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Title: Making People Happy
Author: Buchanan, Thompson, 1877-1937
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 "Making People Happy" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



by The Kentuckiana Digital Library)



MAKING PEOPLE HAPPY

[Illustration]

MAKING PEOPLE HAPPY

by

THOMPSON BUCHANAN

Author of A WOMAN'S WAY

Frontispiece by HARRISON FISHER

NEW YORK

W.J. WATT & COMPANY

PUBLISHERS


COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY W. J. WATT & COMPANY

_Published September_

PRESS OF BRAUNWORTH & CO.

BOOKBINDERS AND PRINTERS

BROOKLYN, N.Y.



MAKING PEOPLE HAPPY



CHAPTER I


The bride hammered the table desperately with her gavel. In vain! The
room was in pandemonium.

The lithe and curving form of the girl--for she was only twenty,
although already a wife--was tense now as she stood there in her own
drawing-room, stoutly battling to bring order out of chaos. Usually the
creamy pallor of her cheeks was only most daintily touched with rose: at
this moment the crimson of excitement burned fiercely. Usually her eyes
of amber were soft and tender: now they were glowing with an indignation
that was half-wrath.

Still the bride beat a tattoo of outraged authority with the gavel,
wholly without avail. The confusion that reigned in the charming
drawing-room of Cicily Hamilton did but grow momently the more
confounded. The Civitas Club was in full operation, and would brook no
restraint. Each of the twelve women, who were ranged in chairs facing
the presiding officer, was talking loudly and swiftly and incessantly.
None paid the slightest heed to the frantic appeal of the gavel....
Then, at last, the harassed bride reached the limit of endurance. She
threw the gavel from her angrily, and cried out shrilly above the massed
clamor of the other voices:

"If you don't stop," she declared vehemently, "I'll never speak to one
of you again!"

That wail of protest was not without its effect. There came a chorus of
ejaculations; but the monologues had been efficiently interrupted, and
the attention of the garrulous twelve was finally given to the presiding
officer. For a moment, silence fell. It was broken by Ruth Howard, a
girl with large, soulful brown eyes and a manner of rapt earnestness,
who uttered her plaint in a tone of exceeding bitterness:

"And we came together in love!"

At that, Cicily Hamilton forgot her petulance over the tumult, and
smiled with the sweetness that was characteristic of her.

"Really, you know," she confessed, almost contritely, "I don't like to
lecture you in my own house; but we came together for a serious
purpose, and you are just as rude as if you'd merely come to tea."

One of the women in the front row of chairs uttered a crisp cry of
approval. This was Mrs. Flynn, a visiting militant suffragette from
England. Her aggressive manner and the eager expression of her narrow
face with the gleaming black eyes declared that this woman of forty was
by nature a fighter who delighted in the fray.

"Yes; Mrs. Hamilton is right," was her caustic comment. "We are
forgetting our great work--the emancipation of woman!"

Cicily beamed approval on the speaker; but she inverted the other's
phrase:

"Yes," she agreed, "our great work--the subjugation of man!"

The statement was not, however, allowed to go unchallenged. Helen
Johnson, who was well along in the twenties at least, and still a
spinster, prided herself on her powers of conquest, despite the fact
that she had no husband to show for it. So, now, she spoke with an air
of languid superiority:

"Oh, we've already accomplished the subjugation of man," she drawled,
and smiled complacently.

"Some of us have," Cicily retorted; and the accent on the first word
pointed the allusion.

"Oh, hush, dear!" The chiding whisper came from Mrs. Delancy, a
gray-haired woman of sixty-five, somewhat inclined to stoutness and
having a handsome, kindly face. She was the aunt of Cicily, and had
reared the motherless girl in her New York home. Now, on a visit to her
niece, the bride of a year, she found herself inevitably involved in the
somewhat turbulent session of the Civitas Club, with which as yet she
enjoyed no great amount of sympathy. Her position in the chair nearest
the presiding officer gave her opportunity to voice the rebuke without
being overheard by anyone save the militant Mrs. Flynn, who smiled
covertly.

Cicily bent forward, and spoke softly to her aunt's ear:

"I just had to say it, auntie," she avowed happily. "You know, she tried
her hardest to catch Charles."

Mrs. Morton, a middle-aged society woman, who displayed sporadic
interest in the cause of woman during the dull season, now rose from the
chair immediately behind Mrs. Flynn, and spoke with a tone of great
decisiveness:

"Yes, ladies of the Civitas Club, Mrs. Flynn is perfectly right." She
indicated the identity of the militant suffragette, who was a stranger
to most of those in the company, by a sweeping gesture. "It is our duty
to follow firmly on the path which our sister has indicated toward the
emancipation of woman. We should get the club started at once, and the
work done immediately. Lent will be over soon, and then there will be no
time for it."

"Yes, indeed," Cicily agreed enthusiastically, as Mrs. Morton again
subsided into her chair; "let's get the club going right away." The
presiding officer hesitated for a moment, fumbling among the papers on
the table. "What's the name--? Oh, here it is!" she concluded, lifting a
sheet from the litter before her. "Listen! It's the Civitas Society for
the Uplift of Woman and for Encouraging the Spread of Social Equality
among the Masses."

As this gratifyingly sonorous designation was enunciated by Cicily in
her most impressive voice, the members of the club straightened in their
places with obvious pride, and there was a burst of hand-clapping. Ruth
Howard's great eyes rolled delightedly.

"Oh," she gushed, "isn't it a darling duck of a name! Let's see--the
Vivitas Society for--for--what is it for, anyhow?"

Cicily came to the rescue of the forgetful zealot.

"It's for the purpose of bringing men and women closer together," she
explained with dignity.

Miss Johnson gushed approval with her usual air of coquettish
superiority.

"Oh, read it again, Cicily," she urged. "It's so inspiring!"

"Yes, do read it again," a number of enthusiasts cried in chorus.

The presiding officer was on the point of complying with the demand for
a repetition of the sonorous nomenclature:

"The Civitas Society for--" she began, with stately emphasis. But she
broke off abruptly, under the impulse of a change in mood. "Oh, what's
the use?" she questioned flippantly. "You'll all get copies of it in
full in your mail to-morrow morning." Mightily pleased with this
labor-saving expedient, Cicily beamed on her fellow club-members. "What
next?" she inquired, amiably.

Mrs. Carrington rose to her feet, and addressed the assembly with that
dignity befitting one deeply experienced in parliamentary exercises.

"Having voted on the name," she remarked ponderously, evidently
undisturbed by the exceedingly informal nature of the voting, if such it
could be called, "I think it is now time for us to start the society."
She stared condescendingly through her lorgnette at the duly impressed
company, and sank back into her chair.

There were many exclamations of assent to Mrs. Carrington's timely
proposal, and much nodding of heads. Plainly, the ladies were minded to
start the society forthwith. Unhappily, however, there remained an
obstacle to the accomplishment of that desirable end--a somewhat general
ignorance as to the proper method of procedure. Ruth Howard turned the
gaze of her large brown eyes wistfully on Mrs. Carrington, and voiced
the dilemma by a question:

"How do we start?" she asked, in a tone of gentle wonder.

Before Mrs. Carrington could formulate a reply to this pertinent
interrogation, the militant suffragette from England began an oration.

"The start of a great movement such as is this," Mrs. Flynn declaimed,
"is like unto the start of a great race, or the start of a noble sport;
it is like--"

Cicily was so enthusiastic over this explanation that she interrupted
the speaker in order to demonstrate the fact that she understood the
matter perfectly.

"You mean," she exclaimed joyously, "that you blow a whistle, or shoot a
pistol!"

This appalling ignorance of parliamentary tactics induced some of the
more learned to ill-concealed titters; Miss Johnson permitted herself to
laugh in a gurgling note that she affected. But it was Mrs. Carrington
who took it on herself to utter a veiled rebuke.

"I fear Mrs. Hamilton has not been a member of many clubs," she
remarked, icily.

At Miss Johnson's open flouting, Cicily had flushed painfully. Now,
however, she was ready with a retort to Mrs. Carrington's implied
criticism:

"Oh, on the contrary!" she exclaimed. "Why, I was chief rooter of the Pi
Iota Gammas, when I went to boarding-school at Briarcliff."

Miss Johnson spoke with dangerous suavity of manner:

"Then, my dear, since you were one of the Pigs--pardon my using the
English of it, but I never could pronounce those Greek letters--"

"Of course not," Cicily interrupted, with her sweetest smile. "I
remember, Helen, dear: you had no chance to practise, not having
belonged at Briarcliff."

Kindly Mrs. Delancy was on nettles during the passage of the gently
spoken, but none the less acrimonious, remarks between her niece and
Miss Johnson. She was well aware of Cicily's deep-seated aversion for
the coquettish older woman, who had not scrupled to employ all her arts
to win away another's lover. That she had failed utterly in her efforts
to make an impression on the heart of Charles Hamilton did not mitigate
the offense in the estimation of the bride. So strong was Cicily's
feeling, indeed, and so impulsive her temperament, that the aunt was
really alarmed for fear of an open rupture between the two young women,
for Helen Johnson had a venomous tongue, and a liking for its
employment. So, now, Mrs. Delancy hastened to break off a conversation
that threatened disaster.

"Let us select the officers, the first thing," she suggested, rising for
the sake of effectiveness in securing attention to herself. "It is, I
believe, usual in clubs to have officers, and, for that reason, it seems
to me that it would be well to select officers for this club, here and
now." Mrs. Delancy reseated herself, well satisfied with her effort, for
there was a general buzz of interest among her auditors.

Cicily, with the lively change of moods that was distinctive of her, was
instantly smiling again, but now with sincerity. Without a moment of
hesitation, she accepted the suggestion, and acted upon it. She turned
toward Mrs. Carrington, and addressed her words to that dignified
person:

"Yes, indeed," she declared gladly, "I accept the suggestion.... Won't
you be president, Mrs. Carrington?"

The important lady was obviously delighted by this suggestion. She
smiled radiantly, and she fairly preened herself so that the spangles on
her black gown shone proudly.

"Thank you, my dear Mrs. Hamilton," she replied tenderly, with a
pretense of humility that failed completely. "But I believe there are
certain formalities that are ordinarily observed--I believe that it is a
matter of selection by the club as a whole. Of course, if--" She paused
expectantly, and regarded those about her with a smile that was weighted
with suggestion.

Cicily was somewhat perturbed by the error into which she had fallen. It
occurred to her that Helen Johnson might here find another opportunity
for the gratification of malice. A glance showed that this detestable
young woman was in fact exchanging pitying glances with Mrs. Flynn.
Cicily was flushed with chagrin, as she spoke falteringly, with an
apologetic inflection:

"Oh, the president has to be elected? I beg your pardon! I thought it
was like the army, and--went by age."

At this unfortunate explanation, the simper of gratified vanity on Mrs.
Carrington's features vanished as if by magic. She stiffened visibly, as
she acridly ejaculated a single word:

"Really!" The inflection was scathing.

Mrs. Flynn, who was smiling complacently over the evident confusion of
Cicily, now stood up to instruct that unhappy presiding officer:

"No, indeed, Mrs. Hamilton," she announced with great earnestness, "for
the most part, it is the young women, even young wives no older than
yourself oftentimes, who are at the front, fighting gloriously the
battle of all women in this great movement.... At least, that is the way
in England." She paused and bridled as she surveyed the attentive
company, her manner full of self-content. "There, I may say, the
youngest and the most beautiful women have been the leaders in the fray.
Ahem!"

Cicily did not hesitate to remove all ambiguity from the utterance of
the militant suffragette with the sallow, narrow face.

"And you were a great leader, were you not, Mrs. Flynn?" she demanded,
bluntly.

There were covert smiles from the other women; but the Englishwoman was
frankly gratified by the implication. She was smiling with pleasure as
she answered:

"I may say truthfully that I know the inside of almost every
police-station in London."

At this startling announcement, uttered with every appearance of pride,
the suffragette's hearers displayed their amazement by exclamations and
gestures. Mrs. Carrington especially made manifest the fact that she had
scant patience with this manner of martyrdom in the cause of woman's
emancipation.

"My dear Mrs. Flynn," she said, with a hint of contempt in her voice,
"here in America, we do not think that getting into jail is necessarily
a cause for pride." There were murmurs of assent from most of the
others; but Mrs. Flynn herself was in no wise daunted.

"Well, then, it should be," she retorted, briskly. "Zeal is the
watchword!"

"I think that Mrs. Flynn should be president," Miss Johnson cried with
sudden enthusiasm. "She has suffered in the cause!"

"Oh, for that matter," interjected Mrs. Morton flippantly, "most of us
are married." It was known to all those whom she addressed, save perhaps
the Englishwoman, that at the age of forty Mrs. Morton had undergone two
divorces, and that she was now living wretchedly with a third husband,
so she spoke with the authority of one having had sufficient experience.

But Mrs. Flynn was too much interested in her own harrowing experiences
to be diverted by cynical raillery.

"The last time I went to jail," she related, "I had chained myself to
the gallery in the House of Commons, and, when they tried to release me,
I bit a policeman--hard!"

"Oh, you man-eater!" It was Cicily who uttered the exclamation,
half-reproachfully, half-banteringly.

"I fail to see why, if one should prefer even Chicago roast beef to an
Irish policeman, that should be held against one." This was Mrs.
Carrington's indignant comment on the narrative of the mordant martyr.

The remark affected Mrs. Flynn, however, in a fashion totally
unexpected. She cried out in genuine horror and disgust over the
suggested idea.

"Good heavens! Do you imagine I would ever bite an Irish policeman?"

"If not," Mrs. Carrington rejoined slyly, "you will have very small
opportunity in New York for the exercise of your very peculiar talents."

Cicily interposed a remark concerning the appetizing charms of some of
the mounted policemen. It seemed to her that the conversation between
the two older women had reached a point where interruption were the
course of prudence. "I think we had better do some more business, now,"
she added hastily, with an appealing glance toward her aunt.

Mrs. Delancy rose to the emergency on the instant.

"By all means," she urged. "Let us get on with the business. We haven't
been going ahead very fast, it seems to me. Why not elect the officers
right away?"

Once again, the entire company became agog with interest over the
project of securing duly authorized officials. There were murmured
conversations, confidential whisperings. As Ruth Howard earnestly
declared, it was so exciting--a real election. A stealthy canvas of
candidates was in full swing. The names of Mrs. Flynn and of Mrs.
Carrington were heard oftenest. Incidentally, certain sentences threw
light on individual methods of determining executive merit. A prim
spinster shook her head violently over some suggestion from the woman
beside her. "No, my dear," she replied aggressively, "I certainly shall
not vote for her--vote for a woman who wears a transformation? No,
indeed!"... Cicily improved the interval of general bustle to inquire
secretly of her aunt as to the possible shininess of her nose. "It
always gets shiny when I get excited," she explained, ruefully. As a
matter of fact, there was nothing whatever the matter with that dainty
feature, which had a fascination all its own by reason of the fact that
one was forever wondering whether it was classically straight or
up-tilted just the least infinitesimal fraction.

It was Mrs. Morton who first took energetic action toward an election.
She stood up, and spoke with a tone of finality:

"I think that dear Mrs. Carrington would make a splendid officer. I
nominate dear Mrs. Carrington for our president."

"Did you hear that, Mrs. Carrington?" Cicily inquired, with a pleased
smile for the one thus honored. "You're nominated."

"Oh, it's so thrilling!" Ruth Howard exclaimed, with irrepressible
enthusiasm.

But Miss Johnson, to whom Ruth particularly addressed herself, had on
occasion been unmercifully snubbed by Mrs. Carrington. In consequence,
now, she showed no sign of sympathy with her companion's emotion. On the
contrary, she sniffed indignantly, and muttered something about "that
woman!"

Meantime, Mrs. Morton was waxing restless over the fact that things
remained at a standstill, despite the nomination she had made. She rose
to her feet, and surveyed the company with a glance eloquent of haughty
surprise.

"I am waiting for a second to my motion," she remarked, icily. Then, as
there was no audible response to this information, she added with rising
indignation: "Well, really!" There was a wealth of contemptuous reproach
in the tone.

The effect on the susceptible Cicily was instantaneous. With her
customary impulsiveness, and her eagerness to do the right thing for any
and all persons, she felt that she herself had been woefully remiss in
not having hurried to Mrs. Morton's support at once. So, to make amends,
she spoke with vivacity:

"Oh, I second it!... Mrs. Carrington," she continued, turning to the
gratified candidate, "you're seconded." She was rewarded for her conduct
by a stately bow of thanks from Mrs. Morton. Half a dozen others,
taking their cue from the presiding officer, noisily cried out in
seconding the candidacy of Mrs. Carrington, whereat Mrs. Morton grew
flushed with pleasure, and was moved to consummate the affair without a
moment's delay.

"I move that the election of Mrs. Carrington as president be now made,
and also that the election be made unanimous," she demanded, with much
unction in her voice. She smiled persuasively at the presiding officer
as she concluded: "Won't you put that motion, my dear?"

Cicily rose to the occasion with an access of becoming dignity.

"It is moved and seconded," she announced loudly, "that Mrs. Carrington
be elected president of this club. All in favor of this motion--"

"One moment, please," Miss Johnson interrupted, excitedly. "Madam
Chairman, I move that Mrs. Flynn, the great, the tried, the proven, the
trusted crusader in the cause of women, from England, be elected
president, and that her election be made unanimous." She paused to turn
to Ruth, whom she addressed in a fierce whisper: "If you don't second
me, I'll never speak to you again."

"Oh, I second you," Ruth cried, anxiously. "Of course, I second you."

But, by this time, Cicily had come to a realization of the fact that the
other women present were every whit as ignorant of parliamentary law as
was she herself. So, in this emergency, she did not scruple to make
audacious retort. She answered with exceeding blandness:

"But, you see, Miss Johnson, there's already a motion before the house."

Thereupon, Mrs. Morton hastened valiantly to her own support.

"Yes, indeed," she declared, haughtily; "my motion was first. I must
insist that it be voted upon. If Miss Johnson wished to have an imported
English president for our American society, she should have nominated
Mrs. Flynn first." She made direct appeal to the presiding officer. "Am
I not right, dear?"

Cicily beamed on Mrs. Morton, and was about to reply, when a sudden
thought came to her that did greater credit to her ingenuity than to her
executive knowledge. Forthwith, she beamed, somewhat hypocritically, on
Miss Johnson in turn.

"Yes, certainly," she affirmed; "I'm sure you're both quite right."

"Thank you, Madam Chairman, for agreeing with me," Miss Johnson replied,
placated by Cicily's unexpected amiability toward her. "My motion also
is before the house, and I insist that it be voted on. Mrs. Flynn has
been seconded."

There was a spirit of hostility in the manner with which Miss Johnson
and Mrs. Morton faced each other that boded ill for peace. The rival
candidates sat in rigid erectness, disdainfully aloof while their
supporters wrangled. The whisperings of the others suggested a growing
acrimoniousness of debate. That earnest maiden, Ruth, was alarmed by the
tension of strife.

"I think I'd rather go," she faltered. "I'm afraid you're going to
quarrel, Helen."

But the resources of Cicily's inspiration were by no means ended. She
waved a conciliatory hand toward the adversaries, and spoke with an air
of finality that produced an instantaneous effect as of oil on troubled
waters.

"I'll tell you: I'll put one motion, and the other can be an amendment."
At this profound suggestion, the whole company breathed a sigh of
relief. Only Ruth appeared somewhat puzzled.

"What's an amendment?" she questioned frankly, while the others regarded
her with evident scorn for such ignorance.

"An amendment, Ruth," the presiding officer explained patiently,
"is--is--oh, just listen, and don't interrupt the proceedings, and
you'll know all about it in a few minutes." She beamed once again, first
on Mrs. Morton and then on Miss Johnson. "Which of you would rather be
the amendment?" she inquired.

Mrs. Morton, as became her years, was first to make reply.

"It's entirely immaterial to me, just so my motion is put."

Miss Johnson adopted a manner that was not without signs of heroic
self-sacrifice.

"I'll be the amendment," were her words. With that, she bowed very
formally to Mrs. Morton, who returned the salute with a fine dignity,
after which the two at last subsided into their chairs.

Cicily was elated with the subtle manner in which she had evolved order
out of chaos. Her eyes glowed with pride, and the flush in her cheeks
deepened. There was an added music in her voice, as she once more
addressed the company.

"Splendid!" she ejaculated. "Now, all in favor of Mrs. Motion's
morton--I mean Mrs. Morton's motion, please say ay!"

In a clear, ringing voice she led the chorus in the affirmative. Yes,
every woman present, including the presiding officer, voted an
enthusiastic ay, whereupon Cicily declared the motion carried; and Mrs.
Morton rose and said: "Thank you, ladies." Next, Mrs. Carrington stood
up, placed a hand on her heart, and expressed her appreciation of the
honor done her: "I deeply thank you, ladies." The incident was fittingly
concluded by an outburst of applause in which all the club joined,
although Ruth beat her palms in rather a bewildered manner.... Cicily
immediately entered on the new phase of the situation.

"Now, all in favor of Miss Johnson's amendment, please say ay," she
directed. Again, she led the chorus in the affirmative, and the entire
company joined in the vote without a dissenting voice. "Amendment
carried," the presiding officer announced, gleefully. It was now the
turn of Miss Johnson to rise and offer her thanks, and Mrs. Flynn
followed, saying, very neatly: "From over the sea, I thank you." The
usual applause was of the heartiest.... But Cicily was still energetic.

"Now, all in favor of the motion and of the amendment, please say ay,"
she requested. For the third time, she led the chorus, and the vote was
unopposedly affirmative. "The motion and the amendment are carried
unanimously," Cicily announced, and the hand clapping sounded a happy
content on the part of the Civitas Club.

Afterward, came a little intermission of conversation in which was
expressed much appreciation of the efficiency of the club in carrying on
its session. "It all goes to show how businesslike women can be," Mrs.
Carrington remarked, triumphantly. Mrs. Flynn was even more emphatic.
"I've never seen a meeting more gloriously typical of our great cause."
The tribute was welcomed with a buzz of assent.... But, finally, there
came a lull in the talking. It was broken by Mrs. Delancy, who spoke
thoughtlessly out of a confused mind, with no suspicion as to the
sinister effect to be wrought by her words:

"Who's elected?" was her simple question.

There was a moment of amazed silence, in which the members of the club
stared at one another with widened eyes. It was broken very speedily,
however, by Mrs. Carrington, who rose to her feet with more activity of
movement than was customary to her dignified bearing.

"I have the honor," she stated, sharply.

Instantly, Mrs. Flynn, the militant suffragette, was up, her face
belligerent.

"Pardon me, but the honor belongs to me," she snapped, regarding the
first claimant with a fierce indignation that was returned in kind. Most
of the others were too confounded for speech, but Mrs. Morton rose to
support her candidate's claims.

"Pray pardon me," she began placatingly, "but probably Mrs. Flynn does
not understand. The interpretation of parliamentary law in England may
be quite different. Probably, it is. The customs of that country vary
widely from ours in many respects. So, they probably do in the matter of
elections in clubs. Now, I belong to ten clubs--American clubs--and I
assure you that, according to the parliamentary law in every one of
those ten clubs, Mrs. Carrington is certainly elected."

This advocacy was, naturally, a challenge to Miss Johnson, who promptly
rose up to champion her own candidate.

"Mrs. Carrington, I am sure, has no desire to take advantage of a
distinguished stranger within our gates--and one who has served as
gloriously in the cause as Mrs. Flynn--but, even if someone--" she
regarded Mrs. Morton with great significance--"I say, even if someone
should wish to take unfair advantage of a technicality, it would be
altogether impossible, for my amendment to the original motion was
carried--unanimously! Mrs. Flynn is the president of the club, duly
elected."

Some hazy notion of parliamentary procedure moved Mrs. Flynn to a
suggestion.

"I think the matter might best be settled by the chair," she said,
doubtfully. "The chair put the motion. Let us then leave the decision to
Madam Chairman." Mrs. Carrington nodded a stately agreement to the
proposal, and the company as a whole appeared vastly relieved, with the
exceptions of Miss Johnson, who sniffed defiantly, and of Ruth, who
appeared more than ever bewildered by the succession of events.

Now, at last, Cicily felt herself baffled by the crisis of her own
making. She looked from one to another with reproach in her amber eyes.

"But--but you cannot expect me to decide between my guests," she
espostulated. There was appeal for relief in the pathetic droop of the
scarlet lips of the bride, but it was of no avail. The company asserted
with vehemence that she must render the decision in this unfortunate
dilemma.... And, again, the angel of inspiration whispered a solution of
the difficulty. Impulsive as ever, a radiant smile curved her mouth, and
her eyes shone happily.

"Very well," she yielded. "Since you insist on putting your hostess in
such an unfortunate position, I decide that it is up to the ladies
themselves. Which one wishes to take the office, to force herself
forward against the wishes of the other?" She cast a seemingly guileless
glance of inquiry first on Mrs. Carrington, then on Mrs. Flynn, who
simultaneously uttered exclamations of indignation at the imputation
thus laid upon them.

Mrs. Carrington was quick to make explicit answer.

"If the ladies of the club do not desire me to be president, I must
decline to accept the office, in spite of a unanimous vote. If,
however--" She broke off to stare accusingly at her rival, then about
the room in search of encouragement for her claims.

[Illustration]

Mrs. Flynn took advantage of the opportunity for speech in her own
behalf.

"Naturally, as a stranger, I hesitate to force myself forward, even
though my record is such that it is hard to see how any opposition could
possibly develop against me. However--"

"Of course, Mrs. Carrington is elected," Mrs. Morton interrupted.

At the same time, Miss Johnson urged aggressiveness on her candidate.

"Don't back down," she implored. "Remember the policeman!"

Mrs. Carrington muttered maliciously, as she caught the words.

"In view of Mrs. Flynn's record," she began, "I scarcely feel
justified--" Her mock humility was copied by Mrs. Flynn on the instant.

"As a stranger, I cannot force myself--"

The presiding officer decided that this was in truth the psychological
moment in which to dominate the situation.

"Indeed, the chair appreciates the rare quality of your self-denial,"
she announced in an authoritative voice that commanded the respectful
attention of all. "Now, ladies," she continued with an air of grave
rebuke, "you see what comes of putting your hostess in such an
unfortunate position as compelling her to force on one of her guests
something she doesn't want. Mrs. Carrington and Mrs. Flynn, both, are my
friends and my guests as well, and I must certainly decline to embarrass
them further in this matter. The only thing I can do, since neither of
them is willing to take the presidency, is regretfully to accept it
myself. So, I will be president, and I do now so declare myself."

At this astounding decision, Mrs. Carrington and Mrs. Flynn sank down in
their chairs, too dumfounded to protest: but their distress, along with
the similar emotion of Mrs. Morton and Miss Johnson, was not observed by
the others in the general hubbub of enthusiasm aroused by the new
Solomon come to judgment. After an interval of tumultuous cheering,
there came demand for a speech by the newly fleeted president....
Cicily acceded, after due urging.

"I'm ever so much obliged to you," she declared, and kissed her hands
gracefully to her fellow club-members. Thereat, the applause was of the
briskest. "Really, I am," she made assurance, and wafted another kiss.
On this occasion, the applause was of even greater volume than ever
before, although four of those present did not join in the ovation to
the new chief executive. "Yes, really--truly!" Cicily went on, fluently.
"And I think this is a wonderful club we have started. We need a club.
It gives us--us married women--something to do. That's the real
answer--the real cause, I think, of the woman question. These men have
gone on inventing vacuum cleaners and gas-stoves and apartment hotels
and servants that know more than we do. They haven't treated us fairly.
They've taken away all our occupation, and now we've got to retaliate.
We can't keep house for them any more, and, if we--if we care anything
about them, or want to help them, we've got to go into business, or to
help them vote.... Well, they brought it on themselves. They've got too
proud. They used to be dependent on us: now, we're dependent on them,
on their inventions and their servants. So, we're going to show them.
We'll make them dependent on us in the wider outside world, just as they
used to be dependent on us in the home. They've hurt our pride, and
we're going to make them pay. They say we are nervous and reckless and
always on the go.... It's their fault: they've made the new woman, and
now we are going to make the new man. They put us out of work, and made
us so, and now they're going to be sorry.... The time is fast coming
when each of us will have at least three or four men--"

It was Miss Johnson who caused the interruption to this burst of
eloquence.

"Why, that's positively immoral!" gasped the outraged spinster.

"--at least three or four men dependent upon her," concluded the
unabashed president of the Civitas Club, as she cast a withering look on
her enemy, who quailed visibly. "And I think that's all," Cicily added,
contentedly. She felt that she could with justice claim to have
conducted herself nobly throughout a critical situation.

"I move that we adjourn," said Mrs. Flynn, energetically. Her vigorous
temperament would permit no longer sulking in silence despite the
humiliation to which she had so recently been subjected.

Mrs. Carrington, however, had not yet rejected all hope of office.

"We must first select a secretary," she suggested.

This was opposed by Miss Johnson, always persistently moved to discredit
the older woman who had snubbed her socially.

"Why not select a professional stenographer as a member of the club;
then make her secretary? Any number of young working women would
doubtless be glad of the honor." This brought an outcry against the
admission of any professional working woman into the exclusive Civitas.

"Oh, remember that we have ideals!" Ruth Howard remonstrated, with
sincere, if vague, adherence to her ideals; and she up-turned her great
eyes toward the ceiling.

Mrs. Flynn, curiously enough, was opposed to the idealist in this
instance.

"Yes," she said, "I fear that it's quite true. The professional working
woman thinks more of her salary and a comfortable living than of our
great cause."

Cicily herself disposed of the matter with a blithesome nonchalance that
was beautiful to behold.

"Oh, don't bother," was her way of cutting the Gordian knot. "I'll make
my husband's stenographer do the work."

"I move that we adjourn," the militant suffragette repeated in a most
businesslike manner.

Mrs. Carrington was determined that her rival should not outdistance her
at the finish. She spoke with her most forcible dignity:

"I second the motion."

The motion was put and carried.... Thus ended the first session of that
epoch-marking organization: The Civitas Society for the Uplift of Woman
and for Encouraging the Spread of Social Equality among the Masses.



CHAPTER II


Cicily Hamilton, bride of a year, was seemingly as fortunate a young
woman as the city of New York could offer to an envious world. Her house
in the East Sixties, just off the Avenue, was a charming home, dainty,
luxurious, in the best of taste, with a certain individuality in its
arrangement and ornamentation that spoke agreeably of the personality of
its mistress. Her husband, Charles Hamilton, was a handsome man of
twenty-six, who adored his wife, although recently, in the months since
the waning of the honeymoon, he had been so absorbed in business cares
that he had rather neglected those acts of tenderness so vital to a
woman's happiness. Some difficulties that disturbed him downtown
rendered him often preoccupied when at home, and the effect on his wife
was unwholesome. Little by little, the girl-woman felt a certain
discontent growing within her, indeterminate in a great measure, but
none the less forceful in its influence on her moods day by day.

The statements that Cicily had made in her inaugural speech to the
Civitas Society exhibited, albeit crudely, some of the facts breeding
revolt in her. In very truth, she found herself without sufficient
occupation to hold her thoughts from fanciful flights that led to no
satisfactory result in action. An excellent housekeeper, who was far
wiser in matters of ménage than she could ever be, held admirable sway
over the domestic machinery. The servants, thus directed, were as those
untroubling inventions of which she had complained. Since she was not
devoted to the distraction of social gaieties, Cicily found an appalling
amount, of unemployed time on her hands. She was blest with an excellent
education; but, with no great fondness for knowledge as such, she was
not inclined to prosecute any particular study with the ardor of the
scholar. To rid herself of the boredom induced by this state of affairs,
the young wife decided that she must develop a new interest in her
fellow creatures. She went farther, and resolved to establish herself on
a basis of equality with her husband, not merely in love, but in the
sterner world of business. Thus, she was brought to entertain a
convincing belief in equality for the sexes, in society and in the home.

She revealed something of her mind and heart to her aunt on the
afternoon of the day following the singular session of the Civitas
Society. The two women were together in Cicily's boudoir, a delightful
room, all paneled in rose silk, with furniture _Louis Quatorze_, and
Dresden ornaments.... It was an hour yet before time for the
dressing-bell. Cicily, in a negligee of white silk that fitted well with
the color scheme of the room and that only emphasized the purity of her
ivory skin, suddenly sat up erect in the chair where she had been
nestling in curving abandonment.

"Why, Aunt Emma," she exclaimed, with a new sparkle in the amber eyes,
"we forgot to set any date for another meeting of the club?"

