad enough, God knows, if she can't have
the man she wants; but when she's like me--it's hell. That's the only
way I can describe it. She feels there is nothing about her that's
clean, that he wouldn't despise. There's many a night I wished I could
have done what Garvin did, but I didn't have the nerve."

"Don't say that!" he commanded sharply.

"Why not? It's the best way out."

"I can see how one might believe it to be," he answered. Indeed, it
seemed that his vision had been infinitely extended, that he had suddenly
come into possession of the solution of all the bewildered, despairing
gropings of the human soul. Only awhile ago, for instance, the mood of
self-destruction had been beyond his imagination: tonight he understood
it, though he still looked upon it with horror. And he saw that his
understanding of her--or of any human being--could never be of the
intellect. He had entered into one of those astounding yet simple
relationships wherein truth, and truth alone, is possible. He knew
that such women lied, deceived themselves; he could well conceive that
the image of this first lover might have become idealized in her
vicissitudes; that the memories of the creature-comforts, of first
passion, might have enhanced as the victim sank. It was not only
because she did not attempt to palliate that he believed her.

"I remember the time I met him,--it was only four years ago last spring,
but it seems like a lifetime. It was Decoration Day, and it was so
beautiful I went out with another girl to the Park, and we sat on the
grass and looked at the sky and wished we lived in the country. He was
in an automobile; I never did know exactly how it happened,--we looked at
each other, and he slowed up and came back and asked us to take a ride.
I had never been in one of those things--but that wasn't why I went,
I guess. Well, the rest was easy. He lost his head, and I was just as
bad. You wouldn't believe me if I told you how rich he was: it scared me
when I found out about him, and he was so handsome and full of fun and
spirits, and generous! I never knew anybody like him. Honest, I never
expected he'd want to marry me. He didn't at first,--it was only after
a while. I never asked him to, and when he began to talk about it I told
him it would cut him off from his swell friends, and I knew his father
might turn him loose. Oh, it wasn't the money! Well, he'd get mad all
through, and say he never got along with the old man, and that his
friends would have to take me, and he couldn't live without me. He said
he would have me educated, and bought me books, and I tried to read them.
I'd have done anything for him. He'd knocked around a good deal since
he'd been to Harvard College,--he wasn't what you'd call a saint, but his
heart was all right. And he changed, too, I could see it. He said he
was going to make something out of himself.

"I didn't think it was possible to be so happy, but I had a feeling all
along, inside of me, that it couldn't come off. I had a little flat in
Rutger Street, over on the south side, and everything in the world I
wanted. Well, one day, sure enough, the bell rang and I opened the door,
and there stood a man with side whiskers staring at me, and staring until
I was frightened to death. I never saw such eyes as he had. And all of
a sudden I knew it was his father.

"'Is this Miss Marcy?'" he said.

"I couldn't say anything at all, but he handed me his card and smiled,
I'll never forget how he smiled--and came right in and sat down. I'd
heard of that man all my life, and how much money he'd made, and all
that. Why, up in Madison folks used to talk about him--" she checked
herself suddenly and stared at Hodder in consternation. "Maybe you know
him!" she exclaimed. "I never thought!"

"Maybe I do," he assented wearily. In the past few moments suspicion had
become conviction.

"Well--what difference does it make--now? It's all over, and I'm not
going to bother him. I made up my mind I wouldn't, on account of him,
you understand. I never fell that low--thank God!"

Hodder nodded. He could not speak . . . . The woman seemed to be
living over again that scene, in her imagination.

"I just couldn't realize who it was sitting there beside me, but if I
hadn't known it wouldn't have made any difference. He could have done
anything with me, anyway, and he knew how to get at me. He said, now
that he'd seen me, that he was sure I was a good girl at the bottom and
loved his son, and that I wouldn't want to ruin the boy when he had such
a big future ahead of him. I wouldn't have thought, to look at the man,
that he could have been so gentle. I made a fool of myself and cried,
and told him I'd go away and never see his son any more--that I'd always
been against marrying him. Well, he almost had tears in his eyes when he
thanked me and said I'd never regret it, and he pulled an envelope out of
his pocket. I said I wouldn't take any money, and gave it back to him.
I've always been sorry since that I didn't make him take it back--it
never did anything but harm to me. But he had his way. He laid it on
the table and said he wouldn't feel right, and took my hand--and I just
didn't care.

"Well, what do you think I did after he'd gone? I went and played a
piece on the piano,--and I never can bear to hear that ragtime to this
day. I couldn't seem to feel anything. And after a while I got up and
opened the envelope--it was full of crackly new hundred dollar bills
--thirty of 'em, and as I sat there staring at 'em the pain came on, like a
toothache, in throbs, getting worse all the time until I just couldn't
stand it. I had a notion of sending the money back even then, but I
didn't. I didn't know how to do it,--and as I told you, I wasn't able to
care much. Then I remembered I'd promised to go away, and I had to have
some money for that, and if I didn't leave right off I wouldn't have the
strength to do it. I hadn't even thought where to go: I couldn't think,
so I got dressed and went down to the depot anyway. It was one of those
bright, bitter cold winter days after a thaw when the icicles are hanging
everywhere. I went inside and walked up and down that long platform
under the glass roof. My, it was cold in there! I looked over all the
signs, and made up my mind I'd go to Chicago.

