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Title: Angela's Business
Author: Harrison, Henry Sydnor, 1880-1930
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 "Angela's Business" ***

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



                          ANGELA'S BUSINESS

                       BY HENRY SYDNOR HARRISON


    WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
    FREDERIC R. GRUGER

    BOSTON AND NEW YORK
    HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
    The Riverside Press Cambridge
    1915

    COPYRIGHT, 1914 AND 1915, BY HENRY SYDNOR HARRISON

    ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

    _Published March 1915_

    To JACK
    _Who does not think as I do._


[Illustration: "I DECIDED I WOULD REFUSE IT"]



ILLUSTRATIONS


"I DECIDED I WOULD REFUSE IT"

"NO! MORALS ARE THE BULWARK OF THE NATION!"

CHARLES HAD NO GREAT CHANCE TO SHOW HIS FEARLESSNESS OF PUBLIC OPINION

"OH!... WHY DO YOU DO THIS?"

"WELL, I WON'T MARRY HER! I WON'T!"

ANGELA PEEPED OVER INTO WASHINGTON STREET

THIS SPINSTER SUPPLIED A QUIET CHARM

"HO!--HAD YOUR SPIES ON ME, HAVE YOU?"



ANGELA'S BUSINESS



I


Being an author actually at work, and not an author being photographed
at work by a lady admirer, he did not gaze large-eyed at a poppy in a
crystal vase, one hand lightly touching his forehead, the other tossing
off page after page in high godlike frenzy. On the contrary, the young
man at the table yawned, lolled, sighed, scratched his ear, read
snatches of Virginia Carter's "Letters to My Girl Friends" in the
morning's "Post," read snatches of any printed matter that happened to
be about, and even groaned. When he gazed, it was at no flower, but more
probably at his clock, a stout alarm-clock well known to the trade as
"Big Bill"; and the clock gazed back, since there was a matter between
them this evening, and seemed to say, "Well, are you going to the
Redmantle Club, or are you _not_?" But that was precisely the point
on which the young man at the table had not yet made up his mind.

Of course, if he went to the Redmantle Club, he could not possibly spend
the whole evening here, writing, and, oddly enough, this was at once a
cogent reason for staying away from the Redmantle Club, and a seductive
argument for going to the same. No lady admirer could ever grasp this
paradox, but every true writer must admit that I know his secret
perfectly.

From time to time, no diversion offering, the author would read over the
last sentence he had written, which very likely ran as follows:--

     We have a society organized on the agreeable assumption that
     every woman, at twenty-five or thereabouts, finds herself in
     possession of a home, a husband, and three darling little
     curly-headed children.

Stimulated a trifle, he would thereupon sharpen up his pencil and charge
forward a few sentences, as now:--

     Slipshod people never test such old assumptions against
     actuality; they cling to what their grandfathers said, and call
     their slipshodness conservatism. So (like ostriches) they avoid
     the fact that there are three large and growing classes of
     women who simply have no relation to their comfortable old
     theory. I refer, of course, to the classes of Temporary
     Spinsters, of Permanent Spinsters, and of Married but
     Idle--childless wives living in boarding-houses, for example.
     Let no Old Tory conceive that he has disposed of the Woman
     Question until he can plainly answer: What are all these
     various women to DO in their fifteen waking hours a day?

Following which, he lit a cigarette in a moody manner, and sat frowning
at the back of the head of his relative and secretary, who was clacking
away all the while on a second-hand typewriter near by.

It will be contended that some hesitancy was fitting enough to the
writer's thesis, Woman having raised perplexities in the bosoms of
philosophers from the earliest times on. But perplexity did not happen
to be the trouble with this philosopher, Charles King Garrott. These
sentences Mr. Garrott so apathetically set down were the ancient
commonplaces of his mind, the familiar bare bones of special researches
long holding a unique position in his life. The dull General Public,
with its economic eye, might yet rate him merely as a private tutor,
formerly of Blaines College; the relative and secretary there might
judge him only a young man of an unmasculine thin sedentary quality, who
mysteriously gave his youth to producing piles of strange stuff that all
had to be copied out on the typewriter. But, in the privacy of his own
soul, Charles Garrott was, through all, not alone the coming American
novelist (which rather went without saying), but, in that direct
connection, probably the only man in the world who really understood
Woman.

Old times used this phrase unscientifically; "understanding women" has
acquired misleading connotations. The words seem to call up the picture
of a purely gallant observer, one with a polished mustache and amorous
gay eyes, sitting under a sidewalk awning and ogling out over a purplish
drink. We may go so far as to state plainly that they call up the
picture of a Frenchman. The young man at the table is scarcely imagined
as this sort of authority, viewing Woman crudely as La Femme. As he
could not put pencil to paper without revealing, Charles Garrott viewed
Woman, never as La Femme, but exclusively as a Question. Himself the New
Man obviously, he saw Woman solely as a Movement, meditated about her
strictly as an Unrest. When he considered her in the concrete--and that
he seldom did nowadays, if we need not count his friend, Mary Wing, who
was as New as he, to say the least of it--his eye reviewed and
criticized her, not as a Sex, but strictly as a human being against an
environment. Charles Garrott would scientifically diagnose a Woman to
her face, in a manner which she, poor creature, but little suspected.

     Romance [he began again] left us with the sentimental tradition
     that a  w----

"Charles!" said his relative and secretary, speaking for the first time
in ten minutes, a long silence for him--"I'll thank you for your
attention a moment."

"Certainly, Judge," said Charles Garrott, with that alacrity with which
a true writer habitually welcomes an interruption.

"Here, near the end of this story--passage I can't for the life of
me.... Here! Seems to go like this: 'Let a man,' cried Dionysius,
cracking walnuts with a sort of splendid sadness, 'but free his eyes
from the magic of sex, and mask my words'--no!--let's see--'_mark_ my
words, Bishop, he shall see strange truths.'"

There was a pause.

"Mistake somewhere!" said the gentleman at the typewriter, with a
chuckle. "Well, what's what?"

"No, that's right, I believe. Why, what's the matter with it?"

"Why!--there's no sense in it!"

"Oh--it's advanced talk, you know. Modern, epigrammatic stuff, you might
call it."

"Conceding that, here's the bit about the nuts. That's where the mistake
is, _I_ claim. Let me see--'cracking walnuts with a sort of _splendid_
sadness.' Good gad,--that can't be right, Charles! 'Sober sadness,'
'sorrowful sadness'--something of that sort you meant, eh?"

The secretary had swung about suddenly, revealing a face almost
startlingly handsome, fine-cut as a cameo, pink and white as a
professional beauty's, and topped with a magnificent crown of snow-white
hair.

"'Pathetic sadness,' now, my dear fellow? Go just a little better,
wouldn't it?"

"Well--no, Judge, not just in this particular story. Fact is, it's meant
to be a little queer, you see."

"It _is_ queer, that's my point!" said the Judge, rather worried.
"'Cracking walnuts with a sort of splendid sadness'--if the public
understands _that_!--Well, as you like, of course."

Having thus washed his hands of all responsibility, the relative gazed a
moment at a little red "Nothing But Business, Please" sign that hung
above his typewriter-table, hummed a bar or two in a sweet tenor voice,
and resumed his now expert clacking.

Similarly his employer resumed his composition:--

     Romance left us with the sentimental tradition that a woman's
     sex was a complete, indeed a glorious, justification of her
     existence (_v._ F. Dell: "Women as World Builders"). Because
     she some day would be, or might possibly be, a mother of
     children, she was set upon a pedestal and left there, exempt
     from further responsibilities meanwhile. The potentiality of
     motherhood became a claim to life-long support in idleness,
     etc., etc.--

     Now, we have long understood that the controlling fact in the
     life of every man is the way in which he gets his living. We
     have long understood that the essential immorality is to get
     something for nothing. But only lately have we come to see how
     these two general laws apply, have always applied, to women.
     Only  late--

But there the pencil, which had been dragging, came again to a halt.

This writing went forward in an old exercise-book, on the label of which
a fine trembling hand had written "_French Composition_." It was seen
that firmer fingers had overwritten that inscription with another:
"NOTES ON WOMEN." Here, in brief, the authority was reducing certain
views to essay form, according to a plan he had: squeezing out the meat
of his mind into the exercise-book, as the moral basis of a great new
novel, nothing less. And the truth was that he had no sooner begun the
stock-taking process than difficulties appeared, and the present want of
ardor made itself felt. Faint doubts and questionings, indeed, knocked
at Charles Garrott's mind in these days; not touching Woman, of course,
but certainly seeming to touch his last year's formula for her. "I'm an
ultra-modern with conservative reactions," he had thought to himself,
with a sense of important discovery, but a night or two ago. And on the
whole, he felt that that had explained him scientifically into the best
company in the world.

The reference was to the one other existing person who, it was conceded,
might possibly know as much about Woman as he, Charles, did. That one
was a lady in Sweden. And, reassuringly enough, he had long since noted
in the Swedish lady's bold modernism, also, this precise same tendency
toward judicious reconsideration.

Suddenly the young man put away his writing, shut his table-drawer with
a click, and said:--

"I'm going out for awhile, Judge--to a meeting of the Redmantle Club.
Think I need a little stimulus."

He went away to the bedroom, thinking, but not of the Redmantle Club,
for which, to say truth, he cared little. Nor were his thoughts in line
with the swingeing sentences he had just been writing in the
exercise-book. On the contrary, the young authority was openly inquiring
of himself: _Was_ economic independence the complete solution of the
Unrest? _Were_ there no Values in the world but Utilitarian Values?

The bedroom door shut, and Judge Blenso, who had replied with a mere
busy nod to Charles's announcement, desisted from his clacking, and
produced a late copy of "The Rider and Driver" from the little drawer of
his typewriter-table. He began to look at pictures with a happy
expression upon his striking face.

Why was Mr. Blenso called the Judge? An interesting point, on which I,
for one, unluckily can shed no light. But if he has also been called a
relative and secretary, that was for the sake of peace only. To say
outright that this fine large gentleman was Charles Garrott's nephew
(his half-nephew, to be exact) would necessitate a vast deal of
explanatory genealogy. That was a fact, as the family Bibles of the
Blensos and Minters clearly proved, but it is a fact that had better be
quietly ceded. Judge Blenso was a relative, and it is quite true that
his young half-uncle had been reared from infancy to address him as
Uncle George. Garrott, who had no other nephew in the world, had always
thought it a little unfair.

The Judge's disaster had come upon him in the prime of a gallant
widowerhood. He had dived from an unfamiliar pier, one luckless day, in
the interests of a stout young woman, who flattered herself that she was
drowning. Diving too close to avoid her bulk, Charles's relative had
struck his head upon a submerged beam which should not have been there;
and the stout young woman, so far from drowning, had promptly proved
that she could float enough for two. She had saved her rescuer's life,
in short.

But the beam had had the last word in the encounter, after all. When
Uncle George Blenso got well of his concussion, it was early discovered
that he was just a little "different"; also that his nominal Real Estate
and Loans business downtown was far, far from solvent. It was
accordingly proposed in the family that Uncle George should go to the
Garrott place in Prince William County; but this proposal had been
rejected at once by Uncle George, who protested indignantly that he was
a city man. The upshot was that Charles, being the only city relative
extant, had invited the Judge to share his third floor here, turning out
his young friend and room-mate, Donald Manford, for that express
purpose. That had seemed to settle the issue. But no; very soon the
lively kinsman was pointing out that he would need money, of course, for
clothes, club-dues, and so on, and accordingly it was arranged that he
should become Charles's literary assistant on a regular salaried basis.

It happened that Charles had as yet had occasion to publish but a single
fiction ("The Truth About Jennie"; see "Favorite Magazine," for August,
1910). He had, indeed, as much need of a private chaplain as of a
secretary. The peculiarities of the case, thus, often struck and amused
him; and they did so now as, opening the door of the bedroom, hatted and
coated, he saw his secretary's still youthful head bowed pleasantly over
the magazine.

"Ah, my dear fellow, there you are!" said the secretary, with just a
little jump.

And putting down his reading-matter in a manner suggesting that, of
course, he had had to kill time somehow while waiting for Charles, he
went on at once in an agreeable confidential voice:--

"By the by, I intended to ask you--you've heard about this Miss
Trevenna? Gad, you know, Charles! Her father won't let her name be
mentioned!"

The employer eyed him gravely, pulling on his gloves. The story alluded
to was not unknown to him: how one modern girl, claiming more Freedom
than existed, had too rashly crossed the great gulf, and how, her
enterprise proving fatally unsuccessful, she had lately come home again.
He felt very sorry for Miss Trevenna.

"Fact!--her mother visits her in secret, in lodgings," said his
secretary, dropping his eager voice further. "A sad case--sad, yes--but,
my dear fellow, can we allow our girls to run off with other people's
husbands? No! Morals," said Judge Blenso, sternly, "are the bulwark of
the nation!--that's what _I_ say! Am I right, Charles?"

[Illustration: "NO! MORALS ARE THE BULWARK OF THE NATION!"]

Charles said that he was perfectly right. He then proposed that the
Judge should knock off work for the night, forthwith. But the Judge
looked rather shocked at the suggestion, and began to clack vigorously
at Dionysius.

"There's really no hurry about this short stuff, you know. Why not go
down and cheer Mrs. Herman up a bit? She always appreciates a call from
you."

The relative's hand irresistibly rose to his mustache.

"A fine woman, a charmin' fine widow-woman," said he, in his rich voice.
"But!--business _before_ pleasure, Charles. That's _my_ way, my boy."

However, the ringing motto seemed a little too good to live up to.
Hardly had the front door shut on Charles when Judge Blenso--he rather
insisted on the official title, now that he was secretary--hooded his
old typewriter for the night, turned down the light in the green-domed
lamp on the table, and descended to visit his landlady. That he had
small reverence for his half-uncle's New Thinking now became clear. The
Judge left the Studio (as he himself had christened it), chuckling
silently to himself, and on the steps began to chant aloud a sort
of gay recitative of his own composition. The chant went a beat
to every step, thus: "Cracking--piffle--walnuts--piffle--in a--sort
of--piffle--sadness!"



II


The Redmantle Club was more advanced than Charles, and he knew it. And
when he told his relative that he was going to it for stimulus, he must
have been secretly well aware that it was but a treacherous stimulus he
was likely to get.

The Club had been founded by Mrs. Frederick B. Seaman, who had once had
a novel published, long ago, at a nominal expense of two hundred and
fifty dollars. The name Redmantle had some significance which eludes
memory, but there seems to be no doubt that the founder's original idea
had been merely to gather together a few congenial persons to abuse the
publishers to. The times, however, chanced to be ripe for a broader
forum, one where the most advanced women of both sexes could meet and
freely speak out the New Mind. The Redmantle had seemed to fill the
long-felt want, from the start. Now its meetings began with a Programme,
and you may be sure nobody bothered with such small fry as a publisher.
The Redmantle speakers won salvos only by completely exterminating the
Family and the Home, or proving beyond successful contradiction that
Love Is Going Out.

By arriving late on purpose, Charles Garrott missed a speech by Mary
Wing on the New Education, for which he was rather sorry. For a year or
more he had regarded Miss Wing as one of his best friends, and he always
liked to hear her demolish, in characteristically forceful sentences,
the surviving tradition that the true object of education is to
ornament gentility. He liked to see Mary Wing lay her hand upon her
breast, her Self, and cry out: "So long as I live, whatever I do or
think or am, the center of the world for me is _here_. I will not
conjugate dead languages or recite the imports of Uruguay, before I
learn the first fact about my Self--my body and my mind, my background
and my opportunity!" On the other hand, by his late arrival, Charles
missed Miss Frothingham's advanced harp-solo, and Professor Clarence
Pollock's tribute to a celebrated lady anarchist. As to the elder Miss
Hodger's address on the New Ego, he was not much less opportune. Miss
Hodger was nearing her peroration as the writing tutor appeared at the
door.

He took up a position just inside, and looked through the parlor smoke.
The smoke emanated principally from the ladies, who were, however, as
five to one. Miss Hodger towered by a baby-grand piano, one hand upon an
album, and clamored for her Rights. She demanded these Rights of hers,
whatever they were, with such iteration and passion that a kindly,
simple person, had there been any such present, must needs have cried
out, "Give that lady her Rights there!--and quick about it!"

Miss Hodger's was a tall figure, bony but commanding; she had a flat
chest, a tangled mane of sorrel hair and a face somewhat like a horse's.
Of her argument, little need be said; you may find it in detail in the
very books where Miss Hodger found it. It was, in sum, an unanswerable
demonstration of woman's sacred duty of Developing her Ego. The exposé
of the Home proved particularly searching; it brought loud cheers. Much
Miss Hodger said, too, of the Higher Law and the Richness of
Personality, of Contributions to the Race and Enhancement of the Life
Stream. In Charles Garrott's ears one sentence seemed to ring and stick
above the rest: "Fiercely and relentlessly shall Modern Woman hack away
all that impedes her in her Self-Development--all, I care not what it
is!"

She ended with a kind of yell, thumped the album twice, and strode away
from the baby-grand. There were bursts of clapping, a chorus of
approval, and then general buzzing and commotion. The Programme was
over. Everybody was standing: all talking, nobody left to listen.
Servants entered bearing trays of light refreshments; light, indeed,
they looked. It was the Redmantle's social hour, the hour of good, free,
courageous talk.

Charles Garrott moved into the noisy room. All his sides, of course,
were not known to his fellow members, and yet he had a standing here. He
was recognized as one of the pioneer Rightsers; his last year's speech
before the Club, on "Work for Women," had been generally adjudged a
first-rate piece of Modern Thinking. And all the Redmantlers seemed to
like to talk to him, too; they would get round him and back him up into
corners in a way he scarcely liked. Mrs. Frederick B. Seaman looked as
if she meant to kiss him. "And now," she said, beaming, "for a good long
talk about my new book." He cleverly evaded her, but in so doing fell
right into the net of the hearthside anarchist, Professor Pollock, who
drew him in with a hand as large and soft as a beefsteak. Pollock was a
thin, bald young man, with the conventional flowing necktie, and the New
disappearing chin, and secretly Garrott had always thought him a most
terrific jackass.

"How are we going to relieve this White Slave situation, Garrott? How?
How?"

"It is one of the grave problems of the day," said Charles. "At the
moment I can only answer, as President Taft answered the workman at
Cooper--"

"What, you admit that you have no remedy to lay down? None whatever?"

"At the moment, none. It is one of the grave--"

The younger and even freer Miss Hodger, who had been hovering near,
exploded a mouthful of cigarette smoke, and exclaimed excitedly:--

"Oh sister, only think! Mr. Garrott has no remedy for the White Slave
situation!"

They thought it most reprehensible of him to have no remedy, and closed
in on him, bursting with theirs. "Have you not considered the
necessities of the living wage!" demanded the elder Miss Hodger's
joyless voice, suddenly at his elbow. "Living wage--bah!" said Professor
Pollock, hotly. "A mere sop--a mere feeble temporizing--" "You must get
into their homes!" cried the youngest Miss Hodger, who admitted homes
only as places to get into. "You must take them very, very young...."

So they fell to quarreling among themselves, and Charles Garrott
wriggled away, wishing that he were as cocksure about anything as the
Hodgers were about everything, and resolving to try to be henceforward.
So he eluded Miss Frothingham, who was handicapped by her harp and
nearsighted besides, but ran at once against a crimson-faced woman in a
purple negligée, a stranger to him he felt sure, but she asked him at
once, in an angry sort of way, "Don't you favor a public reception
_immediately_ to splendid Flora Trevenna?" In spite of his resolution,
Charles's eyes fell before the threatening gaze. It seemed to be the
sixth time, at least, that he had caught the name of Miss Trevenna among
the Turkish fumes, but the idea of the public reception immediately was
new to him. "Don't you think she's struck a great Blow for Freedom?"
demanded the crimson one, with rising indignation. "Don't you think
she's weakened the hold of the horrible Tyranny of Marriage?"

Thus the Modern got stimuli, of just the sort he had known he would get
if he came. Members jostled him, blew smoke in his eyes, laid
demonstrative hands upon him. All about him in the dense air, he heard
hot voices crying out incorrect statements of things they had lately
misread; at best loose bits plucked from authors whom he, Charles, had
turned inside out year before last, as like as not. And why, he
wondered, need Redmantlers _look_ so queer? Why must new ideas, if only
the least bit radical, invariably attract people who liked to wear
breakfast-gowns in the evening, people with uncombed hair and burning
pop-eyes, people who had little chin, indeed, but yet far more chin than
humor?

And then suddenly, in the midst of the febrile Newness, the young
authority found himself talking to a sweet-faced girl from the country,
who looked at him with woman's eyes, and spoke simple little things in a
pretty voice: "Do you play bridge? Do you tango? It must be _wonderful_
to be a writer...."

It was really an extraordinary experience.

The development came by way of his good friend, Mary Wing, whom Charles
reached at last with a certain sense of making port. Miss Wing, it must
be known, was the assistant principal of the great City High School,
where no woman had ever been before her, where she herself had arrived
only after eight years' incessant battling upward. She was also, this
long time, president of the State Branch of the National League for
Education Reform, with the prospect of presently mounting far higher, to
nothing less, if you please, than the General Secretaryship of that rich
and powerful body. Considering her history and her exploits, it seemed
that she should have been six feet tall, with a gaze like a Gorgon and
a jaw like Miss Hodger's. But Mary Wing was actually a slight and almost
fragile-looking creature, with quite girlish blue eyes in a colorless
face that wore an air of deceptive delicacy.

She was two months older than her friend, Mr. Garrott, which made her
thirty in December. And she was undoubtedly the most distinguished
person in that strident room, not excepting (at the present writing) Mr.
Garrott himself.

The assistant principal was discovered leaning against a bookcase,
eating sandwiches in large bites, two bites to a sandwich, and paying no
attention to the earnest talk of the group she seemed to belong to. "It
must be the effect of speaking," she said to Garrott. "I'm ravenous. But
goodness, there's no nourishment in these little paper things." And
almost at once she demanded, firm as a Redmantler, if he had ever been
to call on Dr. Flower; some cousin or other of hers, this was, who
(through her connections in the educational world) had lately taken an
appointment as lecturer at the Medical School. Charles had agreed to
call on this worthy, it seemed, but naturally he hadn't done so.

She chided him for his remissness. It was a mild enough reproof, in all
conscience; yet it was at that moment that he, with his diagnostic
tendency, caught himself eyeing Mary Wing critically, as if she were any
other Redmantler. And then he seemed to become aware that, without
knowing it exactly, he must have been eyeing Mary Wing critically for
some time past now.

"He'll need some patients, too, to eke out. I must look into that," said
she, popping the second half of a sandwich into her mouth. "I suppose
you don't know anybody who intends to be sick soon, in a costly way?"

He shook his head. He himself, he intimated, had no idea of getting sick
merely to oblige her rural cousins.

"What does that girl do?" he added, almost irritably. "Didn't you tell
me there was a girl, twenty-five years old? Why doesn't she work, and
eke out?"

"She does work. She runs the house."

"Apparently you didn't see Mrs. Waldo's statement that quarter of an
hour a day was quite enough for that so-called work."

"Do you believe that?"

"I know it's false. Still there are ninety-six quarters of an hour in a
day, people estimate. What sort of girl is she? Little nitwit, I
suppose?"

"She's my cousin."

"Lots of people have little nitwits for cousins. Why doesn't she pitch
in and earn her keep, like a free personality--as our friend Miss Hodger
would say?"

Miss Wing was observing him with a strange air, resembling amusement.
"You must really ask her that yourself some time, Mr. Garrott."

"I'll do it with pleasure, the first time ever I clap eyes on her."

"Well, then," said she, with a sudden laugh, "do it _now_!"

And thereupon, within ten seconds, the managing young woman had whisked
him around a knot of Redmantlers, whisked him around the bookcase, and
was saying in merry, efficient tones:--

"Angela, this is the famous Mr. Garrott you've heard so much about--my
cousin, Miss Flower! Mr. Garrott's very anxious to--"

She paused wickedly, but after all finished without malice, "To make
your acquaintance." And so Mr. Garrott did not have to ask the country
cousin on the spot what she was thinking about not to earn her keep.