But Mrs. Delancy did not seem impressed by the oversight.

"Do you think it makes any real difference, dear?" she questioned
placidly.

At this taunt, Cicily assumed an air of reproach that was hardly
calculated to deceive the astute old lady, who had known the girl for
twenty years.

"Don't you take our club seriously?" she questioned in her turn. Her
musical voice was touchingly plaintive.

"Oh, it's serious enough," was the retort. "It's either seriously
pitiful, or pitifully serious, whichever way you choose to look at it."

Cicily abandoned her disguise of concern, and laughed heartily before
she spoke again.

"I must admit that I think it's a joke, myself," she admitted: "more's
the pity." There was a note of genuine regret in her voice now. Then,
she smiled again, with much zest. "But it was so amusing--stirring them
up, and then calmly taking the presidency myself, because none of them
knew just how to stop me!"

"It was barefaced robbery!" Mrs. Delancy exclaimed reprovingly, although
she, too, was compelled to smile at the audacity of the achievement.
"But," she added meditatively, "I really don't see what it all amounts
to, anyhow?"

"I suspect that you didn't listen attentively to the president's
speech," Cicily railed.

"I listened," Mrs. Delancy declared, firmly. "In spite of that fact, my
dear, what does it all mean? Down deep, are you serious in some things
I have heard you say, lately?"

"Oh, yes, I'm serious enough," was the answer, spoken with a hint of
bitterness in the tone. "That is, I'm seriously bored--desperately
bored, for the matter of that. I tell you, Aunt Emma, a married woman
must have something to do. As for me, why, I have absolutely nothing to
do. Those other women, too, or at least most of them, have nothing to
do, and they are all desperately bored. Well, that's the cause of the
new club. Unfortunately, the club, too, has nothing to do--nothing at
all--and so, the club, too, is desperately bored.... Oh, if only I could
give that club an object--a real object!"

Mrs. Delancy murmured some remonstrance over the new enthusiasm that
sounded in her niece's voice while uttering the aspiration in behalf of
the Civitas Society; but the bride paid no heed.

"Yes," she mused, straightening the arches of her brows in a frown of
perplexity, "it could be made something, with an object. I myself could
be made something, with an object--something worth while to strive
for.... Heavens, how I wish I had something to do!"

This iconoclastic fashion of speech was not patiently endured by the
orthodox aunt, who listened to the plaint with marked displeasure.

"A bride with a young husband and a beautiful home," she remarked
tartly, "seeking something to do! In my day, a bride was about the
busiest and the happiest person in the community." Her voice took on a
tone of tender reminiscence, and a little color crept into the wrinkled
pallor of her cheeks, and she perked her head a bit coquettishly, in a
youthful manner not unbecoming, as she continued: "I remember how
happy--oh, how happy!--I was then!"

Cicily, however, displayed a rather shocking lack of sympathy for this
emotion on the part of her relative. She was, in fact, selfishly
absorbed in her own concerns, after the manner of human nature, whether
young or old.

"Yes," she said, almost spitefully, "I have noticed how always old
married ladies continually remember the happy time when they were
brides. A bride's happy time is as much advertised as a successful
soap.... But I--I--well, I'm not a bride any longer--that's all. I've
been married a whole year!"

"A whole year!" Mrs. Delancy spoke the word with the fine scorn of one
who was looking forward complacently to the celebration of a golden
wedding anniversary in the near future.

Cicily, however, was impervious to the sarcasm of the repetition.

"Yes," she repeated gloomily, "a whole year. Think of it.... And all the
women in my family live to be seventy. Mamma would have been alive if
she hadn't been drowned. A good many live to be eighty. Why, you're not
seventy yet. Poor dear! You may have ten or a dozen more years of it!"

Mrs. Delancy was actually horrified by her niece's commiseration.

"Cicily," she eluded, "you must not speak in that manner. I've been
happily married. You--"

The afflicted bride was not to be turned aside from her woe.

"I'm perfectly wretched," she announced, fiercely. "Auntie, Charles is a
bigamist!"

"Good Lord!" Mrs. Delancy ejaculated with pious fervor, and sank back
limply in her chair, too much overcome for further utterance. Then, in a
flash of memory, she beheld again the facts as she had known them as to
her niece's courtship and marriage. The girl and Charles Hamilton had
been sweethearts as children. The boy had developed into the man without
ever apparently wavering in his one allegiance. Cicily, too, had had
eyes for no other suitor, even when many flocked about her, drawn by the
fascination of her vivacious beauty and the little graces of her form
and the varied brilliance of her moods. It was because of the
steadfastness of the two lovers in their devotion that Mr. and Mrs.
Delancy had permitted themselves to be persuaded into granting consent
for an early marriage. It had seemed to them that the constancy of the
pair was sufficiently established. They believed that here was indeed
material for the making of an ideal union. Their belief seemed justified
by the facts in the outcome, for bride and groom showed all the
evidences of rapturous happiness in their union. It had only been
revealed during this present visit to the household by the aunt that,
somehow, things were not as they should be between these two erstwhile
so fond.... And now, at last, the truth was revealed in all its
revolting nudity. Mrs. Delancy recalled, with new understanding of its
fatal significance, the aloof manner recently worn by the young husband
in his home. So, this was the ghastly explanation of the change: The man
was a bigamist! The distraught woman had hardly ears for the words her
niece was speaking.

"Yes," Cicily said, after a long, mournful pause, "besides me, Charles
has married--" She paused, one foot in a dainty satin slipper beating
angrily on the white fur of the rug.

"What woman?" Mrs. Delancy demanded, with wrathful curiosity.

"Oh, a factory full of them!" The young wife spoke the accusation with a
world of bitterness in her voice.

"Good gracious, what an extraordinary man!" Mrs. Delancy, under the
stimulus of this outrageous guilt again sat erect in her chair. Once
more, the flush showed daintily in the withered cheeks; but, now, there
was no hint of tenderness in the rose--it was the red of anger. "I know
how you must feel, dear," she said, gently. "I was jealous once, of one
woman. But to be jealous of a factory full--oh, Lord!"

"Yes," Cicily declared, in tremulous tones, "all of them, and the men
besides!"

Mrs. Delancy bounced from her seat, then slowly subsided into the depths
of the easy chair, whence she fairly gaped at her former ward. When,
finally, she spoke, it was slowly, with full conviction.

"Cicily, you're crazy!"

"No," the girl protested, sadly; "only heartbroken. I am so miserable
that I wish I were dead!"

"But, my dear," Mrs. Delancy argued, "it can't be that you are
quite--er--sensible, you know."

"Of course, I'm not sensible," Cicily admitted, petulantly. "I said I
was jealous, didn't I? Naturally, I can't be sensible."

"But Charles can't be married to the men, too!" Mrs. Delancy asserted,
wonderingly.

At that, Cicily flared in a burst of genuine anger.

"Yes, he is, too," she stormed; "and to the women, too--to the
buildings, to the machinery, to the nasty ground, to the
fire-escapes--to every single thing about that horrid business of his!
Oh, I hate it! I hate it! I hate every one of them!... And he is a
bigamist, I tell you--yes, a bigamist! He's married to me and to his
business, too, and he cares more for his business!"

"Humph!" The exclamation came from Mrs. Delancy with much energy. It was
surcharged, with relief, for the tragedy was made clear to her at last.
Surely, there was room for trouble in the situation, but nothing like
that over which she had shuddered during the period of her
misapprehension. In the first minute of relief, she felt aroused to
indignation against her niece who had so needlessly shocked her. "I do
wish, Cicily," she remonstrated, "that you would endeavor to curb your
impetuosity. It leads you into such absurdities of speech and of action.
Your extravagant way of opening this subject caused me utterly to
mistake your meaning, and set me all a-tremble--for a tempest in a
teapot."

"I think I'll get a divorce," Cicily declared, defiantly. The bride was
not in an apologetic mood, inasmuch, as she regarded herself as the one
undeservedly suffering under great wrongs.

"Perhaps!" Mrs. Delancy retorted, sarcastically. Her usual good humor
was returning, after the first reaction from the stress she had
undergone by reason of the young wife's fantastic mode of speech. "I
suppose you will name Charles's business as the co-respondent."

"It takes more out of him than any woman could," was the spirited
retort. "Of course, I shall. Why not?"

Mrs. Delancy, now thoroughly amused, explained to her niece some details
concerning the grounds required by the statutes in the state of New York
for the granting of absolute divorce, of which hitherto the carefully
nurtured girl had been in total ignorance. Cicily was at first
astounded, and then dismayed. But, in the end, she regained her poise,
and reverted with earnestness to the need of reform in the courts where
such gross injustice could be. She surmised even that in this field she
might find ultimately some outlet of a satisfactory sort for her wasted
energies.

"Why, I and my club, and other clubs like it," she concluded, "find the
cause of our being in such things as this. We women haven't any
occupation, and we haven't any husbands, essentially speaking--and we're
determined to have both."

The bold declaration was offensive to the old lady's sense of
propriety.

"You can't interfere with your husband's business, Cicily," she said by
way of rebuke, somewhat stiffly.

The young wife, however, was emancipated from such admonitions. She did
not hesitate to express her dissent boldly.

"Yes," she exclaimed indignantly, "that's the idea that you old married
women have been putting up with, without ever whimpering. Why, you've
even been preaching it yourselves--preaching it until you've spoilt the
men utterly. So, now, thanks to your namby-pamby knuckling under always,
it's business first, last, and all the time--and marriage just nowhere.
I tell you, it's all wrong.... I know you're older," she went on
vehemently, as Mrs. Delancy's lips parted. "I guess that's why you're
wrong.... Anyhow, it isn't as it was intended. For the matter of that,
which was first, marriage or business? Did Adam have a business when he
married? Huh! There! No man could answer that!" Cicily paused in
triumph, and, in the elation wrought by developing a successful
argument, turned luminous eyes on her aunt, while her red lips bent
into the daintiest of smiles.

Mrs. Delancy was not to be beguiled from the fixed habits of thoughts
carried through scores of years by the winsome blandishments of her
whilom ward. She had no answering gentleness for the gladness in the
girl's face. When she spoke, it was with an emphasis of acute
disapproval:

"Do you mean that you are going to make your husband choose between you
and his business, Cicily?"

Something in the tone disturbed the young wife's serenity. The direct
question itself was sufficient to destroy the momentary equanimity
evolved out of a mental achievement such as the argument from Adam. She
realized, on the instant, that her desire must be defeated by the facts
of life.

"No," she admitted, after a brief period of hesitancy, "of course not.
Charles chooses business first--any man would."

The inexorable question followed:

"Well, what are you going to do?" Then, as no answer came: "I beg of
you, Cicily, not to be rash. Don't do anything that will cause you
regret after you have come into a calmer mood. Of course, once on a
time, marriage was first with men, and I think that it should be first
now--I know that it should. But it is the truth that business has now
come to be first in the lives of our American men. And, my dear, you
can't overcome conditions all by yourself. At heart, Charles loves you,
Cicily. I'm sure of that, even though he does seem, wrapt up in his
business affairs. Yet, he loves you, just the same. That's the one thing
we older women learn to cling to, to solace ourselves with: that, deep
down in their hearts, our husbands do love us, no matter how indifferent
they may seem. When a woman once loses faith in that, why, she just
can't go on, that's all. Oh, I beg you, Cicily, don't ever lose that
faith. It means shipwreck!"

The young wife shook her head slowly--doubtfully; then
quickly--determinedly.

"No, I won't put up with just that," she asserted, morosely, "I want
more. I'll have more, or--" She checked herself abruptly, and once again
the arch of her dark brows was straightened, as she mused somberly over
her future course.

There fell an interval of silence, in which the two reflected on the
mysteries that lie between man and woman in the way of love. It was
broken finally by Mrs. Delancy, who spoke meditatively, hardly conscious
that the words were uttered aloud.

"Of course, you're not really dependent on Charles. Your own fortune--"

The girl's interruption came in a passionate outburst that filled her
hearer with distress and surprise. It would seem that Cicily had been
thinking very tenderly, yet very unhappily, of those mysteries of love.

"But I am dependent on him--dependent on him for every ray of sunshine
in my heart, for every breath of happiness in my life; while he--" her
voice broke suddenly; it came muffled as she continued
quiveringly--"while he--he's not dependent on me at all!" After a little
interval, she went on, more firmly, but with the voice of despair.
"That's the pity of it. That's what makes us women nowadays turn to
something else--to some other man, or to some work, some fad, some
hobby, some folly, some madness--anything to fill the void in our hearts
that our husbands forget to fill, because their whole attention is
concentrated on business.... But I'm not going to be that wife, I give
you warning. I'm going to make my husband fill all my heart, and, too,
I'm going to make him dependent on me. I'll make him know that he can't
do without me!"

"Nonsense!" Mrs. Delancy objected, incredulously. "Why, as to that,
Charles is dependent on you now. You haven't really lost his love--not a
bit of it, my dear!"

There was infinite sadness in the young wife's gesture of negation.

"Aunt Emma," she said earnestly, "Charles and I haven't had an evening
together in weeks. We haven't had a real old talk in months.... Why,
I--I doubt if he even remembers what day this is!"

"You mean--?"

"Our first anniversary! Long ago, we planned to celebrate the day--just
the theater and a little supper after--only us two.... I wonder if he
will remember." The tremulous voice gave evidence that the tears were
very near.

"Oh, of course, he will," Mrs. Delancy declared briskly, with a manner
of cheerful certainty. Nevertheless, out of the years of experience in
the world of married folk, a great doubt lurked in her heart.

Cicily's head with the coronal of dark brown hair, usually poised so
proudly, now drooped dejectedly; there was no hopefulness in her tones
as she replied:

"I don't know--I am afraid. Why, since the tobacco trust bought out that
Carrington box factory five months ago, and began fighting Charles, he
talks tobacco boxes in his sleep."

"Don't take it so seriously," the aunt argued. "All men are that way. My
dear, your Uncle Jim mumbles woolens--even during Dog Days. No, you
mustn't take things so seriously, Cicily. You are not the only wife who
has to suffer in this way. You are not the only one who was ever
lonesome. Your case isn't unusual--more pity! It's the case of almost
every wife whose husband wins in this frightful battle with business.
Years ago, dear, I suffered as you are suffering. Your uncle never told
me anything. I've never known anything at all about more than half of
his life. He rebuffed me the few times at first, when I tried to share
those things with him. He said that a woman had no place in a man's
business affairs. So, after a little, I stopped trying. For a time, I
was lonesome--very lonesome--oh, so lonesome!... And, then, I began to
make a life for myself outside the home--as he had already by his
business. I tried in my humble way to do something for others. That's
the best way to down a heartache, my dear--try making someone else
happy."

The words arrested Cicily's heed. As their meaning seeped into her
consciousness, the expression of her face changed little by little.
"Making people happy!" She repeated the phrase as she had formulated the
idea again, very softly, with a persistence that would have surprised
Mrs. Delancy, could she have caught the inaudible murmur. Presently, the
faint rose in the pallor of her cheeks blossomed to a deeper red, and
the amber eyes grew radiant, as she lifted the long, curving lashes, and
fixed her gaze on her aunt. There was a new animation in her voice as
she spoke; there was a new determination in the resolute set of the
scarlet lips.

"Why, that's something to do!" she exclaimed, joyously. "It's something
to do, really, after all--isn't it?"

"Yes," her aunt agreed, sedately; "something big to do. For my part, I
joined church circles, and worked first for the heathen."

"Oh, bother the heathen!" Cicily ejaculated, rudely. "Charles is heathen
enough for me!" With her characteristic impulsiveness, she sprang to her
feet, as Mrs. Delancy quietly rose to go, ran to her aunt, and embraced
that astonished woman with great fervor.

"I honestly believe that you've given me the idea I was looking for,"
she declared enthusiastically. "You darling!... Making people happy! It
would be something for the club, too.... Yes," she concluded decisively,
"I'll do it!"

"Do what?" Mrs. Delancy questioned, bewildered by the swift succession
of moods in the girl she loved, yet could never quite understand.

"You just wait, Aunt Emma," was the baffling answer.

Mrs. Delancy turned at the door, and spoke grimly:

"My dear Cicily," she said, "you're getting to be quite as reticent as
your uncle and Charles."

But the girl disdained any retort to the gibe. Instead, she was saying
softly, over and over: "Making other people happy! Making other people
happy!"



CHAPTER III


Cicily Hamilton was inclined to be captious with her maid as she dressed
that evening. She was finical to the point of absurdity even, which is
often the fault of beauty, and perhaps a fault not altogether
unbecoming, since its aim is the last elaboration of loveliness. Indeed,
the fault becomes a virtue, when its motive lies in the desire to attain
supreme charm for the one beloved. It was so with the young wife
to-night. She was filled with anxious longing to display her beauty in
its full measure for the pleasuring of the man to whom she had given her
whole heart. For that fond purpose, she was curt with her maid, and
reproachful with herself. She was deeply troubled by the thought that a
darker shade to her brows might enhance the brilliance of her eyes. She
hesitated before, but finally resisted, a temptation to use a touch of
pencil to gain the effect. She was exceedingly querulous over the
coiling of her tresses into the crown that added so regally to the
dignity of her bearing. The selection of the gown was a matter for
profound deliberation, and ended in a mood of dubiety. That passed,
however, when at last she surveyed her length in the cheval glass. Then,
she became aware, beyond peradventure of doubt, that the white lacery of
silk, molded to her slender form and interwoven with heavy threads of
gold, was supremely becoming. The gleam of precious metal in the fabric
scorned to transmute the amber of her eyes into a glory of gold. The
pearls of her necklace harmonized with the warm pallor of her
complexion.

Despite the pains taken, there remained time to spare before the dinner
hour, when the toilette had been thus happily completed. As she was
about to dismiss the maid, Cicily bethought her to ask a question.

"Has Mr. Hamilton come in yet, Albine?"

"Yes, madam--a half-hour ago. He went to the study, with his secretary."

Left alone, Cicily mused on the maid's information, and bitterness again
swept over her. During the period of dressing, she had been so absorbed
in the attempt to make the most of her charms that, for the time being,
she had forgotten her apprehensions as to her husband's neglect. Now,
however, those apprehensions were recalled, and they became more
poignant. Only a stern regard for the appearance she must present anon
held her back from tears. It seemed to her longing a dreadful thing that
on this day of all others her husband must bring back to his home this
rival of whom she was so jealous. For it could mean nothing else, if he
were closeted with his secretary at this hour: he was dallying in the
embraces of business, with never a thought for the wife whom he had
sworn to love always. For all that she was beautiful, possessed of ample
fortune, married to the man of her choice and, by reason of her youth,
full of the joy of life, Cicily Hamilton was a very wretched woman, as
she strolled slowly down the broad, winding stair, and entered the
drawing-room, where already Mrs. Delancy was waiting.

[Illustration]

That good lady, in her turn, had found herself sorely perturbed. The
mood of revolt in which her niece was, caused a measure of alarm in the
bosom of the loving older woman. Her own course at this moment was not
clear to her. She had been aware that to-day was the first anniversary
of the marriage of the Hamiltons, and it was on this account that she
had prolonged her visit. Yet, she had meant to go away in time to
permit the young pair their particular fête in a _solitude à deux_. She,
too, however, had learned of the present absorption of Mr. Hamilton in
business affairs, and there at she became suspicious that her niece's
fears as to his forgetfulness might be realized. In the end, she had
determined to remain until immediately before the dinner hour, leaving
the going or staying to be ruled by the facts as they developed. Arrived
at this decision, she had telephoned to her own home as to the
uncertainty in regard to her movements, and thereafter had awaited the
issue of events with that simple placidity which is the boon sometimes
granted by much experience of the world.

Hardly a moment after the meeting of the two women in the drawing-room,
the master of the house entered hurriedly, bearing in his hand a sheaf
of papers. Charles Hamilton was a large, dark man, remarkably
good-looking in a boyish, clean-shaven, typically American, businesslike
fashion. Still short of the thirties, he had nevertheless formed those
habits of urgent industry that characterize the successful in the
metropolis. Already, he had become enslaved by the business man's worst
habit--that most dangerous to domestic happiness--the taking of mutual
love between him and his wife as something conceded once for all, not
requiring exhibition or culture or protection or nourishment of any
sort. In this mistake he was perhaps less blamable than are some,
inasmuch as he was fettered by a great ignorance of feminine nature.
From earliest boyhood, he had been Cicily's abject worshiper. That
devotion had held him aloof from other women. In consequence, he had
missed the variety of experiences through which many men pass, from
which, perforce, they garner stores of wisdom, to be used for good or
ill as may be. Hamilton, unfortunately, knew nothing concerning woman's
foibles. He had no least suspicion as to her constant craving for the
expression of affection, her heart-hunger for the murmured words of
endearment, her poignant yearning for gentle, tender caresses day by
day. They loved; they were safely married: those blessed facts to him
were sufficient. There was no need to talk about it. In fact, in his
estimation, there was not time. There was business to be managed--no
dillydallying in this day and generation, unless one would join the
down-and-out club! Such was the point of view from which this bridegroom
of a year surveyed his domestic life. It was a point of view
established almost of necessity from the environment in which he found
himself established. He was in no wise unique: he was typical of his
class. He was clean and wholesome, industrious, energetic, clever--but
he knew nothing of woman.... So, now, he immediately rushed up to Mrs.
Delancy, without so much as a glance toward the wife who had studied
long and anxiously to make the delight of his eyes.

"Hello, Aunt Emma!" he exclaimed gaily, and kissed her. "I am glad you
stayed over to cheer up the little girl, while husband was away grubbing
the money for her."

"Oh, do you think, then, that she needs cheering?" There was a world of
significance in the manner with which the old lady put the pertinent
question; but the absorbed business man was deaf to the implication.

Cicily, however, spared him the pains of any disclaimer by uttering one
for herself.

"Need cheering!--I! What an absurd idea!"

Hamilton smiled gladly as he heard his wife speak thus bravely in
assurance of her entire contentment. Now, for the first time, he turned
toward her. But it was plain that he failed to note her appearance with
any degree of particularity. He had no phrase of appreciation for the
exquisite woman, in the exquisite gown. He spoke with a certain tone of
fondness; yet it was the fondness of habit.

"That's right," he said heartily, as he crossed the room to her side,
and bestowed a perfunctory marital peck on the oval cheek. "I'm mighty
glad you haven't been lonesome, sweetheart."

"You were thinking that I might be lonesome?" There was a note of
wistfulness in the musical voice as she asked the question. The glow in
the golden eyes uplifted to his held a shy hint of hope.

Manlike, he failed to understand the subtle appeal.

"Of course, I didn't," he replied. "If I thought about it at all--which
I greatly doubt, we've been so rushed at the office--I probably thought
how glad you must be not having a man under foot around the house when
your friends called for gossip. Oh, I understand the sex; I know how you
women sit about and talk scandal."

An indignant humph! from Mrs. Delancy was ignored by Hamilton, but he
could not escape feeling a suggestion of sarcasm in his wife's
deliberately uttered comment:

"Yes, Charles, you do know an awful lot about women!"

"I knew enough to get you," he riposted, neatly. Then, he had an
inspiration that he believed to be his duty as a host: as a matter of
fact, it was rudeness in a husband toward his wife on the first
anniversary of their marriage. He turned suavely to Mrs. Delancy.
"You'll stay to dinner, of course, Aunt Emma." And he added, fatuously:
"You and Cicily can chat together afterward, you know.... I've a
horrible pile of work to get through to-night."

At her husband's unconscious betrayal of her dearest hopes, Cicily
started as if she had been struck. As he ceased speaking, she nerved
herself to the ordeal, and made her statement with an air as casual as
she could muster, while secretly a-quiver with anxiety.

"Why, Charles, we are going to the theater to-night, you know."

"To-night?" Hamilton spoke the single word with an air of blank
astonishment. It needed no more to make clear the fact that he had no
guess as to the importance of this especial day in the calendar of their
wedded lives.

Cicily's spirits sank to the lowest deeps of discouragement before this
confession of her husband's inadvertence to that which she regarded as
of vital import in the scheme of happiness.

"Yes," she answered dully, "to-night. I have the the tickets. Don't you
remember what day this is?" She strove to make her tone one of the most
casual inquiry, but the attempt was miserably futile before the urge of
her emotion.

"Why, to-day is Thursday, of course," Hamilton declared, with an
ingenuous nonchalance that was maddening to the distraught wife.

"Yes, it is Thursday," she rejoined; and now there was no mistaking the
bitter feeling that welled in the words. "It is the anniversary of our
wedding day."

Hamilton caught his unhappy bride in his arms. He was all contrition in
this first moment when his delinquency was brought home to
consciousness. He kissed her tenderly on the brow.

"By Jove, I'm awfully sorry, dear." There was genuine regret for such
culpable carelessness in his voice. "How ever did I forget it?" He drew
her closer in his embrace for a brief caress. Then, after a little, his
natural buoyancy reasserted itself, and he spoke with a mischievousness
that would, he hoped, serve to stimulate the neglected bride toward
cheerfulness. "I say," he demanded, "did you remember it all by
yourself, sweetheart, or did Aunt Emma remind you? I know she's a great
sharp on all the family dates."

The badinage seemed in the worst possible taste to the watching Mrs.
Delancy, but she forbore comment, although she saw her niece wince
visibly. Cicily's pride, however, came to her rescue, and she contrived
to restrain herself from any revelation of her hurt that could make
itself perceptible to Hamilton, who now released her from his arms.

"Oh," she said with an assumption of lightness, "Aunt Emma told me, of
course. How in the world could you suppose that I, in my busy life,
could possibly remember a little thing like the anniversary of our
wedding?"

"No, naturally you wouldn't," the husband agreed, in all seriousness.
"Gad! If you hadn't been so engrossed with that wonderful club and all
your busy society doings, you probably would have remembered, and then
you would have told me."

The young wife perceived that it would be impossible to arouse him to
any just realization of the flagrancy of his fault. Yet, she dared
venture a forlorn hope that all was not yet lost.

"Well, anyhow, Charles," she said, very gently, "I have got the tickets,
and it is our anniversary."

"Even if I had remembered about it," was the answer, spoken with a
quickly assumed air of abstraction, as business returned to his
thoughts, "I couldn't have gone to-night. You see, I have a conference
on--very important. It means a great deal. Morton and Carrington are
coming around to see me.... I can't bother you with details, but you
know it must be important. I can't get out of it, anyhow."

"But, Charles--" The voice was very tender, very persuasive. It moved
Hamilton to contrition. The pleading accents could never have been
resisted by any lover; but by a husband--ah, there is a tremendous
difference, as most wives learn. Hamilton merely elaborated his defense
against yielding to his wife's wishes.

"I tell you, Cicily, it's a matter of business--business of the biggest
importance to me. You're my wife, dear: you don't want to interfere with
my business, do you? Why, I'll leave it to Aunt Emma here, if I'm not
right." He faced about toward Mrs. Delancy, with an air of triumphant
appeal. "Come, Aunt Emma, what would you and Uncle Jim do in such a
case?"

"I think Cicily already knows the answer to that question," was the
neutral reply, with which Hamilton was wholly satisfied.

Now, indeed, the girl abandoned her last faint hope. The magnitude of
the failure shook her to the deeps of her being. She felt her muscles
relax, even as her spirit seemed to grow limp within her. She was in an
agony of fear lest she collapse there under the eyes of the man who had
so spurned her adoration. Under the spur of that fear, she moved forward
a little way toward the window, the while Hamilton chatted on amiably
with Mrs. Delancy, continuing to justify the position he had taken. As
he paused finally, Cicily had regained sufficient self-control to speak
in a voice that told him nothing beyond the bare significance of the
words themselves.

"Oh, of course, you're right, Charles. Don't bother any more about it.
Attend to your conference, and be happy. There will be plenty more
anniversaries!"



CHAPTER IV


The preliminary conference with Morton and Carrington, which had so
fatally interfered with Cicily's anniversary plans, proved totally
unsatisfactory from the standpoint of Charles Hamilton. As a matter of
fact, a crisis had arisen in his business affairs. He was threatened
with disaster, and as yet he was unable to see clearly any way out. He
was one of countless individuals marked for a tidbit to glut the
gormandizing of a trust. He had by no means turned craven as yet; he was
resolved to hold fast to his business until the last possible moment,
but he could not blind himself to the fact that his ultimate yielding
seemed inevitable.

In circumstances such as these, it was natural enough that Hamilton
should appear more than ever distrait in his own home, for he found
himself wholly unable to cast out of his mind the cares that harassed
him. They were ever present during his waking moments; they pursued him
in the hours devoted to slumber: his nights were a riot of financial
nightmares. He was polite to his wife, and even loverlike with the set
phrases and gestures and caresses of habit. Beyond that, he paid her no
attention at all. His consuming interest left no room for tender
concerns. He had no time for social recreations, for the theater, or
functions, or informal visits to friends in Cicily's company. His dark
face grew gloomy as the days passed. The faint creases between the
eyebrows deepened into something that gave warning of an habitual frown
not far away in the future, which would mar the boyish handsomeness of
his face. The firm jaw had advanced a trifle, set in a steadfast
defiance against the fate that menaced. His speech was brusquer.

Cicily, already in a state of revolt against the conditions of her life,
was stimulated to carry out the ideas nebulously forming in her alert
brain. She felt that the present manner of living must soon prove
unendurable to her. It was essential that a change should be made, and
that speedily, for she was aware of the limitations to her own patience.
Her temperament was not one to let her sit down in sackcloth and ashes
to weep over the ruins of romance. Rather, she would bestir herself to
create a new sphere of activity, wherein she might find happiness in
some other guise. Yet, despite the ingenuity of her mind, she could not
for some time determine on the precise course of procedure that should
promise success to her aspirations. Primarily, her desire was to work
out some alteration in the status of all concerned by which the domestic
ideal might be maintained in all its splendid integrity. But her
tentative efforts in this direction, made lightly in order that their
purport might not be guessed by the husband, were destined to
ignominious failure. Mrs. Delancy, a week after the melancholy
anniversary occasion, made mention of the fact that she had cautiously
spoken to Charles in reference to his neglect of the young wife. She
explained that his manner of reply convinced her that, in reality, the
man was merely a bit too deeply occupied for the moment, and that, when
the temporary pressure had passed, everything would again be idyllic.
Mrs. Delancy's motive in telling her niece of the interview was to
convince this depressed person that the matter was, after all, of only
trifling importance. In this, however, she failed signally. Cicily
regarded the incident as yet another evidence of a developing situation
that must be checked quickly, or never. But she took advantage of the
circumstances to introduce the topic with Hamilton. To her, the
conversation was momentous, although neither by word nor by manner did
she let her husband suspect that the discussion was aught beyond the
casual.

As usual now, Hamilton, on his return at night from the office, had shut
himself in the library, and was busily poring over a bundle of papers,
when there came a timid knock at the door. In response to his call,
Cicily entered. The young man greeted his wife politely enough, and even
called her "darling" in a meaningless tone of voice; but the frown did
not relax, and constantly his eyes wandered to the bundle of documents.
Cicily, however, was not to be daunted, for his manner was no worse than
she had expected. She crossed to a chair that faced his, and seated
herself. When, finally, she spoke, it was with an air of tender
solicitude, and the smile on her scarlet lips was gently maternal.

"You are working too hard, dear," she remonstrated. "You must relax a
little when you are away from the office, or you'll have--oh, brain-fag,
or nervous prostration, or some such dreadful thing."

"Well, I'll try to put the office out of my head for a little while,"
was the obedient answer, which gave the woman the chance she desired.

"But you must do it for your own sake--not mine, you know. You see, Aunt
Emma told me that she had been lecturing you a bit--said you ought to
pay me more attention, and all that sort of thing."

"Yes, and so I shall; but I'm pressed to death just now--After a bit--"

"You are so different!" Cicily said, almost timidly, as his voice
trailed into silence. "Sometimes, I think--I fear--" Her voice, in turn,
died.

For the moment, the husband was moved to a sudden tenderness. He spoke
softly, earnestly, leaning toward her.

"Cicily, you can't realize what a pleasure it is to a fellow, when he is
pounding away downtown, to stop for a second and think of his wife at
home waiting for him--that dear girl who loves him--the darling one far
away from all the turmoil of the sordid fight."

The rhapsody, although genuine enough, was not satisfying to the wife.
The limit of time to a "second" was unfortunate. There was distinct
irony in her tone as she answered with a question:

"And the farther away the home, the greater the pleasure, doubtless?"

For once, Hamilton was susceptible; and he was keenly distressed,
momentarily.