"I meant to work, I never meant to spend the money, but to send it back.
I'd put it aside--and then I'd go and take a little. Say, it was easy
not to work--and I didn't care what happened to me as long as I wasn't
going to see him again. Well, I'm not trying to smooth it over,
I suppose there was something crooked about me from the start, but I just
went clean to hell with that money, and when I heard he'd gone away,
I came back here."

"Something crooked!" The words rang in Hodder's ears, in his very soul.
How was he or any man to estimate, to unravel the justice from the
injustice, to pass upon the merit of this woman's punishment? Here
again, in this vitiated life, was only to be seen the remorseless working
of law--cause and effect. Crooked! Had not the tree been crooked from
the beginning--incapable of being straightened? She had herself naively
confessed it. Was not the twist ingrained? And if so, where was the
salvation he had preached? There was good in her still,--but what was
"good"? . . . He took no account of his profound compassion.

What comfort could he give her, what hope could he hold out that the
twist, now gnarled and knotted, might be removed, that she might gain
peace of soul and body and the "happiness" of which he had talked with
Alison Parr? . . . He raised his eyes, to discover that the woman's
were fixed upon him, questioningly.

"I suppose I was a fool to tell you," she said, with a shade of her old
bitterness; "it can't do any good." Her next remark was startlingly
astute. "You've found out for yourself, I guess, that all this talk
about heaven and hell and repentance don't amount to anything. Hell
couldn't be any worse than I've been through, no matter how hot it is.
And heaven!" She laughed, burst into tears, and quickly dried them.
"You know the man I've been talking about, that bought me off. I didn't
intend to tell you, but I see you can't help knowing--Eldon Parr. I
don't say he didn't do right from his way of looking at things,--but say,
it wasn't exactly Christian, was it?"

"No," he said, "it wasn't." He bowed his head, and presently, when he
raised it again, he caught something in her look that puzzled and
disturbed him--an element of adoration.

"You're white through and through," she said, slowly and distinctly.

And he knew not how to protest.

"I'll tell you something," she went on, as one who has made a discovery.
"I liked you the first time you came in here--that night--when you wanted
me to be friends; well, there was something that seemed to make it
impossible then. I felt it, if you didn't." She groped for words.
"I can't explain what it was, but now it's gone. You're different.
I think a lot more of you. Maybe it's because of what you did at
Harrod's, sitting down with me and giving me supper when I was so hungry,
and the champagne. You weren't ashamed of me."

"Good God, why should I have been!" he exclaimed.

"You! Why shouldn't you?" she cried fiercely.

"There's hardly a man in that place that wouldn't have been. They all
know me by sight--and some of 'em better. You didn't see 'em grinning
when I came up to you, but I did. My God--it's awful--it's awful I...."
She burst into violent weeping, long deferred.

He took her hand in his, and did not speak, waiting for the fit to spend
itself . . . . And after a while the convulsive shudders that shook
her gradually ceased.

"You must trust me," he said. "The first thing tomorrow I'm going to
make arrangements for you to get out of these rooms. You can't stay here
any longer."

"That's sure," she answered, trying to smile. "I'm broke. I even owe
the co--the policeman."

"The policeman!"

"He has to turn it in to Tom Beatty and the politicians"

Beatty! Where had he heard the name? Suddenly it came to him that
Beatty was the city boss, who had been eulogized by Mr. Plimpton!

"I have some good friends who will be glad to help you to get work--and
until you do get work. You will have to fight--but we all have to fight.
Will you try?"

"Sure, I'll try," she answered, in a low voice.

Her very tone of submission troubled him. And he had a feeling that, if
he had demanded, she would have acquiesced in anything.

"We'll talk it over to-morrow," he went on, clinging to his note of
optimism. "We'll find out what you can do easiest, to begin with."

"I might give music lessons," she suggested.

The remark increased his uneasiness, for he recognized in it a sure
symptom of disease--a relapse into what might almost have been called
levity, blindness to the supreme tragedy of her life which but a moment
before had shaken and appalled her. He shook his head bravely.

"I'm afraid that wouldn't do--at first."

She rose and went into the other room, returning in a few moments with a
work basket, from which she drew a soiled and unfinished piece of
embroidery.

"There's a bureau cover I started when I was at Pratt's," she said, as
she straightened it over her knees. "It's a copy of an expensive one.
I never had the patience to finish it, but one of the sales-ladies there,
who was an expert, told me it was pretty good: She taught me the stitch,
and I had a notion at that time I might make a little money for dresses
and the theatre. I was always clever with my hands."

"The very thing!" he said, with hopeful emphasis. "I'm sure I can get
you plenty of it to do. And I'll come back in the morning."

He gave it back to her, and as she was folding it his glance fell on a
photograph in the basket.

"I kept it, I don't know why," he heard her say; "I didn't have the heart
to burn it."

He started recovered himself, and rose.

"I'll go to see the agent the first thing to-morrow," he said. "And
then--you'll be ready for me? You trust me?"

"I'd do anything for you," was her tremulous reply.

Her disquieting, submissive smile haunted him as he roped his way down
the stairs to the street, and then the face in the photograph replaced
it--the laughing eyes, the wilful, pleasure--loving mouth he had seen in
the school and college pictures of Preston Parr.





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