The girl had been standing against the other corner of the bookcase all
the time, it seemed. She was talking, in a polite sort of way, to
another guest--Mr. Tilletts, the wealthy and seeking widower--and
fanning away tobacco smoke with a hand too small for the heavy odds. Mr.
Tilletts was removed at once by the thoroughly competent Miss Wing.

Charles Garrott, recovered from the sudden little surprise, looked at
the cousin with interest, and was at no loss for easy conversation.
While he knew of Miss Flower very well, he pointed out, he had had no
idea that she was here this evening. In fact, he hadn't gathered that
Miss Flower went in for--well, for this sort of thing, exactly.

"Why--I really don't, I'm afraid," said she in her soft voice. "I don't
suppose I understand it all very well. I just came--because Cousin Mary
invited me!"

She hesitated, then laughed, and finally said: "And you see, it's the
first party I've been invited to since I came here to live!"

"And you like parties?"

"Yes, so much. Don't you?"

The remark, at, and as to, the Redmantle, seemed delightful.

"I did, when I was young and gay. Now, I never seem to have time to
enjoy myself any more. You've been meeting a good many people, I
suppose?"

"Well, no,--not many yet. Really hardly any." The girl laughed, and
again showed a charming naïveté: "You're the very first man I've met
since we came here--except Mr. Tilletts!"

"But that's a tremendous exception, Miss Flower. You appreciate that
he's one of our leading swains?"

"Oh, _is_ he!" she said, a little disconcerted. "Why--I hope he didn't
think I was rude! I thought he was--somebody's father, you see, or
uncle...."

Charles Garrott regarded the cousin pleasurably, with no thought of
cross-examination. He, the authority, it need scarcely be said, had
recognized this girl at sight. Manifestly, she was none other than the
Nice Girl, the Womanly Woman, whom he and all moderns were forever
holding up to scorn. Doubtless it was merely the increased conservative
reaction: but Charles, for the moment, seemed conscious of no scorn in
him toward Miss Angela Flower.

The cousin was pretty; not beautiful, no throne-shaker; but pretty, and
attractive-looking. Wholly normal she looked, quite engagingly so, with
her fine clear skin, smooth dark hair, and large limpid eyes. In her
manner there was something soft, simple, and sweet, an ingenuous desire
to please and be pleased; Miss Flower was feminine, in short,--it could
not be denied. In a company, where the women acted like men, and the men
acted like the Third Sex, this girl seemed content to remind you, like
her mothers, that she was a woman.

Her conversation, intrinsically speaking, was not remarkable. But--the
insidious contrast again--in a Midst where everybody else was conversing
remarkably, plain conversation itself became an episode, and a charming
one. She spoke of bridge, saying that she and Cousin Mary were hoping to
"get up a table" one night very soon; of Mitchellton, where she had
lived seven years till September; of the maxixe and the smallness of the
house Mary Wing had taken for them; a dozen such un-New simplicities.
And then, as she happened to be saying something about the strangeness
of the city, "just at first," Charles Garrott exclaimed suddenly, rather
pleased:--

"There's a friend of yours, at any rate, Miss Flower--Donald Manford!
The last one in the world you'd expect to meet here."

The engineer must have just come in; over bobbing heads, through waving
arms, his fine figure and bronzed face had been suddenly glimpsed at the
doorway. This young man was another cousin of Mary Wing's; she, indeed,
had raised him by hand; and he looked hardly less alien at the Redmantle
Club than Miss Angela Flower herself.

To Garrott's astonishment, Miss Flower did not know Donald from Adam.

"Is _that_ Mr. Manford?" she exclaimed, surprised apparently by her
cousin's cousin's good looks. "Of course I've known _of_ him for the
longest time, but--"

"Why, that's strange--he's like a brother to Mary Wing. But then," said
he, reconsidering, "Donald's out of the city half the time, and does
nothing but work when he's here."

"Oh! Cousin Mary said she was going to bring him to see us some
time--but--"

He enlarged upon the young engineer's industry (trained into him by Miss
Wing); explained how he was busier than visual just now in view of his
coming trip to Wyoming; mentioned the great Mora dam and cut-off
project, on which he expected a commission under Gebhardt himself.

"And your cousin Mary, too," he concluded, in the justest way, "is an
awfully busy person, you see."

"Yes, of course, I know! She does work _terribly_ hard, doesn't she?"

After the slightest pause, the girl added: "It's such a pity she has to,
don't you think so?"

On which Donald Manford dropped cleanly from Charles's mind, and he
inquired with authoritative interest, artfully concealed: "How do you
mean, exactly?"

"Well--I don't know--"

She looked at him, laughing a little, as if not certain how far she
could say what she meant; but finding his gaze so extremely encouraging,
she went on seriously:--

"Don't you think when a woman gets really wrapped up in business--and
all that--she's apt to miss some of the best things of life?"

He might have laughed at the quaint deliciousness of that, to him,
Charles Garrott. But he didn't.

"That's the great question your sex is working out, isn't it?" he said,
carefully. "I don't suppose work--just moderate, useful occupation--ever
hurt anybody much, do you?"

"Oh, no!--of course not. That's just what I believe, too. I believe
everybody ought to have work to do. But--all the work isn't teaching or
going to an office--or being a public speaker--do you think so?"

"Oh, never. No, indeed."

She hesitated and said, laughing: "I know _I_ find it work enough just
keeping a house and doing the housework--and being a daughter and
sister!"

It was at that point that Charles's purely conventional look altered,
his inmost self pricking up its ears, as it were. And a moment later the
simple girl said, in the naïvest way imaginable, what seemed immediately
to stick in his scientific Woman lore like a burr:--

"Of course I haven't studied and read like Cousin Mary, but truly it
seems to me that--just making a home is sometimes all the business a
woman could possibly attend to...."

He stood looking down at her in the strangest way, engrossed with novel
reflections. She would have been astonished had she guessed how her
chance phrase had set this man's mind to working, behind the pleasant
mask. In her innocence she clearly did not understand, even after all
the speeches, how at the Redmantle Club we talked of all businesses, and
everybody's business, but never the business of making a home.

The reactionary talk proceeded for a space. But shortly, there were
signs that the meeting was about to adjourn. And it was clear to
Charles, as a true writer of a philosophical tendency, that he should be
glad to be alone for a space now, and to think.

He said suddenly:--

"Miss Flower, I want very much to introduce Donald Manford to you,
before I go. May I do it now? Won't you promise to hold fast to this
bookcase, and not budge till I come back?"

The girl promised. She seemed pleased by his thought of her, but sorry
over his own impending departure. "Oh, do _you_ have to go now?" she
said, and her woman's eyes seemed to add quite plainly: "I'd lots rather
talk to you than meet Mr. Manford."

The young authority smiled at her, and disappeared into the company.
Directly, he was back again, the engineer in tow.

Donald, found conversing in a nook with another handsome guest, a Miss
Helen Carson, had rather resisted removal and been hauled off, truth to
tell, in some ill-humor. But Charles, for his part, felt warmly pleased
with himself, bringing together these two nice, normal cousins of Mary
Wing's. The girl too, looked pleased; her eyes were shining, a pretty
color tinged her young cheek.

"I'm so glad to meet you, Mr. Manford, at last. We're really sort of
connections, aren't we--once removed!"

"Yes, I believe so!--that's fine. Delighted to know you," said Mr.
Manford. "I hope you enjoyed the speeches this evening?"

"Well--that's hardly a fair question!" laughed Miss Angela, looking from
one man to the other. "Are you a--regular member?"

The query brought applauding laughter from Mr. Garrott and a weak groan
from Mr. Manford. "You mean I look like one? Oh, that's a blow! No,
honor bright," he added, "I leave all the advanced stuff to Mary."

Then Charles took his leave, in the friendliest manner. He felt, in an
odd sort of way, that there had sprung a kind of bond between this girl
and him, all the realer in that she, of course, was so unconscious of
it. So kindly did he feel toward Mary Wing's cousin, indeed, that when
she hoped, in her charming natural way, that he would come to see them
some time soon, he, though anything but a caller, actually came very
near promising to do so.

Miss Flower's eyes regretted his going; they were feminine eyes. Charles
smiled into them again, pressed her hand, and turned away toward the
Studio, to think.

By the door, he ran again into Mary Wing. The educator had changed her
position, but was still eating sandwiches. She beckoned Charles nearer,
in her confident way, and said:--

"Do you remember my telling you how much I wanted to see Donald settled
before he went off, and sketching a few of the qualifications the girl
must have? And your saying that what I wanted was a syndicate?"

He remembered, he said.

"See how I treasure up your _bon mots_. Well, there she is."

And she nodded down the room, not even in the direction of her cousin
from the country, but to none other than Miss Carson, now found
conversing with the heated Pollock.

"Oh," said Garrott.

"Why," exclaimed Mary, the moment her eyes had followed her nod, "I
wonder where Donald is!"

He decided to pretend not to hear. Gazing at Miss Carson in the light of
this information, he was ready to concede that she seemed a sound enough
modern choice. Well-connected, well-to-do, and completely educated, the
young lady in question, while now taking "two years out" to please her
mother, was next year going to work, to please herself--of course, in
Social Service. Young and alluring Miss Carson looked, indeed. But
something in the mould of her smooth chin, confronting the young man who
had none, seemed to serve notice that, though she was beautiful, she
knew that Women's Egos must be free.

"Don't you think she may be a little firm? I mean, for Donald?"

"Firm? Not a bit!--she's human and competent. Heavens!--you don't want
Donald to marry a helpless little silly, do you? But what on earth
became of him, did you notice? I made him come here after me specially
to meet her, and I had them talking so nicely--"

Then Charles said firmly: "I just introduced him to Miss Flower. It
seemed you'd neglected to do so. By the way, your cousin's charming."

"Oh," said Mary, rather drawn-out.

And, after a rebuking pause, she added in pedagogic tones: "Well, I'm
sorry you took him away from Helen. I'm serious about this match, you
see. It would almost reconcile me to giving Donald up."

The young man's look at his old friend was certainly critical now. And
he refused to feel in the least sorry for his interference with her cool
eu-marital scheme. For, taking even the most liberal view, Modernity was
for Moderns; probably always would be. What under the sun did a fellow
like Donald want with a wife who would prove him wrong about a cosine,
and keep him up jawing about Mrs. Gilman till two o'clock in the
morning?

       *       *       *       *       *

From the Turkish air of the Redmantle, Charles Garrott passed out into
the bracing November night. Two blocks farther along, he passed the door
of another club, a completely male one. And down the wide steps, between
the columnar lights, there came shambling a large, loose-jointed,
round-faced man in a brown felt hat, and joined him.

"Well, Charlie."

"Good evening, Mr. Wing."

Having caught stride, the two men walked on in silence. This Mr. Wing
was Mary's Uncle Oliver, an interesting individual in his way, member of
the City School Board, and in the business world known sometimes as a
"capitalist," sometimes again as a loan-shark. When in the vein, Mr.
Wing could be conversational enough, and his morose air at present
indicated that he had lost not less than three dollars at the Bellevue
Club card-tables this evening.

When they had proceeded some three blocks in total silence, Charles,
emerging from his brown study, said idly:--

"Mr. Wing, do you believe in the Woman's Movement?"

Hearing no reply to his query, he glanced around, and found Mr. Wing
slowly shaking his head. It seemed to be a time-gaining sort of shake;
it undertook to hold the floor temporarily, promising good sound
argument to follow. Charles waited. But Uncle Oliver did not speak; he
only continued to shake his head, slowly and profoundly. And when the
two had traversed half a block in this provisional sort of way, the
money-lender suddenly turned up the steps of the house where he lived,
still shaking his head.

Halfway up the steps, he looked back over his shoulder, and said:--

"Well, good-night, Charlie."

"Good-night, Mr. Wing."



III


The first thing the author did, on opening the door of the Studio, was
to look at the clock. Big Bill pointed to but five minutes of eleven.
Good! There remained a clean hour and a half before he would have to
cease work and go to bed, to wake up a private tutor.

All the lethargy of the earlier evening seemed to have vanished now,
under the strong reverse stimulus of the Redmantle Club. Having turned
up the light in his gas-lamp, the young man stood a moment, thinking
intently, and then sat down at his writing-table. The table was twelve
years old, and had been to college and law-school. It was worn and
stained, but still strong, and bore up, besides the lamp and clock, not
only a large array of writer's paraphernalia, but a considerable
floating miscellany, too, including a clipping or so, several unanswered
letters, a stray tobacco-pouch, a thick exercise-book, and the
particular volume on Women he happened to be reading at the moment.
Ignoring these, the proprietor drew from the back of his table drawer a
capacious brown-paper folder, and from the folder plucked three
typewritten sheets, held together with a clip.

It was seen that the topmost of these sheets bore a heading: MARY WING.
And for some moments the author of them sat in stillness, conning over
the lines that followed: the magnanimous lines he had prepared with such
pains long ago, and then tamely put to sleep in a drawer.

He had composed this eulogy last winter, to help Miss Wing in her
campaign for the assistant principalship of the High School. His plan,
of which she knew nothing to this day, had been cunning and complete.
First he would get this "write-up" into the "Persons in the Foreground"
department of "Willcox's," the famous and enormously circulated weekly;
then he would have the "Post" reprint it; finally he would induce all
the local papers to print glowing editorials demanding, "Is this
prophetess to be without honor in her own country?" Unquestionably a
most helpful plan; but characteristically, Mary had not waited for it.
By some "pull" she had, she had put her little matter through months
ahead of schedule, and Judge Blenso had just finished typing the
"write-up," late one winter's afternoon, when Charles was summoned to
the telephone to be greeted by the first woman assistant principal in
history. He, of course, had been delighted with her success. And
yet--had he not felt even then that the episode was typical of a
positively manly independence?

Now he read over his forgotten words with cool judiciality:--

     Her name was in newspaper headlines before she was out of her
     teens; and many and many a time since. She wished to be a
     doctor, and the Medical School would not take her in. And
     shortly this slim girl, with her sweetly-cut chin and ethereal
     eyes, had raised the whole State on the issue of principle thus
     thrown down: Did a woman have the right to study, or not? She
     stormed the courts for an injunction, she set the legislature
     by the ears for a special act. The story of her personal
     interview with the Governor, at the height of the disturbance,
     is often told to this day; but never by any friend of the
     Governor's. And then, when she was within a step of winning the
     long fight, her father died suddenly and she faced the
     immediate necessity of earning a living.

Farther along, the author's eye found the particular passage that had
been in his mind from the start, the part about the National League for
Education Reform. Having recounted how the bequest of Rufus B. Zecker's
millions had "assured the permanence and ultimate triumph of the
League's programme," the generous "puff" went on:--

     What the National League contemplates is nothing less than the
     remaking of our entire educational system, on the basis of a
     new perception of truth, namely: that education is, not
     learning at all, but purely the process of fitting the
     individual for effectual relations with his (or her)
     environment. With the League's propaganda to that end, under
     the brilliant leadership of Horace Gurney Ames, Miss Wing has
     been closely associated for the past seven years. Her work here
     has been, indeed, the dominant part of her career....

The dominant part of her life, he would better have written. And that
was precisely the trouble.

The sheets dropped from the young man's hands, and he gazed unwinking at
the green translucence of his lamp. His mind skipped back to a day in
early September, when Mary and her mother had come home from their two
weeks in the metropolis--Mrs. Wing still looking rather crushed from the
overwhelming rush of New York, Mary radiant with the hope that before
long she might go back to New York, to stay there the rest of her life.
For on that journey she had abruptly learned that the League directors
had their eyes upon her with reference to their General Secretaryship,
which was to become vacant next March. Undoubtedly, the brilliant Dr.
Ames had sounded her pretty directly on this point. Undoubtedly, too, it
would be another long step up for Mary, making her, in the educational
world at least, a figure of national consequence. Once again, of course,
Charles Garrott had been delighted. And yet it was clear to him now that
his Modernity had first felt conservative reactions on that very day.

Through the shut door of the bedroom there came a gentle snoring. After
the day's secretarial labor, Judge Blenso slept well. Charles rose and
walked his carpet, much worn with a writer's meditative pacing.

The wisest of us generalize from the instances that lie nearest us. How
far this young man's views on Woman had been moulded by contrasting the
maturing uselessness of his pupil Grace Chorister, say, with the fine
efficience of Miss Wing, he himself could not have said. But at least he
knew that Mary Wing had long embodied the best of the whole Movement for
him. He had held her up, in season and out, as a perfect example of the
New Woman at her best. And Mary Wing was that, he declared it now; the
real thing, as different as possible from the hollow shams of the
Redmantle Club. Of course--of _course_--she had a right, just the same
right that a man had, to put away her mother, her family and friends,
and follow away the star of her work. But ... if only she showed a
little more appreciation of values apart from My Career; if only you
could imagine Mary sometimes speaking of Being a Daughter and Being a
Sister.

Yes; those were the words that rose naturally in his mind. Beyond doubt,
Mary Wing's cousin from the backwoods had given a push to Charles
Garrott's thought; he would have been the first to admit that. Not
merely had Miss Angela happened to body forth, in the most pleasing,
unconscious way, that very type which all Redmantlers so derided; but
further, she had artlessly used a phrase which, to his authoritative
mind, had helped to scientize her case at a bound. For of course the
most scientific modern demand as to Miss Angela's class came simply down
to this, that all Temporary Spinsters should have some regular business
to occupy their hands and heads. Very well, then, laughed this little
girl: What about the _Business_ of Making Homes?

The phrase, connoting so much more than mere "keeping house," was worthy
of a writer. And when had this other doctrine grown so strong and sure,
that the Business of Making a Career, of Developing My Ego, was
necessarily the biggest business in the world?

In the silence of the large dim Studio, the young man stood stroking the
bridge of his nose, somewhat worriedly. It was a well-cut bridge, and
held three brown freckles.

It occurred to him, not for the first time, that he himself was helping
to spread the egoistic doctrine referred to. He remembered his novel, in
short: his Old Novel, as he already called it, albeit it was his only
one, and he and Judge Blenso had completed it but two weeks ago, to a
day. This novel, in manuscript, was now in the hands of the great house
of Willcox Brothers Company, whom Charles, after due thought, had
selected as his publishers. Willcox's offer, and the contract, might
come by any mail now.

To the writing, and infinite rewriting, of this first work had gone the
scant leisure of more than four years. Its title-page read: "BONDWOMEN:
A Novel of Modern Marriage." (The Judge had first typed the title
BANDWOMEN, as if it were a Novel of Female Bandsmen, which had annoyed
Charles very much.) Considering the cunning with which he had labored to
"keep the story moving," it could scarcely be doubted, that "Bondwomen"
was destined to have a large sale. And that, in fact, was just the
danger; that was precisely the reason that he, the author, felt this
sense of moral responsibility. Young married women, young impressionable
Temporary Spinsters everywhere, would soon be reading this book, and
moulding their characters upon it. He, of course, had never preached any
of the wilder, Trevenna Modernity. But all the same.... That passage
there, for instance, where _Lily Slender_, in the lonely vigil on the
terrace, reviews the status of Parasitic Woman and decides to leave her
husband, and grow her Soul: certainly the probability was that
intelligent women all over the world (he would have to grant British and
Colonial rights at once, no doubt) would shortly be devouring that keen,
advanced Thinking; and, it was to be feared, a general exodus from Homes
would follow. In his mind's eye, Charles saw armies of women rising and
packing Gladstone bags in the stilly night, and stealing forth, just as
the dawn whitened the east, to join _Lily Slender_ in lifting marriage
to the Higher Plane, by means of Commerce.

He had put much of Mary Wing into _Lily_; he knew that. But then he
hadn't taken it in, in those days, how serious Mary was as to--what was
the word of that mad ass Hodger?--fiercely hacking away whatever impeded
her in her Self-Development.

Had not the moment rather come when some one, some all-seeing and
completely modern authority, should resolutely sound the Note of
Warning? Was it so sure that careering Egoism had anything more valuable
to give the world than the old virtues which it flouted? Beauty, charm,
and cheer, tenderness, selfless sympathy, all that mothering meant: was
it not ridiculous to ignore these enormous contributions to the work of
the world, because, forsooth, they could not show an immediate cash
return?

Now all the clocks of the city--all, that is, that were right, and had
bells--began to sound midnight. But the absorbed author and authority
paced on, aware of no sound. He was thinking, with something like
excitement, of his next novel, "Bondwomen's" greater successor, for
which he was now just struggling to fix his point of view, straighten
out his "moral plot," by means of notes in the old French
exercise-book. Long as he had sensed a certain spiritual starkness in
his first novel, long as he had looked forward to his second, the vital
questions concerning his new "line" had never yet been settled in his
mind.... Well, suppose that, with a frank, courageous change of front,
he employed the New Novel to sound the wholesome Note of Warning;
suppose that he boldly took a Home-Maker for his heroine, for example,
and justified her--justified her _scientifically_--as no modern thinker
had ever justified her before....

The striking idea was not a new one altogether; but its possibilities,
suddenly opening out, rapidly grew more and more interesting.
Unfortunately, before it could be developed in even the smallest degree,
it was abruptly interfered with by a most unwelcome intrusion of the
practical.

Charles Garrott was a tutor. He had turned eagerly to his table, to
capture certain phrases at least, while they were yet hot in his mind.
But now, chillingly, his eye fell upon that other exercise-book, lying
there publicly atop the volume on Women. At a glance that book looked
exactly like its sister, kept hidden in a drawer; but in fact there was
a boundless distinction. No hand had overwritten the label of that book
there raising it to the peerage, as it were. That book was just a common
book: "French Composition." And it was known to contain uncorrected
exercises, forty sentences at least, which must be tutorially attended
to, before Charles Garrott slept this night.

There followed a brief struggle; but it could end in only one way.
Charles, with no good grace, sat at his table and clutched up a fat blue
pencil.

It was a galling occurrence. Yet a man, of course, must live, whether
cynical Frenchmen can see the necessity or not. And the tutoring, say
what you would against it, was the best net result of a gradual sifting
process, designed to find what would yield the largest amount of money
for the least amount of work. So had Charles Garrott bent his life, to
be a writer. Bred casually to the law, he had thrown over the
encouraging beginnings of a practice directly he found that clients
expected to take all a man's time, including nights even. Teaching he
did not love, and yet, as he had enjoyed an excellent education, it
"came easier" than anything else. His boast to friends, indeed, was that
he could teach anything, whether he had ever heard of it before or not;
and it was a fact that at a private school once--years ago, in the
interval between college and law-school--he had taught Spanish on three
days' notice, keeping, as he said, precisely one page and a half ahead
of his class the whole year through. But teaching Ancient Languages at
Blaines College was found, upon fair experiment, to involve too many
papers in the Studio, conferences with boys, annoying teachers'
meetings, and similar invasions of a writer's privacy. Besides, it was
not nearly lucrative enough, after the coming of the Judge, who drew
twenty-five dollars a month as Secretary, besides his keep.

Thus had evolved the private tutor, with a waiting-list. Thus it was
that probably the only living compeer of the lady in Sweden must put
aside his Thinking to-night, to peruse and criticize such stuff as
this:--

     16. _Bon jour, Monsieur le Curé! Avez vous vu le grand cheval
     de mon oncle, le médecin?_

Oh, detestable!

The two French exercise-books--twins with what a difference!--had
started life equally as the property of a certain dear old lady, who had
been spurred into studious endeavor by reading in a magazine that Roman
Cato learned Greek at eighty. She had pointed out to her daughter,
quite excitedly, that she herself was but seventy-one, and French was
easier, besides; and that evening she had telephoned to Charles. The old
lady wrote a very neat but virtually illegible hand, employing the
finest Spencerian pen ever seen:--

     23. _Non, petit Henri, non; votre soeur Marie n'est pas
     jamais aussi méchante que vous fûmes hier soir._

The author's golden moments fled.