"Cicily!" he cried. "You don't doubt my love, do you? Why, when a man
and a woman marry, each ought to take the other's love for granted--take
it on faith."

But the wife was in no wise consoled by this trite defense. It had been
made too familiar to her in previous discussions between them. Her
answer was tinged with bitterness:

"That's the only way in which I've had a chance to take it lately," she
said slowly, with her eyes downcast.

The persistence of her mood aggravated the man beyond the bounds of that
restraint which he had imposed on himself. His nerves were overwrought,
and, under the impulse of irritation over another worry at home added to
those by which he was already overburdened, he flared.

"Cicily!" he exclaimed, sharply. "What in the world has come over you?
You don't want to hold me back, do you? You don't want to be that sort
of a wife?"

"Charles!" Cicily exclaimed, in her turn sharply. She was grievously
hurt by this rebuke from the man whom she loved.

"Forgive me!" Hamilton begged, swiftly contrite. "I'm just
nervous--tired. It's been a fearfully hard day downtown."

His obvious sincerity won instant forgiveness. Cicily rose from her
chair, and came to seat herself on the arm of his. He took one of her
hands in his, and her free hand stroked his hair in a familiar caress.
When she spoke, it was with a tenderness that was half-humility.

"Would it help, dear, to talk to me? We used always to talk over things,
you know. Don't you remember? You said ever so many times that I had so
much common sense!"

Again, Hamilton spoke with a tactlessness that was fairly appalling:

"Oh, yes, I remember very well. That was before we were married."

"Yes--before!" There was scorn in the emphasis of the repetition. It
aroused the husband to knowledge of his blunder.

"I--didn't mean to--" he stammered. "I--I--of course, you
understand--Really, dearest, I'm sorry I've been so occupied lately. I
hope things will brighten up soon; then, I shall be more sociable. I've
thought about our anniversary, too. It's too bad I was tied up that
night!"

Cicily rose from her position on the arm of her husband's chair, and
strolled across the room.

"Oh, that's all right," she remarked, in an indifferent tone of voice.
"Of course, business must come first." Her beautiful face was very
somber now; her eyes were turned away from the man.

But Hamilton was amply content. His absorption in other things rendered
him somewhat unobservant of certain niceties in expression just now. He
sprang up, and went to his wife. With his hands on her shoulders, he
declared his satisfaction with the situation as it appeared to him at
this time:

"That's my real Cicily--my little girl!... Now, another anniversary--"

"Oh, yes," the wife agreed, "as I reminded you before, there will be
plenty of other anniversaries--lots more--so many more!" The melancholy
note in her voice escaped the listener, as she had known that it would.
His answer was enthusiastic:

"Yes, indeed! Both of our families are long-lived. Do you remember, when
we got engaged, how you said it was so awfully serious, because all the
women in your family lived to be seventy or more?"

"Yes, I remember!" Then, abruptly recalling the original motive with
which she had sought this conversation, Cicily, by an effort of will
that cost her much, spoke with a manner half-gaily sympathetic:

"Charles, why don't you tell me now all about this horrid business of
yours?"

At the question, the man's face quickly grew grim, and the frown
deepened perceptibly between his brows. He dropped his hands from his
wife's shoulders, turned away, and went back to reseat himself in the
chair by the broad table, on which was spread out the bundle of business
papers. He did not look up toward the woman, who followed him with
something of timidity, and took her position anew in the chair facing
him. He had no eyes for the pleading anxiety in the gaze that was fixed
on him. His mood was once more heavy under the weight of business worry.

"Oh, what's the use of telling you!" he snapped, brutally; but that he
had meant nothing personal in the question was shown at once, for he
added, in the same sentence: "--or anybody else?"

Cicily had whitened a little at the opening phrase, but her color crept
back, as she heard the end of the impatient question. After a little,
she ventured to repeat her request for some information as to the status
of affairs in the factory.

"Why, as to that," Hamilton replied, in a tone of discomfort, "the facts
are simple enough; but they spell disaster for me, unless I can contrive
some way or another out of the mess in which I'm involved by the new
moves. You see, Carrington has sold his factory. He's sold out to the
trust--that's the root of the whole trouble. So, he and Morton are
making a fight against me. They mean to put me down and out. It's good
business from their standpoint; but it's ruin for me, if they succeed.
They think that I'm only a youngster, and that I sha'n't be able to
stand up against their schemes. They are of the opinion that, since Dad
is gone, they will have a snap in wiping me off the map. They fancy that
I don't know a blessed thing in the world except football." Hamilton
paused for a moment, and his jaw shot out a little farther forward; his
lips shut tensely for a few seconds. Then, they relaxed again, as he
continued his explanation of the situation that confronted him. "They're
down in my territory now, plotting to undermine my business in various
ways. They have the belief that I am not up to their plans; but I know
more than they give me credit for." His voice rose a little, and grew
harsher. "Well, I'm not such a fool as they fancy I am, perhaps. I'm
going to show 'em! I'm in this game, and I'm going to fight, and to
fight hard. I'm not going to let 'em score. The play won't be over till
the whistle blows. I tell you, I'll show 'em!"

As he continued speaking, the wife's expression changed rapidly. By the
time he had come to a pause, it was radiant. Indeed, now, for the first
time in many dreary weeks, Cicily felt that she was truly a wife in all
senses of the word. Here, at last, she was become a helpmeet to her
husband. That _bête noire_ business was no longer the thing apart from
her. She was made the confidante of her husband's affairs abroad. She
was made the recipient of the most vital explanations. She was asked to
share his worries, to counsel him. Thus, in her usual impulsiveness,
the volatile girl was carried much too far, much beyond the actuality.
As Hamilton ceased speaking, she leaned forward eagerly. The rose was
deeply red in her checks; the amber eyes were glowing. Her voice was
musically shrill, as she cried out, with irrepressible enthusiasm:

"Yes, yes, Charles, we'll show 'em! We'll show 'em!"

For a moment, the man stared at the speaker dumfounded by the unexpected
outbreak. Presently, however, the import of her speech began to be made
clear to him. "We?" he repeated, doubtfully. "You mean--" He hesitated,
then added: "You mean that you--and I--that is, you mean that you--?"

"Yes, yes," Cicily answered hastily, with no abatement of her excitement
and triumph. "Yes, together, we'll show 'em!"

At this explicit declaration, Hamilton burst out laughing.

"You!" he ejaculated, derisively.

"Yes, I," Cicily maintained, stoutly. "Why, I showed Mrs. Carrington
the other day. Next, we'll beat her husband. You know, I beat her for
the presidency of the club."

"Well, then, stick to your club, my dear," Hamilton counseled, tersely.
"I'll attend to the real business for this family." His face was grown
somber again.

"That's just like Uncle Jim," Cicily retorted, bitterly disappointed by
this disillusionment. "I suppose you want me to be like Aunt Emma."

"She's perfect--certainly!"

Cicily abandoned the struggle for the time being, acknowledging almost
complete defeat. There was only a single consoling thought. At least, he
had talked with her intimately concerning his affairs. With an abrupt
change of manner, she stood up listlessly, and spoke in such a fashion
as might become an old-fashioned wife, although her voice was lifeless.

"I'll get your house-coat, dear," she said, simply. "And, then, while
you look after your business during the evening, I'll do--my knitting!"
Her hands clenched tightly as she went forth from the study, but the
master of the house was unobservant when it came to such insignificant
details. He was already poring over the documents on the table; but he
called out amiably as he heard the door open.

"That's the dear girl!" he said.



CHAPTER V


Two evenings after this memorable interview between husband and wife,
Carrington and Morton were closeted with Hamilton in his library. To
anyone who had chanced to look in on the group, it would have seemed
rather an agreeable trio of friends passing a sociable evening of
elegant leisure. Hamilton alone, as he sat in the chair before the
table, displayed something of his inner feelings by the creases between
his brows and the compression of his lips and a slight tensity in his
attitude. Morton was stretched gracefully in a chair facing that of his
host and prospective victim, while Carrington was close by, so that the
two seemed ranked against the one. A close student of types would have
had no hesitation in declaring Morton to be much the more intelligent
and crafty of the two visitors. He appeared the familiar shrewd, smooth,
well-groomed New Yorker, excellently preserved for all his sixty-five
years; one who could be at will persuasive and genial, or hard as steel.
In his evening dress, he showed to advantage, and his manner toward
Hamilton was gently paternal, as that of an old family friend who has
chanced in for a pleasant hour with the son of a former intimate.
Carrington, on the contrary, was of the grosser type of successful
business man. A frock-coat sufficed him for the evening always. There
was about him in every way a heaviness that indicated he could not be a
leader, only a follower after the commands of wiser men. But, in such
following, he would be of powerful executive ability.

[Illustration]

"Do you know," Morton was saying, "it's really a great personal pleasure
for me to come here, Hamilton, my boy. It reminds me of the many times
when I used to sit here with your father." As he ceased speaking, he
smiled benevolently on the young man opposite him.

Hamilton nodded, without much appearance of graciousness. He was more
than suspicious as to the sincerity of this man's kindly manner.

"Yes, I know," he said. "You and he had many dealings together, I
believe, didn't you, Mr. Morton?"

"Oh, yes, indeed," came the ready answer; "many and many. He was a
shrewd trader, was your father. It's a pity he cannot be here to know
what a promising young man of business his son has become. He would be
proud of you, my boy."

"Thank you, Mr. Morton," Hamilton responded. "For that matter, I myself
wish that Dad were here just now to help me."

Again, the visitor smiled, and with a warm expansiveness that was meant
to indicate a heart full of generous helpfulness.

"You don't need him, my boy," he declared, unctuously. "You are dealing
with an old friend."

Carrington nodded in ponderous corroboration of the statement.

"Of course not, of course not!" he rumbled, in a husky bass voice.

Hamilton let irritation run away with discretion. He spoke with
something that was very like a sneer:

"I thought possibly that was just why I might need him."

Morton seemed not to hear the caustic comment. At any rate, he blandly
ignored it, as he turned to address Carrington.

"You remember Hamilton, senior, don't you?" he asked.

"Very well!" replied the gentleman of weight. His red face grew almost
apoplectic, and the big body writhed in the chair. His tones were
surcharged with a bitterness that he tried in vain to conceal. Morton
regarded these signs of feeling with an amusement that he had no
reluctance in displaying. On the contrary, he laughed aloud in his
associate's face.

"Well, yes," he said, still smiling, "I fancy that you ought to remember
Hamilton, senior, and remember him very well, too. But, anyhow, by-gones
are by-gones. You weren't alone in your misery, Carrington. He beat me,
too, several times."

Hamilton smiled now, but wryly.

"So," he suggested whimsically, yet bitterly, "now that he's dead, you
two gentlemen have decided to combine in order to beat his son. That's
about it, eh?"

Carrington, who was not blessed with a self-control, or an art of
hypocrisy equal to that of his ally, emitted a cackling laugh of
triumph. But Morton refused to accept the charge. Instead, he spoke with
an admirable conviction in his voice, a hint of indignant, pained
remonstrance.

"Ridiculous, my dear boy--ridiculous! Just look on me as being In your
father's place. No, no, Hamilton, there's room for all of us. There's a
reasonable profit for all of us in the business--if only we'll be
sensible about it."

"It only remains to decide as to the sensible course, then," Hamilton
rejoined, coldly. "I suppose, in this instance, it means that I should
decide to follow the course you have outlined for me. Now, I have your
offer before me on this paper. Briefly stated, your proposition to me is
that you will take all the boxes I am able to deliver to you--that is to
say, you agree to keep my factory busy. For this promise on your part,
you require two stipulations from me as conditions. The first is that I
shall not sell any boxes to the Independent Plug Tobacco Factory; the
second is that I shall sell my boxes to you at a regular price of eleven
cents each. I believe I have stated the matter accurately. Have I not?"

"You have stated it exactly," Morton assured the questioner. "That is
the situation in a nutshell."

"Unfortunately," Hamilton went on, speaking with great precision, "it's
quite impossible for me to make any such agreement with you--utterly
impossible." He looked his adversary squarely in the eye, and shook his
head in emphatic negation.

Carrington merely emitted a bourdon grunt. Morton, however, maintained
the argument, undeterred by the finality of Hamilton's manner.

"But, my dear boy," he exclaimed quickly, "we're not asking you to do
anything that you haven't done already. Why, you furnished me with one
lot at nine cents."

"At a loss, in order to secure custom against competition," was the
prompt retort. "It costs exactly eleven cents to turn out those boxes."

Morton persisted in his refusal to admit the justice of the young man's
refusal to accept the terms offered.

"But, my dear boy," he continued, "take your last four bids. I mean the
bids that you and Carrington made before we bought out Carrington. The
first, time, Carrington bid eleven cents; while you bid fourteen. On the
second lot Carrington bid thirteen; and you bid nine."

"You illustrate my contention very well," Hamilton interrupted. "At
eleven cents a box, Carrington hardly quit even. It was for that reason
he bid thirteen on the following lot; while I, because I was bound to
get a look in on the business, even at a loss--why, I bid nine cents.
The result was that I got the order, and it cost me a loss of just two
cents on each and every box to fill it." A contented rumble from the
large man emphasized the truth of the statement.

Nothing daunted, Morton resumed his narrative of operations in the box
trade.

"On the third lot, Carrington bid eight cents, while you bid eighteen."

Carrington's indignation was too much for reticence.

"Yes, I got that order," he roared, wrathfully. "It was a million box
order, too--" The withering look bestowed on the speaker by Morton
caused him to break off and to cower as abjectly in his chair as was
possible to one of his bulk.

"His success in being the winner in that bout cost him three cents each
for the million boxes," Hamilton commented. "Well?"

"Well," Morton said crisply, "for the fourth and biggest order,
Carrington bid seventeen, and you bid sixteen."

"Yes, yes!" Carrington spluttered, forgetful of the rebuke just
administered to him. "And, on the four lots, Hamilton, you cleaned up a
profit, while I lost out--so much that I had to sell control of my
plant. And you call that fair competition!"

Morton grinned appreciation. The young man regarded the ponderous figure
of Carrington with something approaching stupefaction over the sheer
bravado of the question.

"Was that your motive in joining the trust," he demanded ironically: "to
get fair competition?"

Again, Morton laughed aloud, in keen enjoyment of the thrust.

"You're your own father's son, Hamilton," he declared, gaily.

Hamilton, however, was not to be cajoled into friendliness by
superficial compliment.

"Probably," he said sternly, "I might not have been able to do so well,
if you had not been clever enough to let both Carrington and myself each
see the figures of the other's secret bid as a great personal favor."

As the words entered Carrington's consciousness, the ungainly form sat
erect with a sudden violence of movement that sent the chair sliding
back three feet over the polished floor. The red face darkened to a
perilous purple, and the narrow, dull eyes flashed fire. He struggled
gaspingly for a moment to speak--in vain. Morton's eyes were fixed on
the man, and those eyes were very clear and very cold. Carrington met
the steady stare, and it sobered his wrath in a measure, so that
presently he was able to utter words intelligibly. But, now, they were
not what they would have been a few seconds earlier:

"You--you told him what I bid?"

Hamilton took the answer on himself.

"Surely, he did, Carrington." The young man spoke with cheerfulness, in
the presence of the discomfiture of his enemy. "He told you what I bid;
and, in just the same way, he told me what you bid--every time!"

For a long minute, Morton stared on at his underling whom he had
betrayed. Under that look, the unhappy victim of a superior's wiles, sat
uneasily at first, in a vague effort toward defiance; then, his courage
oozed away, he shifted uneasily in his seat, and his eyes wandered
abashedly about the room. Convinced that the revolt was suppressed,
Morton turned again to the young man opposite him.

"All that is done with now." The tone was sharp; the mask of urbanity
had fallen from the resolute face, which showed now an expression
relentless, dominant. "Hamilton, what are you going to do?" The manner
of the question was a challenge.

"I can't make money selling boxes at eleven cents," Hamilton answered
wearily. "Nobody could."

"At least, you won't lose any," was the meaning answer. Then, in reply
to Hamilton's half-contemptuous shrug, Morton continued frankly. "After
all, Hamilton, you can make a profit. It won't be large, but it will be
a profit. This is the day of small profits, you must remember. It will
be necessary for you to put in a few more of the latest-model machines,
and to cut labor a bit. In that way, you will secure a profit. You must
cut expense to the limit."

The young man regarded Morton with strong dislike.

"What you mean," he said angrily, "is that I must put my factory on a
starvation business. Now, I don't want to cut wages. It's a sad fact
that the men at present don't get a cent more than they're worth.
Besides that, some of them have been working in the factory for father
more than thirty years."

"There is no room for such pensioners in these days of small profits,"
Morton declared, superciliously. "However, it's no business of mine.
Remember, though, it's your only chance to keep clear."

"No," Hamilton announced bravely, "I'll not cut the wage-scale. I'll
sell to the trade, at thirteen. It's mighty little profit, but it's
something."

Morton shook his head.

"The Carrington factory," he said threateningly, "will sell to the trade
for ten cents, until--"

"--Until I'm cleaned out!" Hamilton cried, fiercely.

Morton lifted a restraining hand. He was again his most suave self.

"My dear boy," he said gently, "I liked your father, and I esteemed him
highly. He was a shrewd trader: he never tried to match pennies against
hundred-dollar bills.... The moral is obvious, when you consider your
factory alone as opposed to certain other interests. So, take my advice.
Try cutting. The men would much rather have smaller wages than none at
all, I'm sure. Think it over. Let me know by Saturday.... The Carrington
factory is to issue its price-list on Monday."

Hamilton was worn out by the unequal combat. He hesitated for a little,
then spoke moodily:

"Very well. I'll let you know by Saturday."


When, at last, his guests had departed, the wretched young man dropped
his head on his arms over the heap of papers, and groaned aloud.... He
could see no ray of hope--none!



CHAPTER VI


It was a half-hour after the breaking up of the conference when Hamilton
at last raised his head from his arms. He looked about him dazedly for a
little while, as if endeavoring to put himself in touch once again with
the humdrum facts of existence. Then, when his brain cleared from the
lethargy imposed by the strain to which it had so recently been
subjected, he gave a sudden defiant toss of his head, and muttered
wrathfully: "Go broke, or starve your men!" He got out of his chair, and
paced to and fro swiftly for a little interval, pondering wildly. But,
of a sudden, he reseated himself, drew a pad of paper to him, and began
scrawling figures at the full speed of his pencil. And, as he wrote, he
was murmuring to himself: "There is a way out--there must be!"

It was while the husband was thus occupied that the door opened softly,
without any preliminary knock, and the wife stepped noiselessly into the
room. The anxiety that beset her was painfully apparent in her bearing
and in the expression of her face. Her form seemed drooping, as if under
shrinking apprehension of some blow about to fall. The eyes of amber,
usually so deep and radiant, were dulled now, as if by many tears; the
rich scarlet of the lips' curves was bent downward mournfully. She stood
just within the doorway for a brief space, watching intently the man who
was so busy over his scrawled figures. At last, she ventured forward,
walking in a laggard, rhythmic step, as do church dignitaries and
choir-boys in a processional. By such slow stages, she came to a place
opposite her husband. There, she remained, upright, mute, waiting. The
magnetism of her presence penetrated to him by subtle degrees.... He
looked up at her, with no recognition in his eyes.

"They've gone, dear?" She spoke the words very softly, for she
understood instinctively something as to the trance in which he was
held.

Hamilton's abstraction was dissipated as the familiar music of Cicily's
voice beat gently on his ears.

"Yes--oh, yes, they've gone." His voice was colorless. His eyes went out
to the array of figures that sprawled recklessly over the sheet before
him.

But the young woman was not to be frustrated in her intention by such
indifference on his part. She spoke again, at once, a little more
loudly:

"Tell me: Did you come out all right?"

Hamilton raised his head with an impatient movement. Evidently, this
persistence was a distracting influence--a displeasing. There was
harshness in his voice as he replied:

"Did I come out all right? Well, yes--since I came out at all. Oh, yes!"
His voice mounted in the scale, under the impulse of a sudden access of
rage against his enemies. He spoke with a savage rapidity of utterance:
"And I can lick Carrington any day in the week. Why, I've already put
him out. It's Morton--that old fox Morton who's got me guessing.... What
do you think? They even had the nerve to threaten me. Of course, it was
in a round-about way; but it was a threat all the same. They threatened
to close up the Hamilton factory. Gad! the nerve of it!"

"They threatened to close up your factory, Charles?" Cicily exclaimed,
astonished and angry. "But you own the Hamilton factory. What have they
to do with it? The impudence of them!"

"Yes, I own the factory, all right," the husband agreed. "But, you
see--" Hamilton broke off abruptly, and was silent for a moment. When he
spoke again, the liveliness was gone from his voice: it was become
quietly patronizing. "Oh, let's forget it, dear. I must be going dotty.
I'll be talking business with you, the first thing I know."

"I only wish you would!" Cicily answered, with a note of pleading in her
tones.

"Nonsense!" was the gruff exclamation. "The idea of talking business
with you. That would be a joke, wouldn't it?" He spoke banteringly, with
no perception of the gravity in his wife's desire to share in this phase
of his life. But he looked up from the papers after a moment into his
wife's face. She had turned from him, and then had reclined wearily in
the chair opposite him, whence she had been staring at him with a
tormenting feeling of impotence. The expression on her face was such
that Hamilton realized her distress, without having any clue to its
cause.

"Now, sweetheart, what's wrong?" he questioned. He was half-sympathetic
over her apparent misery, half-annoyed.

Cicily, with the intuitive sensitiveness of a woman to recognize a
lover's hostile feeling beneath the spoken words, was acutely conscious
of the annoyance; she ignored the modicum of sympathy. To conceal her
hurt, she had resort to a fictitious gaiety that was ill calculated,
however, to deceive, for the stress of her disappointment was very
great.

"The matter with me?" she repeated, with an assumption of surprise.
"Why, the matter with me is that I'm so happy--that's all!"

"Cicily!" Now, at last, the husband was both shocked and grieved over
his wife's mood.

"Yes, that's it--happy!" the suffering girl repeated. "Why, I'm so
happy--just so happy--that I could scream!"

Hamilton leaned forward in his chair, to regard his wife scrutinizingly.
He was filled with alarm over the nervous, almost hysterical, condition
in which he now beheld her.

"Cicily, are you well?" he asked. There was a distinct quaver of fear in
his voice. "You look--strange, somehow."

"Oh, not at all!" came the flippant retort. "It's merely that you
haven't really taken a good look at me lately--until just this minute.
So, of course, I'd look a bit strange to you."

It must be remembered that Hamilton, although usually intelligent, had a
clear conscience and no suspicion whatsoever as to any culpability on
his part in his relations with his wife: thus it was that now he was
wholly impervious to the sarcasm of her reference, which he answered
with the utmost seriousness.

"My dear, I saw you this morning, last night--oh, heaps of times, every
day."

"Oh, your physical eyes have seen; but your mind, your heart, your
soul--the true you--hasn't seen me for I don't know how long."

This cryptic explanation was too subtle for Hamilton to grasp while yet
his brain was fogged by the intricacies of his business affairs. He
gazed on his wife in puzzled fashion for a few seconds, then abandoned
the problem as one altogether beyond his solving. To clear up a vague
suspicion that this might be some new astonishing display of a woman's
indirect wiles, he put a question:

"My dear, do you want a new automobile, or a doctor?"

"Neither!" came the crisp reply; and for once the musical voice was
almost harsh, "I want a husband!"

"Good Lord! Another?" Hamilton was pained and scandalized, as, indeed,
was but natural before a confession so indecorous seemingly and so
unflattering to himself.

"I don't want the one I have now," Cicily affirmed, with great emphasis.
She rather enjoyed the manner in which the man shrank under her
declaration. But he said nothing as she paused: he was momentarily too
dumfounded for speech, "I want my first one back," Cicily concluded.

Hamilton gaped at his wife, powerless to do aught beyond grope in mental
blackness for some ray of understanding as to this horrible revelation
made by the woman he loved.

"You--you want your first one back!" he repeated stupidly, at last. Of a
sudden, a gust of fury shook him. "God!" he cried savagely. "And I
thought I knew that girl!"

Cicily rested unperturbed before the outbreak. She was absorbed in her
own torment, with no sentiment to spare for the temporary anguish she
was inflicting on her husband, which, in her opinion, he richly
deserved.

"You did know me once," she answered, coldly. "That was before you
changed toward me."

The injustice of this charge, as he deemed it, was beyond Hamilton's
powers of endurance. He sprung from his chair, and stood glowering down
on Cicily, who bore the stern accusation of his eyes without flinching.
The pallor of her face was a little more pronounced than usual, less
touched from within with the hue of abounding health, and her crimson
mouth was less tender than it was wont to be. But she leaned back in her
chair in a posture of grace that displayed to advantage the slender,
curving charm of her body, and her eyes, shining golden in the soft
light of the room, met the man's steadfastly, fearlessly.

"I--changed--to you!" Hamilton stormed. "Cicily! Cicily! What madness!
You know--oh, absurd! Why, Cicily, I love you.... I think of you
always!"

"Oh, yes, you love me," Cicily agreed, contemptuously, "You think of me
always--when your other love will let you."

"Cicily!"

"I mean it," came uncompromisingly, in answer to Hamilton's look of
horror. "I mean every word of it!"

"Cicily," the husband besought, as a great dread fell on his soul,
"remember, you are my wife--my love!"

"Yes, I'm one of them." The tone was icy; the gaze fixed on his face was
unwavering.

But this utterance was too sinister to be borne. The pride of the man in
his own faithfulness was outraged. His voice was low when he spoke
again, yet in it was a quality that the young wife had never heard
before. It frightened her sorely, although she concealed its effect by a
mighty effort of will.

"That is an insult to you and to me, Cicily. It is an insult I cannot--I
will not--permit."

It was evident to Cicily that she had carried the war in this direction
far enough; she hastened her retreat.

"Oh, I didn't say that you were in love with another woman," she
explained, with an excellent affectation of carelessness. "For that
matter, I know very well that you're not." Then, as Hamilton regarded
her with a face blankly uncomprehending, she went on rapidly, with
something of the venomous in her voice: "Sometimes, I wish you were.
Then, I'd fight her, and beat her. It would give me something to do."
She paused for a moment, and laughed bitterly. "Oh, please, Charles, do
fall in love with some other woman, won't you?"

Hamilton started toward the telephone in the hall.

"It's the doctor you want, not the automobile," he called over his
shoulder.

"Nonsense!" Cicily cried. "Stop!" And, as he turned back reluctantly,
she went on with her explanation: "No, it isn't the lure of some siren
in a Paquin dress--or undress: it's the lure of the game--the great,
horrid, hideous business game, which has got you, just as it's got most
of the American husbands who are worth having. That's the lure we
American women can't overcome; that's the rival who is breaking our
hearts. You are the man of business, Charles--I'm the woman out of a
job! That's all there is to it."

Hamilton listened dazedly to this fluent discourse, the meaning of which
was not altogether clear to him. He frowned in bewilderment, as he again
seated himself in the chair opposite his wife. He could think of
nothing with which to rebuke her diatribe, save the stock platitudes of
a past generation, and to these necessarily he had immediate recourse.

"You have the home--the house--to look out for, Cicily. That's a woman's
work. What more can you wish?"

"The home! The house!" The exclamation was eloquent of disgust. "Ah,
yes, once on a time, it was a woman's work--once on a time! But, then,
you men were dependent on us. Marriage was a real partnership. Nowadays,
what with servants and countless inventions, so that machinery supplies
the work, the home is a joke. The house itself is an automatic machine
that runs on--buttons, push-buttons. You men can get along without us
just as well. You don't really depend on us for anything in the home.
Your lives are full up with interest; every second is occupied. Our
lives are empty. My life is empty, Charles. I'm lonely, and
heart-hungry, I've no ambition to go in for bridge. I'm not a gambler by
choice. I don't wish to follow society as a vocation. I'm not eager even
to be a suffragette. I want to be an old-fashioned wife--to do something
that counts in my husband's life. I want him to depend on me for some
things, always. I want to be my husband's partner." Little by little,
while she was speaking, the coldness passed from the woman's voice; in
its stead grew warmth; there was passionate fervor in the final plea. It
moved Hamilton to pity, although he was ignorant as to the means by
which he might assuage his wife's so great discontent. Manlike, he
attempted to overcome emotion by argument.

"Cicily," he urged, "just now, I'm up to my ears and over in work. They
are crowding me mighty hard. There's dissatisfaction at the mill--danger
of a strike. Morton is heading a syndicate--a trust, really--trying to
absorb us. I'm fighting for my very life--my business life.... Cicily,
you wouldn't throw obstacles in my way now, would you?"

"Obstacles! No; I want to help you."

"In business?" Hamilton queried, astounded. "You--help me--in business?"

"Yes," Cicily answered, steadily. "I can do something, I know." There
was intensity of purpose in the glow of the golden eyes, as they met
those of her husband; there was intensity of conviction in the tones of
her voice as she uttered the assurance. She realized that the crisis of
her ambition was very near at hand.

"You can do nothing." The man's blunt statement was uttered with a
conviction as uncompromising as her own. The egotism of it repelled the
woman. There was a hint of menace in her manner, as she replied:

"Take care, Charles. Don't shut me out. You're making a plaything of
me--not a wife.... And I--I won't be your plaything!"

"You mean--?"

"I mean," went on the wife relentlessly, "that this is the most serious
moment of our married life. If you put me off now, if you shut me out of
your life now--out of your full life--I can't answer for what will
happen."

There followed a long interval of silence, the while husband and wife
stared each into the other's eyes. In these moments of poignant emotion,
the profound feeling of the woman penetrated the being of the man,
readied his heart, and touched it to sympathy--more: it mounted to his
brain, which it stimulated to some measure of understanding. That
understanding was fleeting enough, it was vague and incomplete, as must
always be man's inadequate knowledge of woman. But it was dominant for
the time being. Under its sway, Hamilton spoke in gracious yielding,
almost gratefully.

"Very well. You can help."

The young wife sat silent for a time, thrilling with the joy of
conquest. The roses of her checks blossomed again; the radiance of her
eyes grew tender; the scarlet lips wreathed in their happiest curves. At
last, she rose swiftly, and seated herself on the arm of her husband's
chair. She wound her arms about his neck, and kissed him fondly on cheek
and brow and mouth.

Hamilton accepted these caresses with the pleasure of a fond bridegroom
of a year, and, too, with a certain complacency as the tribute of
gratitude to his generosity. But, when she separated herself again from
his embrace, he was moved to ask a question that was calculated to be
somewhat disconcerting.

"What can you do?" he demanded.

"Oh, I don't know," Cicily answered, nonchalantly; "but something. I
shall do something big! You see, you've done so much. Now, I must do
something too--something big!"

[Illustration]

"But what have I done?" the husband questioned, perplexed anew by this
charming wife of many moods.

"What have you done?" Cicily repeated, joyously. "Why, you've made me
the happiest woman in the world--a partner!" Again, the rounded arms
were wreathed about his neck; her face was hidden on his shoulder.

Hamilton's eyes were turned ceilingward, as if seeking some illumination
from beyond. He listened, stupid, bemused, to that word echoing wildly
through his brain: "Partner!" He understood fully at last, and with
understanding came utter dismay. "Partner!... Oh, Lord!"



CHAPTER VII


In the days that followed, Cicily was almost riotously happy. The
schemes that had been formulating themselves dimly in her mind following
the altruistic suggestion made to her by Mrs. Delancy now took on
definite shape and became substantial. In view of the fact that her
husband had explicitly brought her into a business partnership with
himself, it occurred to her that she might well combine the idea of
making other people happy with practical uses in behalf of business. To
this end, then, she devoted her intelligence diligently, with the result
that she soon had concrete plans of betterment for the many, and these
of a sort to redound directly to her husband's advantage in a business
way. In brief, she conceived certain philanthropic operations to be
carried out for the enjoyment of her husband's employés; the effect of
such changes would inevitably be a better understanding between them and
their employer, and an increased loyalty and efficiency on the part of
the workers. With this laudable purpose, Cicily, after broaching the
subject in detail to Hamilton, who made no objection, since her
helpfulness was to be operated out of her private fortune, at once
busied herself with the execution of the project. The factory downtown
was soon a-chatter with excitement over the startling innovations that
were under way. The employés cursed or cheered according to their
natures, as they learned of the gifts bestowed by the wife of their
employer. They regarded the new bath-tubs with wonder, albeit somewhat
doubtfully. They discussed the library with appreciation, or lack of
appreciation, according to their degrees of illiteracy or learning: the
socialistic element condemned the inanity of the volumes selected; there
were only histories, biographies, books of travel, foolish novels and
the like--nothing to teach the manner by which the brotherhood of man
must be worked out.