Nevertheless, before he went to bed, Charles Garrott did produce from
his drawer that other private book of his (the front part of which,
also, was stuffed with observations about the Curé and naughty little
Henry). Here, for what time he had, the young modern set down, on a
fresh page, preliminary Notes, such as, indeed, contrasted oddly with
those inscribed in the earlier evening. And when he shut up his book to
go to bed, he did it with an air, and spoke aloud:--

"Let 'em bite on that!"

From his tone, you might have supposed that all the Redmantlers of the
world would come to-morrow and look at these novel words of his. That,
of course, was far from being the case: these were his inviolable
secrets. Yet so real were his imaginings to the young man, so
reactionary seemed even the thought of a Novel of Warning, that an
unmistakable defiance had tinged his voice as he spoke. And particularly
did this defiant air seem to extend to his excellent friend, Mary Wing.

Charles Garrott went to bed that night thinking defiantly of Mary (and
almost tenderly of Mary's so different cousin); and on succeeding
afternoons, when he took his walks abroad, he did not turn his steps, as
was frequently his habit, toward streets where the advanced assistant
principal was likely to be met.

None the less, he did meet Mary on the street, before the week was out;
and then the case was such that the secret sense of disloyalty faded,
and Charles saw that he had been right all along. Mary, in short, was
found parading Washington Street, where the largest possible number of
people would be certain to see her, in the company of the too celebrated
Miss Trevenna. And then the authority thought of the Home-Making cousin
more sympathetically than ever; though he did not guess that the cousin,
chancing to see him and his ladies from an upstairs window, was also
thinking, not unsympathetically, of him.



IV


It was not Charles's fault that he did not see Miss Angela, to-day, as
she saw him; the sight of her would have been agreeable to him, at that
moment particularly. But the window from which the pretty cousin looked
out happened to be a considerable distance away; and she gathered
nothing of his sentiments.

Dr. Flower's house, indeed, was not on Washington Street at all, but on
Center, a very different street. Center, however, had this merit, that
it stood back to back with Washington, and as the Washington Street
residences were mostly "detached" at this point, the rear of the Flower
house commanded a certain view of that handsome thoroughfare; not much
of it, of course,--an oblique slice cut in between houses. The distance,
as has been said, was rather great for eyes less keen than the lynx's.
But a pair of opera-glasses at the parted curtain discreetly bridged the
space, and brought a few feet of the Street of the Rich under the
legitimate observation of the less materially successful.

Now, when she had leveled her glasses upon the three figures--for
Charles, at this trying moment, was escorting _two_ ladies down the
promenade--Miss Angela felt, to say truth, a little lonely and out of
things. Not only was Mr. Garrott the first man she had met in the new
city, but she had met him only, as it must now have seemed to her, like
ships passing in the night. Not dreaming how she had been figuring in
his thought, the girl felt, humanly and femininely, a little depressed.
And when she presently reflected, "I suppose this is the time he goes
down to lunch every day!"--the small thought was actually a cheering one
to her, presenting, as it were, some point of contact with Washington
Street and the pleasant happenings that seemed to go on over there.

Such, in fine, was the sheer enchantment of distance. To Mr. Garrott
himself, this public promenade was as far from a pleasant happening as
could well have been conceived.

When he had looked over the street just now, and seen who his old
friend's companion was, Charles had, indeed, experienced a decided
shock. On the heels of that, he had had a moment of distinct
uncertainty. Ought he to cross and join this remarkable pair, or should
he avert his eyes? The etiquette here was unknown to him, the business
without precedent in his experience.

There was more than etiquette involved, of course. While this particular
city was alive to contemporary currents, and even had its little
Redmantle Club, it still considered the Church of England marriage
service a sound start for a union, and associated contrary theories
exclusively with inferior morals. To walk Washington Street with Miss
Trevenna was, as it were, to wound and rebuke the city's old-fashioned
prejudices. But that, without doubt, was the very reason Mary Wing was
doing it.

Charles had crossed the street. Mary Wing saw him, half-way over. Not
suspecting how his unfavorable scrutiny had been upon her for some time
past, she smiled a bright welcome.

He was presented to Miss Trevenna. She acknowledged his greeting in an
absent, fluty voice, and turned on him briefly a face of almost nun-like
serenity, palely lit by a pair of starry eyes. He found her altogether a
mystic-looking creature, not easily associated with things wild and
gay.

"I was just telling Flora about the Education Reform League," continued
Mary, in her calm tones.

But Charles, after all, had no great chance that day to show his
fearlessness of mere public opinion. Hardly had he passed out of Miss
Angela Flower's range of vision, when the walk of three ended, if the
episode did not. It was Miss Trevenna's corner, it seemed; she could not
be persuaded to go farther.

[Illustration: CHARLES HAD NO GREAT CHANCE TO SHOW HIS FEARLESSNESS OF
PUBLIC OPINION]

"I'd turn with you, but I have a class," said Mary, disappointed, and a
little surprised, it seemed. "I wish you'd stroll on with me!"

"I've something to do at my room--some business to attend to, really."

"Then let's walk this afternoon, do! Shall I come for you?"

"How nice of you! I'd like to so much."

On which the girl was gone, stepping on light feet down the side street.
In the momentary lapse of talk, Charles's eye went after her. He saw
something mysteriously withdrawn in that gray figure, something set
forever apart.

And then, while he and his friend walked on six steps in silence, the
young man wondered, with a sudden fierce annoyance, what Mary thought
she was doing exactly.

Of Miss Trevenna he knew only what the world knew, which was little
enough. One of several daughters of a prosperous family, she had been
known as a reserved, and somewhat dreamy girl, indifferent to social
life, and much addicted to curling up at home with books of poetry;
Shelley's poetry or some such bewildering stuff; altogether a queer
person. She even wrote poetry herself, it was damagingly alleged after
the crash, and it was recalled that in women's meetings she had
sometimes risen and expressed, in the quietest sort of way, ideas which
disconcerted even the Hodgers of her day. Duly there had come to town
the entirely typical dashing stranger: Robert McKittrick, this one was,
an architect in government employ, who came with excellent letters. Mr.
McKittrick was seen in public, a time or two, with Mr. Trevenna's
quietly peculiar daughter; it was known that a sane and sound Mrs.
McKittrick existed in Philadelphia, or some such place; there may have
been a little mild talk, but it was very little and very mild. And then
one fine day, the town was startled with the news that these two had
taken the great jump together, by the last night mail train north.

It was the sort of thing you read about in every novel nowadays,
especially if written by an Englishman. But this time, unluckily, it had
really happened, and in a community not too large for a homogeneous
public opinion. Moreover, life does differ just a little from the
novels, in that it possesses no invisible author to shut the book
splendidly, the moment the case is proved. Life did not leave Mr.
McKittrick and Miss Trevenna forever singing in the honeymoon heyday. It
merely kept them in the back of the town's mind for two years, a tidbit
or a terrible warning, according as you looked at it, and then it
brought Miss Trevenna back to us again, alone.

It might have seemed the oldest and the vulgarest story in the world.
The weak, trusting maiden, the handsome, promissory villain, the flight,
the rude awakening and Conviction of Sin, and then the piteous Return
(Act III, Curtain) to Forgiveness, a black shawl, Quick Decline, and
Death: these things have wrung the gallery's scalding tears from farther
back than we can remember. But well Charles Garrott understood that Miss
Trevenna's "case" had nothing to do with this cheap business. He thought
it right enough, of course (theoretically speaking), that Mary Wing
should sympathize with a sister in distress. And yet.... Well, no one,
certainly, had "deceived" or "betrayed" Miss Trevenna. Quite probably
she had proposed the excursion herself, like one of the glorious
heroines at the moment educating British maidenhood. Miss Trevenna had
gone with her lover because she had a Right to Her Happiness; she had
gone to fulfil the Unwritten Law of Her Being; she had gone to Strike a
Blow for Freedom. It was absurd to look for remorse in a black shawl
here.

And still, glancing after that oddly cloistral figure, the young man
felt that the net effect was not so different from the sorry old
melodrama, after all.

He spoke suddenly, with a manner proving that he did not pride himself
on wearing a mask for nothing:--

"Did you know that a woman's occipital condyles are less voluminous than
a man's,--yes, considerably so,--while her zygomatic arches are more
regular? Well, then, take my word for it, for they are."

Miss Wing rewarded him by coming out of her abstraction with a laugh.
She asked him in what great tome he had learned that fascinating fact.

"Ah, that's my secret. By the way," said Charles, "how's that charming
little cousin of yours, Miss Angela?"

He spoke in his most natural voice, as if no thought of conflict had
ever risen between him and the best of New Women. All the same, the
cousin's name fell rather oddly on the advanced air.

Mary Wing said that she hadn't seen Angela since the Redmantle Club; she
said she must try to go there this afternoon. He remarked that being
pulled up by the roots, and transplanted, was hard on the young, but
that Miss Angela would make friends fast enough. Having a passion for
biography, especially the biographies of women, he wanted particularly
to learn something about this girl, who had given him, Charles Garrott,
a phrase. But the talk now took another turn; it wasn't a day for
discussing Home-Making clearly. Miss Hodger and Professor Clarence
Pollock went walking by, across the sunny street, and Mary, having
greeted them much too pleasantly to suit his taste, said:--

"Do you know this is the third time I've seen those two together lately?
It begins to look like an affair."

"What!" he cried, disgusted. "Why!--why, she'd bite his head off in a
week!"

And then, while she protested argumentatively, he was silent for a
space, struck with the thought that here was an opening not unsuited to
his need.

While the plan for his new work was by no means settled yet, beyond
doubt this matter of Miss Trevenna had given strong impetus to the
conservative wave. And meanwhile, there was the personal side. To
lecture Mary Wing openly was a thing scarcely to be thought of. Yet,
having felt the unmistakable reactions himself, the young man found
himself itching, literally itching, to get his hands on Mary and make
her react a little, too.

He said in his pleasantest way:--"Did it ever strike you, by the way,
that she's got the propaganda in the purely archaic form?"

"Archaic?--Hodger!"

"She still imagines that the object of this Movement is to make women
more like men. Of course, the object of the Movement is to make women
more like themselves."

Her silence seemed to applaud his epigram. Charles felt that it was
generous of him to add: "I bagged that somewhere. Sounds like Havelock
Ellis to me. But," he added, frankly, "I've improved the wording. Why do
you say I'm unjust to her? On the contrary, I'd be delighted to fork
over all those rights of hers she was demanding the other night. By the
by, what are Hodger's rights exactly?"

"I suppose she's entitled to human rights, even if you, as a man, don't
find her especially attractive."

Charles winced, and then smiled faintly.

"Human rights--security and protection, life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness? She's got them, hasn't she? I thought what Hodger was
yelling for was special privileges, rather exceptional privileges in the
way of freeing her Ego from--"

"As a woman, she hasn't even all the human rights, you know very well.
As a human being, she would feel that she's entitled to exceptional
rights, because she's an exceptional being. She would take the ground
that her public work--"

"She would take that ground, of course. But," said Charles, amiably,
"possibly others would not agree with her. That is just the trouble,
isn't it? The doctrine that the world belongs to Exceptional People has
that fatal weakness."

"In your opinion," she qualified him--"what?"

"We'd need a great board, a sort of Super-Supreme Court of really
godlike understanding, to tell us which are the Exceptional People."

Seeing that he had her temporarily at a loss, Charles continued his
agreeable prattle:--

"And hand them out their little certificates, you know. I remember, this
chap Chesterton said a fairly bright thing once--a little piece I read
somewhere. He said he'd always wanted to hear somebody--anybody--preach
'personal liberty' with one small qualification. Said he'd waited and
waited to hear one person state the creed something like this: 'Men and
women of genius must not be bound by ordinary laws. But I am NOT a man
of genius, and therefore I will keep the law.' Chesterton said he'd been
waiting for years."

He was aware that Miss Wing was regarding him in a curious sort of way,
and now she said, directly:--

"Do you know, this doesn't sound like you at all?"

"Doesn't it?--why not? I've always believed in taking a good look
around, every now and then. Constant discussion," said Charles,
"constant canvassing of rival theories--"

"Well, those theories are only good for people who think that the way to
advance is by standing still."

As she spoke these positive words, the two were overtaken and passed by
Henry Mysinger, of all people. Mr. Mysinger was at once Mary's principal
at the High School and her special adversary in the Schools, against
whom in years past she and her friend Garrott had how often schemed and
plotted. His salute now was pleasant, with reference to Charles, but the
eye he cast upon his assistant was distinctly not approbatory.

As for Mary, it did not appear that she bowed at all.

"But the way to advance is by advancing," she continued, declining to
lower her voice at all, "and it's only the exceptional people who are
capable of superintending these advances. That, by the way," said the
school teacher, "is probably the very definition you are looking for."

He flatly rejected her definition; disputation followed. With increasing
pointedness, Mary Wing pressed the case for "exceptional people,"
Self-Developing People who recked not of Homes and being Sisters and
Daughters. And presently she said, with only a small air of
hesitation:--

"And please remember that enlightened people cannot possibly point the
way without courage, and--a certain amount of pioneering experiment."

Mr. Mysinger had mercifully withdrawn himself around the corner of Third
Street. There his assistant would turn, too, parting from her friend;
and really, that appeared to be just as well. Forgetting his mask, the
young man was beginning to betray signs of exasperation. No more than
Mysinger, of course, had he ever been deceived by the delicate
girlishness of Mary's face; but the positions she seemed to be taking
now passed anything he had ever thought of her addiction to the New. Was
this mere argument for argument's sake?--or did she seriously imagine
that the regeneration of society was to be accomplished by the antics of
a few wild female Egoists--lawless Egoettes?

"That's true, to a point, of course," he said, with control. "Yet don't
you suspect people who talk about their Duty to the Race, while
overlooking entirely their duty to that part of the race which should be
nearest and dearest to them?"

"I'd suspect even more people who daren't call their souls their own,
for fear they might be criticized by somebody who knows nothing about
the facts."

And then she exclaimed suddenly. "Oh, why don't you say at once that
you've been talking at poor Flora Trevenna for three blocks!"

He was considerably taken aback, but spoke calmly: "Not at all--or at
least only in a general way. One of the problems of the day, as we say
at the Redmantle Club."

It was on the tip of his tongue to say then, man to man, as it were:
"Miss Mary, you have a great work ahead of you, in a special field.
Isn't it a pity to confuse your good cause with one that perhaps is not
so good?" But, of course, you hardly gave advice of that sort to Mary
Wing.

"But since you seem to invite my opinion," he continued, "I will say
that I do think there is a logical connection between Hodger's kind of
talk and Miss Trevenna's--ah--pioneering experiment."

"Of course there is! Who denied it?" said she, with a forthrightness
that increased his wonder at her.

And then, as they came to a standstill at the corner, she added, after a
grave speculative stare:--

"If it'll do you the slightest good, Mr. Garrott, I'll tell you exactly
what finally decided Flora to forget her duty to her sisters, aunts,
uncles, and so on, as you consider. Prepare yourself. It was a sentence
in a book."

"_A sentence in a book!_"

Miss Wing nodded, several times. "As she's a reserved girl, and I appear
to be her only friend now, of course this is a confidence."

"I can name the book!" cried Charles; and he did.

"However," he resumed, with bitter urbanity, "if she'd happened to read
a few pages further, she might have noticed that the Lady in Sweden took
every bit of it back."

To his surprise, Mary Wing laughed.

"Do you know, that's just what I told her, in almost those very words?
And what do you suppose she said? 'Well, I'm glad I didn't read as far
as that.'"

Continuing to look at him and continuing to laugh, the annoying young
woman added: "I'm afraid you don't begin to understand women as yet, Mr.
Garrott! No, you don't begin to. _Au revoir!_"

It was noted that Charles's bow was characterized by a certain
stiffness.

He went on his way alone, to Berringer's, and the good solid man-talk.
The strongest thought in his mind now was that the end of these things
was not yet. And here, at least, he was by no means deceived.

The next day was Saturday. At two o'clock on that day, each week,
Charles took train and went down to his mother's place in the country,
there to remain till early Monday morning. This was an invasion of his
writer's time, with which he let nothing interfere. Returning to town,
and finding "Bondwomen" not yet heard from, he became absorbed in a
short story--for the "line" of his new novel could not be laid in a day
or a week, of course--and went suddenly upon his emergency schedule, as
Judge Blenso had named it. This schedule called for the omission of all
exercise, other than as tutoring necessitated, and a general withdrawal
from the world of living women. But he couldn't get away from their
Unrest, even so.

Late Thursday afternoon, as he was working out the last pages of the
time-killing fiction, the door of the Studio opened without a knock, and
Donald Manford walked in. Donald certainly continued to make himself
very much at home here.

"Get out," said Charles, tired and cross. "What do you think this is, a
Wheelman's Rest?"

The tall engineer said that he was passing and thought he'd drop in. But
with the aid of an eyebrow he made known, over Judge Blenso's snowy
head, that he desired private converse in the bedroom.

The public talk between the two young men, continuing, was that Donald
wanted to borrow a white waistcoat from Charles, which Charles was
rather reluctant to lend him. Thus, gradually, they faded from the
Studio, much to the annoyance of the Judge, who had ceased typing on
purpose to listen, while ostensibly merely engaged in picking lint from
his types with a brass pin.

When the door of the bedroom was shut, Donald Manford said, in low
hurried tones:--

"Have you heard all this talk about Mary? I tell you the town's buzzing
with it!"

Charles had heard no talk; he was disturbed, if scarcely surprised. But
when it became clear that the purpose of Donald's visit was to get him,
Charles, to "drop a hint to Mary," he refused at once, point-blank.

The engineer was pained and astonished.

"You don't understand the situation," said he, stewing. "I tell you
Mary's gone to work to make a heroine of that woman! Recommending her
for good jobs, with her morning, noon, and night, having people in to
meet her at _tea_! Now, of course, she just doesn't understand what
she's doing. She's too innocent; she's ignorant of the practical meaning
of this business. And it's my duty to protect her from her
ignorance...."

Charles sat down on one of the parallel white beds--the Judge's. And
little as he sympathized with Miss Trevenna's Blow for Freedom, he
seemed to sympathize even less with his young friend's proprietary
absurdities.

Whatever this stalwart youth was, Mary Wing had made him. An orphan and
poor, he had been taken to the bosom of the kindly Wings; and Mary, a
girl of twenty then, had been from the start his second mother. She had
fed and clothed Donald, helped pay his bills at college; she had trained
him, taught him, filled him with her own ambition. She had got him his
first opening, pulled wires for him, hewed out his ascending steps. Fine
and confident as Donald stood there, Mary Wing had made him. And now to
see him, as to her, clutching on the toga of the primitive male, to hear
him, the ignorant, ridiculously claiming overlordship in a field which
should have been supremely woman's.

"Go ahead," said Charles dryly. "Protect her all you want."

But Donald angrily told him not to be an ass. It was a delicate
matter--for him--he declared; besides, Mary wouldn't listen to him. He
wasn't _advanced_.

"But you're another matter. You've got some influence with Mary, and--"

"Stop right there! I've got more influence with the Weather Department
than I have with Mary Wing."

Glowering at him over the foot of the bed, the engineer demanded reasons
for his strange unpractical behavior. Charles offered a few simple
selections from his complex feelings.

"First, your cousin's personal behavior is none of my business. Second,
I'd have no respect for her if she gave up her principles because you
asked me to ask her to. Third, I despise a person who's scared out of
his wits by fear of what the neighbors'll think."

Donald appeared momentarily speechless. Perceiving this, the author
fitted a cigarette into a holder Mary Wing had given him on his
birthday, and resumed his few remarks:--

"Of course your mistake is in supposing that Miss Mary is acting through
ignorance. She's acting from principle, as I say, and doing a plucky
thing, too. For she doesn't think that because a poor silly girl has
once made a mistake, the thing to do--"

But Manford recovered his voice with a bound.

"_Mistake!_ I'm surprised at you, Garrott! I did you the justice to
think that all this advanced rot of yours was just talk. Come!--say
right out you think it's a mighty plucky thing for a girl to go off and
live with a married man!"

Charles smiled, and then hesitated. It was odd how instantly Donald
Manford modernized him, killing all reactions: But what was the use of
arguing with a fellow who honestly believed that a woman had but one
"virtue," who spoke of her frankly as "the sex," allowed her no honor
but "woman's honor," had but one question to ask about her "character"?
This youth had not budged since the fifth century.

"The only way to punish this is by the disgrace of it, I tell you!" he
was arguing. "There's no punishment at all when you make a heroine of
the woman."

"There'll be enough to punish, don't fret, without Mary Wing's taking a
hand."

"Now look here, Charlie," said Donald, encouraged. "Just look at the
matter in a sensible way. You can feel sorry for her and all that. But
it isn't right, by George, it isn't decent and moral, to stand up and
practically say you admire a notorious bad woman! Just think of the
effect on other women! They'll argue, 'Well, if that's the way people
feel about it, there's no use being good any more.' And think,
Charlie!--what'll become of Society if all the girls get to skipping off
and living with married men!"

Charles laughed and rose. "Of course I'd not dream of speaking to Miss
Mary about this."

The young engineer exploded. But presently he gave it up.

"Then I'll have to speak to her myself," he declared, and looked as if
he expected the hazardous audacity of such an enterprise to touch his
friend's heart, even then. "And you remember this," he added, angrily,
"when Mary's friends are all dropping her!"

"Nobody who drops her for this was ever her friend."

"More New Thought! And what about Mysinger? Suppose your idea is that
this plucky business will boost Mary's standing in the schools like the
devil?"

"My dear fellow, you're seeing things! You never heard of politics, I
suppose? Nothing can shake us in the schools. 'Cause why? We own the
Board by two votes."

Donald regarded him with the strongest disapproval. "Do you know you
make me sick?"

"By the way," said Charles, pleasantly, "didn't I see you go by here
with Miss Flower the other day? Where did you--"

"Absolutely sick, and I've--"

"Meet up with her, old fellow? Isn't she a--"

"Sick!" roared Donald, and banged the door.

He was a hopeless ignoramus, and Charles was the peer of the greatest
authorities, living or dead. But the subject, beyond doubt, was the most
complex and baffling in the whole field of Womanology. And Charles,
standing and staring at that shut door, was possessed with the odd
feeling that Donald had got the best of the argument, after all.

Why must Mary _always_ be as independent as the Declaration, and more
militant than a Prussian?



V


The emergency schedule withdrew Charles from the streets; he lunched in
twenty minutes at Mrs. Herman's and spent the hour gained at his
writing-table. With the completion of the short fiction, he resumed his
walks to Berringer's. And now on Washington Street, the principal scene
of his social life since he became a regular author, he saw again Miss
Angela Flower. In five days, suddenly, he saw Miss Angela three times.

Twice, as it happened, the two passed on opposite sides of the street,
moving in contrary directions. But the third time he fairly overtook
her, not a dozen steps from the door of the rich little Deming boys, to
whom he taught the Elements all morning.

He was pleased with the agreeable coincidence. He greeted Mary's so
different cousin with a genuine warmth, springing spontaneously from his
personal sense of a bond between them. And Miss Angela, it seemed, was
not less glad to see him.

"You don't know how nice it is," she laughed, a tinge of color in her
smooth cheeks, "to see a familiar face, after blocks and blocks of
strangers. And you're almost the only person I know, too!"

Suiting his long stride to hers, he assured her that this state of
affairs would pass quickly.

"I got only a glimpse of you yesterday," he pursued. "Do you take your
constitutionals at this time, too?"

But she said, elusively, that she took them at all sorts of times.

"It's my chief form of recreation at present, you see! But--I thought I
might meet father up here--it's his time for coming home to lunch from
the college. Only I seem just to miss him every day."

He and the Womanly Woman walked a good half-mile together that day, and
the authority enjoyed himself thoroughly. It was in the course of this
walk that he evolved another phrase of scientific justification, viz.:
"The Business of Supplying Beauty and Supplying Charm."

The talk turned naturally upon the girl herself. Having failed to get
any biography from the embattled Miss Wing, Charles proceeded to the
source. Under his agreeable, yet artful promptings, Miss Angela sketched
with a charming simplicity the story of a commonplace family life: how
she and her brothers had grown up at Hunter's Run, a crossroads
post-office four miles from Mitchellton; how they had moved into
Mitchellton, which had seemed like heaven at first, but had palled after
seven years; how all the boys of Mitchellton grew up and went away, one
by one, to make their marks in the world (though there was one
exception, it seemed, a Mr. Dan Jenney, who was still in
Mitchellton--Aha! thought Charles); how lonely she was after Tommy, her
older brother, had thus gone away; how her father had had quite a large
practice in Mitchellton, but didn't seem much interested in getting
patients here; and so on. Tommy, it was learned, had married money in
Pittsburg, but appeared to be happy all the same. As for the younger
brother, Wallie, his ambition was to go to college and be an
electro-chemist, and he was now at work downtown, gathering funds for
that purpose. Mary Wing had got him a position, it seemed.

Miss Angela's conversation, as has been noted, was not remarkable as
conversation. But what mattered that? Into an atmosphere too heated by
the Trevennas of this Unrestful world, her girlish unsophistications
blew like a primrose zephyr. Moreover, she had her moments, you may be
sure; her vivacities as honest as wit. She said that Mitchellton was
like a town in war-time.

"That's the way a man described it to me once, a surveyor from the
North, when he'd only been there three hours! He declared he hadn't seen
a male between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five. They'd all gone off,
you see--"

"And then the surveyor went off, too?"

"He did!--exactly! Hopped on a funny little calico pony he had, the
minute he said that, and trotted off down Main Street. We never saw him
again."

Charles, laughing, looked down at her. She wore a plain blue suit and a
simple hat with a yellow quill, obviously inexpensive both, and not new.
She was characterized, sartorially, only by that unobtrusive yet
exquisite neatness whose practice some women bring to a fine art. Pretty
and sweet she looked, none the less; feminine, too, without a doubt.

And, quite unconsciously, she was giving by piecemeal an answer to that
fundamental question of her Modern critics, How do you spend your time?
A considerable part of Miss Angela's time went, it seemed, to the actual
care of the house. With her leisure she really had little to do as yet,
because of her lack of acquaintance. Even the table of bridge with
Cousin Mary had not developed so far. She walked a great deal, usually
alone, but mentioned having met Mr. Manford the other day; the
impression was left that she and Donald hadn't specially taken to each
other. She kept her mother company; she often went into the shops, "just
looking"; once or twice she and Wallie had been to the moving-picture
shows. She read also, it seemed, for she had just finished "Marna"--a
gift to her, this was--a certain late New Woman novel which Charles
himself meant to give an hour to some day. Her account of her domestic
business the old-fashioned girl concluded thus:--

"I don't know very much about housekeeping yet, but I do the best I can.
I think mother enjoys the rest."

And whatever criticism narrow utilitarians might have brought against
her management of her fifteen hours a day seemed to be morally destroyed
by that unconscious stroke. _Mother enjoys the rest._ Imagine Miss
Hodger, for instance,--to come no nearer home,--casually mentioning: "I
don't want to do this, but I will. I want to go there, but I won't."
"Why, Miss Hodger?" you would ask her. "Why must you mutilate your Ego
thus?" "Well,"--you are to fancy Miss Hodger saying,--"you see, I think
mother'd enjoy the rest!"

But the girl herself remained delightfully unconscious of the reactions
she set in motion.

"Mr. Garrott," she said suddenly,--"I hope you don't mind my asking,
but--when are you going to have some stories coming out? I'm crazy to
read one of them!"

"Oh!" laughed Mr. Garrott. "Well!--I can't say definitely, at the
moment. I'm trying," he said, modestly, "to write books, you know, and
it's a slow business, with the little free time I have. My first one,
that I've just finished, took me four years."

"Four years! How wonderful! But isn't it going to come out soon?"

"I'm--ah--negotiating with a publisher now."

"It must be fascinating! I--I never knew an author before."

He warmed, expanding.

At the parting of their ways, these two paused, talking like old
friends; and no parting took place here, after all. Angela said, with a
charming hesitancy: "Mr. Garrott, if you really want to read that
book,--'Marna', I mean,--I wish you'd let me lend it to you. We've
finished with it--for good!--and if you have time to stop a minute--"
And he, who never called, who had a special rule against borrowing
things from ladies, restored his hat to his head at once, accepting with
pleasure.

So they turned out of Washington Street toward Center, and she
continued, with a laughing, sidelong glance:--

"Do you know who _Marna_ reminded me of? Quite a friend of
yours!--somebody you admire a great deal!"

Knowing the nature of the book well from the reviews he was incessantly
reading, the young man smiled: "I wonder if you can possibly be alluding
to one of your most distinguished cousins."

"It did, just a little! At first, I mean--where Marna goes away to lead
her own life, and everything.... Mr. Garrott, do you think she's really
going to take the position in New York, Cousin Mary, I mean?"

"Take it! Why, of course she will, provided she can get it! It would be
a remarkable thing for such a young woman, and a great opportunity
besides."

This the girl seemed to understand. She remarked, however, that Cousin
Mary and Mrs. Wing seemed so wrapped up in each other. Her extreme
domesticity was peculiarly refreshing to Charles just now; nevertheless,
he now took up the cudgels for Modernity, though in the gentlest way:
Why should not daughters have the same right to leave home for work that
the sons of Mitchellton had, for example? Daughters had always left
homes for another reason. Suppose _Marna_ had married the first
whippersnapper that came along, and he had carried her off to Australia,
etc.

But Miss Angela seemed to feel that, for her part, she would look long
at any lover who wished to separate her from her mother.

Center Street, at this point, was a place of car-tracks, cobblestones,
and threatening small establishments of those personal sorts which are
always first to appear in a waning "residence district." At the corner
stood a Human Hair Goods Works. The Flower house was not intrinsically
pretty. It was one of a block of six, all just alike and evidently built
some time ago; rather dingy little brick houses, with weather-beaten
small verandahs set only a step or two above the sidewalk, and scantily
separated from it by grassless "lawns." However, Charles was not
repelled by poverty, to which he had been well used.

Within, he had the pleasure of meeting Miss Angela's father, who was
encountered in the hall, in the act of removing his overcoat. Angela
left the two men together, while she tripped upstairs to get "Marna."

Charles found the medical father a decidedly queer individual. A very
tall, thin, seedy man he was, with a neglected sandy mustache, and a
long neck punctuated with a very large Adam's apple, which he jerked
with a sort of nervous twitch as he talked. With his lusterless eye and
spare, remote manner, he looked like a man who had let himself dry up
from within. Yet, if Charles remembered aright, the Medical School had
counted this gentleman a distinct acquisition.

He assured Dr. Flower that he had long desired this pleasure, and
explained:--

"Your cousin, Miss Wing, is an old friend of mine."

"My wife's cousin," said the Doctor, seeming to make a distinction.
"Quite so! Certainly!"

"I believe it was she who first brought the Medical School to your
attention?"

"Ah, yes! I fancy it was. Quite so. Have a cigar, will you? However,"
continued the father, jerking his long neck, "you don't offer that as
something to be urged against her, I assume?"

The young man, though surprised, smiled politely.

"Possibly you're no more enthusiastic about teaching than I am, say?"

"Ah, well!... It wants excitement, you maintain?--lacks the spice of
brilliant variety? You find no romance in it, you suggest? Well--"

Dr. Flower fell silent, brushing his hat with the sleeve of his worn
coat, while he stared cheerlessly at nothing. Charles wondered at him,
with a certain sense of mild mystery. If he felt that way about
teaching, why had he thrown over his practice and left Mitchellton?

"I believe," said he, with discretion, "your--that is, Mrs. Flower's
cousin, Mary Wing, is the only teacher I ever knew who could really be
called a 'fan.'"

"Quite so. You won't have a cigar, you said? But even in that case, it
doesn't amount to a complete exhaustion of the energies, you would feel?
You'd contend there's an unused store for other enterprises, even
there?"

"Quite so," said Charles, considerably puzzled.

But then Miss Angela came skipping and smiling down the narrow stairs,
book in hand, and slipped her arm through her father's. She said that
Mr. Garrott could keep "Marna" as long as he liked, but that she would
be _so_ interested to hear what he thought of it. The trio stood
chatting a moment together.

Angela's last word, in her soft and pretty voice, was, "Don't forget,
we're going to have that bridge game some night soon!"

So he took leave of her, not only with the book, but with the promise of
a party shortly to come. And, curiously, that was the first thing this
simple Nice Girl had ever said that the authority felt inclined to
criticize somewhat: the use of the word "that," now. Skilled and wary he
had grown since he became a regular writer, and he could not recall
having agreed to give a valuable evening to playing bridge soon. The
engagement had just developed along, it seemed.

But that was a trivial matter, early lost sight of. Continuing his walk
to Berringer's and the good man-talk, Charles pondered upon the nature
of a Home.

La Femme, as we know, was all over for this young man; through too much
knowledge he had analyzed the charm away. He did not (of course)
exaggerate Miss Angela's values, magnify anything about her whatever. Of
course she was but a Type, and a familiar one. Only, for him she had
happened to personify, with unexpected freshness, that aspect of the
Question which, he was more and more convinced, scientific thinkers
fallaciously slurred over: the business aspect of Home-Making, to wit.
Though few of the sounder authorities openly advocated the suppression
of Homes, was it not true that they--and he once among them--practically
did so by denying any value in their schemes to those emotional and
spiritual contributions which alone turned a house into a Home? There
lay the heart of the whole great problem. "Four walls," mused Charles,
as he swung rapidly down Center Street, "and three meals a day, and even
the banisters dusted, to boot--these mere utilities can never make a
Home."

And he made a mental note of the sentence for his conservative Notes in
the exercise-book of the old lady.

But this day, as it fell out, was memorable in the Studio for more than
meditation.

When he left Miss Chorister's at four-thirty, which was when the
tutorial day ended, the author did not make straight for the Studio,
according to habit, but turned downtown again, instead. He had personal
affairs to attend to to-day, an accumulation of small shopping and
sundry errands that could not be longer procrastinated. They took much
valued time. It was after six, in the winter night, when he got home.

At the foot of his own steps he encountered his and his relative's new
fellow-lodger, and their only one. Possibly he was still thinking
scientifically of Miss Angela, for it instantly occurred to him that
here was Miss Angela's full opposite.

"Oh, good-evening, Miss McGee!"

He spoke as pleasantly as possible, but the lodger only answered
"Evening," and turned her back at once.

"How do you do to-night?"

"Tired as a dog."

"And no wonder, working such long hours!"

No answer from the lodger.

"You _are_ later than usual this evening, aren't you?"

"Keep me on purpose," muttered Miss McGee angrily (or something like
that), climbing the tall stairs.

She was a dark young woman, darkly dressed and darkly scowling, it had
seemed, at the mere sight of Charles. As he knew from a rare letter on
the hall table, her official name was Mary Maude McGee, but to him she
was always and simply Two-Book McGee, on account of her apparent habit
of reading two novels a night, every night in the year. She had them
under her arm now, with the labels of the circulating library showing.

Charles also had a book under his arm, "Marna": here was a topic!

"Do you," he inquired, continuing the social chat, "find many good
novels these days?"

"No, I don't!" said she, so sharply that you would have supposed he was
to blame for it. Imagine!

"You must really look over my stock some day, Miss McGee. I'm sure I
have _something_ you could read."

But the invitation brought only a mutter from Miss McGee, and the door
of the Second Hall Back banged shut behind her.

"Help! help!" mused Charles, and straightway was struck with an
interesting thought: How about taking over Two-Book McGee as a minor
character in the new novel?

He considered the idea, mounting to his Studio. The lodger was known as
a self-supporting female, allied with a tintype and "art photography"
establishment. Certainly she seemed an odd sort of person to say "Look
pleasant" to anybody. Friends, engagements, pleasures, she had none, on
the word of Mrs. Herman. All day she helped to photograph the General
Public; all night, till sleep overcame her, she sat alone in her very
small room, reading novel after novel which she did not like. A dull
life, it might have seemed; but then, you see, she had, to bless her,
the priceless knowledge that she was a self-respecting and independent
being, a person and not a parasite. The authorities could not doubt that
Two-Book McGee was happy in her way.

Charles, however, seemed to be doing just that, at the moment. He
conceived Miss McGee as one not joyful in her economic freedom; hence as
an "illustrative character" for conservatism, sowing doubts in the minds
of readers as to whether Leading My Own Life was, in fact, necessarily
the other name for happiness. Climbing the stairs now, he invented
words for Two-Book's mouth: imagining her as saying, "Oh, I'd marry
anybody to get out of this!"--and again, with sobs, crying out to some
modern arguer, "Oh, just to be a parasite again!--just to be a snug,
comfortable little parasite!..."

So making fiction, Charles Garrott opened the door of his Studio. And
full upon the threshold, he encountered the great surprise of his life.

The large room looked familiar and inviting. The lamp burned on the
writing-table; the drop-light shone over the Judge's typewriter; the
author's office-coat hung on his chair-back. By the typewriter stood the
Judge, pink and shining from his evening bath. Wrapped in a beautiful
lavender robe, he turned, smiling.

But on the writing-table, beyond the lamp, there lay a strange package.
The author's eye had fallen on it even as he opened the door. Some
instinct in him seemed to divine the incredible truth instantly, but
something else within spoke loud and sharp:--

"_What's that?_"

Judge Blenso laughed agreeably, and lowered the bath-towel with which he
was rubbing his fine white head. To the secretary, the literary business
was still a sealed book indeed; so far as he was advised, a package of
manuscript back by express was doubtless a very pleasant little
occurrence.

"Why, it's Entry 2, Charles!" he chuckled. "Your novel--just come in!
Must be! And gad, my dear fellow! Willcox wrote you a letter, too!"

The young man bounded for the table.

Long as he had deemed himself a writer, Charles King Garrott had as yet
sent out little manuscript, "Bondwomen" having absorbed all his creative
energies for years. Accordingly, the prevalent stupidity of editors and
publishers, amounting ofttimes to mere madhouse imbecility, as every
young writer can testify, was yet as a sealed book to him. With the
ultra-modern message of the Old Novel, he, personally, might have become
authoritatively dissatisfied; but that any publisher in his senses could
fail to jump at it had, of course, scarcely entered his mind.

Hence, in the two seconds required to pounce upon and open Willcoxes'
letter, his mind was tossing out other explanations of that package with
the utmost lucidity and vigor. Willcoxes had been so pleased with the
Old Novel that they had put it in type at once: this package was the
proof. The package was the manuscript; but it had been sent back by an
office-boy by mistake, and the letter rushed after it to implore pardon.
Willcoxes, while delighted with the novel, had thought that possibly
some of the ultra-modernism had better be toned down a little, in the
interest of Homes; therefore....

In short, Charles Garrott's mind executed exactly the processes that all
young writers' minds execute at these moments, in instinctive recoil
from the stupefying fact of Rejection. But when he got the letter open,
all this activity was quickly stilled.

     DEAR SIR [it ran]:

     We have given careful consideration to the manuscript of the
     novel, BANDWOMEN, which you were good enough to submit, but
     regret to report that the decision has been adverse. We fear
     that the publication of the story would not prove a financial
     success.

     The manuscript is returned to you to-day by express. Thanking
     you for giving us the opportunity of examining it, we are

     Yours very truly,

     WILLCOX BROTHERS COMPANY.

In this stunning letter the stenographer's error seemed the crowning
insult. _Bandwomen!_ Charles, for once in his life, blew up.

The proceedings ensuing came as a complete surprise to the secretary,
exciting in their way: he had really never thought that Charles had it
in him. That commonly sedentary and controlled young man had abruptly
become dynamic and vocal. Some of his remarks eluded the listener, as,
for instance, the menacing cry: "I'll rent the Academy of Music some day
to tell about this!" But on the whole Judge Blenso, who himself, in his
prime, had been counted an accomplished commentator on the world's
devilish ways, gladly gave tribute to Charles for verbal ingenuity and
somewhat arresting vividness of metaphor.

But it was clear now to the secretary that this was no pleasant
happening after all. When the storm began to abate, he spoke in
mollifying tones:--

"Now, my dear fellow,--this unfortunate occurrence. Unfortunate! But as
to that plan of mine--we might consider it now, Charles? What do you
think?"

"What plan?" Charles said, in a let-down voice.

"I regret this, about Entry 2," said the Judge, with his brilliant black
gaze. "'Bandwomen' is a fine novel, my dear fellow,--fine! But as to
that little plan of mine--giving our undivided time and abilities
henceforth to some more remunerative kind of work? Gad,
Charles!--wouldn't it be wise?"

And then Charles, after staring blankly at his relative's odd handsome
figure, suddenly burst out laughing....

But later he stood at his window, staring silently down into the lamplit
street. A rare depression had suddenly closed over him. Oddly enough, it
seemed to have little to do with his great repulse as a writer. After
all, "Bondwomen," good though he felt it to be, did not represent his
best thought now; moreover, that the next publisher would jump at it
still seemed to him as certain as Judgment Day. The young man's deep
dissatisfactions were with all the terms and conditions of his writer's
life.

Long ago he had said to a friend once, "I can't afford to give my time
to making money," and the remark, being repeated, had gained him the
reputation of a fool's wit, none recognizing that he had practically
bagged it outright from a fellow of the name of Agassiz. And there (he
was thinking) was the measure of the degree to which he had withdrawn
from the accepted ways of men, from all the currents of stimulating
life. Making money, after all, was the "battle of life," and he--he had
thought it often before now--had placed himself with the noncombatants.
All day, downtown there, vigorous beings met and fought, crossed wills,
locked minds, pitted strength against strength; while he, Charles, spent
his days with women and children and his nights alone in this room,
palely pondering over ethical subtleties. He remembered something Mary
Wing had said to him one day last winter: "You're a great deal more like
a woman than a man; don't you know it?" On the whole, Mary had meant
that as a compliment, but the word had stuck in him like a knife.

He had bent his life to be a writer--and for what? Merely that those who
knew him best might view him, tolerantly, as a member of the Third Sex.

"A writer ought to go out once a month and do something cruel," he
thought moodily. "Assault and battery.... Blood in rivers...."

He was disgusted with tutoring and writing, with Woman and all womanish
ways.

Nevertheless, the instant supper was over, he was found seated at his
writing-table, "Notes on Women" open before him. In fact, the bee had
stung this young man deep, whether he liked it or not. In sum, the
unimagined rebuff to his principal _opus_ did not diminish, but
intensified the literary passion. Now he embarked upon his first attempt
to plot out a definite scenario for his new novel, "Bondwomen's" subtle
and superior successor. And it must have been that the novel thoughts
generated at the Redmantle Club had rapidly crystallized through the
days succeeding. For now it seemed to be quite clear in the author's
mind that he would take, as the central figure in his greater work, an
extreme specimen of lawless Egoette, against whom he would set, in
subtle but most telling contrast, the best type of Home-Maker.



VI


It was one of those slack hours in the domestic day when even the most
tireless hands can find no task to do. Miss Angela Flower sat by the
single window of her bedroom, the window that gave, over two sets of
back-yards, a sectional view of Washington Street. On the ledge beside
her stood the opera-glasses, employed sometimes for long-distance
vision. They were old glasses, somewhat shabby now, and the case to them
was long since lost.

To be transplanted is hard on the young, as Charles Garrott had once
said, and to be a normal girl is to desire that pleasant happenings
shall occur. This was Angela's favorite seat in the house, because it
brought her nearest to the happenings of the Street of the Blessed:
nearest to them, while she was yet farthest away. Often in the early
weeks she had, indeed, felt quite forlorn as she sat here; she was a
stranger and friendless, of a poor family and with small opportunity.
Since the Redmantle Club meeting, however, the view from the window had
become more personally interesting, more touched with the sense of
participation. Here Angela had seen Mr. Garrott on his way to lunch;
here she had twice glimpsed Mr. Manford, striding along from his office
just at dark; here she had even made out Mr. Tilletts, whom once she had
mistaken for somebody's uncle, whirling by in a great automobile.

And this afternoon, in her leisure hour, Angela did not feel forlorn or
out of things at all, nor did she so much as glance out of the window,
with a naked eye. She had sheets of note-paper upon a magazine in her
lap, and on one of the sheets she was writing blithely:--

     Miss Angela Flower entertained at bridge Thursday evening.

As the Redmantle Club had been her first party in the city, so the young
girl, with real pleasure, now planned for a second, this one to be her
very own. It had occurred to her, more for fun than anything else, to
write out a little notice of her party for the social columns of the
"Post." Not being as experienced at writing as Mr. Garrott, she took
some time to get the wording of the notice just to her liking; but it
was a very happy sort of time.

That finished, Angela turned again to the more practical aspects of the
party. Who were to be the guests at it, in fine? As yet she had only
herself and Mr. Garrott.

Now, calling out suddenly to her mother in the front room, she learned
to her surprise that it was almost half-past four o'clock; whereon she
sprang up at once, and began to dress quickly for the street. About
quarter of five, after talking a little with her mother in the front
room, Angela set out to call on her cousin, Mary Wing.

Now Angela knew that something rather unpleasant was going on in
connection with her Cousin Mary at this time. Being a well-brought-up
young girl, she was, of course, not allowed to hear bold, improper talk,
but still she knew that there was _something_. Mrs. Flower, though very
fond of Mrs. Wing, who was her double first-cousin, had, indeed, felt
obliged to forbid Angela to cultivate any undue intimacy with Mary;
which Angela, considering the differences between the two girls, was
hardly likely to do in any case. Nevertheless, relations were still
pleasant, and Mrs. Flower had agreed that, under the circumstances,
Cousin Mary and Mr. Manford should be invited to the bridge-party. It
was the cousinly thing to do, and besides, as Mrs. Flower had pointed
out, she could not very well invite Mr. Manford without inviting Cousin
Mary, too.

The Wings lived in a pleasant house on Olive Street, four doors from
Washington and overlooking the Green Park. The house was bigger than it
looked, because of a two-story extension that ran out behind, converting
an ordinary dwelling into two quite nice flats. Building that extension
was the very first thing that Mary had done when she took charge of the
family. In the upper flat dwelt Mr. and Mrs. Crowther, who could
sometimes be heard recriminating each other in embittered tones. In the
lower flat Mrs. and Miss Wing were very comfortable, with four rooms,
bath, kitchenette, tiny back yard and patent clothes-dryer. The fourth
room, which had been Donald Manford's till he outgrew apron-strings, was
a convertible affair, now a dining-room, now a bedroom, according as the
Wings dined at home, on the one hand, or were receiving a visit from
Fanny Warder--Mary's younger but married sister--on the other. At
present the latter condition prevailed, and Fanny's two babies possessed
the room, the flat, and the world besides.

Angela entered upon three generations, scattered widely over the
sitting-room floor. Fanny was out, but her place in the line was ably
taken by Aunt Mary, whose modernity did not stick out so much in these
purely domestic moments. Angela, watching her cousin explain to Paulie
Warder why the best little boys never, _never_ ate green paint, thought
with a kind of surprise: "She really looks very nice." She was duly
presented to Paulie and Neddy-Weddy, who were coaxed to show off their
store of tricks for the Pretty Lady, and she did her best to shower
those eulogies which the relatives in the case invariably expect. But
Neddy-Weddy, for his part, appeared altogether too sleepy to care what
strangers might think of him, and it may be that to a coolly impartial
eye Paulie appeared more soiled than cute at this particular moment.
Angela really wasn't sorry when the babies' grandmother gathered them
and their belongings to her bosom and withdrew to an inner chamber.

But when she broached the matter of the bridge-party on Thursday, Cousin
Mary said at once:--

"My dear, it's very sweet of you, but I couldn't--possibly. I can't
dream of taking an evening off--oh, this side of Christmas!"

Cousin Mary had a great stack of examination papers to mark, it seemed;
she pointed to them on her open desk in the corner. She also had ten
thousand leaflets to distribute for that Education League of hers; they
lay in bales in another corner, behind the sofa. Further, she had three
articles to write at once for the League's magazine: for it had a
special magazine all its own, it seemed. As for Donald Manford, she said
she could not speak. But Cousin Mary did mention, in a discouraging way,
that Donald also was doing a good deal of rush-work just now, clearing
his desk for his trip to Wyoming.