In addition to her activities for good in this direction, Cicily added
something actual to her ideas in reference to the up-lift of woman. She
made herself known to the wives of some of the men who worked in the
factory, and called on them in their homes. She invited them to visit
her in return, and she matured a project to make the Civitas Society
her ally in this noble work of up-lift and equalization in the social
order. With such eager works, her days were filled full, and she was
glad in the realization that it was, indeed, become her splendid
privilege to share in her husband's broader life.... She was
his--partner!

It may be doubted if Hamilton had more than the shadow of knowledge as
to his wife's happiness in the changed order. The episode, as he deemed
it, in which she had been given a partnership with him, hardly remained
in his memory. When he thought of it at all, he smiled over it as over
the vagary of one among a woman's innumerable varying moods. But he
thought of it very rarely, for his time was absorbed in the desperate
struggle to find a way out from the destruction that loomed very close
at hand. In the end, he decided not to reject the offer made by Morton
in behalf of the trust. Otherwise, he would be confronted by
Carrington's competition in selling to the independent trade at a dead
loss. But he was determined ultimately to combat this competition to the
limit of his ability and capital. It was apparent to him that success
would be impossible from the outset unless he should reduce his
operating expenses to the minimum. For this reason, he planned to make
the cut in wage-scale that had been suggested by Morton, although in
reality it was to overcome the machinations of the trust, not to further
them. He solaced his conscience by reiteration of the truth: that, in
the event of winning, the reduction would have been but a temporary
thing; whereas, without it, he must close down the factory immediately.
For the sake of his workers, as well as for his own, he was resolved to
pursue the one course that offered a hope of victory.

Naturally enough, the employés did not understand or approve. When news
of the proposed cut in the scale was made known, there came clamor and
wrath and sorrow. Meetings of the workers were held, and in due time a
committee of three waited on Hamilton by appointment in the study of his
house uptown. Schmidt, the most garrulous of the three, was a man in the
prime of life, heavily built, bald, with a white mustache that gave him
a certain grotesque resemblance to Bismarck. The other two members of
the committee were Ferguson, a thin, alert-mannered Yankee of forty, who
spoke with a pronounced drawl; and McMahon, a short, red-headed, shrewd
Irishman, with a face on which shone a volatile good-humor. The three,
on entering the library and being greeted by Hamilton, found that their
employer had fortified himself for the conference by the presence of Mr.
Delancy, in whose business judgment the younger man had great
confidence. The men received the pleasant salutation of Hamilton with
awkwardness, but without any trace of shamefacedness, for they had the
consciousness of their righteous cause to give them confidence in a
strange environment. Hardly were they seated at their host's request in
chairs facing him and Mr. Delancy, when Schmidt bounced up, and, after
squaring himself resolutely in a position of advantage before the empty
fireplace, proceeded to declaim vigorously as to the rights between
labor and capital, speaking sonorously, with a pronounced German accent.
After some five minutes of this, Mr. Delancy, who was both nervous and
irritable, as the orator paused for breath at a period, ventured to
protest.

"Yes, yes, man," he exclaimed, testily. "But I don't care a damn about
Schopenhauer and socialism, and I'm sure Mr. Hamilton doesn't. Let's get
to the wages paid in the Hamilton factory."

Ferguson came to the support of Delancy, as did McMahon, who said
amiably:

"Give the boss a chance, Smitty."

Schmidt, however, was inclined to be recalcitrant.

"There was no arrangement yet to give the boss a chance," he argued.

"Just give him a chance then because he's a friend of mine," urged the
Irishman with a grin of such exceeding friendliness toward the German
himself that it was not to be resisted. Schmidt nodded in token that the
employer should be allowed to speak, but he retained his position as a
presiding officer before the fireplace.

Hamilton forthwith set out to present his side of the case to the men
before him.

"As you know," he said briskly, "I'm the owner of the Hamilton factory.
I pay the wages. Now, the Hamilton factory has been kept running through
good times and through bad times for more than thirty years. Sometimes,
too, it has been run at a loss, without any cut in the wage-scale to
help the owner in that period of loss. Well, it seems to me under the
circumstances that I have a right to run my own business."

"Oh, certainly!" Ferguson agreed, languidly.

But Schmidt added a correction to the general concession.

"As long as you run it in our way, and don't cut wages."

"I'm sorry, men," Hamilton retorted, without any avoidance of the issue;
"but that cut must go."

The members of the committee looked from one to another, and shook their
heads dolefully. They knew too well the hardships that would be wrought
among their fellows by a ten per cent. cut the length of the scale. It
was McMahon who spoke first, with his usual air of good-nature in the
sarcasm, but a note of grimness underlying the surface pleasantry.

"Well, now, you see," he said in his rich brogue, addressing Ferguson
and Schmidt, "the boss has to save a mite to pay for the new bath-tubs
and that natty bit of a gymnasium and the library they've been putting
in lately."

"_Ach, Himmel!_" Schmidt snorted, disgustedly. "We will have manicures
soon already!" He stared at his pudgy fingers with the work-begrimed
nails, and grinned sardonically.

Hamilton flushed under the taunts.

"I have nothing to do with those improvements," he declared, in
self-justification. "They are all being put in by Mrs. Hamilton at her
own expense. She is doing it to make you men and women there more
contented with your lot--to make you happy."

"To make us happy!" Schmidt grunted. "Bathtubs!"

McMahon's sense of humor led him to indulge in another flight of
pleasantry, which shadowed forth the grim reality of these lives.

"Sure, but the gymnasium is great," he said, blandly. His tone was so
deceptive that Hamilton smiled in appreciation of the compliment to his
wife's undertaking, and even Mr. Delancy relaxed the harsh set of his
features. "The longer you work in it," the Irishman continued
innocently, "outside of hours of course, the stronger you get, and the
more you can do in hours for the boss.... Sure, it's great!"

Hamilton hastily changed the subject. He explained that, the cut would
not be applied to the wages of the women in the packing-department,
where a hundred were employed. He declared frankly that their pay was
insufficient to stand such a reduction.

"And do you think we make enough to stand it?" Ferguson exclaimed,
indignantly.

"Somebody has to stand it," was Hamilton's moody retort. "You have
threatened to strike, if I make this cut. Well, I am forced to threaten
you in turn. If you won't accept the cut, I shall strike--I must
strike!"

Schmidt, from his position before the fireplace, rose on his toes in
high indignation.

"You strike!" he clamored, huffily. "Who has given you that permission
to strike? You are no union. Bah!"

Hamilton shrugged his shoulders, wearily.

"Listen, men," he requested. "I'll put the facts before you plainly, for
I place my whole confidence in your loyalty. You think, perhaps, that
you're being strung in this deal. Well, we'll all be strung, and hung
over the side of the boat, too, unless we work together. You men are
dissatisfied, because, although you are working full time, you are asked
to take a ten per cent. cut. The truth of the matter is that the factory
is not making a cent of profit. I have to make the boxes for sale at a
loss now, on account of the competition of the trust factory, which is
trying to put me out of business. I must work at cost, or even at a
loss, for a time. With the ten per cent. cut, I can keep going. Without
it, I must close down. As soon as this crisis is over, if I win out, the
old wage-scale will be restored. I hope that time will not be long away.
I may venture to tell you something in confidence: I'm planning to take
on some side lines--some things in which I hope to make big money. As
soon as they're started, I'll give you back the present scale."

"Why don't your wife help pay the wages?" Schmidt questioned, shrewdly.
"She has plenty of money for foolishness."

"Faith, and that isn't a bad idea at all, at all, Mr. Hamilton," McMahon
agreed. "It's a better use for her money. Since she's been coming around
to the house these last few weeks, it's cost me a week's pay to get a
hat for my old woman in imitation of hers.... Women have no place in
business, I'm thinking."

Ferguson added his testimony to the like effect:

"That's right," he declared. He looked about for a place in which to
spit by way of emphasis, but, seeing none, forbore. "My girl, Sadie, she
put two dollars in false hair this very week. Your wife is sure making
it mighty hard for us, Mr. Hamilton. How can I buy false hair with a ten
per cent. cut? Durned if I can see!"

Again, Hamilton was afflicted with embarrassment over the infelicitous
results of his wife's benevolent activity, and again he changed the
subject.

"Well, boys," he said frankly, "I've put the matter to you straight. I'm
sorry. But, unless you take the cut, I don't see any future for any of
us.... It's up to you."

"The men decide for themselves," Ferguson replied, glumly. "We only
report back to them."

"But you three really decide," Hamilton persisted. "Come, give me your
decision now."

Ferguson and McMahon regarded each other doubtfully, in silence, as if
uncertain how to proceed. But Schmidt was not given to hesitation in
expressing himself on any occasion. He spoke now with an air of
phlegmatic determination, brandishing his right arm at the start:

"Well, speaking for myself only, I want to say--How do you do, Mrs.
Hamilton."



CHAPTER VIII


As Schmidt concluded his oratorical flourish in this astonishing
fashion, the other occupants of the room turned amazedly, to behold
Cicily herself, standing in the open doorway of the study.

The young wife was a very charming, radiant vision, as she rested there
motionless. She was gowned for the street, wearing that ravishing hat
which had been the cause of McMahon's undoing, a dainty and rather
elaborate device in black and red, and a black cloth gown, short and
closely cut, which showed to delightful advantage the lissome curves of
her form. Beneath, a luxurious _chaussure_ in black showed the
inimitable grace of tiny feet and ankles. Now, as she regarded the
company in some astonishment, the perfect oval of her cheeks was broken
by the play of dimples as she smiled a general welcome on the men before
her. But her attention was particularly arrested by Schmidt, who, after
his first greeting in words, was now bowing stiffly from the hips, a
feat of some difficulty by reason of his girth. Cicily watched the
formal performance with mingled emotions of amusement and alarm. When,
at last, it was successfully accomplished, however, and the pudgy figure
straightened, she recognized the socialist, and came forward.

"Why, it's Mr. Schmidt!" she exclaimed, cordially. "I'm so glad to see
you!" To this, the German murmured a guttural response, too much
overcome by pleasure for coherent speech. The new-comer passed on, and
made her greetings to Ferguson and McMahon with the like pleasant
hospitality, shaking hands with each.

"This is, indeed, charming," she exclaimed heartily. "Did you bring your
wives along?"

Schmidt, as usual, constituted himself the spokesman.

"Mrs. Hamilton," he stated, with somber impressiveness, "this is
business."

"Good gracious!" Mrs. Hamilton exclaimed, with some trepidation. "I hope
it's nothing that they would not approve of."

"Be easy," Ferguson, admonished, soothingly. "Sure, it's only that we're
talking business. It's a matter of wages. The woman folk always approve
of them."

Schmidt rolled his eyes heavenward in despair.

"But, when we tell them of the ten per cent. cut! _Ach, Himmel!_"

Cicily turned a startled glance on her husband.

"A ten per cent. cut!" she exclaimed, involuntarily. "Why, Charles!"

Hamilton was annoyed by this unexpected irruption of the feminine into
the most serious of business discussions--the intrusion of the female on
the financial. He spoke with distinct note of disapproval in his voice:

"Now, Cicily, you know nothing of this."

Delancy, too, added the weight of his accustomed authority.

"Don't bother with things that do not concern you, Cicily." There was a
patronizing quality in the admonition that irritated the wife.

Ferguson spoke to the same effect, but with a radically different motive
underlying his words:

"Of course, it don't concern you, Mrs. Hamilton. I guess you'll be glad
to have some more money to put in bath-tubs and libraries and
gymnasiums. No, ma'am, it don't concern you. But it'll make some
difference to our wives and daughters, I'm thinking--ten per cent. out
of the pay-envelope every week. It'll take the curl out of my Sadie's
false hair, all right."

"There will be always some good in everything," Schmidt murmured
cynically, but not loud enough for the Yankee to hear.

Cicily was aware of the tension about her, and deemed it the part of
wisdom to create a diversion.

"What a coincidence!" she exclaimed, gayly. "Mrs. Schmidt and Mrs.
Ferguson and Mrs. McMahon are all coming around here this afternoon. I
invited them to attend a meeting of our club."

The dignified face of Mr. Delancy, which was that of the old-school
business man, clean-shaven save for the white tufts of side-whisker, was
distorted by an emotion of genuine horror; his pink cheeks grew scarlet.

"Cicily!" he gasped.

Hamilton, too, was hardly less disconcerted, for all his familiarity
with his wife's equalization whimsies.

"Invited them here?" he questioned, frowning.

The manner of both utterances was of a sort that must inevitably offend
the husbands of the women. Cicily, with the sensitiveness of her sex,
sought to cover the impression by speaking with a manner of increased
enthusiasm.

"Oh, yes," she answered. "Isn't it good of them? They have promised to
return my call this afternoon."

Ferguson yielded to a Yankee propensity for dry humour:

"I only hope that Mr. Delancy and Mr. Hamilton won't be too nice to
them."

McMahon, too, would have made some comment; but Hamilton, who now
perceived his blunder, which might have a disastrous effect on the
attitude of these men toward him, hastened to make a diversion on his
own account.

"Now, men," he said, as affably as he could contrive, "I've made you
acquainted with the difficulties and the necessities of the situation.
As I said before, I depend on your loyalty.... Will you let me hear from
you later in the afternoon to-day?"

"You'll hear from us, all right," the Yankee assured his employer, with
significant emphasis, before Schmidt had a chance to speak; and McMahon
nodded agreement.

Once again, Cicily strove to lighten the mood of the men.

"If you're going away to think something over, be sure you come back in
time to take your wives home, after they've joined the club. It's the
Civitas Society, you know, for the up-lift of women."

No sooner were the members of the committee out of the room than Cicily
turned anxiously to her husband.

"Oh, Charles," she exclaimed, "tell me! It's not true, is it, that
there's to be a cut in wages at the factory?"

Hamilton turned away impatiently from the appealing face.

"Cicily," he said shortly, "Uncle Jim and I are very busy. We have
business of the highest importance to discuss."

Delancy, who from long experience knew much concerning his niece's
wilfulness, now read aright the resolute expression on her face. He
tugged nervously at his tufts of whisker, and spoke in a tone of
resignation:

"Oh, tell her, Charles, and have done with it.... Or, listen, Cicily.
It's this way: These men are getting more money than they ought to get.
Charles can't make a penny profit, running his business this way. That's
all there is to it--he's got to cut them ten per cent. I've advised it,
myself."

Cicily's charming nose was now distinctly tip-tilted, whatever might be
its normal line.

"Yes, I'd expect you to advise it, Uncle Jim," she remarked, dryly. She
turned to her husband, accusingly. "But, Charles, there is no reason why
you should follow his advice. Why didn't you ask me? I'm your partner. I
don't think you have treated me fairly in this."

Hamilton, overwrought and exasperated by the multiplication of his
worries, began a sharp answer; but it was interrupted by the
decisiveness with which his wife went on speaking:

"Charles, you have treated me like a child, like a fool.... And you said
that you'd let me help you!"

This reproach appealed to Hamilton as grossly unfair.

"Why, Cicily," he exclaimed, "I did let you help. I've let you do
everything that you wanted to do--no matter how--" In a sudden access
of discretion, he choked back the "foolish."

Delancy, presuming on the right of criticism that had been his during
the years of guardianship, spoke with a candor that was not flattering.

"He let you do more than I'd have let you do. He let you waste your
money on bath-tubs and libraries, and such foolishness, to make the men
dissatisfied. I wish somebody would tell me what a man working for two
dollars a day can do with a bath-tub and a library at the works."

"If anybody were to tell you, you wouldn't listen," was Cicily's pert
retort.

Delancy tugged at his wisp of whisker, and wagged his head dolefully.

"I don't know what young women these days are coming to," was his
melancholy comment.

"What you men are driving us to, you mean!" Cicily fairly snapped. It
was difficult enough to manage her husband, without having her position
jeopardized by the interference of this meddlesome old man, who stood
for that exclusion of her sex against which she was fighting. She went
to the chair in which Ferguson had been sitting, and reclined there in
a posture of graceful ease that was far from expressing the turmoil of
her spirit. As he watched her movements, and studied the loveliness of
her, with her delicate face aglow and her amber eyes brilliant in this
mood of excitement, Hamilton forgot his worriment for the moment in
uxorious admiration. He was smiling fondly on his wife, even as Delancy
uttered an exclamation of rebuke to him:

"And you're her husband!" His emphasis made it clear that a husband like
himself would have suppressed such insubordination long ago.

"Well," Hamilton replied placidly, and with a hint of amusement in his
voice, "you brought her up, you know."

"I did not--no such thing!" the old man spluttered. In his indignation,
he pulled so viciously on a whisker that he winced from the pain, which
by no means tended to soothe his ruffled temper.

"You're quite right, Uncle Jim," Cicily agreed, with dangerous sweetness
in the musical voice. "Of course, you never had any time to pay
attention to me, or to Aunt Emma either, for that matter. Oh, no, you
were too much absorbed in that horrid business of yours. You drove Aunt
Emma into working for the heathen, and incidentally, you did teach me
one thing: you taught me what sort of a wife not to be. I learned from
you never to be married after the fashion in which you and Aunt Emma are
married."

Delancy was not blest with an overabundant sense of humor. Now, he
forgot the general charge against him in shocked surprise over the final
statement, which he took literally.

"Look here, Cicily," he remonstrated. "It took twenty-two minutes in the
old First Presbyterian Church to marry your Aunt Emma and me. You
couldn't possibly get a more binding ceremony."

Cicily laughed disdainfully.

"Well, it's my opinion that you've never been married at all, really,"
she persisted, with a bantering seriousness. "You wouldn't have been
really married if you had spent two whole days in the church." Then, in
answer to the pained amazement expressed on her uncle's face, she
continued succinctly: "Yes, I mean it, Uncle Jim. Aunt Emma has been
second wife ever since those twenty-two minutes in the old First
Presbyterian Church, to which you referred so feelingly.... And she has
my sympathy. You married business first, and Aunt Emma afterward.
Business had the first claim, and has always kept first place. That's
why Aunt Emma has my sympathy."

Delancy rose from his chair, greatly offended, now that he perceived the
manner in which he had been bamboozled by the wayward humor of his
niece. He moved toward the door at a pace as hurried as dignity would
permit. There, he turned to address his disrespectful former ward.

"Charles has my sympathy!" he growled; and stalked from the room.

"Don't forget that you are coming to dinner on Sunday--with your second
wife!" the irrepressible Cicily called after him impertinently. But, if
the reminder was heard, it was not answered; and husband and wife were
left alone together.

Hamilton would have remonstrated with his bride over her wholly
unnecessary irritating of her uncle, but he was not given an
opportunity. Before the door was fairly shut behind her offended
relation, Cicily took the war into the enemy's camp by a curt question:

"Now, Charles, why do you cut wages?"

"Because I have to," was the prompt response.

"And why didn't you tell me?"

"Tell you? Nonsense!" The man's tone was expressive of extreme
annoyance.

"But I'm your partner," Cicily persisted bravely, although her heart
sank under the rebuff. "You yourself said that I was."

"Well, and so you are, since you want it so," Hamilton admitted; "and
you're attending to your end, aren't you?"

"Yes, the little end," Cicily agreed, disparagingly.

At that, Hamilton was plainly exasperated.

"What end did you expect?" he demanded. "I tell you, Cicily," he
continued, in the tone of one arguing with labored patience to convince
a child of some truism, "that business is too big, too serious, too
strong for a woman like you, my dear."

"Yes, that's just the fear that grips my heart sometimes, Charles," the
wife admitted. With an ingenuity characteristic of her active
intelligence, she had perceived a method whereby to twist his words to
her own purpose. "Look here!" she went on in a caressing voice, utterly
unlike the emphatic one in which she had spoken hitherto. "Do you for a
moment imagine that I really like business? Well, then, I don't--not a
little bit! For that matter, hardly any woman does, I fancy. As to
myself, Charles, I'm afraid of it--that's the whole truth. I'm only in
it to watch it--and you!"

The change in her manner had immediate effect on the husband. Again, he
was surveying her with eyes in which admiration shone. For the
ten-thousandth time, he was reveling in the beauty of that oval contour,
in the tender curves of the scarlet lips.... But he forgot to voice his
thoughts. Indeed, what need? He had told her so many times already!

"You talk as if business were a woman," he said, with a smile of
conscious sex superiority, "and as if you were jealous."

Cicily concealed her resentment of the patronizing manner, and replied
with no apparent diminution in her amiability:

"That's just it: I am jealous!"

"Good heavens!" Hamilton cried, indignantly. "Surely, you know that I
never think twice of any woman I meet in business."

The wife smiled in high disdain.

"Woman!" she ejaculated, with scornful emphasis. "I'm not in the least
afraid of any woman being more to you than I am, Charles. Just let one
try!"

"Why, what would you do?" Hamilton inquired, curiously.

The answer was swift and vigorous, pregnant with the insolent
consciousness of power that is the prerogative of a lovely woman. Cicily
leaned forward in her chair, and the golden eyes darkened and flashed.

"Why, I'd beat her! I'd be everything to you that she was--and more. I'd
outdress her, I'd out-talk her, I'd outwit her, I'd out-think her. I'd
play on your love and on your masculine jealousy. Oh, there'd be plenty
of men to play the play with me. I'd be more alluring, more fascinating,
more difficult, until I held you safe again in the hollow of my hand,
and then--why, then, I'd be very much tempted to throw you away!"

The verve with which this girl-woman thus vaunted her skill in the use
of those charms that dominate the opposite sex thrilled and fascinated
the lover, pierced the reserve that possession had overcast on ardor.
His cheeks flushed, under the provocation of the glances with which she
marked the allurements of which she was the mistress. As she finished
speaking, he sprang up from his chair, caught her in his arms, and drew
her passionately to his breast. But Cicily avoided the kiss he would
have pressed on her lips. With her mouth at his ear, she whispered,
plaintively now, no longer boastful, only a timid, fearing, jealous
woman:

[Illustration]

"Yes, I can fight a rival who is a woman, Charles, and I can win. But
this other rival, this fascinating monstrous, evil goddess--ah!"

Hamilton held his wife away from him by the shoulders, mid regarded her
in bewilderment.

"Evil goddess!" he repeated, half in doubt as to her meaning.

"Surely, she must be that," Cicily declared, firmly; "this spirit who is
the goddess of modern business, whom I feel absorbing you day by day,
taking from me more and ever more of your thoughts, of your heart, of
your soul, changing you in every vital way, and doing it in spite of all
that I can do, though I fight against her with all my strength! Oh, it's
terrible, the hopelessness of it all! Some day all of you will be gone,
forever!"

"Swallowed up by the evil spirit?" Hamilton asked, quizzically, with a
smile.

"Yes!" The answer was given with a seriousness that rebuked his levity
in the presence of possible catastrophe.

The husband repeated his threadbare argument.

"But, dear," he urged gently, "you know that I love you just the same."

There was a curious, cynical sadness in the wife's voice as she replied:

"Probably, a man under ether loves one just the same. But who wants to
be loved by a man under ether?"

"Cicily, you exaggerate!" Hamilton exclaimed. He dropped his hands from
her shoulders, and reseated himself, while she remained standing before
him. There was petulance in his inflection when he spoke again: "I have
you, and I have my business."

Cicily made a _moué_ that sufficiently expressed her weariness of this
time-worn fact.

"Your two loves!" she said, bitterly. "Now, at this moment, you think
that they're equal. Well, perhaps they are--at this moment. Some day,
the crisis will come. Then, you'll have to choose. It's a new triangle,
Charles--the twentieth-century triangle in America: the wife, the
husband and the business. But remember: when the choice comes for us, I
shall not be an Aunt Emma!"

The manner of his wife, as well as her words, disturbed the husband
strangely. Never had she seemed more appealing in her loveliness, never
more daintily alluring to the eye of a man; yet, never had she seemed to
hold herself so coldly aloof, to be so impersonally remote. He felt a
longing to draw her again into the gentle trustfulness of the maiden who
had gloried in his love.

"What do you want me to do, dear?" he questioned. "I told you that you
could help me. I let you help."

Cicily seated herself again before she replied. When, at last, she
spoke, her voice was listless:

"Yes; you let me spend some of my own money for luxuries. It seems that
I could have used it to better advantage in helping to pay the men their
wages, and thus save you from a possible strike."

"No," was the serious response. "At best, that would have been only a
makeshift--putting off the evil day. No; this thing must be fought out,
once for all. We are running at a loss. To take money from you would be
merely to waste it. Let me tell you, too, that there isn't a chance in
the world for the Hamilton factory in the event of a strike."

Cicily seized on the admission as favoring her side of the argument.

"Then, you must not cut the wages," she declared, with spirit. "You must
fight Morton and Carrington."

"How can one man fight the trust?" Hamilton questioned, in return. "No,
I'm caught between the two millstones: Morton, Carrington, the trust,
above; the men, labor, below. To live, I must cut into the men. That's
business."

"Now, I know it isn't right," Cicily exclaimed. "Tell me," she
continued, bending forward in her eagerness, until he could watch the
beating pulse of her round throat, "if I were to give you all my money,
couldn't you fight, and yet keep up the wages? I have quite a lot, you
know. It was accumulating, uncle said, all the time while I was growing
up." She refused to be convinced by her husband's shake of the head in
negation. "I've met a lot of their women and children, in these last few
weeks, while I have been--playing at being in business. None of the
families have any more than enough for their needs--I know! Some of them
have barely that. A cut in wages will be something awful in its effects.
Why, Charles, some of the families have six or seven children."

"I know," the harassed employer acknowledged, with a sigh that was
almost a groan. "But, Cicily, my dear, unless there is a cut, I shall be
ruined. That is the long and the short of the matter. Unless I make the
men suffer a little now, the factory must be closed down; all Dad's work
must go for nothing. It's either I or them. If they don't take the cut
for the time being, they'll soon be without any wages at all. Now, if
you really want to help me, in a way to count, just do all you possibly
can to prevent a strike. Then, you'll be helping me, and, too, you'll be
helping them as well. Of course, you understand that I shall put back
the wages as soon as ever I can."

"Good!" the wife cried, happily. "I'll help." Despite her distress over
the situation as it affected both the workmen and her husband, she was
elated by the fact that, at last, she was wholly within her husband's
confidence; that, at last, she was actually to coöperate with him in
his business concerns: a practical, no longer merely a theoretical,
partner! Hamilton himself gave the cap to the climax of her delight.

"Now," he said, with a tender smile, "you're positively in business,
according to your heart's desire. You're on the inside, all ready to
fight the what-do-you-call-it."

But a new thought had changed the mood of the impulsive bride. Of a
sudden, she sobered, and her eyes widened in fear.

"Yes," she said slowly, tremulously; "I'll help you, Charles, in any way
that I can, for a strike would be too terrible. It would come between
you and me."

Small wonder that, Hamilton was astounded by this declaration on the
part of his wife. His usually firm jaw relaxed, dropped; he sat staring
at the fair woman opposite him with unrestrained amazement.

"How under heaven could a strike at the factory come between you and
me?" he queried, at last.

The answer was slow in coming; but it came, none the less--came firmly,
unhesitatingly, unequivocally.

"If there were to be a strike, I could not let those women and those
children suffer without doing something to help them."

At this candid statement as to what her course would be, the husband
stiffened in his chair. His expression grew severe, minatory.

"What?" he ejaculated, harshly. "You'd use your money to help them? My
wife use her money to fight me?" His frown was savage.

Cicily preserved her appearance of calm confidence, although she was
woefully minded to cower back, and to cover her eyes from the menace in
his. She was a woman of strongly fixed principles, however chimerical
her ideas in some directions, and now her conscience drove her on, when
love would have bade her retreat.

"I'd use my money to keep women and children from starving to death,"
she said, in a low voice, which trembled despite her will.

Hamilton smothered an angry imprecation. He strove to master his wrath
as he spoke again, very sternly:

"Cicily, you are my wife. You have said that you were my partner. As
either, as both, you have responsibilities toward my welfare that must
be respected."

"I'm a woman, with responsibilities as a human being first of all," was
the undaunted retort. "I wouldn't be fit to be a wife, if I were to let
women and children starve without trying to help."

"Nonsense, Cicily!" Hamilton's anger was controlled now; but he remained
greatly incensed over this stubborn folly on his wife's part, as he
esteemed it. "Strikers don't starve to death, nowadays. They have
benefits and funds, and all sorts of things, to help them. They don't
even go hungry."

"Then, why do they ever give in?" was the pertinent query. "I tell you
they do go hungry--often, even at the best of times. I've been down
among those people. I've seen them with three, six, children to feed and
clothe, and rent to pay, on two to four dollars a day. What chance have
they to save? I tell you, if there's a strike, some of them will starve,
and, if you let them starve, Charles, you won't be my husband!"

"Cicily!"

"I mean it." The wife rose from her chair, went to her husband, and
kissed him, tenderly, sorrowfully. Then, she turned to leave the room.

But, before she reached the door, Hamilton spoke again, gravely, quite
without anger:

"Cicily, my dear," he said, "I give you credit for being as sincere and
honest as you are foolish. So, the only chance for all of us is that you
should do your best now, at once, to prevent an issue that may spell
catastrophe for all of us. It's up to you now, my dear partner, to do
your best to win them, to keep them from striking."

The young wife paused in the doorway, and faced her husband. There was a
trace of tears veiling the radiance of the golden eyes. Her voice
quivered, but the low music of it was very earnest:

"I will, Charles--I will fight hard--my hardest--for my happiness and
for yours!"



CHAPTER IX


Mrs. Schmidt, Mrs. McMahon and Miss Sadie Ferguson, whom Cicily had
selected as the principal beneficiaries in her initial work of up-lift,
arrived a half-hour before the time set for the meeting of the Civitas
Society, and were shown into the drawing-room. Mrs. Schmidt, a thin wisp
of faded womanhood, effaced herself in a remote corner, while Mrs.
McMahon, a brawny Amazon with red, round face and shrewdly twinkling
eyes, frankly wandered about the room, scrutinizing the furnishings and
ornaments and commenting on them without restraint. Sadie Ferguson, on
the other hand, seated herself elegantly upright on an upholstered
chair, and disported herself altogether after the manner of heroines of
high degree as described by her favorite Brooklyn author. At times, she
stared intently, as some impressive thing strange to her experience
caught her eye; but always she recalled her manners speedily, and
forthwith relapsed into a languid indifference of demeanor such as
becomes the Vere De Vere. The trio had not long to wait before their
hostess appeared, and greeted them with a genuine cordiality that put
them at their ease, as far as ease was possible in an environment so
novel. She was at pains to pay a compliment to the girl:

"Prettier than ever, Sadie!" she exclaimed, with honest admiration. And,
in fact, the girl would have been charming, but for the disfiguring
effects of an over-gaudy dress and an abominable hat.

"Aw, quit yer kiddin'," Sadie answered coquettishly, intensely pleased
and quite forgetting the Vere De Vere manner in her pleasure over the
compliment. An expression of horror came in her face, as she realized
her violent departure from the ideal; and she added stammeringly: "I
mean, you're really too kind, my dear Mrs. Hamilton." Having achieved
this, the girl drew a long breath of relief. She felt that she had
redeemed herself in the matter of social elegance.

Cicily smiled pleasantly on Sadie, then turned to Mrs. McMahon, for she
was minded to put these women in the best of humors, in order thus to
work toward the avoidance of a strike by means of their influence over
their husbands. She observed the hat that had been the cause of
McMahon's complaint, which was, in truth, a riot of variegated ugliness.
Cicily believed, however, that in this instance the end must justify the
means.

"What a beautiful hat!" she cried, in a tone of convincing sincerity.
She even clasped her hands to emphasize her admiration.

Mrs. McMahon preened herself, and tossed her head; so that feathers and
flowers dashed their hues worse than before.

"It's nothing so much! It's just some odds and ends they threw together
for me!"

"Odds and ends!" Cicily repeated, in a hushed voice; and she added,
truthfully: "I never saw anything like it in my life." She purposely
avoided directly addressing Mrs. Schmidt, for she was aware of the
woman's painful shyness. "It was ever so good of you to come around this
afternoon," she went on. "I'm going to have some friends here to meet
you."

"Gentleman friends?" Sadie questioned, eagerly. Her face fell when
Cicily answered in the negative, and she could not restrain an
ejaculation of disappointment.

Mrs. McMahon felt it incumbent on her to administer a rebuke to the
girl.

"What do you care, Sadie, so long as they're Mrs. Hamilton's friends?"
And she added majestically, turning to her hostess: "Excuse her, ma'am."