"And besides, my dear," she concluded, "to the best of my knowledge,
Donald can't play bridge at all."

"I could teach him, Cousin Mary--it's awfully easy! I remember, I taught
a man in Mitchellton to play once, in twenty minutes! Besides--why, of
course, it wouldn't make any difference!"

Mary Wing, no doubt, desired to play fair. She could not say now, as of
old, that Donald never went out; for she knew that Donald was going out
that very evening, escorting Miss Helen Carson to the theater, in short.
Mary knew this, because she had arranged the matter herself, and
personally bought the tickets for Donald's account.

So she said: "You must ask him, Angela--do! Use my telephone there, why
don't you, and catch him now before he leaves the office?"

But no, that was just what Angela felt she could not do, for, while she
had enjoyed two short walks with Mr. Manford, the truth was that he had
never called. Mr. Garrott, on the other hand, besides everything else,
had called, the day she lent him the book.

"I thought _you_ might ask him, Cousin Mary. I thought you might just
bring him with you, informally. It's going to be very informal," said
Angela.

"But as I can't go myself, Angela, you see ..."

Angela concealed her disappointment as best she could. She was a
sweet-natured girl; moreover, Cousin Mary, after all, was the only
person who had tried to do anything for her. Nevertheless, her
disappointment was keen, and touched with a little irritation at Cousin
Mary's attitude. Her cousin, Mr. Garrott, Mr. Manford, and herself--they
made a natural table of bridge, a little coterie of friends and
relatives who instinctively met together now and then for congenial
diversion. It did seem rather hard that Cousin Mary should spoil it all,
with this firm stand against all social enjoyment. Only she and Mr.
Garrott, it seemed, cared for a little wholesome pleasure.

And undoubtedly this attitude of Cousin Mary's did reduce the
bridge-party to a rather precarious position. Of course Jennie Finchman
could be secured for the other girl, or even Fanny Warder; but as for
the man to fill Mr. Manford's place, that was a more difficult matter.

"I'm awfully sorry _you_ can't come, Cousin Mary," she was saying in her
soft voice. "Mr. Garrott'll be _so_ disappointed. He admires you so
much--indeed, he does! He told me so only yesterday."

"Oh!" said Mary Wing; and added, as if it were a part of the same
sentence--"yesterday! You're seeing a good deal of him now?"

"Oh, yes! We have a walk or something nearly every day."

"He's quite attractive, don't you think?"

The girl answered without self-consciousness: "Oh, I do--he's the nicest
thing! And so cunning-looking, too!--isn't he?"

"I've always been intrigued, I admit," said the school-teacher, "by the
three brown freckles on his nose."

She was looking with admiration at her cousin's fresh youthfulness, so
unmarked by experience, so innocent of knowledge of fierce conflicting
ideas. And Mary looked with a kind of compunction, too. She had honestly
wished and tried to "do something" for Angela; but, alas, she herself
had been so long and completely out of things that few connections
remained to her now, such as would assist to launch a somewhat belated
début. She had her hands full enough trying to do something of that sort
with Donald, an eligible man. Still--

"Oh, Angela, here's a thought!" she said, suddenly. "If you'll only make
a decently long visit, you'll be almost certain to see Donald here! He
drops in nearly every afternoon to see the babies, you know--"

"Oh!--does he?"

"You never imagined such a goose as he is over them. And then you could
ask him to the party, in--in a casual way."

Angela cheered up at once. Of course, if she could meet and ask Mr.
Manford in a casual way, it would be different. And it must be admitted
that Mr. Tilletts, who had hovered in the background of her mind, did
seem a rather remote possibility.

So the talk passed easily from the bridge-party to Fanny Warder, and
other lesser matters.

Mary Wing moved about as she talked. She was picking up fire-engines and
pieces of cake, overlooked by the grandmother in the suddenness of
departure. Angela's eyes followed her over the room, and she felt a
touch of envy. It was really a pretty room, much prettier than anything
in the Flowers' little house, large, light, attractively furnished, most
comfortable and livable. But, of course, it was a simple matter to have
pretty things if you had the money to buy them; which, in brief, was
just what the Flowers didn't have. It suddenly came over Angela that her
advanced cousin was, comparatively speaking, a _rich_ woman.

She said something of the sort aloud presently. Mary Wing replied that
she worked pretty hard for all she had.

"Our furniture is so old and awful I can't do a thing with it,"
continued Angela. "I rub and scrub and polish, but it just seems to get
worse. And then the parlor is that long, narrow shape, like a
sleeping-car, and needs papering so dreadfully! You know, Cousin Mary,"
said the girl, with a rueful laugh, "we were never so poor in all our
lives! You don't know how hard it is to accomplish _anything_, when you
literally haven't a cent to spend."

Cousin Mary, who could be very nice when she wanted to, expressed
herself very sympathetically. "And I do know something about it, my
dear, you see, for I've been that way myself."

"If father'd only get some patients!" said Angela. "But he's so funny,
he just seems to think a family gets along somehow, and never even put
up his sign till I begged him to! And, of course, Wallie doesn't
contribute anything; he just puts away everything he makes for his
education--"

"It _is_ hard on you, poor dear--"

"He has to, of course. But I _have_ wished we had Tommy back, these
weeks since we've been here! He was the sweetest, most generous thing,
till he married...."

But soon Cousin Mary gave the conversation a characteristic twist, with
the very suggestion that Mr. Garrott had once promised to make to
Angela, and then permanently backed down.

"Angela," she said, suddenly thoughtful, "did you ever think at all of
going to work--regularly, for yourself?"

The girl looked up, in surprise. "Going to work? You mean in an office?"

"Yes--something of that sort. You--"

"Why, no, Cousin Mary! I've never _had_ to think of that. Of course,
father can still support me. I didn't mean you to think--"

"Oh, of _course_! I understand that perfectly! I meant only on your own
account, my dear, so that you could have your own money, all you want of
it. It makes a difference, as I can testify! And then, too, I know a
good many girls with plenty of money already, who go to work--well, just
for the fun of it!--Helen Carson, for instance."

Angela looked as if she hardly knew how to explain herself to one
holding her cousin's known ideas of fun. However, she endeavored,
sweetly.

"Yes, I know. But in the first place, you see, I couldn't very well be
spared from the house. I do every bit of the work, except cooking and
washing, and mother doesn't expect ever to touch the housekeeping any
more. It takes so much time, and worry, and our cook is _awful_, because
we can't afford to pay but twelve dollars a month, and, of course, a
good servant won't work for that! And besides, father wouldn't dream of
allowing such a thing, Cousin Mary. He'd think it was--was just
charging him with being a failure, and not able to take care of his
family!"

It was a sufficiently conclusive statement, as Cousin Mary seemed to
feel; she did not argue back, but replied understandingly, and mentioned
that Harold Warder felt the same way about women's working. So Angela
felt the moment to be favorable for explaining her deeper points of
view.

"And, Cousin Mary, even if I made mother take back the housework, and
father'd let me do it," she said, with a girlish hesitancy that became
her well, "I wouldn't _want_ to go into an office--or have a business
career. I--just feel differently about all those things. I have no
ambitions that way--at _all_!"

Cousin Mary, who chanced to be standing near, surprised her by stooping
suddenly and pinching her cheek.

"Tell me what your ambitions are, Angela, dear."

"Well--you probably--I don't believe you'd understand exactly what I--"

"On the contrary, for two cents I'll tell you what they are myself."

"Well, what?" said Angela, gazing up with unfeigned interest. "Tell me
what you think?"

"They really can be stated as one, my guess is," said Mary, smiling in
the nicest way: "To be a good wife to the man you will love some day."

Color flowed suddenly into the girl's upturned face. By a strange
coincidence, Cousin Mary had stated the ambition in the very words
Angela herself would have used. But, though maidenly embarrassed, she
would not lower her gaze as if she were ashamed of her ambition, or
overborne by her cousin's hard masculinity.

"I know," she said, pink and sweet, "you think that's just a--weak
womanly ambition! I know you aren't much interested in my kind of
things, Cousin Mary."

"Indeed, you wrong me," said Mary, her smile dying. "I don't feel that
way at all."

And through her shot the irrelevant thought: "Why does she call me
Cousin Mary, all the time? I'm only four years older than she."

But, as the two girls thus gazed at each other, the interval in their
ages seemed, indeed, indefinite and immense. Angela's eyes could afford
that subtle expression of known womanly advantage. The light of
afternoon, flowing freely over the park and into the long windows, fell
full upon Mary Wing's delicate face. It was a face, to be just, not
devoid of a feminine attractiveness at times. But now the bright day
showed it colorless and tired; the marks of many "fights" lingered
indefinably about the mouth; tiny crow's-feet netted the corners of the
fine blue eyes. Yes, this school-teacher's first youth was gone. Full of
strange isms, she had lost sight of the real things of life, and now her
Woman's Opportunity had slipped away from her forever.

It may be that Mary Wing would have given something of her honors to be
prettier than Angela just for that moment.

"I think it would be hard to name a finer ambition. To be a good wife
to ..." And, breaking off, she added, with another smile, sudden and
merry: "To Dan Jenney, didn't you tell me?"

Her young cousin lost her dreamy look rather abruptly.

"Why, _no_, Cousin Mary! Please don't say that! I only told you that--"

But Cousin Mary, having turned her eyes toward the window, interrupted
the womanly talk with a smashing announcement.

"Here's Flora Trevenna coming in--good!" she said in her most
matter-of-fact way. "Excuse me a minute, Angela,--I'm bell-hop, you
know!"

Angela, who at least knew the ill-omened name, gave one startled gaze,
and sprang up. The prospect of casually meeting Mr. Manford was
forgotten in her sudden panic alarm.

"I must _go_!" she said, looking about her a little wildly. "I--should
have gone some time ago--really! I just stopped in to--"

Mary's colorless face seemed to stiffen a little. So, perhaps, Mr.
Mysinger was wont to see it.

"Well, wait just a minute," she ordered, rather than requested. "I'd
especially like you to meet Flora."

Nice reward this for being cousinly and inviting Cousin Mary to the
bridge-party: _to meet that woman_!

"I--really, I _can't_, Cousin Mary! I'll just run back and see your
mother a minute--and then--"

"You can't well be so rude as that, can you?" said Mary. And then she
added, as if something within her threw out the words beyond her will:
"Why do you call me Cousin Mary all the time? I'm only four years older
than you."

The question, of course, expected no notice. Mary was gone into the
hall. Yet Angela, left unpoliced, did not immediately fly toward the
bedroom region, or run and hide with the leaflets behind the sofa. It
may be she feared her hard cousin a little; but besides that, in the
strangest and most contradictory sort of way, it appeared that she did
not altogether want to fly. She was conscious of an excitement, of a
sort of unworthy curiosity.

The front door opened; there were voices. And then Mary Wing returned,
her arm slipped brazenly through that of her astounding friend.

And Angela, despite all of the injunctions of propriety, looked; looked,
with a sort of fearful fascination. Never in her life before, to her
knowledge, had her girlish eyes rested upon a Badwoman. Though virtue
went out of her, she _must_ look this once....

"Flora, this is my cousin, Angela Flower, whom you know of, I believe.
My friend, Miss Trevenna, Angela."

A look of greeting came upon the Badwoman's not displeasing face, a
little smile upon the pretty, sinful lips.

"Oh, how do you do, Miss Flower?"

But Angela, with her upbringing, found it impossible to reciprocate
these friendly overtures. Take one shameful peep, she might. But that
itself brought a reaction, perhaps; and as well as Donald Manford, as
well as Judge Blenso himself, Angela knew, if only by intuition, that
good people must stand up for morals. Donald certainly would have
applauded her, as she inclined her graceful head about an inch and spoke
two cold words:--

"Miss Trevenna."

And then, her alarm mysteriously gone, she turned to her cousin and
said, formally: "Good-bye, then, Cousin Mary. Do come to see us when you
find time."

Indeed, the two cousins viewed everything too differently to make much
intimacy between them probable. When the door had shut on Angela, Cousin
Mary put her arm about the shoulder of the Badwoman and said the
strangest, the most advanced thing possible:--

"Dear Flora! You must let me say--I'm sorry."

Miss Trevenna, with her deceptively cloistral countenance, seemed to
flinch a little. Her gaze looked rather bright; it fell away from
Mary's. But she produced a fair effect of uncomprehension and surprise.

"Sorry? Why, what for?"

"Well--I can't feel my little cousin showed to very good advantage."

"Oh, didn't she? But it makes no difference. I--hardly ever notice what
people do--really! Are you too busy, or shall we walk?"

"Let me get my hat," said Mary.

Having put on hat and coat in her own bedroom, the fighting educator
looked into the room beyond, where the babies and their grandmother were
considerably spread over creation.

"Angela gone?" asked Mrs. Wing presently, in the midst of cooing.

"Yes," said Mary; and let it stand at that.

"Look how he cuddles in his granny's arm. I had to change his little
socks again. She was very strange with them, Mary, didn't you think so?"

"Strange?--how do you mean?"

"Why, she just didn't seem to care anything about them! Didn't you
notice, she hardly looked at Paulie once! How could she help loving such
little darlings? And she seems such a nice, womanly girl, too."

"Well, _all_ women aren't maternal, mother, don't you know that?"

"In my day," said Mrs. Wing imperturbably, "all good women loved
babies."

But when Mary said where she was off to now, a shadow fell on her
mother's calm face, and Mary saw it. However, Mrs. Wing said nothing,
this time.

Though Donald had never carried out that hare-brained threat of his, as
to "dropping a hint" to Mary, his voice could scarcely have been missed
amid the general feminine chorus. Indeed, everybody who possessed so
much as a hint to her name, in those days, seemed to be dropping it to
Mary. How far she minded her public unpopularity Mary did not say, but
her mother's unwavering disapprobation she unquestionably took to heart.
"Good women don't make mistakes of that sort," said Mrs. Wing, and was
shaken by no argument. And now, as Mary bent to kiss this wrinkled and
well-loved cheek, she was thinking that never in the world before had
there opened such a gulf between two generations; and she wondered why
life must be so hard.

Later, Mrs. Wing sat for some time quite still, by her window, and her
brooding look was not grandmotherly now, but motherly, which is
different. For, of course, there was one person on earth to whom Mary
could never seem truly the mature, advanced and dangerous young woman of
Fights, Reforms and Careers. Through all her newnesses and strength, the
mother's eyes yet held her as the tiny, helpless, clinging little scrap
which she, a young girl then, had gone down to the gates of the world to
bring in.



VII


The "line" of the new novel refused to come straight on the first
attempt, or the second, and Charles had been compelled to leave his
preliminary scenarios to ripen gradually in his head. In the intervals
of intense plotting, he was tossing off short fictions; four such he had
now tossed since the completion of "Bondwomen" had set him free.
"Bondwomen" itself was in the hands of that discriminating house,
Messrs. Blank and Finney, Judge Blenso having risen up early on the
morning after the rejection to take it to the express office. Experience
was now coming with a leap; but yesterday the first of Charles's new
stories had been sent back by "Willcox's Monthly," with a mere printed
form of refusal. This was the fiction about Dionysius, who, it may be
remembered, had freed his eyes from the magic of sex and consequently
cracked walnuts with a sort of splendid sadness.

Such episodes staggered belief; but, in a strange way, they seemed to
fan the fires of genius unrecognized. Hence it was without joy that
Charles confronted after supper this evening a memorandum he had lately
left for himself in the place where he left memoranda. It was brief,
containing but a single word,--_Bridge_; and, coming on it unexpectedly,
the author spoke but a single word, though a different one. No more than
Mary Wing, of course, did he have evenings to fling this way and that,
in mere idle frivolity. Why did people have this mania for playing
cards, going to places, calling, all the time? Why the mad rage for
doing things?

As to this engagement, it seemed just to have developed along; the
first he knew of it, you might say, the thing was settled and arranged.
Still, it was admitted that from the young Home-Maker's point of view,
it was all quite simple and natural and human. Charles, even in the
first flush of author's revolt, really felt no bitterness.

Shutting his table drawer with a bang, he withdrew to the bedroom and
began to assume one of those garments which first brought renown to
Tuxedo Park.

Charles's acquaintance with Miss Angela had developed smoothly, without
any unusual effort on his part. That they had a walk or something every
day was not mathematically accurate; but he had seen the girl several
times since the day of the call, when he got the book. The very next
day, as it fell out, he had met the pretty cousin again on the
promenade, at about the same time and place, and as she was out only for
exercise, and had done her stint, she said, she very charmingly turned
around with him. In no sense was it repellent to the authority thus to
see, by pleasing signs, that the old-fashioned girl liked him, in the
good old-fashioned way. At the same time, of course, he was, by
deliberate choice, a fiction-writer, not a dancing-man; and his position
about the bridge-party, as he saw it, was that he was doing a kindly
deed, to give pleasure to a rather lonely young girl. Moreover, it
should not occur again.

And when he set out on the brisk walk to the Flowers', he was not
thinking of Angela at all, but of Angela's cousin, Mary. He understood
that Mary was to be at the bridge-party--indeed, he understood that the
party was being given principally in Mary's honor--and he was genuinely
concerned as to what his manner toward that young woman now should be.

His perplexity dated from an episode two days earlier. On Tuesday
afternoon he had met Mary Wing over by the High School, not entirely by
chance, and had turned and walked with her. She was alone, for a wonder;
but she had begun at once to talk of the unhappy Miss Trevenna, fairly
bursting out as to the way she was being persecuted, and so forth. Miss
Trevenna had "lost" two places already, it seemed. And Charles, seeing
how much to heart Mary took the luckless girl's troubles, suddenly felt
sorry for her--yes, he ventured to feel sorry for Mary Wing!--and did
what he had positively resolved not to do. He, also, dropped a hint to
Mary.

The memory of that unwisdom was with him yet, as an exasperation and a
hurt.

It had profited him nothing that he approached the task, circumspectly,
in his light, humorous vein. "Did you ever hear what Susan B. Anthony
said when she had tried using bloomers for a year?" he had inquired,
positively jovial. "Said she was convinced that one reform at a time was
all that one person could manage!" But Mary Wing had said instantly,
"You apply this to me," and right there had the trouble begun. "Aren't
you crippling yourself needlessly?" he had amiably suggested. "Is it
wise to feed the popular delusion that any sort of reformer is all sorts
of an anarchist?" To which she replied, quite indignantly, "This isn't a
question of _reform_ at all with me!--if you must have it explained to
you." And when he asked her what she expected to accomplish exactly, she
declared that in point of fact a great deal had been accomplished
already; Miss Trevenna's father had seen her, for one thing, and it
seemed but a matter of time before she would be forgiven and taken back.
"But if nothing was accomplished in a thousand years," said Mary, "I'd
still do exactly what I am doing!"

The worst of it was that one large disunited side of Charles stuck it
out that Mary was doing exactly right: he knew, indeed, whatever she
might say for argument, that all this was chiefly a matter of her
sympathies, and she no more believed in this sort of Freedom than he
did. Hence his counter-argument had not been up to his best standard, a
mere urging of timid prudences, it seemed. And very soon she had swooped
on his weakness, silencing him at a stroke:--

"I'll not drop an old friend just because it's _safer_! I'll not. Mr.
Garrott, you disappoint me."

Now, no man on earth enjoys being told that he has disappointed a
friend, least of all a woman friend, in a matter involving courage. Mr.
Garrott held that word ungracious from Mary. And now, as he strode
silently toward his evening of pleasure, he seemed to feel that there
was, indeed, a kind of hardness in her, and, as to him, a certain air of
assured superiority such as could not be further tolerated.

How, then, should he deport himself toward Mary now, seeing her again at
the bridge-party? Through long blocks, Charles pondered the question.
While leaning from the first toward a manner of brilliant tolerance,
slightly aloof, indeed, yet splendidly witty, he really had not settled
the point finally in his mind, when Miss Angela opened her front door
for him, and said, almost in the first breath:--

"Oh, Mr. Garrott, what do you think? Cousin Mary and Mr. Manford both
backed out! _I hope you don't mind playing three-hand!_"

Taken completely by surprise, the young man hardly repressed a bitter
mirth.

But that, after all, was for his wasted evening only. And in a moment he
was himself again, doing his deed of kindness, distributing pleasure
among the young and lonesome.

He was not, indeed, he considered, one to think the less of a girl for
being poor but hospitable, for desiring to "entertain," when, the too
obvious fact was, she had nobody to entertain. The three-hand's party
rather touched than repelled Charles; he criticized not Angela, but Mary
Wing, who had stayed away. Moreover, the other guest turned out to be
Fanny Warder, which suited him unexpectedly well. Grieved though he was
by Fanny's broken beauty, she had become a Case to him now, one more
exhibit in the growing gallery of Woman's Unrest.

And certainly, when it was all over, it never once occurred to Charles
to think of this evening as a waste, exactly.

Into the mysteries of three-hand, as pursued in the Flower parlor that
evening, it will do well not to follow. The play really was not the
thing, as Angela had implied to her Cousin Mary, when speaking of
Donald. Fanny Warder played a poor game; everybody said that. Of course,
she had only come to help out, but still, one could not avoid observing
how treacherous were her bids, or crying out upon her when she was
discovered slumbering with the three highest hearts. A great deal of
jumping up and changing seats there was, a great deal of discussion each
time as to which one had better jump and change, constant demands of,
"Whose bid is it?" and, "Who dealt these cards?" But there was much
girlish laughter, too; merry prattle flowed unceasingly; "a good time
was had."

And Angela's bridge-party had, as Charles viewed it, one sterling merit:
it ended early. It is a point which, as is well known, rests entirely in
the hands of the hostess, according to when she elects to bring on her
refreshments; and when Angela rose soon after ten o'clock and tripped
away alone to get "the party," as she called it, the author's whole
opinion of her went up at a bound. He had known women, thus having you
at their mercy, to keep you sitting around till midnight before ever
mentioning "the party," and then sometimes those horrible jolly girls
made you romp back to the pantry and help.

And when, after a considerable interval, Miss Angela returned, bearing
her refreshments on a large tin tray, the young authority again took the
large view, sympathetically seeing the general behind the particular.
The refreshments consisted of lettuce and tomato salad, together with
crackers, a little cheese, ice-water, and a small box of candy. Charles
could not conceal from himself that the salad was poor, the dressing had
"run," the crackers were without crackle, the candy cheap, the ice-water
warm; but, in a subtle sort of way, all this made him feel not less, but
more, friendly toward his simple young hostess. Not knowing that she
could not make mayonnaise, or suspecting that her little brother had
reluctantly stood treat to the candy, his fancy pictured the girl as
preparing the modest spread for her (two) friends with her own hands and
thought, her heart full of pleasant anticipations the while. And this
seemed normal and human to Charles, and sweet enough, and just a little
pathetic besides. Angela, gayly setting out her three plates, was again
a type and a symbol. She was all the poor Nice Girls in the world, ten
million poor Nice Girls scattered over the earth that night who, the
day's justifying labors done, were trying to create a little joy for
themselves and others, sweetly pursuing their great business of
Supplying Beauty and Supplying Charm....

But while Angela was still in the rearward regions, making ready her
tray, Charles engaged in a scientific talk with his old friend Fanny. It
both interested and depressed him.

Mary's young sister had taken Harold Warder out of a field unusually
large for these lean days. Harold had been in love with her from his
knickerbocker days, and was considered to be "doing very well"; the
match had been a most promising one. But ill-luck had pursued the young
couple from the first, assuming the worst of all forms, unceasing
doctor's bills. Fanny, beyond any counting, had had long illnesses
following the births of both her children; and the expenses of the first
one had swamped Warder, wiping out at once the rainy-day margin he had
married on. That Mary Wing secretly sent money to Fanny, Charles was
morally certain. But Fanny was well again now, and poverty and debt were
wont to be the butts of young love. Why, then, was her pretty face drawn
to a birdlike thinness; why this beaten look in eyes that were once so
gay?

Tête-à-tête over the three-hand table, Mrs. Warder surprised Charles by
saying that she wanted to go back to work; her husband, however, would
not hear of such a thing. Charles, though a modern, said naturally not.

"I can earn a hundred a month," said Fanny, "and get a perfect nurse for
twenty-five."

He explained the error in her utilitarianism. Intently shuffling the
cards on the table, he pointed out the injustice of orphaning Paulie and
Neddy-Weddy of their mother-love. Fanny's own mind seemed greatly
unsettled. But she could be as straightforward as Mary with those she
was fond of.

"Harold supposed," she said, presently, "that he was marrying a lively
young person, one that he, at least, would find indefinitely
entertaining. He discovers instead that he's got an ailing woman on his
hands, one with no spirits or looks at all worth mentioning. Could you
blame him if he woke up some day and said, 'I've been cheated?'"

And the Young Wife slowly added: "It'll be years before he gets his head
above water again. And that's my doing, Charles,--I, who'd have cut off
my right arm to help him the least bit."

Charles scolded her roundly for her morbidness. "Great heavens!--you
must know _he_ could never think that way! Look how you have helped him!
If your health went, you gave it to him--let him hold that to his heart!
There's Paulie and the baby, that you brought him, more than
compensating--"

But Mary's sister broke this argument with her old laugh.

"Don't tempt me, Charles! I'm all kinds of a hypocrite but that kind! Of
course, I wanted children a great deal more than Harold, and they're my
compensation--for everything--not his at all. You know all that
perfectly well. No, no," said Fanny, lowering her voice as Angela's
returning steps were heard. "If Harold ever tires of me, I'll go, you
may be sure. He won't find me clamping on his shoulders, claiming to be
taken care of for life because of my two little darlings...."

Charles had expected to walk home with Fanny, continuing the sad but
interesting talk, but he was frustrated in that intention by the arrival
of an escort of Fanny's own. This proved to be none other than Mr.
Tilletts.

It developed that the seeking widower, who was known as a sort of public
Former Suitor, had called on Fanny this evening, and, finding her about
to go out, had begged the privilege of squiring her to and fro. Had
Angela understood this in advance, how willingly would she have raised
Three-Hand to a Table! But at least she could do her best now to remove
from Mr. Tilletts's mind the idea that she was rude,--derived at the
Redmantle Club, where she had made her unfortunate mistake,--and
apparently she was successful, for Charles heard the plump seeker say,
"May I call?" quite distinctly, as they moved into the hall.

The door shut on a chorus of good-nights.

The bridge-party was over; and it was only quarter of eleven. Charles
turned toward the hat-rack and the Studio. And in turning, he surprised
a look in his hostess's dark eyes, which seemed to say, in the most
ingenuous way: "At last, a few minutes to ourselves!"

All evening, he had been aware of a subtly more personal note in Miss
Angela's manner; a coyer and engagingly proprietary note, which he, with
his known dispassionateness toward this sex, considered as intended for
Fanny Warder's benefit. Charles had not been annoyed by this: few men
repel the adoration of a pretty girl. And now this soft simple
expectancy of hers, this girlish lingering over her somewhat pathetic
party, seemed beyond his kind heart (as he would have put it) to
disappoint. "You're not going!--it's so early!" she exclaimed, and
coquetted prettily enough: "I'd think you were displeased with
me--promising to have Cousin Mary for you, and then not doing it!... But
you don't mind _very_ much, do you?"

Kindly Charles capitulated at once. "Pay my party-call right now--?" he
threw out, gallant and yet thrifty withal. "If you're sure I'm not
keeping you up...."

So these two reëntered Miss Angela's little parlor, with its
sleeping-car shape and too prominent Latrobe heater: a room poor enough
in itself, but having an institutional significance when considered as
the Waiting Room of the Womanly Woman. Here they sat down, side by side,
upon a dented sofa. And here, before a great while, there took place a
somewhat strange occurrence.

There began an animated flow of girlish chatter.

"I haven't seen you on Washington Street for three days now, Mr.
Garrott. I believe you're avoiding me! I met Mr. Manford this afternoon,
and what do you think he said? That he couldn't play bridge as well as
he could build them, and was afraid he'd be mobbed at a party! I don't
think he _could_ play any worse than Fanny, do you? But Mr. Garrott, why
does he want to go to _Wyoming_? I'd _lots_ rather go to New York, if I
were a man! I asked him if that river out there he was going to dam was
pretty, and he said he'd send me a picture post-card of it, when he
went. But I suppose he'll forget all about it...."

Mr. Garrott, pleasantly relaxed, made suitable replies as need arose. In
his scientific way, he was noting how fine and clear Miss Angela's skin
was, what shining soft eyes she had, how soothing and sweet was her
voice. Certainly this girl did not try to create the air that she was
your manly superior, or address you like a Self-Made Man reproving his
wife.

"Fanny's broken so dreadfully, hasn't she? She was so lovely and
attractive as a girl. Tommy was crazy about her when she visited us in
Mitchellton, a long time ago. He gave her the loveliest presents! But
Tommy was always the most generous boy. They were getting up a
drinking-fountain as a memorial to Major Beesom--he was postmaster for
years and years, you know--and Tommy headed the list with twenty-five
dollars, and he was only making forty a month! I just wish you could
have known Major Beesom! I know you'd want to put him in a book. Mr.
Garrott, I'm _so_ anxious to read some of your stories! What are your
heroines like, generally?"

Out of which, she said presently, laughing and whisking her hand behind
her back:--

"You were looking at my ring!"

"Why not?" said Mr. Garrott, starting a little. "A cat may look at a
ring."

That was reasonable surely. Angela, after a few teasing pretenses, held
up her modest gimcrack for him to see. And Charles, naturally, accepted
the hand so presented.

As to what subsequently occurred, there was always a divided house
within the many-sided Charles. But all his sides insisted that, at this
point, he had no interest in the matter whatever; some held that he had
not even seen the ring till she called attention to it. Now, bending
over the hand, he examined it, and said:--

"Well! This is news to me, you know!"

"Not at all!" laughed the owner of the ring. "Why, what do you mean?"

"I've seen an engagement ring once before, you see."

"You're very clever! But--does it have to follow that I'm engaged?"

"That was the rule, in my day."

"You don't seem at all curious!"

"I'm very curious."

"Well, I'm not, of course!"

"I'm glad to hear it."

He made, as it were, a sort of sketch of a move to release the small
hand at this point. However, nothing seemed to come of it.

"Are you?... Why?"

"Oh, because--it's rather sad for an old bystander like me to see all
the nice young people going off two by two, for happiness and the great
adventure."

To that, the girl made no reply. She merely gave a little laugh, and
withdrew her hand. The house seemed very still. And Charles was at once
aware that he had been found somehow deficient at the simple game of
parlor conversation. In a scarcely definable way, he felt himself
rebuked for timidity, wariness.

Nevertheless, in her simple, natural way, the girl made known that the
ring was properly the possession of a man in Mitchellton--Charles
recalled Mr. Jenney--and was now worn only by courtesy, reminiscently,
as it were, with no obligations attached.

"You see, his brothers all went off, like all the other men, and his
sister married and went away, and so he said he would stay in
Mitchellton with his mother. And it's truly the most hopeless place! He
doesn't seem to have any ambition at all--it provoked me so! I think all
men ought to have ambition, don't you?"

"I do, indeed. And he owns that pretty ring, you say?"

"Yes. You see," she said, laughing and coloring, "when I felt I must
break it off,--well, he wouldn't let it stay off exactly! I--I'm telling
you all my secrets! He said he'd still consider himself--oh--you know!"

"Naturally. He had enough ambition for that."

And, as if to show Miss Angela that, in point of fact, none knew better
than he how to talk to a girl on a sofa, Charles carelessly took up that
betrothal hand again, saying: "So he made you keep the ring all the
same?"

"The day we left Mitchellton. And I said I'd wear it--oh, just till I
met somebody I liked better! It was really more of a joke!..."

"Ah! And you haven't met such a person yet, I gather?"

"Oh--I'm not to send it back till I know--"

"How long," said the young authority, at once completely conscious of
the supreme inanity of the proceedings, and finding them enjoyable
enough, "how long do you allow yourself to find out?"

"That isn't easy to tell.... Do you know you're the strangest man!"

"Am I? How do I seem so strange to you?"

The little hand was warm, not unpleasant to retain. The eyes, gazing up
at him, were liquid and bright; they were woman's eyes. "Consider me,"
they seemed to say. "Am I not sweet, desirable? Am I not worthy to be
held dear? Was I not made to delight? See, I am Woman, beside you...."

"Oh," said the soft voice, "the way you do. Cousin Mary says you're the
new sort of man, that isn't interested in girls at all. You're too
clever to care anything about them. Are you?"

"Clever? I'd call that the stupidest thing in the world."

"Then you do like them! I'm so glad. I've wondered, you see...."

The feminine speeches, the appeal of these eyes, seemed all at once to
create an enveloping pressure, softer than nothing, yet extraordinary.
Or possibly the trouble was that Dionysius, after all, had freed his
eyes of the magic more brilliantly than his creator.

"What sort of girls do you like? Tell me?" said the voice of Woman,
nearer.

And then in the suddenest way conceivable there took place the Strange
Occurrence referred to. Without the smallest premeditation, Charles bent
and touched his lips to that smooth invitational cheek.

On that central point there is not the slightest room for doubt. Let
there be no wriggling or evasion here. Charles Garrott, who scorned La
Femme and viewed Woman exclusively as a Movement, did bend his neck and
kiss the Mitchellton Home-Maker upon a sofa.

He meant the salute, he was afterward certain, as but a fatherly tribute
to youth and beauty, or (considered in another way) but the expected,
and in a sense purely conventional, move in the ancient parlor-game. But
on such a move as this homes have been broken, families set to mutual
slaughter, thrones shaken, history changed. Charles, to put it in a
word, found it easier to begin paying his tributes than gracefully to
desist from them.

Prompted by a not unnatural curiosity, the lady (who had not proved more
than maidenly surprised or rebuking) said:--

"Oh!... Why do you do this?"

[Illustration: "OH!... WHY DO YOU DO THIS?"]

Who knows what trusting heart first voiced that immemorial question?
Charles Garrott, at least, was not the first gentleman on earth to fail
to utter promptly the one satisfactory commentary on his behavior. Miss
Angela made that little, gentle note of interrogation which cannot be
written, and then she said again:--

"Tell me--why do you?"

Then it was as if the intrinsic pointedness of that query penetrated the
man, suddenly and sharply. It was the mere force of iteration, no doubt;
but all at once the soft voice seemed possessed of a certain insistence,
tinctured with a certain definite expectation, you might say. Now that
Charles stopped to think of it, why was he doing this?

The young man's arms fell, as if something had burned them. He rose
abruptly and strode away to the mantelpiece, where, however, the Latrobe
heater spoiled any hope of an effective pose.

If he meant thus to signify that the little episode was closed and done
with, life, unluckily, was not quite so simple as that. The pretty
Home-Maker, having gazed at his back- or side-view a moment, as if
bewildered, said in an uncertain voice:--

"I--I don't understand you at all. Why did you do that?"

Putting down the impulse to bolt, and the even more astonishing impulse
to return to that fatal sofa, Charles Garrott braced himself to reply.
In this effort he was handicapped by emotions altogether unknown to most
young men who sit upon sofas. For example: What would the lady in Sweden
have to say to this little affair?

He confronted a fact which he had temporarily lost sight of: that he who
pays these tributes must pay for them to the full. Half of him might
feel resentful and furious, but it was clear that the whole of him, the
net Charles, must cut a sorry figure for a while. Half of him might be
crying out, stern as science itself: "Come, girl, be honest! Don't go
about dropping matches into gunpowder, and then pretend to be surprised
at the explosion." But the net Charles, brightly flushed, was speaking
lamely as a schoolboy:--

"Well! Do you think I could be _blamed_--exactly? It--it seemed such an
awfully natural thing to do. You--ah--it seemed I--I couldn't do
anything _else_!..."

"I see," said the girl slowly.

"Ah--you--you're a very kissable person, you must know--"

"And do you always go about kissing people you think are kissable?"

The young man shrank as from a blow. Not looking once in her direction,
he did not note that she had spoken with a quivering lip. With a great
effort at lightness, he stammered:--

"Well, hardly! It must be that I don't often meet people who--who are as
k-k-kissable as you--"

"I suppose I ought to feel flattered."

There was a miserable silence.

"I was mistaken in you," continued the Nice Girl's stricken voice. "I--I
trusted you. I supposed you were too honorable--I didn't think--"

That word seemed to touch him to the quick. He spoke with desperate
stiffness.

"I _am_ honorable, I hope. Miss Flower--aren't you taking this too--too
seriously, perhaps? After all, you--"

She astonished him by bursting into tears.

And all modernity became as nothing then, and Charles was a simple man,
horrified by the sight of woman's grief. Now his abasement became
complete; now he groveled most properly; never, he vowed, would he cease
to censure himself most severely for this Occurrence. He wheedled, he
implored, he cajoled. But, of course, all this but made the matter
worse, threw his wary, inexcusable omissions into sharper and sharper
relief. And presently Miss Angela referred to him as _brutal_ (did she
not pause even after that, in a sort of expectant way?) and then ended
the tragedy by begging him to leave her, her fatally ringed hands held
fast before her eyes.

No such conclusion to the evening of wholesome pleasure could have been
devised by the wit of fiction-writers. Charles gathered up his hat and
coat like a thief, and let himself gently out into the night.



VIII


He turned in at the Green Park, in the still night, and stood gazing
with bitterness at a dim gigantic Citizen, who rose in bronze at the
intersection of two walkways. The Citizen gazed back with no bitterness
at all; but then, he was dead.

Charles Garrott, being very much alive, was thinking cadlike thoughts
with clarity and vigor. In the romances, men who won a maiden's sweet
kiss instantly besought her to name the day; failing that, they were
cads. But Charles was resolved to fail that, and he was struggling
determinedly not to feel a cad. He simply did not consider that Miss
Angela's kiss had such a pricelessness, entailing cosmic
responsibilities. Why was her kiss any sweeter than his own, to come
right down to it?

Now pure remorse had faded: self-interest, outraged self-respect, fought
to have their say. Indeed, Miss Angela herself could not well feel more
mortified over those unimagined salutes than he, the New Man, did. And
it was as if his humiliation had destroyed all that restraining sense of
a bond here, and the brutal Charles was free now for a frank facing of
his new reactions.

"Well, I won't marry her! I won't," said he to the calm Citizen. "I'll
call myself names for her, yes; I'll send her bonbons--flowers--that
sort of thing. I'll land Donald for her--that's a thought! I'll get her
invited to the Thursday German. But _marry her_!... No, the kindest
thing would be never to see her again."

[Illustration: "WELL, I WON'T MARRY HER! I WON'T!"]

And, gazing up in the silent darkness of the park, the unheroic young
man began to think how he could go to Berringer's by the Center Street
cars, and take his walks henceforth in the manufacturing district, and
in far countrysides.

Between Miss Flower's and the park, Charles had been briefly unnerved by
a disruptive thought. This girl loved him. Recollections from his salad
days rushed on him, memories of swift violent fancies women took to him.
He was cursed, it seemed, with a fatal fascination. Women might be
practically engaged to other men; they might be at the altar's hinges;
but he could not stroll among them with his devilish gift without
scattering ruin amid the troths. If he was not openly rude to them, they
took it as direct encouragement; if he was civil, from him they viewed
it as wooing; and when actually crowned with the deliberate kiss ...

But these bachelor terrors he had exploded with one "Piffle!" spoken so
loudly that two young street-car conductors, passing to or from a
car-barn, no doubt, nudged and jeered. Oh, no, Miss Angela was not in
love with him. She had merely conceived that he, Charles, was in love
with her. (A stinging thought this, even while it vastly reassured.)
Yes, this rudimentary country cousin, whom he had felt sorry for because
of her loneliness, whom he had been interested in purely as a Type (he
maintained), with which to cudgel the hard utilitarian egoism of another
sort of woman--this little creature must needs suppose that he, Charles
Garrott, who knew the most attractive women there were, had fallen a
victim to her village arts and bucolic wiles.

Great heavens!--Oh, the cheek! Oh, the naïve complacence of the naïvest
sex the Lord ever made!...

Why, he had never paid the smallest attention to this girl; never taken
dog's notice of her, you might say! Booting pebbles this way and that in
the darkness, the angry young man reviewed the circumstances with
scientific dispassionateness (as he considered). Compulsorily introduced
by the firm Mary, he had spoken politely to the girl; kindly presented
a suitable young friend or two; and therewith considered that the whole
matter was closed. But no, on the contrary; one pleasant smile from him,
and the Womanly Woman was up and doing.

She had pumped out of him the hour at which he took his walks (he knew
nothing about the opera-glasses as yet); and straightway she began
waylaying him on the street, nothing less. She had all but forced a book
on him, which he would have to return with a "call"--she supposed; when
he did not call, she did something which could only be described as
inveigling him to her home (that was his word now), by the shallow ruse
of a bridge-party; and then and there she had (you might say) flung both
arms about his neck and kissed him. And by these proceedings, it
appeared to her, in that queer world where Nice Girls lived, that she
had affixed a claim upon him, fairly bagged his heart, in short. "Why do
you do this?" said she, insistently. Oh, how simple life looked to such
as these, her and her sisters of the Naïve Sex! Forever putting that
stereotyped query, forever expecting to elicit the hoarse but extremely
welcome reply, "Because I love you so!" No conquest too extraordinary to
seem at all surprising to their quaint little self-approval!

There was humor now in his imagining of the Womanly Woman as quietly
waiting at home to be wooed. It appeared that Miss Angela had done
everything but that.

A church clock boomed suddenly: it was half-past eleven. The young man's
eyes fell from the face of the Citizen. Through the stark stems of the
winter trees a yellow light glowed strongly in a lower window. That was
Olive Street there; this light shone in the Wings' house. He noted it
absently, wondering why Mary worked so late to-night. On the heels of
that came another wonder, more personal: What would Mary think of these
proceedings upon a sofa?

There must have been a bracing quality in the thought of Mary Wing, for
Charles's hot desire to justify himself chilled instantly. Mary had her
faults, heaven knew; but she had nothing to do with sofas. In a wink,
the young man became staggered at himself. For there was nothing he had
been thinking just now that he had not seen clearly for many years past.
What, then? Had his vision of late been blurred in the cheapest way
conceivable? When he told himself that he was scientifically commending
the supplying of Beauty and Charm, was it possible that he, Charles
Garrott, had been subtly allured by La Femme?

From outraged and resentful, Charles became let down and depressed.
Standing and gazing at Mary Wing's bright light, he found his whole
point of view shifting. He, of course, was blameworthy, not this soft
bit of unthinking femininity. Turned out without a lesson and with but
one way of life--what could she do but signify, like her mothers, that
she was ready to twine about her oak? So again, Charles saw the girl he
had left in tears as a being mysteriously wistful and pathetic. And
still she was a type to him, still a symbol of myriads of girls, waiting
over the world: Girls brought up by simple parents who assumed that life
was still as simple as they; girls made to stake their whole lives on
the vague expectation that, because they are girls, some man or other
will be sure to want them some day; a million girls waiting, day by day
and year by year, while all they have to offer life fades away under
their eyes....

The young authority trailed out of the park feeling much like the cads
of Romance, after all. And yet it seemed to be settled now, definitely
and positively, that he would not make a Womanly Woman the heroine of
his new novel.

A light snow had begun to fall. Other people than Charles Garrott moved
homeward from evenings of beauty, charm and pleasure. Motor-cars rolled
on Washington Street. Emerging from the Green Park, Charles moodily
saluted two young men who stood there on a corner; one was his good
friend, Talbott Maxon, but the author passed him almost like a stranger.
To all intercourse with his kind he felt utterly averse. Nevertheless,
when he passed the door of the Bellevue Club, presently, he found his
privacy ruthlessly invaded.

Down the wide steps between the two columnar lights--exactly as on that
other evening when it had all begun--came shambling the loose figure of
Uncle Oliver Wing. Only now Uncle Oliver's large face was faintly
flushed, his large felt hat was pulled over his eyes, his very large
cigar was rakishly uptilted toward the heavens. From which it was
concluded that Mr. Wing was not less than five drinks and five dollars
the better for _his_ little card-party at the Club.

"Let's see now, Charlie,--what was it you asked me?" said Mr. Wing,
catching stride and slipping his arm through the silent young man's.
"Did I believe in this Woman's Movement, wasn't that it?"

Resenting the intrusion, Charles replied coldly: "That was it, I
believe."

Mr. Wing appeared no whit abashed. "Well, Charlie, fact is I believe in
most any kind of a movement, as I reckon you know, and all I ask about
any of 'em is, where's the harm of moving kind of slow, and taking a few
good squints around as we go. That'd about give my view that you asked
me for," said the money-lender, a known reactionary in theory and
practice--"Move slow and squint."

Genially, he took a fresh grip on the arm Charles had almost detached,
and therewith went off into an ill-timed long rigmarole. So convivially
windy was Mr. Wing that he had talked steadily through two blocks before
it came over Charles, with force, that Mary's uncle had had a sharp aim
from the beginning.

"Now, you take, for instance, this privilege of work they're all
clamoring for, Charlie. Women mustn't be parasites; give us the
privilege of work, they say. And that's right, too; give 'em all they'll
take's my view. But, Charlie, my observation is that when a woman
clamors that way, it's ten to one she's thinking of work like being
governor, or a great public speaker maybe, or Miss Jane Addams, out to
Hull House there. But if you ask _me_, are they willing to work like men
do, just so's not to have you call 'em parasites--well, that's where I
say, let's stop and squint around. Of course, now, whenever you see a
rich man's daughter refusing to touch her daddy's money, and jumping up
mornings by an alarm-clock to catch the 7.42, and when you see her
working nine hours a day, winter and summer, at a job it makes her sick
to look at, for ten little dollars a week, and no brass band or
fireworks anywhere--why, then you got a right to say, _that_ woman hates
being a parasite. But, Charlie, you're so quiet, you don't say anything,
I don't guess you're following while I try to answer that question you
asked me."

"Oh, I follow you," replied Charles, with annoyance.

Mr. Wing shot one keen glance at the young man's face, and another ahead
as if to measure the distance yet remaining to his domicile.

"Well, now, morals, Charlie!" he continued, most agreeably. "Lor', the
things our little gals do say nowadays! Make you laugh right out loud.
Ain't it funny how innocent women can keep, now? Up and take their
cocktails, yes, and smoke their cigarettes, and talk right out, white
slave this, and red-light that, and all the time--no more _notion_!...
Why, Charlie, you wouldn't believe the pretty-faced little gal, no
more'n twenty-two years old, I heard making a public speech once, and
what do you think her subject was? 'My plea,' says she, 'is a single
standard of morality for men and women. Whatever man may do,' says she,
'that we claim woman's right to do also.'"

The old gasbag broke off to say, "How-do, Ed," to a passer in the
filtering snow, knocked the ashes from his cigar with the large hand
that was not clutching Charles, and resumed.

"Well, Charlie, I'd been sitting there meek as peaches while that little
gal explained to us all about men and women, but when she gets that off,
and right away asks if anybody in the audience has got any questions,
seemed like I couldn't sit still any longer. 'Excuse me,' I says,
standing up, 'but d'ye make a plea for the single standard of physical
courage also, miss?' I says. 'What say?' she sings out, pretending not
to hear me, while she tries to think what it said in that book she'd
been reading. 'It's a little thing, miss,' I says, 'only an old fellow's
way of saying if maybe Godalmighty didn't figure a little variety'd be a
good thing in this hard world he gave us. When the ship goes down,' I
says, 'do you call on your sisters for the single standard of courage,
miss, or do you hold by the men's rule of the sea and the land, and hop
into the lifeboats with the kids? Excuse a plain old fellow from
speakin' up this way, miss,' I says, 'but seems to me maybe Godalmighty
might have known what he was doing when he gave women more feeling, and
men more fighting strength; when he appointed women to give life and men
to guard it; when, as you might put it, he appointed some virtues for
both to hold in common, and then some for each of 'em to grow and
cultivate specially. And maybe, miss,' I says, 'Godalmighty made the
distribution fairer than some of our college gals realize.' Well,
Charlie, you ought to have heard the hand the crowd gave me, though
there was some hissin' by Suffragettes, I own. And what d'ye think that
cute-lookin' little thing does? 'I deny,' she sings out, her voice
shaking, 'that God gave more strength to men. I deny there is a God,'
she says. And right there she bu'sts out crying, and runs off the
stage.... Yes, she did!--first speech in public maybe. Well, Charlie,
all I say is, that's the kind of loose talk our gals're hearing all the
time nowadays. And that," said Mr. Wing, coming to a halt before his own
steps, and glancing hastily over his shoulder toward his door--"that's
why I can't help feeling sorry for this little gal here that got into
the trouble, and taking sides with her, too, against my public duty and
morals. Why, Charlie, _she_ thought all the talk was meant, not seeing
it was only half-foolin', like in a play."