At this public correction, Sadie flushed scarlet, and glanced
appealingly toward Mrs. Schmidt.

"What a nerve!" she commented, angrily. Then, she addressed Mrs. McMahon
herself. "If you will pardon me, Mrs. McMahon," she said, very
haughtily, "I prefer to present my own apologies in individual person."
And, finally, she turned to Cicily. "Mrs. Hamilton, if you consider my
interrogation regarding the sex of your guests impertinent, my humblest
apologies are at your disposal."

"And she didn't choke!" the Irishwoman murmured, admiringly.

Cicily insisted that there was no occasion for apology, and afterward
went on to explain something as to the character and aims of the Civitas
Society for the Uplift of Women. But here, at once, she found herself
beset with unexpected difficulties. Mrs. McMahon drew herself up with
all the dignity of her great bulk, and voiced her feeling by the tone in
which she asked:

"I would like to know, Mrs. Hamilton, if you think we are subjects for
uplifting?"

"Can you beat it!" Sadie cried, in outraged pride.

Cicily hastened to soothe her guests by an explanation that was more
ingenious than ingenuous.

"You don't understand," she remonstrated. "This is the club I spoke to
you about. I want you to become members of the society. We need you to
help in the work."

"You're on!" Sadie declared, with gusto. Again, she realized how she had
departed from her idols. "I would say," she went on mincingly, "it will
afford me great pleasure."

"You mean, then," Mrs. McMahon inquired, "that you've picked us out to
help uplift the other women?" As Cicily nodded assent, she continued,
condescendingly: "Well, if I do have to say it myself, there's many of
them as needs it."

Presently, Mrs. Carrington and Mrs. Morton were shown into the
drawing-room, and welcomed by Cicily, who insisted on introducing them
to "three other earnest workers." The newcomers submitted to the
introductions with obvious unwillingness, and their acknowledgments were
of the frigidest.

"They," Cicily explained, with a wave of her hand toward the three,
"have had large practical experience in the work of the club."

"Sure, and I have that," Mrs. McMahon agreed, expansively; "and so have
Frieda and Sadie--in a smaller way, of course."

Mrs. Carrington unbent so far as to ejaculate, "Indeed!" the while she
surveyed the speaker through a lorgnette; and Mrs. Morton added an
unenthusiastic, "Really!"

Cicily, who was all anxiety to establish harmonious relations between
the two parties of her guests, since so much might depend on the result
of her efforts, spoke placatingly to the company:

"I'm sure you ladies will find one another entertaining."

"Oh, vastly entertaining, no doubt!" Mrs. Morton replied; but her tone
was far from satisfactory to the worried hostess. Nor was the manner of
Mrs. McMahon calculated to relieve the tension.

"If I live, I'll have the time of my life!" she declared, grimly. She
turned to Mrs. Morton: "Is your husband's family any relation to the
Mortons of County Clare, if I may make so bold as to ask?"

"Yes," Mrs. Morton answered, with much complacency. "Mr. Morton at
present keeps up his old family estate in Ireland."

"Sure, and that wouldn't bust him," Mrs. McMahon commented caustically.
"I remember the estate--a bit of a cabin in a bog." The Amazon's huge
frame shook as she chuckled. "Just ask your husband; he'll remember me
well. Sure, the last time I saw him was when his aunt, Nora, married Tom
McMahon, my husband's uncle. Faith, it's cousins we are by marriage."

What might have been Mrs. Morton's attitude toward this suddenly
discovered kinship must remain forever in doubt; for, to Cicily's
unbounded relief, a diversion was now offered by the appearance on the
scene of Mrs. Flynn, Miss Johnson and Ruth Howard. Once again, the
necessary introductions were made. Mrs. Flynn displayed astonishment at
the style of these "ladies," but contrived a neutral manner that was
void of offense. Miss Johnson was distant, but Ruth was honestly
pleased with this opportunity for sisterly association for the sake of
uplift, and rolled her large eyes ecstatically.

"These ladies," Cicily explained anew, "are the members whom the club
has met to consider. They have had wide experience in the great work of
helping women."

"Indeed, and you're right, Mrs. Hamilton," Mrs. McMahon affirmed.
"Whenever anything happens on the block, it's Katy McMahon they send
for. Faith, setting-ups and laying-outs are my specialties."

Mrs. Carrington and Mrs. Morton had withdrawn to a _tête-à-tête_ at some
distance, where they were engaged in a low-toned conversation,
punctuated by many head-shakings. The hostess had seated the new
arrivals in chairs opposite Mrs. McMahon and Sadie. It was evident by
their exclamations that Mrs. Flynn and Ruth were mystified and impressed
by the Irishwoman's explanation. But Miss Johnson maintained an air of
impenetrable reserve.

"Setting-ups!" quoth the militant suffragette.

"Laying-outs!" sighed Ruth; and she turned up her eyes, with a blink of
inquiry.

"Yes," Mrs. McMahon went on, unctuously; "setting up with the sick, and
laying out the dead. Faith, sometimes, I have to be nurse and
undertaker, all in one."

"So," Ruth gushed, unrolling her eyes with some difficulty, "sitting up
with the sick, and laying out the dead, is your great work!"

"Oh, not that entirely," the Irishwoman continued, "not that entirely!
Of course, I have to run my house; and, now and then, when a family's
too poor to have a doctor, 'tis myself that brings a baby into the world
on the side, so to speak. Having had five myself, I'm quite familiar
with the how of it."

There came a horrified gasp from the women listening.

"Cheese it!" Sadie whispered, fiercely. From her study of the favorite
author, she surmised that Mrs. McMahon was wandering far afield from the
small talk of a Clara Vere De Vere. "Your subject for conversation is
really positively shocking and disgusting," she added, aloud.

Cicily attempted yet once again to establish harmony among discordant
elements.

"Mrs. McMahon has done so much good in homes of suffering," she said
gently, "that she's very direct in her speech."

The good-natured Irishwoman herself chose to make the _amende
honorable_, but after her own fashion.

"Sure, excuse me, ladies," she exclaimed, heartily. "Faith, I didn't
mean to speak of anything so unfashionable as the bearing of children."

Mrs. Delancy and a friend entered at this moment, to the great relief of
Cicily, who greeted her kinswoman warmly, and at once led her toward
Mrs. McMahon.

"Here is someone whom you know, Aunt Emma," she said, with significant
emphasis.

Mrs. Delancy, after one look of shocked amazement at the unwieldy figure
squeezed into a gilt chair, which threatened momentarily to collapse
under the unaccustomed burden, recovered the poise of the well-bred
woman of unquestioned social position, and went forward cordially,
holding out her hand.

"Oh, it's Mrs. McMahon!" she exclaimed, with a pleasant smile. "I'm
delighted to have you with us in this work."

Under this geniality, all of the Irishwoman's resentment vanished, and
she returned the greeting warmly.

"And how is little Jimmy?" Mrs. Delancy continued, returning to Mrs.
McMahon, after having spoken to Mrs. Schmidt and Sadie.

Thus addressed, the maternal Amazon displayed certain evidences of
confusion, and, indeed, seemed inclined to evade the issue, for she
replied after a little hesitation:

"Sure, ma'am, Michael and Terence and Patrick and Katy and Nora are all
fine."

"And Jimmy?" Mrs. Delancy persisted, albeit somewhat puzzled by the
woman's manner.

"Well, ma'am," Mrs. McMahon made answer, with an embarrassment that was
a stranger to her "you see, ma'am, there's only five, at present.... We
haven't had Jimmy yet!"

There came a gasping chorus from the whole company. Cicily, who had
taken her position behind the table set for the presiding officer of the
Civitas Club, lifted a scarlet face, as she beat a tattoo with the
gavel, and called out bravely:

"The Civitas Society will now come to order!"



CHAPTER X


There was a little delay while the members of the club shifted positions
in such manner as to bring them facing the president. When this had been
accomplished, the militant suffragette at once stood up, and spoke with
the aggressive energy that marked her every act.

"I move that we dispense with the reading of the minutes of the last
meeting."

"Yes, I think we ought to," Cicily agreed, and she smiled approval on
Mrs. Flynn. "In fact, there were no minutes."

But Mrs. Carrington nourished rancor against her rival for the
presidency, and the fact that Mrs. Flynn had made a suggestion, was
reason enough why she should combat it.

"I think," she remarked coldly, getting to her feet slowly, "that we
should certainly read the minutes. It's most interesting to read the
minutes." She re-seated herself, with an air of great importance.

"But," Cicily objected, "there are no minutes."

Mrs. Carrington did not trouble to rise for her retort:

"I don't see what that has to do with the question at issue."

"Oh, very well, then," Cicily rejoined, with one of those flashes of
inspiration that were of such service to her as a presiding officer,
"you read them yourself, Mrs. Carrington." At this happy suggestion,
Mrs. Carrington uttered an ejaculation, but vouchsafed nothing more
precise. Cicily waited for a few seconds, then continued gaily: "Now
that the minutes are read, the specific business before the house is the
consideration of new members. All working clubs to be successful must
take in constantly virile, live members."

Mrs. Morton, who had by no means forgotten her conversation with Mrs.
McMahon and cherished a distinct grudge against that excellent woman,
voiced a caution:

"But, Mrs. Hamilton," she objected, "due care should be exercised in the
selection."

"The club cannot be too careful," Mrs. Carrington agreed.

Mrs. McMahon was fuming in her chair, evidently on the edge of an
outbreak. Mrs. Delancy saved the situation by prompt action.

"I think," she said, rising, "that, if new members are to be voted on,
they should not be present in the meeting during the discussion."

"Oh, yes," Cicily made decision, with a smile of gratitude for her aunt.
She nodded brightly toward the three candidates, and addressed them in
her most winning voice.

"Mrs. McMahon, will you and Mrs. Schmidt and Miss Ferguson kindly await
the club's action in the next room?" She indicated the curtained archway
that led into the withdrawing-room at the back.

"Certainly, ma'am," the Irishwoman answered, with a rough haughtiness
all her own. She heaved herself up from the gilt chair, which seemed to
creak a sigh of relief; and the trio went out in the midst of a deep
silence.

Their departure set free a babel of chatter, a great part of it
addressed in personal remonstrance to the presiding officer. Cicily lost
patience, and called out sharply, with the authority of her office:

"Any member addressing the chair will please follow the usual
parliamentary procedure!"

Mrs. Carrington was the first to take advantage of the formal method.
Sitting elegantly in her place, she spoke:

"Madam Chairman, I rise to a point of order."

"Very well, then, Mrs. Carrington," Cicily rejoined, with her most
official manner, "please rise."

The outraged member bounced to her feet with an alacrity that was not
her habit. It was evident that the lady was angry.

"Really," she declared in an acid voice, "I never in my whole life--"

"What was your point of order?" Cicily interrupted, blandly.

"Why, well--well--that is, I've forgotten it now. But it was very big!"

The presiding officer's sense of humor ran away with her discretion.

"The chair," she announced gravely, "regrets exceedingly that the member
found her point of order too big to raise."

[Illustration]

It was Mrs. Delancy who, after her usual fashion, strove to restore
peace, as Mrs. Carrington indignantly settled back into her chair:

"Madam Chairman, if this meeting is called to consider the election of
new members, I would like to nominate Mrs. McMahon, Mrs. Schmidt and
Miss Ferguson."

Ruth now made display of her customary need for information. She turned
her large eyes on the presiding officer, and inquired plaintively:

"How do you elect new members?"

Cicily explained with an air of patient toleration.

"They must first be nominated, my dear, and then be seconded. You have a
chance of performing a valuable service to the club now, Ruth, by
seconding the nominations already made."

"Oh, have I?" the girl demanded, animatedly, evidently pleased by this
unexpected opportunity of fulfilling her ideals. "Well, then, I second
them--yes, every one of them!"

"It is moved and seconded," Cicily stated briskly, "that Mrs. McMahon,
Mrs. Schmidt and Miss Sadie Ferguson be elected as members of the
Civitas Society for the Uplift of Women and the Spread of Social
Equality among the Masses."

The militant suffragette was on her feet before the presiding officer
had finished speaking.

"Madam Chairman," she announced in her resonant voice, "I rise on a
question of rules."

"But there is a question before the house," Cicily protested.

"I am exceedingly sorry to antagonize the chair," Mrs. Flynn maintained
resolutely, "but, since my late lamentable experience in this club, I
have made it a point to look up the matter of parliamentary law as
exercised in America." By way of verification, she held aloft a
formidable-appearing, fat volume. "Now, I would like to know whether
members are elected to this club by a plurality of votes, or by a
two-thirds majority, or whether or no a single adverse vote can keep out
a candidate from the privileges of the club."

"A plurality is quite sufficient, Mrs. Flynn, I assure you," Cicily
decided without the slightest hesitation, despite the fact that her
knowledge as to the difference, if any, between plurality and majority
was of the vaguest. "Now, all in favor of the candidates, please--"

Once again, her purpose was frustrated by the suffragette, who had been
busily consulting the formidable volume.

"A moment, Madam Chairman," she demanded, peremptorily. "This American
book on parliamentary law says that the club has the right to decide how
new members are to be elected. Therefore, I move that these elections be
as the elections in England, made by secret voting, and that three black
balls be sufficient to defeat any candidate in her candidacy."

"I second the motion," Miss Johnson called out, rallying to the support
of Mrs. Flynn as on a former occasion, because she believed that such
action would tend toward the annoyance of her dear friends, Mrs.
Carrington and Cicily.

Cicily forthwith offered the motion to a vote, and it was carried,
although Mrs. Carrington, Mrs. Morton and Mrs. Delancy voted against it.
Immediately, Mrs. Flynn brought to view from a mysterious pocket a small
black box of wood.

"I have here," she explained impressively, "the voting-box used in our
club in England. I'm very sorry we did not have it on the occasion of
the election of the president at the last session of this club. I have
no doubt that the issue would have been quite otherwise. Yet, I hope
that no one will misunderstand my position. It is merely my tendency
toward the strong upholding of constitutional rights as opposed
unalterably and forever to tyranny and the forces of disorder and
anarchy. Naturally, there can be no doubt as to the ultimate election of
one at least of the candidates in this particular instance, inasmuch as
that particular candidate is the relation of a member of the Civitas
Society."

Mrs. Morton flounced out of her seat, with an agility that showed her
full appreciation of the thrust.

"It is unconstitutional for one club-member to insult a fellow
club-member," she cried, in a rage. "And, anyhow, I wish to deny that
statement. I'm not a relation--I'm not, I'm not!"

"Pardon me," the militant suffragette declared, belligerently. Her
narrow, sallow face was set; the lust of battle shone in her snapping
eyes. "I know that in Ireland the Mortons and the McMahons are close
relatives. Being an Englishwoman, I naturally know all about it."

Cicily deemed this a fitting time for the exercise of her prerogative
as presiding officer, and rapped violently on the table with the gavel.

"Order! Order!" she commanded. Then, she beamed approvingly on Mrs.
Flynn.

"Will you carry the box around, Mrs. Flynn, please?" she requested.

The suffragette courteously acquiesced, and, as a formal return to the
chair for the honor bestowed on her, first presented the box to Cicily,
who under instructions as to the manner of operation dropped a white
ball into the receptacle, after exhibiting it ostentatiously so that all
the company could see. Next, Mrs. Flynn offered the box to Mrs. Morton,
who selected a black ball, and permitted all who would to observe the
color before her vote was concealed within the box.

"I congratulate you on your triumph over natural family affection," the
presiding officer remarked, bitterly.

In turn, the box was presented to each of the members present. This task
accomplished, Mrs. Flynn, at the request of Cicily, set herself to
counting the votes, while the idle ladies discussed the exciting events
of the session with great animation. Presently, the teller looked up,
and addressed the chair.

"Madam Chairman," she announced in a businesslike tone, "the vote stands
eight to two."

At this statement, the presiding officer clapped her hands merrily, in a
manner more joyous than dignified.

"Good!" she cried, and her dainty smile was all-embracing, as her happy
eyes roved over the assembly. "Then, they're all elected, after all.
It's great! Oh, I thank you! I knew our club would vindicate itself. I
knew that you would live up to our motto--whatever it is. I knew that
you were too big to let social prejudices stand in the way of the
progress of real womanhood. I knew that we were actually a live club,
come together with a genuine aim to do real good. I can see now that we
are going to accomplish something worth while. We are not going to be
merely a set of empty-headed, silly women with nothing to do. Oh, I tell
you that I have some great plans, now that at last we are really started
out right. Now, we can outline our plans of work among women less
fortunate than we ourselves. We can find places for them, we can lead
them on to better things, we can teach them our own doctrine of living
for others, our own principle of making other people happy." The young
wife had spoken with an ever increasing enthusiasm. Her eyes were
sparkling; her voice deepened musically; the color glowed brightly in
her cheeks; her slender form was held proudly erect in the tense
eagerness of an exalted sincerity of purpose. The other women listened
wonderingly at first; but, little by little, the eloquent vehemence of
their president moved them to sympathetic excitement, so that they
nodded and smiled assent to the speaker's lofty sentiments.

Only Mrs. Flynn seemed entirely unaffected by the oratorical outburst.
Now, when the speech came to a close, that militant suffragette again
addressed the chair.

"Madam Chairman," she said with brutal directness, "the vote stands
eight to two. There are two white balls, and eight black balls."

At this shocking revelation of the fact, Cicily stared dazedly for a
moment; then, an expression of bleak disappointment stole over her
features. She uttered a sound of dismay, which was almost a moan, and
the color fled from her face.

"Oh, I don't--can't believe it!" she cried, with sudden fierceness.
With the words, she snatched up the box, which Mrs. Flynn had deposited
on the table, and poured out the balls. She stared at them affrightedly
for a moment. There could be no mistake: They were two white and eight
black! Cicily regarded the incontrovertible evidence of defeat for a
minute with dilated eyes. Then, abruptly, she laughed hardily,
straightened up from her scrutiny of the balls, and gazed wrathfully out
upon her fellow club-members. When she spoke, her tone was of ice. Her
utterance was made with the utmost of deliberation.

"So," she said, while her amber eyes flashed fire, "you are a set of
empty-headed, silly women with nothing to do, after all!"

"Cicily!" Mrs. Delancy exclaimed, aghast, while the others could only
gasp in horror before this unparalleled vituperation.

"I mean it--every word of it!" Cicily repeated, hotly. But the
impetuosity of her mood was checked as she beheld the general
consternation consequent on her attack; for now all the others were on
their feet, moving hurriedly and muttering excitedly.

"I suppose this is parliamentary law as it is understood in America,"
the militant suffragette made sarcastic comment, in a shrill voice. "I
prefer the English fashion of doing things, for my part."

Cicily realized, with an increase of misery, how intolerable had been
her conduct. With that swift changefulness that was distinctive of her
nature, she sought to make amends as best she could, although she
understood that the task was well-nigh a hopeless one.

"I beg your pardon," she said, with as much humility as she could
summon. "But, oh, you don't know what you are doing. You can't know!
Don't you realize that you are spoiling our one chance for doing
good--spoiling our chance to make this a genuine club to help women
actually, not just merely making a joke by pretending?"

Mrs. Morton voiced the general sentiment of disagreement succinctly:

"I fail to see how association with such persons could be anything but
distasteful, even disgusting."

"Exactly!" Mrs. Carrington agreed.

"Such women have their own clubs," Miss Johnson pointed out for the
enlightenment of the presiding officer. She was very happy over her dear
Cicily's discomfiture. "How can they help in any really great work? Let
them work among the creatures of their own class. We," she concluded
loftily, "have our ideals."

"My ideal," the president retorted bitterly, "is to do something--not
merely to talk about it. Not one of you," she continued, waxing wroth
again, "has ever done any real good, has ever put herself out to be of
service to others, has ever really done anything for anybody else--not
one of you!"

"Mrs. Hamilton," Mrs. Morton protested indignantly, "I cannot permit
such a statement. I for one send my check to the Charity Organization
every Christmas, without fail." Others, too, boasted of their
philanthropies, always exercised through some most respectable medium.
As the clamor of rebuke died away, Cicily ventured one more plea:

"Then, won't you do this for me?" she asked. "I, as your president, ask
that you elect these women. Let them in, to help me in doing the hard
work. You needn't do anything, but just belong and take the credit. I am
under obligations to these persons. I promised them election to the
club. I know now that I had no right to do so, but I did. I am sorry
that I was so hasty in the matter. But won't you make my word good in
this one case?" The musical voice was tenderly persuasive. Some of those
who listened yielded to the spell of it and the winning radiance of the
amber eyes. But Mrs. Flynn was not of these.

"There's nothing in this book of American parliamentary law that says
the president has a right to promise anything binding on the club. I
move that the president consider herself rebuked for exceeding her
authority."

"Ruth, there's another chance to second something," Cicily suggested,
ironically.

The maiden of the large eyes was pleased and flattered by the
suggestion, which she accepted in all seriousness.

"Really?" she exclaimed, and turned her gaze aloft. "Oh, then, I second
it--I second it, of course!"

"It is moved and seconded," Cicily declared listlessly, "that the
president be rebuked for trying to be of some genuine use to herself and
to her fellow women. All in favor of the motion will please say ay."

The form in which the president had stated the motion was not
satisfactory to most of the members, who preserved a silence of
indecision, with the single exception of Ruth, who uttered an
enthusiastic affirmative vote, as a matter of course, only to shrink
back perplexedly when she found angry eyes focused on her from every
side. But Cicily nonchalantly announced the motion as having been
carried, without troubling to call for the contrary vote.

"Ladies," she said, "the president accepts the rebuke; and she also
resigns from her office and from the club. She is done with you, with
all of you, and with your pitiful joke of a club."

She stood serenely defiant, while the company of babbling, head-tossing
women hastened forth from the drawing-room, until only Mrs. Delancy
remained.



CHAPTER XI


For a few moments after the passing of the Civitas Society, Cicily
remained in her place, motionless, tense, her face whitely set. Then, of
a sudden, the rigidity of her pose relaxed. She moved swiftly to where
her aunt was sitting, dropped to her knees, and buried her face in the
old lady's lap. The dainty form was shaken by a storm of sobs.... Mrs.
Delancy, wise from years, attempted no word of comfort for the time
being--only stroked the shining brown tresses softly, and patted a
shoulder tenderly. So, the girl, for now she was no more than that, wept
out the first fury of her grief in this comforting, sheltering presence,
as so often she had done in the years before marriage claimed her.
Little by little, the fierceness of her emotion was worn out, until at
last she was able to raise a sorrow-stricken face, in which the clear
gold of the eyes still shone beautiful, though dimmed, through the veil
of tears. The scarlet lips were tremulous, and the notes of the musical
voice came brokenly as she spoke her despair.

"I've ruined him!" came the hopeless wail.

Mrs. Delancy misunderstood the final pronoun, for the articulation of
the girl, clogged by feeling, was none too distinct.

"Pooh!" she ejaculated, cheerfully. "For my part, I think you're well
rid of them."

"But you don't understand," Cicily almost moaned. "It's him--him! I've
ruined him, I tell you."

This time, Mrs. Delancy understood the pronoun, but she understood
nothing beyond that.

"Ruined him?" she repeated, wholly at a loss. "Whom have you ruined,
Cicily? What do you mean?"

Then, the young wife poured forth the tale of the disaster she had all
unwittingly wrought in the affairs of her husband. She explained her
high hopes of saving a dangerous situation by means of her own influence
over the women, who, in turn, controlled the leaders among the workmen
in the factory. Cicily was painfully aware of the mischief that must
result from the refusal of the Civitas Society to welcome into its
sacred circle the three candidates whom she had proposed. She knew the
sensitiveness of these women, knew that they would bitterly resent the
slight thus put upon them. Where she had meant to bind their friendship
for her, she had succeeded only in creating a situation by which they
might well come to detest her for having subjected them to needless
humiliation. With their hostility aroused against her, they would throw
their influence, which she believed dominant, to persuade the men
against any concessions in favor of their employer. With a full
perception of the catastrophe in which she had so innocently become
involved, the wife hurriedly recounted the facts to her aunt, bewailing
the evil destiny that had worked such dire havoc with her schemes for
good.

"Well, you did what you could," Mrs. Delancy suggested consolingly, when
at last the melancholy recital was ended.

"And I failed!" came the retort, in a voice of misery.

Certain utterances of the girl on a former occasion had rankled in the
bosom of the old lady, perhaps because she perceived a certain element
of justice in them, and by so much a measure of dereliction on her own
part in the regulating of affairs between herself and her husband. Now,
despite the kindliness of her nature and her real sympathy for the
suffering of the niece who knelt at her knees, she could not forbear a
mild reproof:

"Well, Cicily," she said gently, "it all comes of a woman fooling with
business. Why, if you'd only been content to work for the heathen--"

"I've just finished with the heathen!" was the quick interruption.

"Well, my dear," Mrs. Delancy commented drily, "if you'd only work for
the far-off heathen, you'd find it much more satisfactory. You might not
do any good, to be sure; but, anyhow, the bad results wouldn't affect
you."

Cicily got to her feet, without making any reply, and went to the mirror
at one end of the drawing-room. There, she busied herself after the
feminine fashion with concealing the more apparent ravages made by her
weeping. When she came back to face her aunt again, she was her usual
charming self, save for a lack of color in her cheeks, and a portentous
gravity in the drooping of the mouth.... Happily, she was not of the
majority, whose noses bloom redly when watered with tears.

"And now," she said, desolately, "I've got to tell them!" She nodded
toward the withdrawing-room, where the three candidates were waiting;
and Mrs. Delancy understood.

"Why don't you write it to them?" she advised. "Whenever I have anything
uncomfortable to tell anyone, I always write it. Then, I let your Uncle
Jim read the reply.... It's so much more satisfactory that way, and, you
know, he can say right out what I don't dare even to think."

But Cicily had courage and a conscience. She felt that she must not
shirk the consequences to herself of her own indiscretion.

"No, I'll tell them," she declared resolutely; but her heart was sick
within her at contemplation of the scene that waited.

Fortunately, perhaps, small time was given Cicily for dread
anticipations. Hardly had she ceased speaking when the door into the
withdrawing-room was cautiously opened, and the face of Mrs. McMahon was
made visible to the two women who had faced about at sound of the knob
turning. On perceiving that the room was empty save for the hostess and
Mrs. Delancy, the Irishwoman threw the door wide, and came forward.

"Faith, it was so quiet I was sure they'd gone," she announced, with
manifest pride in her deductive powers. There was, too, a general air of
elation in the woman's manner of carriage that struck a chill to
Cicily's heart. And the cold of it deepened as Mrs. Schmidt and Sadie
Ferguson followed into the drawing-room, each evidently in a state of
exaltation. The three ranged themselves in rude dignity before their
hostess. Mrs. McMahon constituted herself the spokeswoman.

"Well," she inquired genially, "now that we're members of the club, what
is it you'd be after having us to do?"

An interval of silence followed, under the influence of which the three
waiting candidates seemed visibly to droop, as if by a subtle instinct
they began to apprehend misfortune. When, finally, Cicily spoke, it was
in a colorless voice:

"I'm afraid there is nothing that any of us can do, now." The three
started, and exchanged glances in which was dawning alarm, "I mean," the
unhappy hostess went on, making her confession of failure by a mighty
effort of will, "that--that the election did not go as I had expected it
to."

Again, there was a painful silence, in which Sadie fidgeted and Mrs.
Schmidt seemed to grow more shrunken and faded than before. Mrs. McMahon
alone stood unmovingly erect, stiffly pugnacious on the instant.

"So, that's it!" she exclaimed, at last. Her big voice was raucous with
anger. "Sure, then, and we're not members, at all!"

As the bald truth was thus made known to Sadie, she flared into complete
forgetfulness of the ideal deportment of her heroines.

"Them cats turn us down!" she screeched.

Mrs. Schmidt uttered no word, for she was by nature given to profound
silences, almost unbroken for days. Perhaps, she believed the garrulity
of her husband ample for the entire family. Nevertheless, in this
critical moment, Mrs. Schmidt opened her mouth repeatedly, like a fish
out of water, as if she were striving her utmost to speak.

"And--and," Cicily added weakly, "I'm awfully sorry."

"Sure, and you don't need to trouble yourself, Mrs. Hamilton," the
Irishwoman declared, viciously. "The likes of us know how you rich
people have a habit of bringing us into your parlors to make fun for
their friends. You come to our homes, and we treated you like a lady.
Faith, now we come here, and you treat us like monkeys--that's all the
difference. We're much obliged to you for the lesson. Sure, and we won't
bother you again, not a bit of it. And we'll be pleased if you'll treat
us the same.... Good-day to you, Mrs. Hamilton." The irate woman bobbed
her head energetically at her hostess, and strode toward the doorway
into the hall. But she halted for a moment as Cicily addressed her
impetuously.

"Mrs. McMahon, you must listen to me! I had no idea that this would turn
out as it did. I have been your friend--I am your friend. When the club
refused to admit you, I resigned from the club. There is nothing more
that I can do. Oh, I am so sorry that it all occurred!"

"Faith, we'll take your explanation for all it's worth," was the
wrathful woman's comment, uttered with scorn. She was too deeply hurt to
be solaced by explanations that did not alter the shameful fact one
whit. She turned again toward the doorway, only to be halted by the
appearance there of her husband, accompanied by Schmidt and Ferguson.

McMahon paused just within the room, and stood rubbing his hands, and
grinning jovially, his round face aglow with satisfaction. He addressed
his wife banteringly, evidently in high good spirits:

"Faith, Katy McMahon," he exclaimed, "but you're looking proud the day!
Sure, now, I'll have the automobile to take us all up to Sherry's in
just a minute, when we've done talking with Mr. Hamilton. Bedad, with
our wives and daughters moving in such elegant society and members of
such a grand club with the boss's wife, we wouldn't dare take them any
less place at all!"

"It's a bad mind-reader you are!" fairly shouted the outraged wife.
Sadie added something unintelligible, it was so rapidly uttered and so
venomously hissed. Even Mrs. Schmidt displayed every symptom of speech
save sound.

"What's the matter, Sadie?" Ferguson demanded, not unkindly, as he
observed the expression on his daughter's face. "Wasn't your false hair
the right shade? I'm sorry, if it ain't, because I don't see as how I
can buy you any more with this ten per cent. cut we're taking."

Instantly, Cicily aroused to new hope. She moved a stop forward, her
hands up-raised in eagerness. A glow of color burned in either cheek,
and her eyes sparkled again.

"Oh," she questioned tensely, "then you're not going to strike--you'll
take the cut?"

It was Schmidt who answered, beaming happily on his hostess.

"Strike? Ah, no! When you make friends with our wives, and Mr. Hamilton,
he tells us the truth just like one man with another, we appreciate it,
yes; we stand by and help, yes!"

"Schmidt's right," Ferguson added. "Mr. Hamilton and you, ma'am, are
human. So, we've decided to stick it out for a while, anyhow."

McMahon, too, yielded his tribute of commendation.

"Yes, Mrs. Hamilton," he said seriously, "there's one thing that the
bosses generally don't understand; but the men always appreciate it when
the boss, and the boss's wife, too, are on the level."

To the amazement of everyone, Mrs. Schmidt broke into speech; find that
outburst was like the eruction of Krakatao in its unexpectedness, its
suddenness, its overwhelming virulence.

"Yes, yes, yes," she clamored, addressing her hapless husband, who stood
appalled before the attack, "you are one big, fat fool! You always were.
You are in love with her--no? You let her bring your wife here, make her
for a joke to her rich friends, let her get insults. They laugh and make
fun of me, Frieda Schmidt, your wife; and then, when they have had the
good laugh, they say: 'What do you think we want of you? You are not
like us. We are grand ladies: you are a working woman. Get out! Get out!
We have had our laugh at you. Now, go! We are through; we are tired of
you. It was very good of Mrs. Hamilton to bring you here for us to laugh
at; but it is over. Get out!'... And then you come and thank her
because she insults your wife, insults your name; and you take less
wages from her husband because she insults your name and me. If you take
that cut, you are not my man--never with me no more!" With the last
words, she darted from the room, and a moment later the street-door
slammed violently behind her.

"Good for Frieda!" Mrs. McMahon applauded. "When she does talk, sure
she says something.... You heard her, Mike McMahon? Well, what she said,
them's my sentiments. You know what she did now." A jerk of the head
indicated the wretched hostess. "She pretended to ask us to join a club.
She brought us here to insult us, to make fun of us. She made us the
laughing-stock of Morton and Carrington's wives. Do you hear that?
Morton and Carrington! Put the names of them in your pipe and smoke it.
Mike McMahon, listen to what I'm telling you. If you take a cut from
them that insult your wife, you can forget to come home for good, my
bucco." In her turn, the Irishwoman stalked out of the room and from the
house with a tread of heavy dignity.

"That goes with me, Pop!" Sadie declared, as she flounced out.

"It's all been a terrible mistake," Cicily ventured to the three men who
stood regarding her with sullen faces and baleful eyes after the
revelations that had just been made.

"I'm thinking you're right," McMahon agreed. There was something
sinister in his voice. "But it's us that made the mistake. We thought
the boss and his wife could be on the level with us. What a bunch of
damn fools we were!" And his two confrères nodded gloomy assent.

It was at this most unpropitious moment that Hamilton came briskly into
the room. He stopped short in the doorway, at sight of the three men of
the committee, who turned to face him.

"Well, boys," he exclaimed briskly, "have you decided?" The men nodded
without speaking. "Well?"

"I'll do the talking," Ferguson said, holding up a hand to check
Schmidt. "We've decided, Mr. Hamilton. We're going to strike. We'll make
you come to terms, or we'll bust you if we can."

Hamilton's face hardened, and he squared his shoulders.

"I suppose you know what you're up against?" he questioned harshly.

"Yes, we've just found out," Ferguson retorted, with gusty rage. "We'd
been thinking that you were on the level--you and your wife, too. We
swallowed that funny story of your being crushed by the trust. Oh, we
were suckers, all right. We were suckers for fair! We were going to
fall for it. We were going take your cut. And then your wife brings our
wives and daughters here, pretending she's going to put them in her
club--brings them here to make a laugh for Morton and Carrington's
wives. Yes, Morton and Carrington, the very men you say are crushing
you, your enemies! Oh, your enemies are all right! Do you think we are
fools? No, to hell with you!" The furious man's voice rose to a shriek
with the last words. He whirled, and made for the door, and the other
two followed him.

[Illustration]

"One minute," Hamilton called. "You needn't go back to the works. We
close down in ten minutes. Come back to see me when you are hungry." He
stood motionless as the men passed silently out, and until he heard the
sound of the street-door closing behind them. Then, he turned to Cicily,
who had waited pallid and shaken, her eyes downcast, her hands clasped
distressedly. His voice, as he spoke, was not softened; even, it was
harder than before. "You see what you have done," he said simply. "This
settles it. I'm going into a big fight. I can't be handicapped. For the
future, you will stay where you belong. You will confine your
activities to the house, where they will be less dangerous, let us
hope--less fatal!" Without awaiting any reply, he wheeled, and strode
from the room.



CHAPTER XII


Cicily sent word of a severe headache, and did not appear at the
dinner-table that night, nor did she see her husband during the evening.
She retired to her bed-chamber at an early hour, but not to sleep.
Instead, she abandoned herself to torturing reflections on the
malevolent predicament into which she had been brought. She did not
attempt to disguise from herself the hideous fact that her own
precipitancy of action in the matter of the candidates for the club had
been the primary cause of the peril that now beset her husband's
business prosperity by reason of the strike thus induced. She bewailed
the impetuous character of her emotions, which had so evilly led her
into an action fraught with such dire consequences. She had no regret
for the motives that had impelled her, but she was profoundly sorrowful
over the thoughtless haste with which she had entered on a course of
more than doubtful expediency. Her one relief was in a reiteration that
she would, that she must, find some way by which to make amends for the
catastrophe she had so ingenuously engineered. To the discovery of a
method for retrieving her error, she gave her mind with an almost
frenzied concentration; but the effort was fruitless. Cudgel her wearied
brain as she would, it could not make pace to the goal she sought. When,
after a sleepless night, she rose, it was with the maze of disaster
still unthreaded. Her usual ingenuity of resource was become impotent.
Raging against her own supineness, she was yet forced into ignoble
inactivity.

Cicily learned that her husband had breakfasted early, and had left the
house, without any message to her, or any statement as to when he might
return. The sight of food sickened her, but she managed to drink a cup
of coffee, which put a little heart into her after the wearing hours of
the night. A turn around the Park and along the Drive still further
quickened her spirits; but the day passed without any flash of
inspiration as to a means for undoing the ill she had wrought. She made
a toilette for dinner by a brave effort. Yet, she might have spared her
pains, for Hamilton did not appear. She idled through the meal with as
much cheeriness of demeanor as she could summon for the benefit of the
servants. Afterward, she sought the seclusion of her boudoir, leaving
word that she should be notified immediately in the event of her
husband's return.

In the meantime, Hamilton himself had opportunity for meditation, and
this had softened his mood to some degree. He admitted to himself that
her interest in the wives of his workmen had been the prime factor in
their determination to endure a temporary cut in the wage-scale without
striking. To be sure, his own attitude of confidential intercourse with
the leaders in stating his position frankly had had its influence; but
he did not for a moment believe that this alone would have sufficed to
bend the men to his will. No, it had been the happy effect of his wife's
intimate association on terms of equality with the women that had been
the chief factor in creating a sentiment of sympathy for him to the
extent of coöperation. Without her work in his behalf, the men would
certainly have struck. Now, since her mistake in judgment had been the
immediate cause of the strike, in justice she could hardly be held
guilty of more than an act of folly. Essentially, the final situation
was what it would have been without any intervention whatsoever on her
part. In going over the succession of events logically and calmly,
Hamilton came to the decision that he would absolve his wife from any
real guilt in the affair. He even felt a half-hearted kindliness toward
her for her blundering good-will. But he was none the less resolved that
he would tolerate no further injection of this charming feminine
personality into his business concerns. The wife must mind her own
business--the home--and that alone; she must have no part in his.... It
was in this mood that he returned to his house late in the evening, and
shut himself into the study. There, presently, Cicily came, seeking him.

The bride was very beautiful to-night, with a touch of sadness in her
expression that gave her a new spirituelle charm. She had chosen a black
gown as becoming the melancholy of the time, but its austere lines,
without any touch of adornment, only brought into full relief the
exquisite outlines of the slenderly rounded form, and served to
emphasize the creamy whiteness of a complexion that was flawless. There
was hardly a glimpse of rose in the ivory curve of the cheeks, but there
was no lessening of the bending scarlet in the lips and the amber eyes
were luminous even beyond their wont, as their gentle radiance shone
forth above the dark circles traced by a sleepless night.

Hamilton turned a little as the door opened. He regarded his wife
quizzically as she walked forward with a step of native grace, now grown
a trifle languid from the weight on her spirit. He did not speak,
however, until she had seated herself in the chair facing his. Then,
when at last she looked up, and her somber gaze encountered his, he
spoke lightly:

"Cicily, my dear, I think you are well rid of that coterie of cats."

"Why, how did you know?" Cicily questioned, in some astonishment as to
his knowledge of her break with the members of the Civitas Society.

"Oh, in a very simple way. Aunt Emma told Uncle Jim, and Uncle Jim told
me," Then, out of the kindness of his heart, the young husband went on
speaking in such wise, according to his best judgment, as should console
the very apparent misery of his wife. "My dear," he said gently, "I want
you to know that I don't really blame you for this wretched strike. I'd
have had it on my hands just the same, if you'd never had a finger in
the pie. So, don't go grieving over something that can't be helped. And,
of course, I give you all credit for the very best of intentions in the
matter. Only--" he broke off discreetly; but the discretion had come too
late.

"Only what?" Cicily questioned, quietly. There was something ominous in
the quiet, and this the man realized.

Nevertheless, Hamilton was not one to shirk that which he deemed his
duty. So, now, he answered lucidly with just what was in his mind as to
the future relations between them, although he understood sufficiently
well the ambitions of the woman before him to know that he must wound
her deeply.

"Sweetheart," he said softly, "I don't wish to grieve you in any way.
Yet, I must insist calmly now on what I said yesterday in the heat of
anger. You must attend to your duty in the home. It is for me, and for
me alone, to conduct matters of business outside. Can you not understand
that you are by nature and training utterly incompetent for the rôle you
seek to play? Business aptitude is not a thing to be picked up in an
instant, haphazard, at the wish of anyone. It is something acquired by
long striving and experience. The man has it in greater or less degree,
as the result of generations of the work; he inherits an aptitude; he
develops it by systematic training. Feminine intuition cannot give you a
substitute for the practical needs of business. So, my dear, I beg you
to be reasonable. You must not meddle further in my affairs. But, don't,
for heaven's sake, be melancholy over it. I love you, my dear, and I
want you to be happy. You will be, if only you can get the right point
of view. Try! Won't you, dear?" As he finished speaking with this
appeal, Hamilton leaned forward anxiously, pleadingly. Deep down in his
heart he felt a glow of pride over the mildness and the reasonableness
with which he had presented the case in its true light to this
irrational, dear creature.

For a long minute, Cicily vouchsafed no answer, although she felt the
intensity of his gaze fixed upon her. She remained motionless, leaning
back in the chair, her taper fingers loosely clasped on her lap, her
eyes downcast, as one absorbed in earnest, yet not disquieting, thought.
Finally, however, she raised her head slowly, and her gaze met that of
her husband fairly. It seemed to him that perhaps the faint touch of
color in her cheeks had grown a little brighter, but of this he could
not be sure. Otherwise, certainly, she betrayed no sign of particular
emotion; whereat he rejoiced, since he knew from experience that her
temperament might manifest tumultuously on occasion.

"Then, it's come," she said at last, in a low voice. Again, her eyes
were downcast, and she rested there, to all appearance, tranquilly
indifferent.

Hamilton stirred uneasily. This was not what he had expected, and he
found himself unprepared for the emergency.

"If you mean that common-sense has come," he remarked grimly, "I beg to
tell you that it has, and that it has come to stay!"

The wife spoke again, rather languidly, without troubling to raise her
eyes.

"You mean that you are going to push me back, that you are going to shut
me out of your life totally--out of your big, whole, full life? You mean
that, for the future, you are going to treat me as a doll, as a
plaything with which to amuse yourself when you chance to be tired and
in a mood for such diversion--in fact, as other men of the average sort
treat their wives? You have told your side of it. Now, I'm going to tell
you mine. And I'm going to ask you not to decide too hastily. Think over
the matter carefully, I beg of you. For, you see, it involves our whole
future, yours and mine.... Charles, once you yielded to my wishes. You
took me in. You let me help you."

"Yes," exclaimed Hamilton, in exasperation of spirit. "And you made a
mess of things all round!" He shook his head emphatically. "No, Cicily;
I tell you, no!"

"Charles, wait!" the wife commanded, raising her eyes, and straightening
her form in sudden animation. "Take my money--take everything that I
have. Throw it away, if you want to. Use it in your business, if it will
help the least bit. Do whatever you please--only, don't shut me out.
Tell me everything. Teach me something of your knowledge concerning
these things. Let me share as much as I can. You direct, of course. I'll
only do what you wish me to do. But don't drive me away from you." She
paused, leaned farther forward, and went on speaking in a tone of
deepest seriousness: "If we part this way now, if I am to cease from any
interest in your affairs, and you go on alone, why, then, I'll never
have you again. I know that for the truth. That's why I am pleading like
this. Once, I demanded it as a right; now, I beg it as a favor. Here is
the choice, Charles. You can't be as Uncle Jim is, simply because I
won't be like Aunt Emma in this matter. If you shut me out now, I'll
shut you out--for good!"

"Good God! was there ever such a woman!" Hamilton cried, in desperation.
"Why, if I were to take you in, within two weeks you'd be down there,
helping the families of the strikers. You told me that, yourself."

"Would you have me see them starve, Charles, when I had the means for
their relief?" came the undaunted retort.

"That does settle it!" Hamilton exclaimed, with angry vehemence. It came
to him in this instant that all his reasonableness and gentleness were
futile when opposed to the unfeminine ambition of his girl wife. Temper
had him in its clutch, and he yielded blindly to its guidance. "I'm your
husband, Cicily," he announced, dictatorially. "Please, understand that,
from now on, I direct the affairs of this family. There can be no
happiness in a house without head--only bother and worry and confusion.
From now on, I direct. I'm the head of this house.... I have a big fight
on. I intend that you shall be loyal. I mean that you shall be faithful
to me straight through."

"You demand this?" The woman's voice was like ice.

"Yes," the husband replied, roughly. "I demand that you take your proper
place, the place of a wife in her husband's home; and that you stay
there, doing as I tell you. And, in this strike, you keep your hands
off. This is what you must do, as long as I am your husband." The man's
eyes were masterful; his jaw was thrust forward.

"Well, if that's the sort of man you are, I won't have you for a
husband," Cicily declared, quietly. There was an air of aloofness about
her that was more disturbing than had been a display of passion. "If
that's your idea of marriage, we'd be better apart, for it isn't mine.
No, you're not my husband," She stood up, slowly drew the wedding-ring
from her finger, and laid it on the table.

"Cicily!" Hamilton cried, aghast, as she turned away.

She did not pause until she was come to the door. But, there, she faced
about for a final utterance.

"No, I won't have you for a husband," was her ultimatum.... "And yet, I
think that I'll teach you a lesson. I have a fancy to save you--in spite
of yourself!" And, leaving Hamilton to ponder these astounding words,
she went forth from the room.



CHAPTER XIII


The week that followed was to Cicily the most strenuous and the most
exciting that she had ever experienced in the brief span of her years.
She steadfastly maintained her pose as a woman who had renounced her
husband; yet, she remained in that husband's house, with a sublime
disregard for the inconsistency of her conduct. She studiously avoided
any discussion, of the status she had established. What her future
course would be was left wholly to conjecture. She presided at the table
with inimitable grace and self-possession, taking care to treat her
husband with every consideration, but always with a trace of formality
that was significant of the changed relation. Hamilton, on his part, was
inclined to regard his wife's dramatic renunciation of him as a passing
whim, which it were wiser to ignore until such time as it should have
worn itself out. In the meantime, he was so much absorbed by the
struggle over his business difficulties that, he had little time or
disposition to make researches into feminine psychology, even that of
his wife. He had an optimistic theory that, in the end, his domestic
troubles would adjust themselves by some process of natural evolution.
He was confident, too, that his assertion of mastery must eventually be
accepted by his wife. So, he smiled pleasantly on Cicily, when he was
not too busy to notice her presence, and betimes he felt the little
packet that he carried in the inner pocket of his waistcoat, and was
fondly content, wondering when the dear girl would again slip the bond
of servitude willingly on the finger whence she had removed it with such
magnificent disdain.

It was that wedding-ring, thus cherished by Hamilton, which caused the
wife more concern than aught else in her domestic entanglement. She had
regarded the symbol as something splendidly sacred, and she now bitterly
regretted the impulse that had led her to discard it so needlessly.
Indeed, the very night on which she defied her husband, she had crept
down to the library when all the house was quiet, and had there made
sure that it was not still lying disregarded on the table where she had
cast it down in resentment. Now, she hoped and believed that her husband
had locked it away in some drawer where at least it would be safe.
Only, she wished that she had saved it as a souvenir of mingled
happiness and sorrow.

Apart from this matter of the ring, Cicily had no remorse. She regretted
the course of action thrust on her by malign fate, but her conscience
was clear of reproach. Perhaps, in some subtle, unconfessed recess of
her heart, she nourished a hope that ultimately joy would return to her
life. But her openly expressed conviction to herself was that she was
done with the life of love. Yet, a curious personal ambition urged her
on to make good the declaration to her husband that she would save him
in spite of himself. To this end, she bent all her energies. As she
reflected on the circumstances under which she had so ignominiously
failed, she decided that she must have recourse again to the means by
which she had so nearly attained success in her plans for her husband's
welfare, only to fail miserably on account of the obstinacy of the
Civitas Society. So, she sought out the women whom she had unhappily
offered as candidates to the club, and set herself with all the art that
was in her to win back their favor. She was sure that by alliance with
them she could mold circumstance to her will, and ultimately triumph
gloriously over the erring man who had flouted her ambition to help in a
business struggle.

Cicily made a full confession of her marital disaster to Mrs. Delancy,
who by turns scolded and cried over the wilful girl. The old lady
disapproved strongly of her niece's conduct, which was without any
excuse whatsoever according to her own notions of conventional
requirements. But, since she loved this child whom she had mothered, she
forgave her, and by degrees came to feel a certain sympathy for her,
which reacted mildly in her own attitude toward her husband.... It was
on one of her visits to her aunt that Cicily encountered Mr. Delancy,
who was already aware of the unfortunate position of affairs, and now
felt himself called on to protest. He expressed himself with some
severity, and concluded with a hope that she was not determined to
persevere in her folly.

"I was never more determined in my whole life, Uncle Jim," was the
emphatic answer.

Mr. Delancy resisted a temptation to snatch up one of the teacups from
the exquisite Sèvres service over which his wife and his niece were
sitting, and to hurl it into the fireplace, for the sake of relieving
his choler. He refrained from any overt act, however, by a great effort
of will, and perforce contented himself with an explicit statement of
his opinion:

"You were never more bull-headed in your life," he snorted, stopping
short in his agitated pacing of the drawing-room, to face his niece with
a scowl; "and that's saying a great deal--a very great deal!"

"James!" Mrs. Delancy exclaimed, in mild remonstrance.

But Cicily was not to be suppressed by this man who typified the evils
against which she had fought.

"Would you have me give up my principles?" she questioned, scornfully.

Once again, Mr. Delancy snorted contemptuously.

"You haven't got any principles," he declared, baldly. "No woman has."

At this brutal statement on the part of her husband, Mrs. Delancy
stiffened, and an exclamation of shocked amazement burst from her.
Cicily smiled cynically, as she addressed her aunt:

"Well, Aunt Emma," she said amusedly, "you see now what your attitude
has led to. You began with no backbone. So, now, you have no principles.
Oh, you nice, sweet-faced, gray-headed, deceiving old-lady reprobate,
you!"

But Mrs. Delancy refused to see any element of humor in the situation.
Indeed, she was on the verge of tears over the wantonly injurious
statement made by the husband whom she had cherished for a lifetime.

"James, how could you!" she cried out, in a voice broken by emotion. "To
say such things to your wife--oh!"

Too late, the irascible husband realized that he had committed a serious
fault, had in fact been guilty of a gross injustice, which was hardly
less than an insult, to the woman whom he thoroughly respected.

"Emma--" he began, appealingly.

But Mrs. Delancy had changed in an instant from tearful reproach to
righteous indignation.

"No, don't speak to me!" she commanded; and she deliberately turned her
back on the culprit.

Under the goad of this treatment, Delancy addressed his niece in a tone
that was almost ferocious.

"So," he snarled, "not content with breaking up your own home, you'd
try to ruin mine, would you! You should apologize to your Aunt Emma, at
once."

"Dear Auntie," Cicily exclaimed without a moment's hesitation, in a
voice of contrition, "I beg you to let me apologize to you very humbly
for what Uncle James said."

"What the--!" stormed the badgered old gentleman. "Now, look here,
Cicily. You think you're very smart. But do you know what your attitude
has led to?--Scandal!"

Mrs. Delancy forgot for the moment her own subject for complaint.

"Yes," she agreed, turning to her niece, "it's a scandal to live in a
house with a strange man--you know, that's what you yourself called
Charles."

"It's a worse scandal," Delancy amended, "not to live with him."

"Oh, I see," Cicily remarked, meditatively. "I must have a chaperon.
But, on the other hand, now, Charles is, or rather he was, my husband.
That seems, somehow, to make a difference. At least, we are well
acquainted, although strangers at present, in a sense. And, besides, I
have the kindliest feeling for Charles, and that's more than lots of
women have for their husbands. As to that, you know, since he's not my
husband now, there is really no reason why I should not have the very
kindliest of feelings for him."

"Well, you claim to renounce your husband," Delancy argued angrily, "and
yet you continue to live with him in the same house. It's a monstrous
state of affairs. Will you tell me, please, madam, when this scandalous
situation is to end?"

"Would you have me desert Charles in a crisis?" Cicily demanded,
haughtily. "No, I'll give no one an opportunity to accuse me of
desertion in the face of the enemy."

"Oh, Lord!" Delancy exclaimed; and his tone was eloquent. "Oh, no, you
haven't deserted him!"

"I don't see what that has to do with it," Cicily objected, flushing
painfully. "Charles and I have merely--that is, we've--broken off
diplomatic relations."

At this extraordinary statement of the case, Mrs. Delancy, in her turn,
flushed a dainty pink, which was wondrously becoming to her waxen
cheeks, not unduly wrinkled despite her burden of years. Delancy
himself forgot indignation for the moment, and laughed outright, as he
regarded his wife to observe the manner in which she received the
surprising information. His eyes took on a kindlier expression as he saw
the change that gave her a wondrously younger look, and a rush of
memories caused him to smile reminiscently, half-sadly, half-tenderly.
The effect on him was apparent in the pleasanter voice with which he
next addressed his niece, playfully:

"My, my! She'd be sending him home to his mother, I expect, if only he
had a mother."

Cicily, still suffering in the throes of a painful embarrassment,
retorted hotly:

"Uncle Jim, I'd just like to shake you!"

"Oh, don't mind my gray hairs," Delancy scoffed. "And, when you're done
with me, you might spank your Aunt Emma."

That good woman shook her head dolorously, as the flush died from her
face.

"I don't know what we're coming to," she mourned.

"Anarchy!" was her husband's prompt answer, as he mounted again on his
favorite hobby. "Once women begin to believe that they have
intelligence, anarchy will be the natural, the inevitable result. God
never made them to think." In his excitement, he had forgotten the
manner in which he had already once offended his wife.

"Then, why did God give women brains?" Cicily demanded.

"I can't waste my time in arguing with a woman," Delancy answered
loftily, and, turning away, tugged superciliously at a wisp of whisker.

"That's it! Oh, yes, that's it!" Cicily exclaimed, with rising
indignation. Her embarrassment had passed, but a flush remained in her
cheeks, and her radiant eyes were alight with the battle-lust. "You
think women haven't any intelligence. You can't waste your time arguing
with them! Very well, then, I tell you that it's you who haven't the
intelligence to recognize a new point of view--a new force in the world;
the force of women's brains--until it shall hit you in the face. That's
why I'm holding out against Charles, fighting him, to save him, to keep
him from growing into a narrow-minded, hard-headed, ignorant old
fossil!" The application of this explicit description was not far to
seek. It was evident that Delancy took it to himself, for he, in his
turn at last, colored rosily. But he did not choose to accept a personal
reference, and contented himself with a bit of repartee:

"Huh, no fear! He won't live to be a fossil. His troubles will kill him
off early, or I lose my guess.... So, that's your excuse for ruining
him, is it?"

"I'd help him, if he'd let me," Cicily answered, sadly, forgetful of her
indignation against the sex.

"You help him!" Delancy exclaimed, mockingly. "Why, you brought on the
strike."

"But--" Cicily would have protested, only to be interrupted by the
indignant old gentleman, who shook an accusing forefinger at her.

"You can't tell me! Yes, you did, with your impertinent interference.
Huh! When women get to fooling with business, we shall all go to the
dogs. Why, if it hadn't been for you and for what you did with your
precious 'helping,' Charles would have had a chance to make good money.
Now, Morton and Carrington are charging the independent dealers
twenty-two cents a box. But for this strike, Charles might have induced
those old pirates to raise their price to him a little, and let him
make some money.... Help him--oh, piffle!"

"Well," Cicily declared, not a whit abashed, "if I were Charles, I'd
start up again, pay wages, and sell to the independents."

The seriousness with which the young woman spoke for a moment betrayed
Delancy into discussing business with one of the unintelligent sex.

"But his contracts!" he objected.

"What are contracts," Cicily interrupted serenely, "when the workmen are
hungry?"

"There, Emma!" Delancy cried, in deep disgust. "Do you hear? Now, isn't
that just like a woman?"

"Yes, James," Mrs. Delancy answered meekly; "I know that you're right.
But, somehow, I think Cicily, too, is right."

At this paradoxical pronouncement, Delancy stared fixedly at his wife in
stark amazement.

"What!" he gasped. "What! After forty years, you say that to me! You
question my business judgment! Emma, you, my wife!" He struggled wildly
for a few seconds to gain control of his emotions. "No," he continued
bitterly; "I deserve it for forgetting myself. I beg my own pardon for
mentioning a word of business to a woman.... I'm going to Charles--poor
fellow!" After a long, resentful stare directed against his former ward,
he marched out of the room.

"See what you've made me do!" Mrs. Delancy said accusingly to her niece,
as the two were left alone together. "Why, I've actually appeared
rebellious to James."

"You ought to have been so years ago," Cicily rejoined, stubbornly.

But Mrs. Delancy could only shake her head morosely in negation of this
audacious idea. Then, her thoughts reverted to the young woman's
doubtful position.

"How is it all going to end?" was her despondent query.

"You mean, when are Charles and I going to make public the true state of
affairs? When are we going to part before the world?" The old lady
nodded acquiescence. "Well, that will be when the strike is over, and
Charles's business troubles are settled--not before."

"If this sort of thing keeps on," Mrs. Delancy announced, with another
access of self-pity, "your Uncle Jim and I probably will be parted by
that time, too!"

"Nonsense!" Cicily jeered, smitten to sudden compunction for her part in
causing distress of mind to the woman whom she really loved and honored.
"Why, Auntie, if you were to leave Uncle Jim, whom would he have to
bully? Pooh, dear, you and he'll never part."

Again, the old lady's thoughts veered from herself.

"But, Cicily," she ventured, "you're doing your best to prolong the
strike. You're actually giving those women money, I know. Yesterday,
when I called to see you, I saw the stub in your chequebook, which was
lying open on the desk in your boudoir. I didn't mean to pry, but I
couldn't help seeing it."

"Well, I'm not letting them starve," was the unashamed admission.

"Cicily," Mrs. Delancy said, with an abrupt transition from one phase of
the subject under consideration to another, "about this matter of you
and Charles separating, I have a suspicion that you are very much like
that highly improper young woman in the French story, who was going to
live with her lover as long as the geranium lasted. And you're going to
live in the house with Charles while his troubles continue. And that
improper young woman used to get up in the night, every night, to water
the geranium, secretly. And you are providing the strikers with food, to
prolong the strike. Humph! You don't want to go." Cicily blushed a
little, but attempted no reply. "You're in love with him--you know you
are!"

The young wife's reserve broke down a little before the keen glance that
accompanied the words.

"I--oh, I'm interested in his spiritual development," she stammered,
weakly. "Anyhow," she added defensively, "he--doesn't know it!"

"Thank heaven, you're still moral!" Mrs. Delancy ejaculated, in accents
of huge relief.

"I think I must be," was the low-spoken admission, "because--because I'm
so unhappy!" The scarlet lips drooped to a tremulous pathos, as she went
on speaking in a voice of poignant feeling. "Oh, Aunt Emma, when I see
Charles so harassed, so tired, so troubled in every way, I just long to
throw my arms around his neck, and to kiss all those hard lines away
from his dear face, and to tell him how much I love him, and how sorry I
am, and how much I want to help him."

"Heaven bless you, child!" Mrs. Delancy exclaimed, surprised and
delighted. "Why don't you, then?"

"Because," came the gloomy explanation, "if I did, I'd be like you."

The old lady was not gratified by this candid defense.

"Humph! Well, you might do worse, if I do say so myself," she declared,
with a toss of her head.

"Of course, you old dear," Cicily agreed, with an air of humility, "in
lots and lots of ways--but--"

"You're obstinate!" came the tart rebuke. "If you're really in love with
him, give in!"

"That's just the trouble," the young wife said. "Because I'm so much in
love with him, I can't give in in this particular. I love him too much
to be content with just the bits of him that are left over from the
other things. I want a partnership. Marriage has changed since your day,
Auntie. Real marriage to-day must be a partnership in all things. I
must have that, a full share in my husband's life--or nothing! I tell
you, there is too much of men and women swearing before God to become as
one, and walking away to begin life and to live it ever after as two. It
was all very well when the women had the house to keep, and didn't
think; but nowadays most of them have no house to keep, and they are
beginning to think."

"But," Mrs. Delancy objected, much discomposed by this tirade against
matrimony as she knew it, "you're upsetting all the holy things. To look
up to your husband--that's love."

"That's lonesomeness and a crick in the neck!" was the flippant denial.
"My woman would stand where her brains entitle her to stand, beside her
husband, looking into his eyes, working for him, working with him, being
together with him straight through everything. That's love; that's real
marriage!"

"Cicily," Mrs. Delancy protested, totally bemused by her niece's fiery
eloquence, "I think you're wrong, but I--I feel that you're right."

"Deep down in your heart, dear," the young woman asserted with profound
conviction, "you know that I'm right, because you're a real woman. The
men don't know it--poor things!--but the ruling passion of a woman's
life is usefulness. And isn't it much nicer to work for a husband whom
you love than for the heathen?"

Before her aunt could frame an adequate answer to this very pertinent
inquiry, Cicily sprung up, with the graceful animation that was usual
with her.

"And, now, I must hurry home," she announced, "to receive Mrs. McMahon
and Mrs. Schmidt and Sadie Ferguson, who are coming to call."

"Merciful providence!" Mrs. Delancy ejaculated, in genuine horror. "You
don't mean to tell me that those women come to your house now?"

"Oh, yes," was the nonchalant assent. "Why shouldn't they? You know,
we're friends again now. I've organized them into a club."

"Well, I do not think it's at all proper," the old lady said, with
severe decisiveness.

But Cicily only laughed under the reproof, bestowed a hasty kiss on her
aunt's cheek, and swept buoyantly from the room.



CHAPTER XIV


When Mrs. McMahon, Mrs. Schmidt and Miss Ferguson were ushered into the
drawing-room of the Hamilton house, Cicily was there, ready to welcome
her guests warmly.

"And how is Madam President of our club?" she said with a delightful
assumption of deference to Mrs. McMahon, who bridled and simpered in
proud happiness over this recognition of the honor she enjoyed.

"Indeed, she's as proud as a peacock, that she is," she avowed candidly.
"And, if you noticed, Mrs. Hamilton, I didn't so much as say how do you
do to the man at the door, as I always have before, nor even so much as
look at him.... For such is the high-society way of it, they're after
telling me."

Cicily smiled, and then addressed Sadie with a like cordiality.

"Everything is shipshape, Miss Secretary?" she inquired.

"This club could go ten rounds without turning a hair," was the
spirited reply. Then, the ambitious girl recalled her most esteemed
author, and paraphrased her statement: "I mean, every thing is really
quite splendid."

Mrs. Schmidt, too, smiled in appreciation, although without committing
herself to words, when she was addressed as Madam Vice-President. Then,
after all were seated, the Irishwoman delivered herself of a message of
gratitude.

"Mrs. Hamilton," she said, and her great, round face was very kindly,
"we want to thank you here and now for that last cheque. You'll be glad
to know that Murphy's babies are fine and dandy; and those Dagos--you
know, the ones in the sixth floor front in Sadie's house--faith, the
wife come home from the hospital last night looking just grand."

"And say, Mrs. Hamilton," Sadie interrupted enthusiastically, again
forgetful of niceties in diction by reason of her excess of feeling,
"maybe you ain't in strong with that bunch! They were all singing and
praying for you all last night to beat the band. They made so much fuss
Pop had to go up with a club, and threaten to bust some heads in before
anybody could get to sleep in the house. Of course, father didn't
understand. He heard them say something about Hamilton, and guessed they
might be some sort of poor connection of the boss."

Cicily, pleased by this information as to the gratitude of those whom
she had sought to serve, yet tried to change the subject for modesty's
sake.

"You, Mrs. McMahon," she directed briskly, "must be in charge. You must
let me know about the sick ones and the hungry ones, and then I'll see
what can be done."

"'Deed, and I will that," was the eager response. Then, the Irishwoman
shook her huge head admiringly. "Sure, when the women get the votes,
you'll be elected alderman from the ward." But, as Cicily would have
laughingly protested against this arrant flattery, a sudden thought came
to the President of the new club, and she spoke with an increase of
seriousness: "And, oh, I was forgetting one thing! What do you think
now, Mrs. Hamilton? Carrington's men have been around!" In answer to her
hostess's look of bewildered inquiry, she explained the significance of
the fact: "Yes, Carrington--bad luck to him!--is getting ready to start
another factory, they say; and, so, he wanted to see how many of the
boys he could get." Cicily uttered an exclamation of astonishment,
mingled with alarm, at the news. "Yes, ma'am. I was talking to Mike
McMahon, and telling him that, after all, I thought Mr. Hamilton was on
the level, and that it would be a good thing to take the cut for a
little while. And, then, he got mad, and he blurted out the whole thing
to me. It's Tim Doolin, him what used to work in the Hamilton factory,
and was discharged, and so went over to Carrington's. He's come around
as a sounder. He's been advancing the boys a little on the side, and
promising them good jobs and steady wages, if they'll hold out until
Carrington is ready to use them at his place." The Amazon, who had raced
through her narrative, paused, panting for breath.