Now it was that Charles Garrott's bored eye upon Uncle Oliver suddenly
became fixed.

"Taking sides with her?" he said, speaking for almost the first time in
the walk. "What do you mean?"

"Well, that's just what I did, the effect was," said Mr. Wing, his own
eye wandering, "and against my conscience, too. Why, Charlie, if I
wasn't an early retirer by habit, and this snow comin' on, too, I could
show you quick enough where all this Single Standard was
damfoolishness--unless, of course, you mean Perfect Purity, like I
preach myself. And when a woman jumps up and hits a crack at marriage,
that the rest of us are sacrificin' ourselves to build up for the good
of Society, why, she's a bad woman, you can talk till you're black in
the face, that had ought to be punished. Yes, and those that help her,
they're lending encouragement to the enemies of the Republic, seems
like, and they'd ought to be punished, too. But, shucks," said Mr. Wing,
crushing the fire from the cigar against the iron railing, and putting
the stump carefully in his pocket, "blood's thicker'n water, like they
say. And I don't regret voting the way I did, though the majority was
against me from the start."

The two men stood fronting each other in the silent street, and the
young man's face had become rigid. And he was now perfectly aware of the
faint gleam in the old man's eye, a gleam of distinctly malicious
enjoyment.

"Mr. Wing, what are you talking about?"

"Why, I thought you must have heard, Charlie, you seemed so kind of
glum. Why, I thought you must be on your way from Mary's now."

He glanced again at his door, as if to say that he really must not be
expected to stop for further conversation at this late hour. And then he
said what exploded Miss Angela Flower off the horizon.

"Why, Charlie, you see the School Board fired Mary this afternoon. On
account of this little friend of hers, Trevenna, that she--"

"WHAT?"

"Well, transferred's really the word, Charlie," said Uncle Oliver,
edging up a step or two. "She's sent over as a teacher to Lee Grammar
School, reporting Monday. Johnson Geddie's the new assistant principal
at the High School, commencing Monday, too. Well, Charlie, good--"

Charles seized the burly arm in a grip sufficiently strong for a writer,
and threw all his turmoil into three words: "_Who went over?_"

"Creamer and Honeykamp, I guess you mean. Of course, there was right
smart feelin' aroused, and it seemed Creamer's got a growin' daughter in
the High School, that's got to be protected and all. 'Twas only Mary's
good record saved her being dropped entirely, I guess, considering how
Mysinger'd worked the case up against her. Well, _good_-night, Charlie."

Wrenching away his arm, Mr. Wing rolled rapidly up the steps and
vanished into the dark cave of his hall. But Charles stood still as a
snow-man on the sidewalk, feeling as if the skies had fallen.



IX


So Mary Wing's name flared in newspaper headlines once again.

In matters of school politics, the editorial writers of the city were
habitually gun-shy, but it was noted next morning that the reporters had
treated Mary with marked consideration. "Of all the changes and new
appointments ordered by the Board in its three-hour session," wrote the
kindly youth on the "Post," "none created such amazement as the demotion
of Miss Wing, she having for long been conceded to be possibly the most
valued teacher in the city school system. Members of the Board, however,
refused to explain their totally unlooked-for action, Chairman Garcin
merely claiming that 'All changes were for the good of the schools.'
Charges of politics were freely heard in the lobby, and one well-known
citizen, who prefers not to be quoted at just this juncture, said," etc.

Reporters, as everybody knows, must severely repress their personal
opinions and stick like mucilage to the bare facts. But which facts are
the bare ones? Judicious selection is a wonderful thing.

However, one of Miss Wing's admirers read the "Post's" amiable sentences
with no abatement of his burning indignation. Print made the thing
immensely concrete, and that was all. In Charles's mind, every hard or
critical thought of Mary had fallen instantly in the face of her
astonishing disaster; "I told you so" was not in him. That his old
friend's struggle upward had collapsed in sudden disgrace: this was bare
fact enough to possess him completely throughout the tutorial day. Here
fell a Modern principle from which he had never wavered, the great
principle that a woman should have a fair field to work, and fair
judgment, without prejudice of sex. All Mary Wing's success had been
entwined with that principle; since she was in her teens, she had
fought for it, in sunshine and in thunder; and in that town at least the
way was smoother for all women henceforward, because of what she had
done. And now to break her, after all these years, only because she, a
woman, had refused to throw a stone at a mistaken sister ... By Heavens,
this could not be endured.

Thus Charles communed with himself, crisply teaching the Elements,
French and Sociology. And he snapped his watch at Miss Grace Chorister
five minutes ahead of time and, writing forgotten, went rushing to the
support of his "demoted" friend.

But he did not rush by way of the frequented promenade. As he had gone
to lunch by street-car to-day, so his journey to the High School was
conducted in the same discreet manner. Through all this unimagined
disturbance about Mary, the young man had not lost sight of his last
night's resolve, formed in the Green Park, as to Mary's so different
cousin. Cad he might be; understand it she might not (in view of the
kiss); but Charles was clear that it was for the best that he and Miss
Angela should meet upon Washington Street no more.

The "Post's" story had made one thing certain at least: Mary did not
mean to tear up her teacher's certificate and pitch it, with her
resignation, in the faces of the School Board. In the still watches,
Charles had thought she might be capable of just such reckless repartee;
now he divined that she was reserving her resignation, to discharge it,
like a bomb, upon her expected election as Secretary of the Education
Reform League. That prospect in the Career blurred the situation
considerably, without doubt. Still, the secretaryship was three months
away, at the worst. And meanwhile the immediate problem thundered for
attention, namely, how to get Mary back into the High School at the
earliest possible moment? Charles, who as a man considered this problem
his own no less than Mary's, arrived at the School with three promising
plans in his head.

It was Friday, commonly a late day for Mary, but you could count on
nothing on such a day as this. However, when he had dashed into the
great building and up the two tall stairways, there sat the late
assistant principal in her little office, hard at work before a regular
man's desk. She was discovered deep in the sorting of papers, and swung
around at his step with a start and a smile.

"Good-afternoon!--and excuse the mess, please! The notice to move caught
me a little unawares, you see.--Don't look so solemn, please!"

Whatever emotions she might have wrestled with last night, when her
light shone so bright over the park, it was clear that Mary Wing had put
them all down to front the world to-day. Neither did she seem
embarrassed by any memories of recent conversations on these topics, of
hints dropped and too firmly repulsed. Her manner, her sensitive fine
face, were as composed as ever.

It may be that this, at the outset, was slightly upsetting to Charles,
who was himself not composed at all.

He scooped a pile of "The New School" from a chair and sat with an elbow
upon the writing-leaf of her masculine desk. Dumping papers from
pigeon-holes, Mary calmly explained how complete was her overthrow.
Senff, who was known as Mysinger's "personal representative" on the
Board, had preferred the charges, she said, recommending her outright
dismissal from the schools. The train had been carefully laid; it
appeared that Mary had received an official warning from the
Superintendent--an obliging man, elderly and weak, whom Mysinger meant
to succeed before long--all of two weeks ago. Beyond influence and
politication, much weight was attached to the simple fact that Mysinger,
as Mary's immediate associate and superior, felt this persistent
antipathy toward her. All the same, the Board had debated the case a
full hour.

"Dangerous ideas," she summarized. "I'm not a suitable person to have
authority over the education of--young women and men."

"What they said about Socrates, too--"

"Yes, but I don't want a monument after I'm dead!"

She laughed, without self-consciousness, and said: "Oh, if I'd tried, of
course, I couldn't have put a better club into Mr. Mysinger's hands.
Ideas!--I'm really amazed I wasn't electrocuted on the spot. Of course
it isn't as if I were a man, you see, with a right to have ideas. That's
my real fault, from the beginning--at least with Mysinger. I'm a woman,
and so should never have been suffered 'to teach, nor to usurp authority
over the man, but to be in silence.' Dear St. Paul!"

It was rare to find bitterness in Mary. Charles asked hastily if there
had been much talk about the building to-day. She said that the School
had been buzzing with it.

"It's almost been worth having it happen, to see how many friends I've
got. And the children are the best, of course. All afternoon my boys and
girls have been streaming in here, in threes and fours--just to say
they're sorry I'm going...."

A shadow fell on her oddly fragile-looking face, and the author struck
the writing-leaf with a large fist.

"By George, you shan't go!"

"By George, I've got to," said Mary.

"Well, by George, you'll come right back. Listen to me."

Leaning forward over her desk, he eagerly unfolded his leading plan,
elaborated by him in the night season. This plan involved an immediate
appeal to the State Board of Education, which body had the power of
overriding all acts of local school boards. Chalmers Brown, the young
Attorney-General of the State and Charles's good friend, was an
_ex-officio_ member of this august body. Brown would arrange to have a
meeting called at once, ostensibly on other business, if necessary. Mary
Wing would find herself triumphantly back in this office within two
weeks from to-day. And as for--

But at the first mention of the State Board, Mary had begun to shake her
head, and before Charles had got his plan fairly set out she interrupted
him, rather (it seemed to him) as an older brother interrupts.

"No, I've thought that over very carefully. Mysinger's pull has me
beaten there before I begin. I'd only be playing into his hand, don't
you see--giving the State Board a public opportunity to indorse and
approve my punishment."

"But, great heavens! Mysinger's not the whole show here. You overrate--"

"He is, and he isn't. Some good men, like Creamer, are against me now,
it's true. And yet, if Mysinger let either Board know that he wanted me
back here, I'd come back to-morrow. He's that much of the show, Mr.
Garrott."

Charles argued warmly. He was chagrined at the ease and decision with
which the sure young woman brushed his arguments aside. Nor did the
consciousness that she was probably sound in her positions soothe his
masculine sense of the fitness of things at all. With a subtle loss of
enthusiasm, he broached his second plan; and it too was summarily thrown
out of court. That plan had called for an investigation of the "due
cause" by the City Council--an intention attributed by the generous
"Post" reporter to the well-known citizen, unnamed. Finding his
supporting shoulder thus rejected, Charles demanded what was _her_
plan, then. And it seemed that Mary's plan was merely to wait until May,
when the terms of three members of the local Board expired (all of them
Mysinger men), and then to see to it that these places were filled with
men friendly to her.

The plan seemed to the young man so feeble and remote, so
uncharacteristic and tame, as to indicate a certain indifference in her.
He sat eyeing her a moment with intent speculation, and then said
deliberately:--

"That's good enough for publication purposes, I suppose. But--you're
thinking of something very different, aren't you?"

"Am I?--what do you suspect?" said Mary, continuing her labors of
paper-sorting.

"It's occurred to me that you have rather a brilliant revenge up your
sleeve all the time. What'll you care for little pigs like Mysinger,
when you go off as General Secretary of the League?"

The self-contained young woman surprised him by throwing both arms above
her head and saying, passionately. "If I only could! Oh, oh! If I only
could!"

Charles's gaze became fixed. "But you're going to, aren't you?"

Her arms fell and she said, in another voice: "No, I don't think I'm
going to land it, you see!"

"Not going to--! Why, I thought you were practically sure!"

"That's the worst of it--I _was_, for a few wild weeks. Now I'm positive
I'm not."

"Why!--but what's happened?"

"Oh," said she, light and calm again, "merely reading between the lines
of Dr. Ames's letters. I hear from him all the time about the State
work--once a week, at least. But he's never referred at all to the talk
we had--about my being Secretary--from the first. Of course, I've
wondered. And then yesterday--no, day before--I had a letter asking if I
expected to be in New York any time before fall. He said he'd like to
talk with me about my work here."

The straightforward sentences carried a painful conviction. Charles's
eyes fell from his friend's face. For this crowning disappointment of
hers he was distressed enough, indeed; and yet he was perfectly
conscious that there was a side of him which could not lament at all.
Publicly speaking, he had not honestly viewed the secretaryship as a
"revenge"; since to get Mary out of the schools, by hook or crook, was
the exact object in life of her adversary, Mysinger, who so earnestly
held that woman's place was the Home. And then, there were those more
personal and secret reactions in him, which had somehow recoiled from
this development of the Career from the start.

"How long have you felt this way--that you weren't going to get it?"

"Oh--for two months now, at least."

"Two months! Why, you've never said anything about it to me!"

"Well, I don't remember your asking anything about it."

"No, because I supposed it was virtually settled--"

"Oh, no, indeed. In fact--oh, it was just a mad dream for me, of course!
I'll live and die a Grammar School teacher."

"No! I swear you'll not!" And, seeing the way cleared of all
extra-complications now, the young man flung out with unwonted
exuberance: "You trust _me_! You'll come back here so quickly you'll
not remember you ever went!"

But the male protectorship, he should have known well, scarcely thrived
in this atmosphere. Mary tied a package of papers, gave him a look and
smile, and dropped it efficiently into the suitcase at her feet.

"Well, that's on the knees of the gods as yet. Meanwhile--there's no use
crying over spilt milk."

"My point is, don't you see, this milk shan't stay spilt! _I'm_ not
going to wait till May to have you back here."

It was on the tip of his tongue to confide to her then, for her comfort,
the third plan he had for her, a plan more circuitous and elaborate than
either of his others, but yet, given time, his personal favorite from
the beginning. However, Mary's little laugh checked him. The laugh may
have been the best cover she had for feelings deeply bruised, after all,
perhaps: but the breath of it chilled the young man's ardors
effectually.

"I'm afraid you must, though! This milk--"

"I decline. Trust me, I say. I intend to help you here."

But her reply was to put into words of one syllable, at last, what her
manner had been saying plainly from the beginning:--

"My dear friend, you _can't_ help me, in this."

She added, quietly snapping on a light: "Don't worry your head about it
any more, please. Whatever, can be done,--I can and will do it, you may
be sure."

It was odd how completely this silenced the young man. It was as if she
had suddenly blown up the whole line of their communication.

And it seemed to Charles, all at once, that Mary had accidentally stated
exactly what was the matter with her, as a woman and a friend. It seemed
to him suddenly that ever since he had known this girl he had been going
to her and saying, "Look here, I'll help you do such and such," and she,
in one way or another, had always been replying, "Why, _you_ couldn't
help ME!"

The conversation between the two old friends thus abruptly thinned out.
It became almost desultory on his part, not untouched with dignity. And
as they so chatted of Lee Grammar School and its unfavorable location,
he, the authority, was eyeing Mary Wing askance, unmistakably
reacting.... Was hardness, then, the necessary corollary of
"independence"? Was it true, exactly as Old Tories said, that a woman
could not grapple long with actuality without rubbing away that natural
sweetness and charm of hers which, it might be, the grim world needed
more than duplicate Careers? Certainly there was no charm for him in
this slip of a girl's self-assertion: "I'm a better man than you, don't
you know it?" Splendid, indeed, was her Spartan calm in a defeat serious
in every way, and with the peculiar sting conferred by Miss Trevenna's
fame. Why was it that he would have warmed to her so infinitely more,
have felt quite a new depth of affection for her, if, rather, she had
turned to him helpless and wildly weeping, "Help me! Help me, friend, or
I perish!"

"And at least you'll get out much earlier in the afternoons," he was
observing courteously....

But his secret thought continued to engross him, this fantastic thought
of Mary weeping. Now he remembered Miss Angela's girlish outburst last
night, after the bridge-party; and he saw that there was something
subtly fitting, engaging on the whole, in a woman's weeping over her
troubles. But Mary, of course, could not weep; she simply didn't have
the plant, as you might put it. No--you could picture Mary asking you to
sit on the sofa and look at her ring, more easily than weeping.

And then, becoming aware of a teacher hovering about in the corridor
near the door,--a fellow named Hartwell it was, who had long seemed
rather attentive to Mary,--Charles Garrott rose to go, a mere polite
caller.

"Isn't it time you were knocking off?"

"I think I'd better clear up a little more of this, now that I'm at it."

"I wonder if I couldn't help you with some of that?"

"Oh, no, thank you." (Why, of course he couldn't help HER, even to tear
up old papers.) "Nobody could understand it but me. But
I've--appreciated your visit."

He wished her a good-afternoon. In a stately silence, he traversed the
spacious corridor, stalked down the handsome stairways. For the moment,
he could not get his thought back to the concrete; the sting of defeat
possessed him, the bitterness that is the portion of the friend of
women. And then, in this mood, shaking the dust of the High School from
his feet, he encountered, of all inopportune people under the sun, Miss
Flora Trevenna.

He came upon the unhappy girl standing in a corner of the outer
vestibule, beyond the great bronze doors; she stood alone, looking off
down the twilight street. Her head turned at the sound of Charles's
feet; recognition came hesitatingly into her glance, and she bowed,
smiling remotely in the absent or reserved way which seemed to be
characteristic of her. It was clearly on a second thought that she spoke
suddenly, in her fluty voice:--

"Oh!--could you tell me whether Miss Wing is still in the building?"

Pausing, his hat stiffly raised, the young man said that Miss Wing was.
"You'll find her in her office--on the third floor at the front, you
know."

"Thank you."

But, as he bowed and passed on, the Badwoman made no move to enter and
ascend. She stood as he had found her, waiting, aside: a solitary and
withdrawn figure, for the moment to the perceiving eye not untouched
with pathos.

But Charles, proceeding, could see in this figure only the witting cause
of all the trouble. He had spoken kindly enough to Miss Trevenna: now
suddenly all his accumulated and complex resentment seemed to gather and
pour out. Couldn't the woman leave Mary alone, even on this day? But
no--of course she couldn't! She who had claimed her Happiness over her
mother's heart would see nothing amiss in seeking to scramble back to
good repute by the same general route. It was her Higher Law to throw
her blight over all who might assist her: over her friend, Mary Wing, no
more than over her own young sisters, from whom (Judge Blenso said)
people were already silently dropping away, now that it was known that
the "free" Miss Flora came sometimes to the house.

_Free!..._ Was not here, indeed, that underside of "Freedom," that true
reverse of Taking My Happiness, which the New speakers never mentioned?
This girl conceived freedom just as a Developed Ego would conceive it,
as an order of things in which she should be "free," while everyone
else, going on as usual, sacrificed and denied to uphold her comfort and
support her illimitable selfishness. In her goings out and comings in,
she would take no thought but for her Self. And there she stood, no
leader of a new dawn, but a true enemy of the common good: a female
Anti-Social, a lawless Egoette, who maintained that the world was
ordered and the sun set in the heavens, that she only might indulge
herself where her whim led....

On the corner the young man halted, shook himself slightly, and glanced
up and down. A brief anxiousness crossed his face, followed by an air
of irresolution.

This street, Albemarle, was three blocks from Washington, and certainly
not a street that a pleasure-walker, like Miss Angela, would be likely
to pick out. Charles's legs seemed to thirst for exercise. But it was
clear to him that it would not do to run any superfluous risks;
especially just now, when it was all so fresh and new. Therefore, after
a moment of struggle, the authority once more set his face ingloriously
toward the street-cars.

And as he went he began to think again, more intently than he had
thought in all the thoughtful day. He had taken that challenge of Mary's
full in the face, as it were. She had said, as if in final summary of
their relations, that he was incapable of helping her. Very well; he had
a clear field now to show her, once and for all, whether or not that was
true.

That third plan of his (of which she should hear no inkling now till the
thing was done) was nothing less than to roll up such a body of Public
Opinion as would overwhelm the School Board--a body somewhat sensitive
to Opinion--forcing it to reverse itself. This could not be done in a
day, of course. To gather momentum enough to rouse the local papers
would mean to start far back. So Charles's mind had fastened at once on
his old idea of a thoroughgoing eulogistic "write-up" of Mary, to begin
with, in some national magazine of the highest standing. Only now his
soaring ambition was to "plant" three such write-ups at least--cunningly
differentiated in matter and manner, and signed with different names.
Nor did this seem by any means a dream. From the periodicals themselves,
he saw that there was a demand for just such "stuff" nowadays, just such
little smartly-written sketches of "people who were doing things." Mary
did things, without a doubt. And once he got the write-ups in
print,--even two write-ups, or one,--he had a powerful bludgeon to
swing at the local editors. "Look here," he would say to them, "why do
we have to go away from home to learn the news? Are you fellows going to
sit still and say nothing while some live city gets this woman for
Superintendent of Schools? Why don't you ..."

The imaginary exhortation ended there. Round the corner ahead of Charles
a man came swinging just then, rapidly drawing near. And all small
plottings were catapulted from the mind of Mary's friend as he looked
into the face of Mr. Mysinger.

The principal of the High School approached with a native swagger, on
much "shined" shoes. He was what is called a careful dresser; a heavily
built man, fair and not ill-looking. Ten steps away, his eye fell on
Charles, and, while his lips assumed a gracious smile, the eye in
question seemed to lighten with a flash of triumph. And the sight of
Miss Trevenna was nothing to that sight. All the blood in the young
man's body seemed suddenly to be pounding in his head.

"Well, Garrott! How goes it to-day?"

It had not occurred to him to "cut" Mysinger, but so the matter seemed
to be written in the stars. In silence, the passing author looked the
principal through and through. And his head grew hotter, and the pit of
his stomach icier, as he saw Mysinger's smile become fixed, saw it waver
doubtfully and die, saw open hostility slide into the hated eye. So Mary
Wing's conqueror and her unhelpful friend went by at half a foot.

"By George! I'll beat up that rascal yet for this!"

The unliterary words were ejected, it seemed, by a demon within. But no
sooner had they fallen on the ear of Charles than all the rest of him
leapt upon and seized them, as one recognizing a long-felt want, an
unconquerable need. And thus his writer's imagination was off upon yet
another plan, the last and the best.

Yes, that was what he wanted, needed now, more than anything else. He
would humiliate this swaggering Teuton past all endurance; he would go
and kick him till his weary legs refused the office; he would batter him
till his own wife passed him by for a stranger. Lord, what a plan! And
then, the moment he could leave the hospital, Mysinger would crawl
around to Olive Street, hat in hand. "Miss Wing, I'm petitioning the
Board to invite you back to the High School at once," he would say. "I
humbly beg you to come, and try to forgive me for my contemptible
conduct in the past. I don't know why I've always acted like such a
dirty dog" (Mysinger would say). "It's just my low, base nature, I
guess." And Mary, starting up in surprise (but, perhaps, already
half-suspecting the truth), would say: "But this is astounding, Mr.
Mysinger! How come you here, saying these things to me?" And that
insolent fellow, whiter than death, would mumble through swollen lips,
"It's Mr. Garrott's orders, miss."

_Then_ Mary would, perhaps, understand a little better whether or not a
_man_ could help her....

The author turned suddenly on the darkling street, moved by an instinct
to look after his retiring enemy. By an odd coincidence, Principal
Mysinger had been moved by an instinct to turn and look after him,
Charles. Both men turned hastily round again.

So Charles, halting on the corner for his car, shook himself once again,
reined in his imagination, and remembered that he was a modern and
civilized being. For the moment, the reminder seemed to accomplish
little. The blood continued to pound in the sedentary temples, redly.
Charles saw that the idea of primitive male combat, over a manly
woman's Career, was unmodern and grotesque. But the idea lingered all
the same.