Cicily was tense in her chair, with her cheeks flaming indignation, her
golden eyes darkened with excitement.

"So," she exclaimed fiercely, "that's the way they are fighting!
Shameful!"

Cicily was in the throes of a righteous wrath. Unaccustomed to the sharp
practices that are endured almost without rebuke in the world of
business affairs, this revelation of trickery on the part of her
husband's enemies filled her with a disgusted horror. There was in the
girl-wife a strong quality of the protecting maternal love in her
attitude toward her husband. It was in obedience to its impelling force
that she had followed so steadfastly her ambition to help him in his
business, to be his partner. It was the dominance of this feeling that
had caused her to stay on in her husband's house to comfort him, and if
possible to save him, in the time of his tribulation. So, now, this
phase of character caused her to resent as something unspeakably vile
the machinations just revealed to her. There and then, she uttered a
silent vow to worst these sinister foes by fair means or by foul. Her
will commanded their undoing, no matter how unscrupulous the method; and
conscience voiced no protest.

A movement of expectancy among the three visitors aroused Cicily from
the fit of abstraction into which she had fallen, and on which the
others had not ventured to obtrude themselves. She looked up, and then,
following the direction of her guests' gaze, turned to see her husband,
standing motionless just within the doorway of the drawing-room. He was
staring with obvious amazement at the trio of women in his wife's
company. Moreover, it was easy to judge from the expression on his face,
with the brows drawn and the mouth set sternly, that his amazement was
not builded on pleasure.... Cicily immediately rose, forgetful for the
moment of her plans for vengeance against the plotters, and went forward
with a pleased smile. She was well aware that her husband would not
regard this visitation with equanimity, but she hoped to prevent any
overt act on his part that might fatally antagonize these women, whose
good will she had struggled so hard to regain for his sake. So, she
faced him with an air of happy self-confidence, and spoke with the most
musical cadences of her voice, the while the caress of her eyes sought
to beguile the frown from his face.

"Charles, you know Mrs. McMahon, and Mrs. Schmidt, and Miss Ferguson."

"Yes, I know them," came the uncompromising answer. The grimness of his
face did not relax. He had had a day of tedious worries, and the sight
of the women here in his own home exasperated him almost beyond the
point of endurance. "An unexpected pleasure!" he added, with an
inflection that was unmistakable.

"Oh, we didn't come to see you, Mr. Hamilton," Sadie declared
resentfully, in answer to that inflection. "We came to see your wife."

"These are the officers of our new woman's club," Cicily interposed,
hastily. "Do sit down for a moment, Charles." She returned to her own
chair; but Hamilton made no movement to obey her request. Instead, he
addressed the visitors in a tone even more unpleasant than that which he
had used hitherto.

"Oh, you came to get something from Mrs. Hamilton," he sneered.

"Indeed, and we did not!" the Irishwoman retorted roughly, furious at
the insinuation. But her anger melted as she caught Cicily's pleading
eyes. There was a grateful softness in the brogue as she added: "Sure,
she's given too much already, and that's the truth."

There was no hint of relaxing in the tense severity of Hamilton's face,
as he replied, without a glance toward his wife:

"So, Mrs. Hamilton has been helping the wives of the men?"

"'Tis that same she's been doing--the saints preserve her!" Mrs. McMahon
answered, with pious fervor. "Faith, if the women could vote, it's
president they'd make her, so it is."

Cicily could not resist a temptation to appeal.

"Charles," she urged, "if only you'll have a little patience, you'll
find that they can be of service--of great service!"

Still, Hamilton ignored his wife utterly, while he addressed the three
women impersonally.

"I did not know that the men were in the habit of using their wives in a
strike like this." His manner was designedly offensive.

Again, it was Sadie who was first to retort, which she did with a manner
that aped his own insolence.

"Well, if Mrs. Hamilton can butt into it, it's a cinch we can!"

The man's face darkened with wrath. His voice, when he spoke, sounded
dangerously low and controlled.

"Mrs. Hamilton has nothing whatever to do with my business affairs," he
declared, explicitly. "She has nothing whatever to do with this strike.
If you women come from the men, go back and tell them that I'm not
dealing with women--neither now nor in the future. If they want anything
at any time, let them come for it themselves."

"Can you beat it?" Sadie demanded wonderingly, of the universe at large.

But the Irishwoman took it on herself to answer, with an explicitness
equal to Hamilton's own:

"Faith, and we didn't come to see you, as you know very well, I'm
thinking. If it wasn't for Mrs. Hamilton--God bless her--we wouldn't be
here at all.... And 'tis sorry I am we are."

"Then, you'd better go, and relieve your feelings," was the tart
rejoinder. "And you will please remember one thing: Mrs. Hamilton has
absolutely no influence of any kind in this strike. I do not know in the
least what she may have been doing; but, whatever it is, it's entirely
apart from me."

"Charles, please--" Cicily would have protested. It seemed to her a
vicious violation of good taste thus to air their marital disagreements
in the presence of others. There was a perilous fire in the golden eyes;
but Hamilton had no heed just now for niceties of conduct. He went on
speaking, ruthlessly breaking in on his wife's attempted plea:

"Whatever Mrs. Hamilton has accomplished has been done without my
consent and with her own money--entirely apart from me.... Good-day!"

Now, at last, Hamilton moved from the position he had steadily
maintained before the doorway. He stepped to one side, and bowed
formally to the three women, who rose promptly as they realized the
significance of his action. Cicily, too, stood up, wordless in her
suffering. For the moment, at least, her indomitable spirit was
overwhelmed by this crowning misfortune, and she felt all her ambition
hopelessly baffled. Through this last catastrophe, her benevolent
scheming must be brought to nought. It was impossible for her to believe
that these women, on whose support she had relied for so much that was
vital to her plans, could remain loyal to her after the gross insult to
which they had been subjected in her own house. She realized that,
deprived of their aid, she could not hope to cope with the situation
that threatened ruin to the man whom she loved. In that instant of
disaster, she hated her husband as much as she loved him, for his folly
had destroyed all the structure of safety that her devotion had builded.
So, she stood silent, watching the discarded guests as they walked
toward the door. Her slender form was drawn to its full height; the
scarlet lips were set tensely; the clear gold of her eyes burned with
the fires of bitter resentment against this man whose blundering had
wrought calamity.



CHAPTER XV


Even as the three outraged women moved forward slowly toward the door
with that slowness which their dignity demanded of them under the
circumstances, there came an interruption.

A servant appeared in the doorway, and then stood aside to usher in
three newcomers. These were no others than Mr. McMahon, Mr. Schmidt and
Mr. Ferguson, who halted in astonishment on the threshold, at beholding
their wives thus unexpectedly bearing down on them in the house of the
enemy. In their turn, the women came to an abrupt standstill, regarding
the men with round eyes. For a few seconds, the six remained thus facing
one another, too dumfounded by the encounter for speech.

Then, presently, the German uttered a guttural ejaculation in his own
tongue, which seemed to relieve the general paralysis.

"Caught with the goods!" Ferguson exclaimed sardonically, with a scowl
of rebuke directed toward his daughter.

At the same moment, McMahon fairly shouted an indignant question at his
wife as to her presence in this house. But that Amazonian female did not
shrivel before the blistering growl of her husband.

"Sure, I'll trouble you, Mike McMahon," she declared fiercely, "if it's
endearing terms you're about to use, to wait till we get home." Under
the spell of this admonition, the Irishman contented himself with
subterranean mutterings, to which his wife discreetly paid no attention.

"But what's it all about?" Ferguson inquired sharply, of his daughter.

"Ah, forget it!" came the unfilial retort. Then, recalling the Vere De
Vere, she amended her statement: "I mean, father dear, do not make a
scene, I beg of you."

"A scene!" Ferguson exclaimed, savagely. "Why, I'll--"

What the irate Yankee might have done was never revealed, for he was
interrupted by Cicily, who had now recovered her poise, so that she
spoke pleasantly, favoring the tumultuous parent with her sweetest
smile.

"Sadie and the other ladies came to call on me, Mr. Ferguson," she
exclaimed, well aware that this announcement left the mystery of the
women's presence as it had been before.

Mrs. McMahon, however, shed a ray of light on the puzzle.

"Faith, and 'tis that," she agreed, glibly. "We just dropped in for a
cup of tea with a member of our club."

It was Hamilton who now interrupted further questions by the three
husbands. He had been nervously fidgeting where he stood, and at last
his impatience found vent in words.

"I'm not interested in these domestic affairs," he snapped. "If you men
have anything to say to your wives and daughters, take them home, and
say it to them there. This is not the place for it. There's only one
thing that I have time to listen to from you."

Schmidt waddled forward a pace beyond his fellows, and addressed his
former employer with the dignity born of constituted authority.

"Well, Mr. Hamilton," he said ponderously, with his accent more
pronounced than usual by reason of the emotion under which he labored,
"I speak as the chairman of the committee. So, sir, you will listen to
us right here and now." He paused for a moment to wipe the perspiration
from his forehead with an adequately huge handkerchief.

Ferguson seized on the opportunity thus given to voice the rancor that
was in his heart.

"Yes, yes," he cried excitedly, "you want to understand that we're men!
We're striking--yes! But we're fighting you in the open, like men. And
we've come to tell you that we're not going to stand for the way you
fight.... Is that plain enough for you, Mr. Hamilton?"

The amazement of Hamilton over the charge thus brought against him was
undoubtedly genuine. He stepped forward as if to strike, but checked
himself almost instantly. There was no longer any look of boyishness in
the drawn fare, with the chin thrust forward belligerently, the brows
drawn low, the eyes blazing.

"The way I fight!" he repeated challengingly, menacingly.

Schmidt, having restored the handkerchief to its pocket, took up the
accusation.

"Yes," he declared, with surly spitefulness. "I have been in a dozen
strikes, and this is the first time any employer ever attacked me in my
affections--through my Frieda." The German's narrow eyes were alight
with venomous resentment, as he glowered at Hamilton.

Astounded by this attack, Hamilton forgot rage in stark bewilderment.

"What on earth do you--can you--mean?" he stormed.

"It is not right," was the stolid asseveration of the German. "The home
is sacred." The speaker's tone was so malevolent that Hamilton was
impressed, in spite of himself. And then, suddenly, a suspicion upreared
itself in his brain--a suspicion so monstrous, so absurd, so baseless,
so extravagantly impossible, that he would have laughed aloud, but for
the sincerity of the feeling manifested in the faces of the men before
him. His eyes roved from Schmidt to the faded woman who was the man's
wife. He saw her shrinking behind the ample bulk of Mrs. McMahon, her
mouth opening and closing soundlessly, as if in a wordless soliloquy.
Then, again, his eyes returned to the man who had just uttered the
preposterous accusation, and he beheld the usually jocund face
distorted by a spasm of jealous fury, the insensate fury of the male in
the loathed presence of a rival. No, here was no room for laughter.
However ludicrous the mistake in its essence, its fruits were too
serious for mirth. He turned his gaze on McMahon, and saw there the like
virile detestation of himself. He ventured a glance toward the Amazon,
who loomed over-buxom and stalwart. Again, he was tempted to amusement;
but, again, a look toward the husband checked any inclination toward
lightness of mood. Finally, he regarded Ferguson, and there, too, he
beheld a passionate reproach. He did not trouble to stare at the girl.
He remembered perfectly her cheap prettiness, her mincing manner, her
flamboyant smartness of apparel from Grand Street emporiums of fashion.
The strain of a false situation gripped him evilly, so that for the
moment he faltered before it, uncertain as to his course. Denial, he
felt, must be almost hopeless, since how could men capable of such crude
stupidity digest reason? He hesitated visibly, and in that hesitation
his accusers read guilt.

It was evident from a sudden, flaming red that suffused Mrs. McMahon's
expansive countenance that she was beginning to grasp the purport of
the accusations against Hamilton. She started toward her husband with a
demeanor that augured ill for peaceful conference, when she was stayed
by Cicily's grasp on her arm.

"Wait!" came the command, in a soothing voice. "Let me speak to these
foolish men. You'll only stir them up, and make them worse." The Amazon
yielded reluctantly, for she loved as well as honored the woman who had
won her friendship by so much endeavor; but there was dire warning of
things to come in the gaze she fixed on her suspicious husband.

"I'll not listen to this foolishness any longer," Cicily declared,
dearly, in a cold voice that held the attention of all. "You men are too
utterly absurd. There's no love lost between your wives and my husband,
I assure you. If you had chanced in a few minutes earlier, you would
have been well aware of the fact." Her statement was corroborated by the
vehement nods of the women and the glances of disdainful aversion that
they cast on the master of the house at this reference as to the status
of their mutual affection. "Your wives and daughters," Cicily concluded
haughtily, with a level look at the three husbands, which was not
wanting in its effect, "are my friends."

But Ferguson was not dismayed by the reproof.

"Yes, Mrs. Hamilton," he answered, with bitter emphasis, "you're the
one--we know that! You're the cat's-paw, with your clubs and your
benefits." He turned to Hamilton, and went on speaking with even greater
virulence. "It's through her that you're fighting; it's through her that
you're attacking us in our homes; it's through her that you're turning
our wives and our daughters against us until our lives are miserable
with them, morning, noon and night. They're forever talking against the
strike, trying to make us come back to you, and to take the cut. And it
ain't fair, I tell you! No honest employer would fight that way from
behind a woman's petticoats. Women haven't got any place in business,
according to our way of thinking. We didn't mind your wife's butting in
with bath-tubs and gymnasiums and libraries, and such foolish truck as
that; but, when it comes to mixing up in the strike, and organizing our
wives and daughters against us, why, we kick. That's the long and the
short of it, Mr. Hamilton. No real man would stoop to that sort of work.
It's a woman's trick, that's what it is--and women have no place in
business." Schmidt and McMahon, almost in unison, rumbled assent.

At last, the badgered employer felt himself sure of his ground.

"You're right, Ferguson," he declared, with intense conviction. "Women
have no place in business. You don't need to argue to convince me of
that fact. If you doubt my sentiments in that respect, just ask my
wife--she knows what my ideas on the subject are. But I knew nothing of
all this. Mrs. Hamilton has mixed herself up with this affair entirely
without my knowledge or consent. She has nothing whatever to do with my
business affairs. As for the future, you may rest assured--"

"You may rest assured," Cicily interpolated, "that Mrs. Hamilton will
continue to do precisely as she pleases."

"But, Cicily--" Hamilton would have protested.

"Precisely as she pleases," came the repetition, with an added emphasis,
which, Hamilton knew from experience, it would be useless to combat.

"Faith," exclaimed McMahon, in humorous appreciation of the scene, "the
filly has the bit in her teeth and is running away."

Cicily, however, was not to be diverted from a frank exposition of her
position. Now, she faced the men, and made clear her attitude:

"Let me tell you that Mrs. Hamilton is proud to be merely a member of
the club which you have heard referred to and certainly she is not going
to resign her membership in it. You men have your union. There's no
reason why we women should not have our club as well. You say that I've
been helping them. Very well, what of it? Yes, I have been helping them.
Why shouldn't the women take money from me, I'd like to know. For that
matter, it's nothing like what you men have been doing--taking money
from Carrington and Morton.... And you talk about fighting fair!"

At the final statement made by his wife, Hamilton whirled on the men.

"What's that?" he fairly barked. "Are Morton and Carrington supplying
you fellows with money to prolong the strike?"

"Yes," Cicily replied, as the men maintained a sullen silence. "And
these men of yours have been listening to their lying promises about
starting a new factory, as soon as you are down and out for keeps." She
eyed the men scornfully, as she continued: "Haven't you the sense to see
that it's merely a plan to ruin Mr. Hamilton completely? They want to
kill him off for good and all. Then, when he's out of the way, you'll
have to work for any sort of wages they are willing to give you. Good
gracious, the scheme is plain enough! Why can't you see it as it is--a
plot to do him up through you? A woman can see the inside of it easily
enough!"

But her sensible argument was wasted on the men, who already had their
opinions formed, and were not likely to change them readily at a word.

"Women have no place in business," Schmidt reiterated, heavily. "We have
proved that. Now, Mr. Hamilton, you just keep your wife to yourself. We
don't want her meddling around in our concerns. And we'll keep our wives
to ourselves. They don't want you!" he added significantly; and McMahon
and Ferguson endorsed the sentiment by vigorous nods of assent. "So,"
the German concluded, "we will settle this strike ourselves, like men,
without any more woman's interference. Am I right?"

"That's exactly what I want you to do," Hamilton replied. "And any time
you want to come back with the cut, let me know."

"I hope you won't hold your breath while you're waiting," the Irishman
advised grimly.

"And I hope you won't be hungry," Hamilton retorted.

With this exchange of civilities, the meeting between the men and their
former employer came to an abrupt end. Without any further farewells
than a series of curt nods, the men filed from the room.

"I'm thinking that it's a pleasant talk we'll be having together, this
night," Mrs. McMahon remarked judicially, after the departure of the
committee. "So, it's thinking I am that we'd better start early, and
then we'll have time a plenty to thrash it out with the boys. Good-by,
Mrs. Hamilton.... And please to remember that the next meeting of the
club is to be on the Thursday."

"I'll surely be there," Cicily promised.

The adieux were quickly spoken, and the women took their departure,
leaving husband and wife alone together, standing silently.



CHAPTER XVI


Hamilton stirred presently, turned, and threw himself heavily into the
nearest chair, whence he stared curiously at his wife with morose eyes
of resentment. Cicily felt the scrutiny, but she did not lift her gaze
to his. She was not shirking the conflict between them, which seemed
inevitable after this last episode; but she was minded to let her
husband begin the attack. In her turn, she sought a chair, into which
she sank gracefully, and rested in a pose of languid indifference that
was fascinating in itself, but at this moment for some inexplicable
reason peculiarly aggravating to the man. It may be that her apparent
ease at a critical period in their fortunes appealed to him as hatefully
incongruous; it may be that the gracious femininity of her, her
desirability as a woman, thus revealed by the lissome lassitude of her
body, emphasized the fact that she was a creature created for joy and
dalliance, not for the rasping stratagems of the market-place. Whatever
the cause, it is certain that the lazy abandon of her posture irritated
him, and it was with an attempt to veil his chagrin that at last he
spoke:

"Well," he exclaimed petulantly, "some more of your work, I see!"

Cicily, however, disguised the fact that she winced under the contempt
in his tone.

"Yes," she answered eagerly. "Now, don't you see that I was right?"

The device did not suffice to divert Hamilton from his purpose of
rebuke.

"So," he went on, speaking roughly, "not content with forgetting your
duty, not satisfied with your dreary failure as a wife, you've turned
traitor, too."

"You seem to forget that it was yourself who failed in your duty--not
I," Cicily retorted.

"Is that trumped up, farcical idea, your excuse for fighting me?"

"I'm not making any excuses," Cicily replied, stiffly. "And for the
simple and very sufficient reason that I am not fighting you."

"Then, what under heaven do you call it?" Hamilton demanded, with a
sneer. "Is it by any chance saving me?"

[Illustration]

"Yes, I'd do that," came the courageous statement, "if only you'd let
me."

"And your manner of doing it," Hamilton went on, still in a tone of
sneering contempt, "I suppose would be by going on the way you have been
going--giving money to my enemies, and so prolonging the strike, and so
ruining me!"

"I do believe you are blind!" Cicily declared, angrily. She changed her
pose to one of erect alertness, and her eyes flashed fire at her
husband. "Is it possible that you don't appreciate why I gave those
women money--why I helped them? Why, I wouldn't be a woman, if I didn't.
As I've told you before, I was a woman before I became a wife. If
keeping other women and little children from going hungry isn't wifely,
isn't businesslike, then thank God I'm not wifely, not businesslike!"

"Well, you're not, all right," Hamilton announced succinctly. "I'm glad
that you're satisfied with yourself--nobody else is."

"Oh, I know what you want," was the contemptuous answer. "You want the
conventional, old-time wife, the sort that is always standing ready and
waiting to swear that her husband is right, even when her instinct, her
brain, her heart, all cry out to her that he is wrong. Well, Charles, I
am not that sort of wife, nor ever will be. The real root of the trouble
is that we women are changing, developing, while you men are not: you
are the same. We, as a sex, are growing up, at last; your sex is
standing still. The ideas our grandmothers held, the lives they led,
would kill us of dry rot. But you men are just where your grandfathers
were in relation to your homes and your beliefs as to the duty of your
wives. Of course, your old-time wife looked up to her over-lord with
reverence; she hung on his every word with profound respect; she swore
by his every careless opinion, without ever daring to call her soul or
her mind her own. For that matter, why shouldn't she have done so? He
was educated, after some sort of fashion at least; and he went abroad
into the world, where he mixed with his fellows, where he did things,
good or bad; while she, poor, pretty, ignorant doll, snatched up by him
in early girlhood, and afterward kept sequestered, forced to assume the
tragic responsibilities of a wife and mother before she was old enough
to appreciate her difficult position--what chance did she have? Now,
to-day, I tell you, it is all different. We're as well educated as you
men--better, oftentimes. We have discovered that we can think
intelligently; we do think. We, too, go abroad into the world; we, too,
do things. Best of all, we see with a new, clearer vision. And we see
certain things that you men have become blinded to through centuries of
usage, of selfish, careless struggling for your own ends. We are able to
see with the distinctness of truth the right relation of the man and the
woman--an equal relation, with equal rights for each, with equal claims
on each other, with equal duties to each other in the home and in the
world outside the home--partners, held together by love."

"My dear," Hamilton remarked dryly, as his wife paused, "you have
omitted one salient qualification of the modern woman: she is,
preëminently an orator. Why, you, yourself, are a feminine
Demosthenes--nothing less." But he abandoned, his tone of raillery, as
he continued: "And so, what you've been doing--that's your idea of
partnership, is it?"

"Yes," Cicily declared, spiritedly. "When one partner makes a mistake,
it's the duty of the other to set things straight."

"By ruining him!" the husband ejaculated, in savage distrust.

"Have I ruined you?" There was a flame of indignation in the amber eyes,
and the curving lips were turned scornfully; but there was a restrained
timbre of triumph in the music of her voice. "No! Why, let me tell you
something: Those women are for you, already. They are helping me against
their husbands. You'll win in the end--in spite of all the damage you
tried to do to-day with your colossal blundering. But they're loyal to
me, and they'll forgive you for my sake, and they'll give you the
victory in the fight.... Just wait and see!"

"Nonsense!" Hamilton mocked. He considered his wife's assertions as
merely the maunderings of an extravagant enthusiast. She was
sincere--more the pity!--but she knew absolutely nothing of the problems
with which she insisted on entangling herself so futilely.

"I promise you," Cicily persisted, undismayed by her husband's jeering
attitude of scepticism, "that you will win in the end. Yes, you will;
because it is right: that you should. I am doing my part, not only to
help you; but, too, because it is right. We owe a duty not only to
ourselves, but to those people as well.... Even you must see that!"

"Well, I don't," Hamilton maintained, consistently. But he winced
involuntarily under the expression of pity for his ignorance that now
showed in his wife's face.

"Well, it only serves to illustrate what I said," Cicily went on, with a
complacency that annoyed the man almost beyond endurance. "The woman has
the clearer visions nowadays. That's where we differ from our dear
departed grandmothers, from our mothers even. They had a personal
conscience that stopped short at the front and back doors of the home.
We women of to-day have a bigger conscience, which takes in the bigger
family. It's a social conscience, and that it is which makes us
different from those women of the earlier generations. Don't you see,
Charles, that you and I are really a sort of big brother and sister to
those in our employ? So, let us help them, even if we have to do it
against their own mistaken efforts of resistance."

"Of course," Hamilton suggested, still sneeringly, "Morton and
Carrington, too, are our dear brothers."

For an instant, Cicily was nonplused by the question; but, of a sudden,
she received one of those inspirations on which she usually relied for
escape from a predicament.

"Oh, yes, indeed," she replied happily, and beamed radiantly on her
astonished husband, in anticipatory enjoyment of her repartee. "They're
our bad brothers, whom we must spank--hard!"

"If there's any spanking to be done, I'll attend to it, myself,"
Hamilton declared, gruffly.

"Oh, very well," Cicily agreed. "But you don't seem to be doing it
effectively at present.... Tell me, why are they paying the men to stay
on strike?"

"It must be that they recognize the brotherhood claim of which you were
speaking so eloquently." The man's voice was vibrant with sarcastic
indignation.

"Now, see here, Charles," Cicily remonstrated, the flush in her cheeks
deepening under the rebuff in his flippant answer. "You know why they're
doing it just as well as I do. It's simply because they want to keep
you closed down, so that they can go on charging the independents
twenty-two cents a box."

"No," the husband declared, enticed despite his will into discussing
business for a moment with his wife, "they could charge them that
anyhow. I couldn't interfere, because they have me tied up with a
contract at eleven cents."

"Then, if I were you," Cicily argued with new animation, "I'd break that
contract. Yes, I'd open up right away, pay full wages, and sell to the
independents at fifteen cents a box. They'd come to you fast enough."

"Break a contract with a trust!" Hamilton jeered. He laughed aloud over
the folly of this idea as a means of escape from disaster.

"What are contracts when the men are starving?" The question came with
an earnestness that did more credit to the heart than to the head of the
wife.

"If that isn't like a woman!" The man's tone was surcharged with
disgust. "Cicily, I've had enough of this."

"Then, you won't fight?" An energetic shake of the head was the answer.
"You won't help the men?" Again, the gesture of refusal. "You won't make
any move at all?" A third time, the man silently denied her plea. "Then,
I will!" Cicily concluded, defiantly. She leaned back in her chair,
clasped her slender hands behind her head, and stared ceilingward, with
the air of one who has pleasantly solved all the perplexities of life.

"Good heavens, what do you mean to do next?" Hamilton questioned, in
frank alarm.

"Never mind: you'll see," came the nonchalant answer.

The contented air of the woman, coupled with her tone of assurance as
she spoke, goaded the man to an assertion of authority.

"I demand that, as long as you're in my house--"

He was interrupted by the cold voice of his wife. She did not turn her
eyes from their dreamy contemplation of the ceiling, nor did she alter
in any way the languor of her posture, the indifference of her manner.
But, somehow, the quality in her voice was insistent, and the gentle,
musical tone broke on his delivery with a subtle force sufficient to
halt it against his will.

"You can't demand," Cicily said, evenly. "We stopped that relationship
three weeks ago."

"It is true," Hamilton answered, more quietly, "that you've refused to
live with me as my wife. But, if you are to remain in my house, I must
insist that you keep out of meddling with my business affairs.
Otherwise, I shall be forced--"

Again, the softly spoken words from his wife's lips held a spell that
checked his own, and compelled him to listen grudgingly.

"You cannot force me, Charles--for the simple reason that I won't leave.
No, indeed! I am quite certain that when you think things over in a
saner mood, you will be convinced of the fact that just at this time it
would be highly inadvisable for you to complicate your affairs further
by a public scandal. So, I tell you that I sha'n't go. I shall stay here
until you are out of this mess. Since I feel that to be my duty, I shall
do it!"

"Oh, Lord, if you were a man--!" Hamilton choked helplessly.

"If I were a man," was the placid conclusion offered by Cicily, "I
suppose I'd sit still, and do nothing, like you. But I'm not a man,
thank Heaven!... The only pity is, you won't take my perfectly good
advice."

"Your advice--oh, the devil!" Hamilton sprang from his chair. His face
was distraught, as he stood for a moment staring in baffled anger at his
wife, who still held her eyes meditatively content on the ceiling. He
clenched his hands fiercely, and shook them in impotent fury. "Your
advice!" he repeated, in a voice that was nigh moaning. Then, he whirled
about, and strode from the room, trampling heavily.

Cicily listened until she heard the door of the library slam noisily. In
the interval, she retained her attitude of consummate ease. But, with
the sound of the closing door, she was suddenly metamorphosed. Her eyes
drooped wearily. She cowered within the chair as one stricken with a
vertigo. The slender hands unclasped from behind her head, and shut
themselves over her face. Her form was bowed together, and shaken
violently. There came the sound of muffled sobs.



CHAPTER XVII


In the days that followed, Cicily found herself on the very verge of
despair. She had pinned the hope of success for her husband on a
restored influence with the wives of the leaders in the strike. She had
felt confident that, with them fighting in her behalf, she would achieve
victory. She had not doubted that these women could mold the men to
their will. Now, however, she had, to a great extent, lost faith in the
efficacy of this method. She had seen and heard those husbands defy
their womankind openly. They, too, were obstinate in their belief that
women should not obtrude into business affairs. She realized that she
was combating one of the most tangible and potent factors in human
affairs, the pride of the male in his dominion over the female--an
hereditary endowment, a thing of natural instinct, the last and most
resistant to yield before the presentations of reason. The resolute
fashion in which her husband held to his prerogative of sole control was
merely typical. These other men of a humbler class were like unto him.
Evidently, then, she must contrive some other strategy, if she would
save her husband from the pit he had digged for himself by yielding to
the specious processes of Morton and Carrington. Yet, she could imagine
no scheme that offered any promise of success.... She grew thinner, so
that her loveliness took on an ethereal quality. Her nights were well
nigh sleepless; her days became long hours of harrowing anxiety.

She was sitting in her boudoir late one afternoon, still revolving the
round of failure in her plans. She had dressed to go out; but, at the
last moment, a wave of discouragement had swept over her, and she had
sunk down on a couch, moodily feeling that any exertion whatsoever were
a thing altogether useless. She was disturbed from her morbid
reflections by the entrance of a servant, who announced the presence of
Mr. Morton and Mr. Carrington in the drawing-room, who had called to see
Mr. Hamilton. In sheer desperation, with no precise idea as to her
course, Cicily resolved to interview these callers, since her husband
had not yet returned home. So, she bade the servant inform the gentlemen
that Mr. Hamilton was expected to return very soon, and that in the
meantime she would be glad to give them a cup of tea. As soon as the
servant had left the room, she regarded herself minutely in the mirror,
made some adjustments to the masses of her golden brown hair, pinched
her pale checks until roses grew in them, observed that her skirt hung
properly, and then descended to the drawing-room, which she entered with
an air of smiling hospitality, of luminous loveliness, of radiant
youthfulness, calculated to beguile the sternest of men from their
habitual discretion.

The two gentlemen rose to greet her with every indication of pleasure.
As a matter of fact, they enjoyed the charm that radiated from the
beautiful young woman, but, in addition, they rejoiced in this
opportunity to gather from her carelessness some information that the
reserve of her husband would certainly have withheld. It was with
deliberate suggestion that Morton addressed her heartily as "Mrs.
Partner," having in mind a former interview, in which she had so
declared herself. But it was Carrington who, after the three were
seated, and while waiting for the tea-equipage, ventured to introduce
the topic of his desires directly by asking how business was.

"Oh, business is booming!" Cicily answered, with such a manner of
enthusiasm that it hoodwinked her hearers completely. They uttered
ejaculations of surprise involuntarily, but managed to refrain from any
more open expressions of wonder. "Oh, yes, indeed!" Cicily continued,
following blindly an instinct of prevarication that had been suddenly
born within her brain. "Isn't it splendid? We just ended our strike
to-day." She stared intently at Carrington with sparkling eyes. It
filled her with secret delight to witness the expression of
consternation on that gentleman's face; and she could not resist the
temptation to add maliciously, although she veiled her voice: "I know
that you're glad for us, Mr. Carrington. I can just tell it by looking
at you."

"Er--oh--yes, of course," Carrington stammered hastily, the while he
attempted a wry smile. He pulled his handkerchief from a pocket, and
wiped his forehead.

"Yes, indeed; we're both delighted," Morton added quickly, to cover the
too evident confusion of his associate.

"Ah," Cicily went on gloatingly, turning the iron in the wound
relentlessly, "it does surely make you feel good when you win a strike,
doesn't it? Next to an Easter hat, I think the winning of a strike is
the grandest sensation!"

"So, you really won?" Morton inquired, half-suspiciously.

"Oh, yes!" Cicily assured him, with an inflection of absolute sincerity.
Then, abruptly, the expression of her face changed to one of alarm,
mingled with cajolery. "But, please, Mr. Morton," she pleaded, "you
won't say anything about it, will you? Charles doesn't wish to have it
announced just yet, for some reason or another."

"No, certainly not, Mrs. Hamilton," Morton assured her. "We won't tell
of it."

"Thank you so much!" was the grateful response; and Cicily fairly
dazzled the puzzled gentlemen by the brilliancy of her smile. "You
know," she continued mournfully, "Charles did scold me so after you were
here that other time when I talked to you. He scolded me really
frightfully for talking so much.... It didn't do a bit of good my
telling him that I didn't say a thing. But I didn't, did I?" She asked
the question with the ingenuous air of an innocent child, which imposed
on the two men completely.

"Indeed, you didn't!" Morton declared with much heartiness, as he
darted a monitory glance toward Carrington. "Why, for a business woman,
I thought you a very model of discretion, Mrs. Hamilton. And so did
Carrington--eh, Carrington?"

"Exactly!" Carrington agreed under this urging of his master. "If all
women in business were like Mrs. Hamilton here, business would not be so
difficult."

Cicily felt the sneer in the words, but she deemed it the part of
prudence to conceal any resentment. On the contrary, she assumed a
hypocritical air of triumph.

"Good! I'll tell that to Charles," she declared, joyously. "You know
he's such a horribly suspicious person that he doesn't trust anyone."
Once again, she turned to Morton with an alluring smile. "Of course, he
ought to be very glad, indeed, to trust you, his father's oldest
friend."

"I hope that you told him that," Morton replied primly, albeit he was
hard put to it to prevent himself from chuckling aloud over the naïveté
of this indiscreet young woman.

Cicily maintained her mask of guilelessness.

"Yes, indeed, I did!... He said that was why he didn't trust you."

Morton saw fit to change the rather delicate subject.

"It must be a matter of great satisfaction that you have at last won
this strike," he remarked, somewhat inanely.

"Of course, it is," Cicily agreed, with a renewal of her former
enthusiasm. "Oh, I'm so glad, because now we can pay our men their old
wages! That's how we won the strike, you know," she went on, with a
manner of simplicity that was admirably feigned; "just by giving in to
them. All we had to do was to give them what they wanted, and everything
was all settled right away."

"Ahem!" Morton cleared his throat to disguise the laugh that would come.
"Yes. I've known a good many strikes that were won in that same way."

Carrington, who had been ruminating with a puzzled face, now voiced his
difficulty.

"To save my life," he exclaimed to Morton, "I don't see how Hamilton can
pay the old wages, and deliver boxes at eleven cents. I couldn't do it!"

"Why, you see, that's just it," Cicily declared blithely, still
following her inspiration with blind faith. "We're not going to deliver
boxes at eleven cents."

At this amazing statement, the two men first regarded their hostess in
sheer astonishment, then stared at each other as if in search of a clue
to the mystery in her words. The entrance of a maid with the tea-tray
afforded a brief diversion, as Cicily rose and seated herself at the
table, where she busied herself in preparing the three cups. When this
was accomplished, and the guests had received each his portion,
Carrington at once reverted to the announcement that had so bewildered
him.

"You say, you're not going to deliver boxes for eleven cents?" he said,
tentatively.

"No," Cicily replied earnestly, without the slightest hesitation; "we're
going to sell to the independents at fifteen. We've gone in with them,
now." She felt a grim secret delight as she observed the unmistakable
confusion with which her news was received by the two men before her.

"You say you've gone in with the independents?" Carrington repeated,
helplessly. His mouth hung open in indication of the turmoil in his
wits as he waited for her reply.

"Yes, that's it!" Cicily reiterated, with an inflection of surpassing
gladness over the event. "Oh, it does make me so happy, because now, you
see, we can all be genuinely friendly together. We're not competitors
any more."

But now, at last, Morton's temper overcame his caution. He turned to
Carrington with a frown that made his satellite quake; but the
fierceness of it was not for that miserable victim of his machinations:
it was undoubtedly for Hamilton, who, according to the wife's
revelations, dared pit himself against the trust by violating his
contracts with it.

"We'll see Meyers about this," Morton declared, savagely. "So, he'd go
in with the independents, would he? Well, let him try it on--that's
all!"

Cicily stared from one to the other of the two men, with her golden eyes
wide and frightened.

"Oh," she stammered nervously, "did I--have I said anything?... Oh, my
goodness, Charles will be so angry!"

She maintained her attitude and expression of acute distress, while the
two men rose, and, very rudely, without a word of excuse to their
hostess, moved to the far end of the drawing-room, where they were out
of earshot. But, on the instant when their backs were turned, the
volatile young wife cast off her mock anxiety, and, in the very best of
spirits, wrinkled her nose saucily at the disturbed twain.... And, as
long as they conferred together, with no eyes for her, she sat alertly
erect, smiling to herself, as one highly gratified by the course of
events.

"Now, if only Charles doesn't spoil things again!" she murmured.



CHAPTER XVIII


Morton and Carrington were just finishing their low-toned, but very
animated, conference at the end of the drawing-room, when their
attention, together with that of Cicily, was attracted by a noise at the
door. All three looked up, to see Hamilton striding into the room.
Behind him came Delancy. At a gesture of warning from his wife, Hamilton
faced about, and saw his two business foes.

"Well, well, I didn't know that you were here," he exclaimed, with a
fair showing of cordiality, as he advanced, and shook hands with the
visitors. Delancy contented himself with bowing to each in turn, then
went to Cicily, and asked for a cup of tea. During the few moments spent
in offering this hospitality, Cicily whispered rapidly to the old
gentleman, who appeared mightily startled at her words.

"Mrs. Hamilton has been entertaining us again," Morton remarked, in an
acid tone, to his host. "Really, she has been rather more interesting
than she was before."

At this statement, Hamilton shifted uneasily. He turned an indignant
stare on his wife, wondering dismally what new imbroglio had been
precipitated by her lack of restraint.

"Oh, you needn't look at me in that fashion," Cicily objected, with a
pout. "I didn't say anything this time, either. I only told them about
our winning the strike, and--"

"What!" Hamilton brought out the word like a pistol-shot.

"Surely, you couldn't mind my telling them that," Cicily said, in a
voice suspiciously demure. "And that's all I told them, except--"

"Except what?" Hamilton fairly shouted.

"Why, except about the contracts to do the work for the independents at
fifteen cents--that's all."

"You--you told them that!" the astounded husband gasped. He whirled
toward Morton. "Why, it isn't so, Mr. Morton--not a word of it! You must
realize that it isn't--that it couldn't be so."

Morton, however, was not convinced by the earnestness of the young man's
repudiation. Instead, he looked his host up and down with a sneering
scrutiny that was infinitely galling.

[Illustration]

"I see," he said harshly, "that you're just like your father before
you. He could always manage to contrive some way by which to accomplish
his ends, without being over-troubled with scruples. Only, he would
never have confided his business secrets to a woman."

Hamilton turned reproachful eyes on his wife.

"Cicily," he cried entreatingly, "I want you to tell Mr. Morton--"

But that resourceful woman interrupted him. Her face showed a shocked
amazement, as she spoke swiftly:

"Charles, do you mean that you want me to--?" She did not finish the
sentence; but the inference was so plain that Morton did not hesitate to
make use of it.

"Trying to make your wife lie for you won't do any good, Hamilton," he
advised, disagreeably.

But, if Hamilton had been perplexed before, he was now suddenly dazed by
the inexplicable conduct of Delancy, who advanced nimbly from the
tea-table, caught Hamilton by the arm, and drew him apart a little. He
spoke hurriedly, in a low voice, but intentionally pitched so that
Morton could overhear.

"It's no good, my boy," he declared, warningly. "You see, the fact of
the matter is, you're caught--caught with the goods on, as the police
say. And, when you're caught with the goods, don't waste time in lying.
It makes a bad business worse, that's all." Having uttered these
extraordinary words of advice to his marveling nephew, the old gentleman
turned jauntily on the seething Morton. "Well, what are you going to do
about it?" he demanded, composedly.

Morton, frantic over the trickery that, as he believed, had been
attempted against him, made no pretense of suavity in this emergency. In
his vindictiveness, he spoke with a candor unusual to him in his
business dealings.

"Do?" he rasped. "I'll show you mighty quick what I'll do! You seem to
forget, Hamilton, that we have a contract with you. You are under
agreement with us to put all your work out for us at eleven cents a
box."

Hamilton would have entered a violent protest against any purpose of
evading his obligations; but Delancy silenced the young man by an
imperative gesture, and took it on himself to reply, bearing in mind
the whispered directions of his niece. He addressed Morton in a
condescending fashion that was unspeakably annoying to that important
personage.

"I never heard of any such contract," he declared blandly, "and I have a
bit of money invested in the plant, too.... Has he one, Charles?"

"He has a verbal one," Hamilton answered, more and more bewildered by
the progress of affairs. "He wouldn't give a written one."

"Huh! A verbal agreement!" Delancy sniffed. "Well, Morton, may I ask how
you are going to work to prove this verbal agreement?"

"We'll show that he did the work at that price," was the aggressive
answer. "That will suffice."

"Very good," Delancy said, judicially. "Only, Morton, I venture to
predict that you can't prove your verbal contract--not by any manner of
means.... Who was with you at the time when that verbal agreement was
made between you and Hamilton, as you allege?"

Carrington, who had been almost as greatly puzzled over the course of
affairs as was Hamilton, now perceived something that was definitely
within his own knowledge.

"Mr. Morton and I were together," he vouchsafed.

"And, so, you met the two Hamilton partners?" Delancy queried.

Both Morton and Carrington denied that the wife had been present at the
interview.

"I have an idea," Delancy continued imperturbably, "that Mrs. Hamilton
here would be quite willing to go on the stand and swear that she was
present at the interview with her husband, to which you have referred.
From something she has let drop to me, I have a very strong impression
to this effect." There was a whimsicality in the old gentleman's tone
that none save his niece marked.

"But I tell you," Carrington vociferated, "she wasn't there!"

"I hardly see what that has to do with it," Cicily interpolated
languidly, from her place at the tea-table. "I remember it all quite
perfectly." There was a smothered ejaculation from Morton, which sounded
almost profane; Carrington's eyes were widely rounded as he stared at
his hostess. "Yes," she went on, her musical voice gently casual in its
modulations, "I remember it so well, because it was the day
after--after--oh, well, after something or other! I shall remember what
presently. And I wore--"

"Never mind all that," Delancy interrupted. "It doesn't matter what you
wore, or whether you wore anything, or not."

"Uncle Jim," Cicily cried, horrified. On this occasion, the emotion in
her voice was wholly genuine.

But Delancy was in a combative mood, and eager to get on with the fight
toward which he had been guided involuntarily by the whispered
instructions of his niece.

"Morton," he inquired briskly, "have you read those recent decisions of
Bischoff's on unfair contracts?" Then, as the other shook his head in
sullen negation, the old gentleman went on complacently: "Well, I
have--every word! Incidentally, the last one was against myself, so,
naturally, I took a rather keen interest. Especially, as the Court of
Appeals has just sustained it.... It happens, therefore, that I know
what I'm talking about."

"If it's fight you want, you'll get it--more than you want, I fancy,"
Morton growled. "We'll put the price down to nine cents, and break you."

"You might as well put your price down to eight cents, while you're
about it," Delancy retorted, with a chuckle. "You see, your price won't
really matter a particle to us, since we have a fair--notice, please,
that I said fair--contract at fifteen cents for five years, with a
privilege of renewal at the same terms. Oh, yes, put your price down to
eight cents, by all means!"

Carrington's face turned purple, as he heard the fleering announcement
of his rival's success, and Morton betrayed signs of a consuming
anxiety.

"Have you such a contract?" he questioned, more mildly than he had
spoken hitherto.

Delancy turned to face Hamilton, and put the question bluntly.

"Have we, Charles?" There was no reply forthcoming from the distracted
young man, only a burst of sardonic laughter. It seemed to him clear
that everyone had gone mad together. Quickly, then, the old gentleman
directed the question to his niece. "Have we, Mrs. Partner?"

"You bet we have!" Cicily answered on the instant, inelegantly, but with
convincing emphasis.

A faint ray of illumination stole into the mental blackness of
Hamilton. Under its influence, he addressed Morton with a half-sneer:

"Do you think any man would have the nerve to try bluffing on a thing
like that?" In his thoughts there was a forceful emphasis on the word
"man," but he carefully avoided letting it appear in the spoken word.

There followed a lengthy and acrimonious debate among the men, to which
Cicily listened with an air of half-amused, half-bored tolerance. She
was, in fact, thrilling with delight over her inspiration, which had at
last come after such long waiting. She felt an intuitive conviction that
her ruse would win the battle for her husband's success. She need worry
no more over the powerlessness of her women allies to bend the husbands
to their will. Hereafter, she would retain the friendship of those
worthy women, but without any ulterior object beyond their own welfare.
It appealed to her as vastly more fitting that triumph should come from
duping these men, who were her husband's enemies, who would have ruined
him by their schemes, but for her intervention with a woman's wiles
where man's vaunted sagacity had proved itself utterly at fault. The
sincerity of her belief had sufficed in a minute to win the coöperation
of Uncle Jim, that most determined opponent to woman's intrusion on
business affairs. He had listened to her suggestion at the tea-table, at
first with scornful displeasure over her venturing an opinion of any
sort on business. Then, as he comprehended the purport of her scheme,
his instinct for finesse had caused him to seize on it impetuously, to
act upon it immediately.... Surely, Cicily thought, since Uncle Jim had
been won over, there remained only the working out of details to insure
a glorious victory--her victory for Charles!

She aroused herself from her abstraction with a start of alarm as she
heard Morton crying out defiance.

"I tell you," he was saying heatedly, "those independent people have
contracts with us. All this plotting of yours is just damned
foolishness--I beg your pardon, Mrs. Hamilton." The enraged capitalist
flushed with new annoyance, for he prided himself greatly on the
elegance of his manners, and it horrified him that he should have so far
forgotten himself as to swear in the presence of a lady. "But they've
no place in business anyhow!" he thought to himself consolingly.

"Oh, don't mention it!" Cicily answered, with an air of unconcern. To
herself, she was reflecting amusedly on how much greater than the
offender knew was his discourtesy toward herself, since she it was who
was the author of that "damned foolishness" to which he had so feelingly
referred.

But Delancy had no time to fritter away on niceties of etiquette.

"Oh, no, Morton!" he scoffed. "Johnson of the independents told me that
you never gave them contracts, except for each lot. You see, that's how
we got in on the deal."

"Yes, that's how we got in," Cicily echoed, in a gentle murmur. There
was an infinity of satisfaction in her voice.

"We'll make them break with you," Carrington shouted, roughly.

"Just try it!" taunted Hamilton, who, at last, found himself embarked on
this mad adventure in chicanery.

"I have five millions in negotiable securities," Delancy added. "I'm
willing to spend every penny of it in 'busting' you, if you try it."

Hamilton now took up the argument, with a spirit that delighted the
listening wife. It was evident to her that he had grasped the
significance of her deceit, and was enthusiastic in following it up to
the best of his ability.

"So," he said to Morton, "you fancy that you can make the independents
leave us! Well, you'll learn your mistake presently. Do you suppose for
a minute that they'll pass us up, when we offer a fair contract for
fifteen cents, to deal with you, after you've just put the price up to
twenty-two? Nonsense!"

Morton raised an imperatively restraining hand as Carrington was about
to splutter some threat. Of a sudden, the diplomatic man of affairs
resumed his gracious, suave bearing; and his voice was agreeably
modulated when he spoke:

"Gentlemen, it seems to me that we're arguing a great deal, needlessly.
Now, you know, both of you, that I always liked old Charley Hamilton.
Well, as a matter of fact, I'm delighted to discover that his son here
has the same quality of business ability. So, my boy, why shouldn't you
come in with us? There's ample future for brains with us.... Of course,
I'm saying this on the supposition that everything is just as you have
represented it." The cold caution of the man of business cropped out in
the concluding sentence.

"Make a proposition," Hamilton directed, curtly.

"Well," Morton replied, speaking with thoughtful deliberation, "we might
take over a controlling interest in your factory for, say, two hundred
and fifty thousand."

"Such an offer as that is merely a joke," was Hamilton's contemptuous
retort.

"What do you think it's worth?"

"Conservatively, a million."

"Oh, absurd!" Morton exclaimed, reprovingly; but his voice retained its
pleasant quality. "Dear me! Youth is so hasty! Now, my boy, the truth is
that you know your factory isn't worth anything like that sum."

"I suspect that you have forgotten five fat years of prospective
profits." There came a groan from Carrington at this reference, and
Morton's face lost for a moment its wheedling amiability. But the
latter's discomfiture was of the briefest, if one might judge by
appearance.

"Is a million your lowest figure?" he demanded. Then, as a nod of assent
from the owner answered his question, he added: "And a sixty-days'
option goes with your offer?"

Hamilton, however, had other conditions to impose.

"If you take over the control," he asked, "do I stay in charge as
president and manager? I must stipulate for that."

"Oh, well," Morton agreed graciously, "the brain that could pull off
this deal ought to be of some use to us.... All right, my boy."

At this final statement from the magnate, Cicily could not forbear a
subdued ripple of laughter. "The brain that could pull off this
deal"--oh, splendid! Who now would dare deny that she was a partner in
very truth, a partner worth while!... Then, her inspiration again urged
her on. She was beset with feverish impatience, as the four men dallied
tediously over their adieux. When, at last, the visitors were safely out
of the house, the young wife bore down like a whirlwind on Delancy. She
could not waste even a word on Hamilton yet.

"Quick! Quick!" she commanded. The red in her cheeks was deeper than it
had been for weary weeks; her eyes shot fires of eagerness; her delicate
fingers clutched the old gentleman's arm in a grasp so earnest that he
winced from the pain of it.

"Eh, what?" he demanded, confused by the violence of her onslaught.

"Oh, do hurry, Uncle Jim!" Cicily cried. "The telephone--Johnson!"

"Good heavens, yes!" Delancy exclaimed, instantly aroused to the
exigencies of the situation, while Hamilton stared blankly at the two
conspirators. "I should say so! I've got to get hold of Johnson."

"He's on the wire by this time, I'm sure," Cicily announced. "While you
were getting rid of those men, I sent Watson to call him up."

"Bully, Cicily!" Hamilton shouted, in irrepressible enthusiasm. For the
first time, he had spoken honest praise of his wife's business ability,
and the soul of the woman was filled with a glorious triumph.

Delancy was already on his way toward the telephone in the hall. But he
turned to speak his mind:

"Why on earth don't your Aunt Emma have ideas like that," he
questioned, resentfully; "practical ideas?"

"Perhaps she has," Cicily replied, accusingly. "But you would never
listen." There was no answer beyond an unintelligible grunt from the old
gentleman.

"Hurry! Uncle Jim!" Hamilton urged, in his turn. "And do your best. If
Johnson's with us, the deal will go through. He's never gone back on his
word, and he controls the independents."

"Yes, boy," Delancy cried over his shoulder, as he vanished through the
doorway, "if he's with us, we--your wife--wins!"

"Anyhow," Hamilton soliloquized, "win or lose, it's a great game!"

Then, he turned to regard his wife, with eyes in which amazement vied
with admiration.



CHAPTER XIX


Cicily, under her husband's intent gaze, felt a glow of embarrassment.
To conceal her emotion, she turned, and seated herself in a chair, where
she relaxed into a posture as listlessly indifferent as she could
contrive in this moment of pleasurable turmoil.

Now, indeed, she realized that the moment of her vindication in this
man's estimation was at hand. It was her brain that had evolved the ruse
by which his enemies would be worsted. Delancy and Hamilton might still
retain doubts as to the issue of the affair, but she had none. Her
instinct, which had so ably guided her to this point, now assured her
that victory was assured. It must be, then, that the husband who had
treated her claims and pretensions so fleeringly would henceforth
recognize her worth. He had been helpless in the grasp of circumstance,
and the flood of disaster had threatened to overwhelm him. She had
plucked him forth from the whirlpool, had brought him safe to shore.
She had most nobly justified herself in the rôle of Mrs. Partner....
This was her hour of supreme delight. The lines of fatigue had vanished
from the lovely face as if by magic; her eyes were happy, shining in a
clear contentment; her scarlet lips were molded into a smile of joy, and
from them a dimple crept to make a tiny shadow in the pale oval of the
cheek.

As for Hamilton, that young business man found himself in a maze of
perplexity, as he stood for a long time in silence, studying the fair
picture of femininity there offered to his gaze. In his breast, various
emotions warred lustily. He was a-thrill with elation over the
possibility of outwitting the foes who had used every wile and
subterfuge of trickiness to ruin him. He was moved to a profound
admiration for the intelligence that had originated and carried out a
counter plot so instantly effective in his interests. But underlying
these was a grievous hurt to his egotism. The pride of the male was
wounded sore. Where he, the head of the house, the lord of the home, the
man of affairs, had ignominiously failed, that frail creature, his
wife, whom he had criticised and rebuked time and again, had snatched
victory from defeat by clever and unscrupulous machinations worthy of a
master of high finance. This feat was something incredible, yet it was
true that it had been achieved. It was something absolutely contrary to
all the conventions in which he had been reared. It was directly opposed
to his personal beliefs, as he had expressed them times without number,
to all and sundry--notably to his wife. Here was the sting to his
vanity. He had been wrong. Of that, there could be no doubt. In other
cases, in all probability, his contentions would have been justified;
but there was small consolation in this fact, since in his own vital
concerns he had been proven wrong. He winced as he reflected on the
humility that would be becoming on his part.... Then, he was moved to a
sudden rapture, and forgot his hurt pride, as he realized again the
exceeding worth of the woman whom he loved. Under the urge of this
feeling, he exclaimed with candid vehemence of admiration:

"You darling little liar!" The fondness in his voice made the epithet a
word of sweetest praise.

Cicily stirred animatedly, casting off her assumed listlessness, in the
bliss of this honest tribute from him who had so sternly flouted her
aforetime. Her eyes of gold lighted radiantly as they were lifted to
his.

"Oh, no--a big liar, I'm very much afraid." She leaned forward, and her
voice was gloating as she continued: "Oh, Charles, isn't it just
splendid! And it was all so gloriously simple! Why, it isn't on my
conscience one tiny little bit. You see, they lied, and so, of course, I
was justified in lying. It was to save you, and to help our workers down
there. So, I lied, and I'm glad of it." She gurgled unrestrainedly for a
moment. "Do you know, Charles, dear, a woman can beat a man lying, any
time!... Oh, it's great!"

But Hamilton, not being under the thrall of intuitions, was not yet
ready to rejoice over a victory that remained to be won.

"Wait," he admonished. "You know, we haven't heard from Johnson yet. We
don't know what he'll do."

"Pooh!" Cicily retorted confidently, for in her wisdom she accepted the
dictum of her instinct without reserve. "If it should be necessary,
why, I'll convince him, too."

His curiosity prompted Hamilton to ask a leading question.

"How did you come to think of it?" he inquired eagerly.

"Oh, I just thought of it because--because--" Cicily halted, completely
at a loss. She knew very well how she had come to think of it. The idea
had been the kindly gift of intuition--that was all there was to it. But
the explanation of the fact to a mere man, with his finical dependence
on logic and all manner of foolishness in the way of reasoning, offered
considerable difficulty. So, she rested silent, puzzling over a means
for making the truth lucid to a member of the non-intuitional sex.

"Well, because what?" Hamilton repeated, suggestively.

"Why, just because--" Unable to find adequate words for interpreting the
cause, Cicily attempted a diversion. "And, anyhow, I'm so glad! Now, you
do see that I can help you, that I can do something for you that
counts." For the life of her, the young wife could not resist a
temptation to boast a little over her accomplishment in the world of
business. She even ventured to hint as to the "because" which she had
left unexplained. "Surely, Charles, now you must see how it's possible
for us women to help our husbands outside the home--once in a while, at
least. Really, there is some room in business on occasion for intuition,
just as there is in other things. But the few men who possess the gift
don't call it by its right name--not they! I imagine they're too busy
and prosperous to call it anything."

"You mustn't think I'm not grateful, Cicily," Hamilton answered, with
surprising meekness. "I know how much I shall owe you, if this deal goes
through." He went to the chair where his wife was sitting, and kissed
her tenderly. "Yes, you'll find me grateful enough," he repeated
earnestly, as he straightened again, and stood regarding her with
lover-like intentness.

Cicily, however, was not wholly content with the expression of feeling
on her husband's part. Her ambition toward really sharing his whole life
was not to be thwarted by accepting a single success, and the resultant
gratitude on the part of the one served, as a sufficient achievement.

"It's not gratitude that I want, Charles," she declared, resolutely;
"that is, not gratitude alone. I want recognition."

"But I do recognize everything, Cicily," Hamilton urged, manifestly at a
loss to understand his wife's precise meaning. Then, of a sudden, his
vision cleared, and he spoke with a new gentleness, yet with something
of the old authority. "I recognize most clearly that here and now is the
real turning point of our lives. We have both made mistakes--"

"Oh, both?" Cicily questioned, rebelliously. Her serene confidence in
herself did not relish the open confession of error.

"Yes," Hamilton maintained, judicially; "we've both made mistakes. I've
cared too much for business. I admit that fully and freely. I let it
intrude on my home life; I let it hamper the expression of my love for
you. As for you, you adorable creature, you've been headstrong beyond
belief. You've been impulsive to the limit of that very impulsive
temperament of yours. You've been unreasonable to the verge of
distraction. But, thank heaven! you've been--as you'd call
it--intuitional, too. That redeems you from criticism--as it may redeem
me from ruin in my business. So, darling, isn't it fair, when I say that
I'm going to change, to say that I want you to change, too? To sum it
up, dear heart, we must begin all over again."

Nevertheless, Cicily, although she was a-quiver with delight over the
open revelation of her husband's changed feeling toward her and toward
himself, did not hesitate to combat his determination. She shook her
head slowly in negation of his proposal, and spoke with the energy of
profound conviction:

"It's too late, Charles. We can't go back."

"But, Cicily," Hamilton remonstrated, greatly hurt by her resistance to
his humble resolve, "you don't understand! I admit that I was
wrong--more than partly to blame, perhaps." That was as far as he could
go. The wife who loved him smiled secretly at the obvious effort with
which he acknowledged so much. It was enough to satisfy her in that
direction--more than enough! But there remained still the fact that she
was totally out of harmony with his scheme of turning backward to begin
their life together afresh, after a finer plan of conduct.

"There's no such thing as going backward in life, Charles," she
declared, intently. "We must go forward--only forward!"

"No," Hamilton answered, gravely. "That would never do. The old struggle
would come up again. You were right in your argument, Cicily, and I see
it now. I recognize the existence of that modern triangle, as you
described it. One must choose, inevitably. It's either you or business.
I chose once, and I went wrong. Now, let me choose again, dear. Oh, you
must believe me, sweetheart. You are the dearer--infinitely the dearer
to me! It is you I love--only you!" There was genuine passion in the
man's voice. It rang heavenly harmonies in the soul of the wife. For the
moment, she was half-inclined to throw away the troubles begotten of
ambition, the strivings engendered by ideals, to rest content with the
happiness of love's transports. She fought the temptation stoutly, but
it was almost beyond her woman's strength to resist. She feinted for
time by haphazard questioning, voiced in broken, uncertain tones while
she strove to maintain her purpose:

"What are you going to do, Charles? How will you prove that I am dearer
to you, after all, than is this hateful business?"

"How am I going to prove it?" Hamilton repeated, with immense
self-satisfaction. "Why, I'm going to sell out to Morton, to-morrow."

At this explicit statement of his purpose, Cicily was swiftly recalled
from her temporary mood of yielding.

"You're going to quit?" she demanded, sharply. "Is that what you mean,
Charles?"

"Yes," came the complacent answer, firm in the intensity of sudden
resolve. "I have it all planned out, already. We'll take a steamer the
last of the week for another--a better, wiser--honeymoon. We'll go to
the Italian lakes, to Switzerland. Then, afterward, we'll drop down to
that little village in the south of France. You remember the place,
don't you, dearest?"

"Yes," Cicily answered, very softly. Her cheeks were flushed with tender
memories of that embowered nook which had given lotos-eating pause to
their wedding-journey. Her eyes were dreamy with fond reminiscence, as
she imagined again the quaint beauties of that lover's paradise. But, by
a fierce effort of will, she threw off the spell that threatened to
defeat her most cherished ambition; and she spoke with an accent of
supreme determination, in a voice become suddenly vibrant with new
energy. "But I won't go!" Her face, too, had lost the delicate, yielding
lines of the woman wooed and won, rejoicing in submission; it was again
alert, set to fixedness of plan that would brook no denial. At sight of
the change in her, Hamilton stared in dismay. He could not understand
this development in her. He had humiliated himself in vain. He had
offered the abandonment of all that could offend her, yet she remained
obdurate, discontented, defiant of his every desire. He almost groaned,
as he cast himself disconsolately into a chair, and buried his head in
his hands, despairing of any understanding as to the whims of a woman.

"Don't you see, dear," Cicily went on, gently persuasive, "that we
can't--we just can't!--quit? Why, Charles, being a quitter is the one
thing that you've most hated all your life. And I, too, have hated it.
No, you can't quit, because you're held here by duty--by duty to
yourself, by duty to those men and women, our little brothers and
sisters, who depend on you for their livelihood."

"The trust will take care of them," Hamilton declared mechanically,
without lifting his face from his hands.

"You know how the trust will take care of them," Cicily retorted, with a
touch of bitterness. "It will pay them a starvation wage--no more!"

"But you're jealous of business!" Hamilton objected, raising his head to
gaze curiously at this most paradoxical person. "And, now, you are
urging me to keep at it. I don't understand."

Cicily laughed aloud, in genuine enjoyment. Her eyes were alight with
the fires of victory.

"I used to be jealous of it," she admitted, joyously. "I'm not any
longer--because I've beaten it. Your offer just now proves that, doesn't
it?... But, now that I have won a triumph over my old rival, why, we've
got to go forward."

"Together?" There was a tender, half-fearful doubt in the husband's
voice as he asked the question that meant so much to him, for he loved
this variable wife of his in this moment more than he had ever dreamed
that he could love a woman.

The wife's head drooped shyly, and her face flamed. Her word came very
softly spoken, but it rang a peal of happiness in the heart of her
husband.

"Yes."

The man rose from his chair, and went to his wife's side, where he
stooped, and took her face in his hands, and raised it until he could
look deep into the eyes of gold.

"You will care again, as you used to care?"

And she answered bravely, although a gentle confusion held her all
a-tremble:

"I will care because--because I've never stopped caring!"

"Thank God!" Hamilton said reverently, and gathered her into his arms.


Afterward, the twain lovers talked of many things, as lovers will, of
things grave and gay, of things silly and profound. They talked of
business affairs, into which Cicily might on occasion flash the light of
intuition to clear the way for grosser reason. They discussed the
mutuality of interests that would be theirs, a lesson of supreme worth
to a conventional world. They arranged philanthropic schemes for the
betterment of conditions for the little brothers and sisters who gained
a sustenance by toil at their behest. But, most of all, they talked
those divine absurdities that are the privilege of all true lovers. The
husband bewailed the incredible stupidity that had led him into neglect
of the most adorable being in the universe; the wife mourned over the
stern necessity that had driven her to sacrifice ineffable happiness on
the altar of conscience.

[Illustration]

They drew apart a little, when Delancy came bustling in from his
conversation over the telephone; but they scarcely had ears for his
jubilant announcement of victory.

"Johnson thinks it's great!" the old gentleman cried, triumphantly.
"He's coming right up here in his machine, with a lawyer, to draw the
papers.... And I've 'phoned for our attorney to get here as fast as he
can. My boy, we've got 'em! Hooray!"

Hamilton responded with a perfunctory enthusiasm, but his eyes never
left his wife's face.

As for Cicily, she sat silent, her eyes veiled, reveling in the glad
riot of her thoughts. Through her brain went echoing the words spoken by
her Aunt Emma, which had served in a measure to guide her course of
action, and she smiled in perfect content as she mused on their meaning
in her life. She had sought "to make other people happy." She had
striven valiantly in behalf of the workers in the factory; she had
struggled for her husband. Well, she had succeeded for them--surely, she
had made other people happy; and out of her labors for those others she
had won the supreme happiness for herself.


But it was after Delancy had left them that Hamilton reached into the
inner pocket of his waistcoat, and plucked forth a little packet of
tissue paper, which he unrolled with a touch that was half-caressing. Of
a sudden, Cicily, watching, uttered a cry of delight.

"You cared--so much?" she questioned, with shy eagerness, as she put
out her left hand.

The husband slipped the wedding-ring to its place.

"I cared so much," he said softly; "and infinitely more!"

The amber eyes of the wife were veiled with tears, as she lifted them to
his.

"Oh, thank God, it is back again!" she whispered.


THE END





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