       *       *       *       *       *

He spent the evening upon the first of his write-ups, scenarios shut
fast in the drawer. This piece concerned Mary Wing the Educator, and the
intention was to have Mary's friend, Hartwell, read, sign, and father
it. Every precaution must be taken, of course, to give the whole thing a
spontaneous air, avoiding the appearance of a concerted boom. By
midnight, the first draft of the Educator write-up was finished, and,
wearied, the young man picked up the "Post," where he had had eyes but
for one story that morning.

Here his wandering glance fell presently upon this:--

     Miss Angela Flower entertained at bridge last evening at the
     residence of her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Oscar P. Flower. Miss
     Flower's guests included a limited number of the younger set.

At this description of himself and Fanny, Charles smiled, for almost the
first time that day. But as he continued to gaze at that small hopeful
item, his mirth faded, and soon he began to stroke the bridge of his
nose, his look distinctly worried.



X


In the little house of the Flowers, Miss Angela sat forlorn at her
favorite post. She entertained the younger set no more. It was the
middle of December, and a cold rain poured. With a ragged bit of
chamois, the old-fashioned girl polished her already comely nails. The
window-curtain, shrunken and twisted with more than one washing, was
hooked back on a convenient nail; now and then Angela picked up her
shabby opera-glasses and peeped over into the fan-shaped sliver of
Washington Street. But few pedestrians passed over there to-day, and the
motor-cars of the Blessed slid by in curtains of waterproof.

[Illustration: ANGELA PEEPED OVER INTO WASHINGTON STREET]

It was the slack hour again, it seemed, leaving home-makers with idle
hands. Even that subtle business to which but one modern authority gave
a scientific rating, the Business of Supplying Beauty and Supplying
Charm, was here at a complete standstill. The men of Angela's family,
who must be refreshed and made joyful for their battlings in the world
without, were at this hour out, battling. Mrs. Flower was lying down in
her room, doing her own refreshing. As for the cook downstairs, she had
her orders, and recked not of Charm. Angela, thus, had her strictly
earned leisure; and, on the other hand, she had not those intenser
occupations for leisure, reforms, fights, and attacks on Morals, such as
engrossed the mind of her advanced Cousin Mary. As a womanly woman, she
naturally thought a great deal about people, her friends, and as an
unassisted stranger in the city, she really had very few friends to
think about. Hence, it was the most natural thing imaginable if she was
now wondering, for the thousandth time, what in the world had become of
Mr. Garrott.

Angela could not understand about Mr. Garrott. He simply never seemed to
walk any more. That she had hurt his feelings very badly that night
after the bridge-party she had understood, from the start. But perhaps
she had never meant to hurt them so badly as this; and that Mr. Garrott
could vanish utterly from Washington Street had, indeed, not entered her
thoughts. This, however, was precisely what Mr. Garrott had done, from
the very day following the misunderstanding.

For so, in the lapse of days, had Angela generously come to think of the
occurrence on the sofa. She and Mr. Garrott had had a terrible
misunderstanding.

It was half-past four o'clock; the dreary day was shutting in. Angela
looked down into her own back yard, which was small, mean-looking, not
devoid of tin cans, and now running with dirty water. A dingy old shed
or outhouse, where some previous tenant had thriftily stabled a horse,
contributed not a little to the wintry desolateness of the scene.
Beneath the window the cook, Luemma, emerged, a ragged print-skirt
turned over her head, and emptied ashes into a broken wooden barrel.
Angela yawned, and picked up a hand-glass.

The girl's more kindly view of Mr. Garrott's demeanor had been, of
course, a gradual growth. Her mortification and rage against the young
tribute-payer had lasted two days, at least, and chancing to see her
poor Cousin Mary at this time,--who was now being talked about from one
end of the town to the other,--she had taken occasion to speak most
disparagingly of Mr. Garrott, though, of course, in an indirect manner.
She had described him as a person of the _lowest ideals_. At this Cousin
Mary had protested, quite indignantly; and, though Angela well knew
there were phases of Mr. Garrott which her mannish cousin was not likely
ever to see, that stout championship had doubtless done much to check
her first resentment and make her see things in a truer light. Moreover,
she was naturally a sweet-tempered creature, and the long days
following, and the long empty walks, may have been just the things
needed to appeal most subtly to her higher nature. After all, Mr.
Garrott had been remarkably nice to her, paying her every attention from
the beginning. And even if he _had_ been carried away, for once--what
did that show ...

A ring at the doorbell made Angela jump a little. While the Flowers had
a small house, they had a loud bell. Though its clanging nowadays rarely
meant anything exciting, the diversion, on the whole, was not unwelcome.
The young housekeeper rose, went out into the hall, and listened down
over the banisters.

Below, there was nothing to listen to. Receiving only twelve dollars a
month, Luemma seemed to think she must take out the residue of her wages
in inefficience and impudence, and did; sometimes she answered the bell,
sometimes she "had her hands in the lightbread," etc. The present seemed
to be one of the latter times. The bell pealed again; a voice from the
front called, "Angela!--are you dressed?"--and Angela, replying to her
mother, went down to the door herself, smoothing her hair and trimming
her waist as she went.

The caller proved to be none other than her disgraced cousin, Mary Wing.

"Well, Angela, how are you?" said she, entering confidently, and kissed
Angela's cheek. "I hope I didn't break into your nap, or anything
unforgivable like that?"

"Oh, no, indeed, Cousin Mary. How d' you do? I wasn't asleep."

Cousin Mary was enveloped from neck to heels in a becoming gray
raincoat. Beneath that were seen glimpses of a costume rather elaborate
for bad weather and a workaday world. Nor did Cousin Mary's manner seem
in the least crushed or subdued, as morals demanded that the manner of a
disgraced person should be.

All the same, Angela greeted her cordially enough, with only a faint
conscientious stiffness traceable to her mother. For one thing, she was
really sorry for Mary now; right or wrong, she genuinely wished they
hadn't expelled her from the High School, and sent her off to a Grammar
School, in a low quarter of the city. And then besides that, whatever
Cousin Mary's strange ideas and behavior, the fact remained that she
happened still to be one of her, Angela's, particular little
coterie--that small group of friends and relatives with whom she herself
seemed to be sadly out of touch just now.

Mary entered with the air of being in a hurry. In the car-shaped parlor
she unbuttoned her coat, nevertheless, the Latrobe heater being, like
the doorbell, small but powerful. Angela, seated on the famous sofa,
said:--

"Cousin Mary, you're all dressed up! I believe you're going to a party!"

Mary glanced down at herself with indifference.

"No," said she, "but I've been to a little sort of one, a luncheon. And
we didn't leave the hotel till half an hour ago, either--"

"Oh, a luncheon! They're fun, I think. Where was it?"

"At the Arlington--very fine and beautiful, but it took hours! That's
why I'm so late getting around here. I've wanted specially to see you
for several days, Angela, but I haven't seemed to find a minute, and
this was my last chance. I wondered if you had any engagement for
to-morrow afternoon?"

"No, indeed, Cousin Mary, I haven't any engagement."

"Then I want you to come with me to a lecture," said Cousin Mary, "at
four o'clock."

The young girl's face, which had become brightly expectant at the
mention of engagements, fell perceptibly. She covered her disappointment
with a little laugh.

"Well,--thank you, very much, Cousin Mary,--but you know I don't
appreciate lectures very much. I'm not clever enough--"

"But this isn't an ordinary lecture. In fact, I shouldn't have used that
word at all. It's a talk, a personal talk to women by a woman, and a
wonderful one--Dr. Jane Rainey. You may have heard of her?"

"Well, I'm not sure. What is she going to talk about?" asked Angela
politely.

"The subject that means most to every woman, no matter what she thinks
or says! And Dr. Rainey, I do believe, knows more about it than anybody
else living. Jane Clemm she was--but that was years ago, before you
could remember. I got her to come here to speak, myself,--and expect to
lose some money on the transaction, too,--heigho! But I don't mind
really, it's such a privilege to have the whole subject lit up, from the
modern point of view, by a speaker like this. Jane Rainey's a practicing
physician, a fine human being, the mother of four children herself, and
she--"

"But what _is_ her subject, Cousin Mary?"

"That's it!--marriage and motherhood."

Angela stared at her cousin, and then looked rather shocked. Next, faint
color appeared in her smooth cheeks. It really seemed that Mary had
learned nothing, from the painful lesson she had just received. Why did
she have this persistent interest in the unpleasant side of life?

She said more decisively than was her wont: "No, Cousin Mary, I really
don't think I'd care to go--thank you."

Mary Wing, checked in her forensic by Angela's expression, looked
surprised, though, perhaps, not taken aback, and certainly not rebuked.

"Now, why not? I honestly hoped the subject would have a special
interest for you. You--"

"For me!--Oh, no! I--"

"My dear, you know you told me once what your ambition was--to be a good
wife some day, when the right man came for you. And that's the ambition
of every normal woman, I believe,--or one of them,--no matter what else
she may have in her head! Well, you see, that's exactly what this
brilliant student--and woman--wants to advise us about--how to fulfill
this ambition; how to prepare ourselves to be good wives and--"

"But I don't think of it that way at all, Cousin Mary. I hope," said
Angela, pink-cheeked, but once more standing firm for propriety against
all the astonishing Newness--"I hope I'll know how to be a good wife--to
the man I love--without going to any lectures--"

"Do you think anybody on earth knows as much as that, just by intuition?
It seems to me ... But perhaps your feeling is--you don't like the idea
of a public talk on the subject?"

"I don't, Cousin Mary--frankly. I know I seem to you dreadfully behind
the times--and all. But that's the way I was brought up to feel, and
it's the way I do feel. I'm not advanced at all, I thought you knew."

There was a silence in the dingy little parlor, during which the pouring
rain became audible.

"Of course I don't want to press you against your will, Angela," said
Mary slowly. "You know that? But--I can't get away from feeling that
being a good wife--and mother--in this awfully upset, transitional age,
when men's ideals are changing step for step with women's--and perhaps a
little in advance of them, who knows?--I believe it's the most
complicated and difficult vocation in the world. Compared with it, any
ordinary man's profession--like engineering, for instance--looks to me
like simplicity itself. And, Angela, I can't believe that every woman is
born with all this understanding, all this difficult expert knowledge in
her head, any more than I believe that every man is born knowing by
intuition how to be a good engineer. Of course we'd think it quite
strange--shouldn't we?--if Donald, as a boy wanting to be an engineer,
had thought he mustn't read any books that mentioned engineering, and
must stop his ears if--"

Angela, feeling almost ready to stop her ears herself, interrupted with
some warmth:--

"Cousin Mary, we simply don't understand each other! I don't think
of--of romance--and marriage--as anything in the least like
_engineering_--not in the least! I don't think of them as subjects for
lectures by _experts_! And I was brought up to feel there were some
things not very--suitable to talk about. I was brought up not to think
about them at all."

"Of course, my dear!--I understand. But every woman thinks about
marriage--doesn't she? She can't help it. Take me," said Mary,
good-humoredly--"a confirmed old maid school-teacher who's just
scandalized half the city, and been publicly dismissed from her job. I
haven't the slightest idea of marrying, ever, and yet I think about it
often, and would like to feel--"

"You do? Well, I am different. I _don't_ think about it."

"You don't think about marriage?"

"I never think of it at all," said Angela.

That settled Cousin Mary. After a brief pause she said, in the nicest
way: "Well, then, forgive me, Angela, and forget everything I've said."

Angela forgave her readily enough. Shut your eyes to the horrid,
unwomanly streak in her, and Mary Wing was really a very pleasant
person. She had always said that, to her mother and others. So talk
flowed easily into other channels, and the air of cousinly amity was
soon restored. But just when that was accomplished, Mary rose
unexpectedly to go, and Angela found herself left with several topics
not yet mentioned at all.

"Oh, don't go yet!" said she. "I want to--"

"I _must_! I really had no time at all to-day, but came anyway, whether
or no. How pretty you look, Angela," said Mary, and kissed the now
unblushing cheek again.

"I wish the lunch-party hadn't kept you so long! I haven't--"

"I do, too! A whole good afternoon! And the worst of it was," said Mary,
eyeing her with a sort of speculative archness, "I stayed after
everybody was gone just to talk to Charles Garrott, whom you dislike so
much! Still," she added, with a fading of archness, "I had something to
tell him for his own good, at least."

Cousin Mary's changes of expression were lost upon Angela. "Mr. Garrott!
Was he at the lunch party?"

"He gave it--didn't I say? It was just a little _bon voyage_ party for
Donald--and Helen Carson! Donald's leaving to-morrow for Wyoming, you
know, to be gone a month--"

"No--you hadn't told me.... Who else was at the lunch, Cousin Mary?"

"Oh, just those I've mentioned, and Fanny for chaperon, and Talbott
Maxon."

Angela, naturally, felt more lonely and out of things than ever. In
fact, she felt blankly depressed. Mr. Garrott's luncheon had included
exactly her coterie, only she herself being omitted.

"Why do you say I dislike Mr. Garrott, Cousin Mary? Of course I like him
very much. You know I told you long ago he was much the most attractive
man I've met here."

"Well, but I thought you must have changed your opinion, when you told
me the other day that his ideals were so low."

"Why, of course I didn't _mean_ it, Cousin Mary! I thought you knew I
was angry when I spoke."

The two cousins regarded each other, in the dark little hall by the
hatstand. Angela felt her position to be annoying. But she explained
with that complete lack of embarrassment characteristic only of women
conscious of rectitude:--

"I can't tell you _all_ about it, even now. But what happened was that
Mr. Garrott and I had a terrible misunderstanding, and at first I put
all the blame on him, and was awfully mad with him, I admit. But since
then, the more I've thought of it, the more I've seen that I was very
unjust to him--in what I thought and said, too. He really has much more
cause to be mad with me--now--than I have with him."

"Well, I'm glad to hear it. Don't quarrel--that's my motto," said the
stormy Miss Wing. "And Mr. Garrott thinks you are charming!--I know, for
he told me so. Well--"

"Yes--that's what has changed my feeling about it all, you see. Cousin
Mary--when you see him again, you might just say--"

"My dear, I never see Mr. Garrott!" said Mary, rather hastily.

"Why, you've just seen him!"

"The first time for a week, and probably the last time for a month. He's
going down to his mother's in the country on Saturday, to stay over
Christmas and New Year's. Angela, I must _run_!"

Left alone, Angela remained standing in the hall for a moment, gazing
into space, of which the hall really afforded little. Her despondency
now had a certain edge; it did seem hard that, while her friends and
relatives--and Cousin Mary, of all people--were going to jolly lunches
of the younger set, _her_ invitations should be only to New-Woman
_lectures_. And still, the girl's feeling had no bitterness, even now.
Of course she understood that she would have been at Mr. Garrott's
luncheon, too, but for the misunderstanding....

As she went upstairs, her mother called out to her, and Angela pursued
her way to the front bedroom, as she had meant to do anyway. Here, her
mother was discovered prone upon a pillowless lounge, dangerously facing
a gaslight and reading a magazine which had no covers. Having laid the
magazine, broken open, on her lap, Mrs. Flower listened attentively to
her daughter's report of Mary's call, and at the end said:--

"I must say I think it's very kind of Mr. Garrott to stand by her in
that way. Men secretly can never admire that sort of woman, whatever
their theories may be. And that's just it--that explains Mary's whole
lurid course. If she had ever had a ray of attention, of course she
would never have dreamed of these wild goings on."

Angela's mother was still a pretty woman, and long habit, it seemed, had
impressed her voice with a permanent plaintiveness. She had kicked off
her slippers for comfort; her high-bred feet were clad in faded cotton
stockings; she herself looked high-bred and faded. Her air and tone were
those of one to whom life had brought rude shocks--such as, that lovely
woman's portion was sacrifice ever, and that men cared only for the
first bloom of girlish beauty--and who found her only consolations in
her religion, and in the noble words, My Duty.

"You must see her when she calls, I suppose, but that is all. Until she
completely changes her ideas on all subjects, I cannot allow any
intimacy. I cannot."

"She means to be nice to me, mother. And besides--that's the sort of
connections you and father have given us, you know."

Mrs. Flower denied any responsibility whatever for the advanced Mary.
She continued her remarks with interest, the theme being one of her
favorites. Angela, having moved restlessly about the room for a time,
had halted at the window. Hence, she gazed out at a board fence billed
all over with advertisements of a celebrated spring tonic. A trolley-car
went rumbling by, its wheels throwing off jets of icy rain-water. It had
been a long, long day.

"The things women will do when they discover they're not attractive to
men! They simply get defiant. They get all reckless and bitter!"

Into the narrow walkway below turned a very tall man, under a small
greenish umbrella. In the silence of the house, the front door was heard
to open and shut. Then there were footsteps along the hall below, and
another door shut quietly, toward the back.

"Anything, anything to distract their minds!"

"Mother!--where on earth do you suppose father _goes_! His lecture was
over at half-past three. If only, _only_, he'd try to get some patients!
But he's not even in for his office hour half the time!"

"I'm sure I do not know," replied her mother, generally, and picked up
her coverless magazine.

Angela fidgeted at the window, drumming on the dripping pane. Presently
she said:--

"Oh, mother! Why _couldn't_ you or father have some relations that would
help us! We're the only family I ever heard of that hasn't a _single_
rich relation!"

Her mother, not looking up, mentioned complainingly the branch of her
family to which she always referred in such discussions.

"Much good the Ashburtons have done us!" said Angela truly, and also as
usual. "When they think we're not good enough to speak to. I have nobody
to help me but myself."

It was as if the girl was herself struck with the truth of her own
observation. Her gaze out the window became thoughtful, and then intent.
Suddenly, without more speech, she left the window and the room.

In the hall there came an interruption. An untutored voice bawled up,
without the slightest preamble:--

"_Sugar hasn't came!_"

"All right," responded the young housekeeper, after a short annoyed
pause.

And then, returning to her own room, she thought: "If I telephone from
Mrs. Doremus's now, it'll be too late for supper. I'll have to ask
Wallie--just to step around ..."

Angela shut the door behind her and lighted a flaring gasjet. Then she
stood still, knitting her brows slightly, glancing about. She wanted
writing-paper, and didn't know where to put her hands on any, exactly.

In the sharp light of the gas it was now seen that Angela's little
bedroom lacked Beauty, of the purely objective sort: Beauty of that kind
depending, as all know, on fathers being good providers, which was not
the case here, alas. Everything in Angela's room was cheap when it was
new, and everything was far from new now. A very large old walnut
wardrobe occupied all one side of the room, awkwardly substituting for a
clothes-closet. The bed was of yellow imitation-oak, and sagged
considerably in the middle from worn-out springs. The bureau was to
match; its somewhat wavy mirror was the nearest Angela came to a
dressing-table; its three drawers would never quite shut, and frequently
wouldn't quite open. There were also two chairs in the bedroom, one
straight, one a re-seated rocker, and a small walnut work-table, which
trembled dangerously if you brushed against it.

Nor was the room specially spruce, at the moment at least, people's
tastes differing in these matters, even in the same family. Angela's
young brother, for example, kept his small room shining like a new pin,
and let himself personally go till he was a disgrace to the family.
Angela, on the other hand, whose exquisite personal neatness had
attracted the notice of Charles Garrott himself, was more or less
indifferent about a room which nobody but the family ever saw. The door
of the wardrobe stood open now, with one of the yellow bureau-drawers; a
pair of shoes rested on the straight chair, with a pair of stockings
curled on the rag-carpet below. On the sway-backed bed were strewn
various things--a towel, two old summer dresses that she had been trying
on a little earlier in the afternoon, a pair of soiled white gloves, a
paper of pins and two new dress-shields.

In the drawer of the wardrobe, Angela presently found several sheets of
note-paper, and, after a longer search, a single envelope. The envelope
was not what it had been once. It had knocked about the world a bit in
its time; its bright youth was gone. Upon its face was a dusky smudge,
souvenir of some forgotten encounter, and, near the smudge, some hand
had once written the word "Mrs.," and then lost heart and abandoned the
whole enterprise. Still, it was possibly the only envelope in the house.
Angela found, after due trial, that the smudge yielded, quite
satisfactorily, to the eraser on the end of a pencil. As for the
reminiscent "Mrs.," that was easily enough worked over into a "Mr.,"
though not, to be sure, without a slight blot.

Angela sat on the edge of the bed. She pulled the rickety work-table
into position before her. Having addressed the remainder of the
envelope, after the "Mr.," she sat biting the penholder for a space. But
when the business end of the pen was put into action, it went ahead
quite steadily:--

     DEAR MR. GARROTT [wrote Angela from the bedside]:--

     When you left here the other night, I did not think it would be
     so long before I would see you again!

     I have been very sorry about our misunderstanding--and I have
     felt that I should not have said what I did. I have thought it
     all over, and I understand better now.

     When you are not so busy, you must come in to see me--and I
     will explain just what I mean. I couldn't that night.

     Yours most cordially,

     ANGELA FLOWER.

She had hardly written the final letter of her pretty name when the
front door was heard to open again, this time with a bang. Having
hastily tucked the note into the experienced envelope, Angela got
downstairs before her little brother, Wallie, had finished taking off
his dripping overcoat.

Wallie was quite the queerest, gravest boy Angela had ever known. In her
whole life, she had never seen him laugh but once. That was one summer
day in Mitchellton, when she, having undertaken to paper the walls of
her room, had fallen backward off the stepladder into a bucket of paste.
Wallie was an eccentric, undoubtedly. Still, he was admitted to be
obliging enough about little things. Now he made no special objections
to going for the sugar; and when Angela then asked him please to step by
at the same time, and give the note to Mr. Garrott, he only said, with
one of his absent stares: "Step by? That's six blocks further."

"Well, I haven't anybody else to take it for me, Wallie," said Angela,
in a voice rather like her mother's.

"And, Wallie," she added, presently, "I'm not sure whether there'll be
an answer or not. You'd better just ask him, that's the best way. Just
say, after he's read it, 'Is there any answer?'"



XI



To the host, the luncheon party at the Arlington had not once presented
itself as a jolly gathering of any set, young or old. He had conceived
it as a duty, and an expensive one; he approached it, truth to tell,
with a certain secret complacence as to Mary Wing uppermost in his mind;
and he left it (after Mary's private talk with him) with chastened
reflections and a group of new reactions on the subject of Egoettes.

For two weeks, Charles had been very busy in the Studio. The luncheon
stood as his first whirl in Society since Angela Flower's bridge-party.
Donald Manford, departing to seek his biggest commission, seemed to need
a friendly send-off. Miss Carson seemed to be indicated as the logical
co-sharer of the same. At the Redmantle Club, as he had never forgotten,
Charles had taken Donald bodily away from the firm beautiful girl Mary
had selected to be his wife. Now, as it were, he was handing Donald back
to her again--loyal Moderns all. Beyond the match-making, however, this
function was intended to cheer up Mary, and to indicate to the Public
that Charles Garrott was her supporter in adversity as in success. Thus,
from every point of view, the "demoted" school-teacher was the real
guest of honor, and the host, when not fomenting conversation of a
matrimonial nature between the two young persons on his right, found a
peculiar pleasure in conversing with her. Indeed, he could hardly look
at Mary to-day without a lurking smile.

Later, as noted, Charles sobered. What Mary lingered to tell him, "for
his own good," was that Flora Trevenna had gone away. As it was the one
thing he had supposed Miss Trevenna incapable of doing, he was
proportionately taken by surprise. But, for a moment, he saw in the
tidings only that the great obstacle in his and Mary's way back to the
High School, their common Old Man of the Sea, had been amazingly
removed.

Endeavoring to conceal his immense relief, he said: "Gone away! Why,
where'd she go to?"

Mary's reply was meant to shake him, and it did.

"Oh--anywhere! She went, not because she had anywhere to go, but just
because she wouldn't stay here."

"But--I don't understand you! I thought this was where she wanted to
stay."

"More than anything else in the world. And that was why she went--don't
you see? She went because of her mother and father and sisters--whom you
supposed she never gave a thought to. She went because of Mysinger and
me."

The two advanced friends stood among the shrubs of the Arlington winter
garden, beside a little tinkling grotto. In silence, Charles dropped a
pebble down among the dusky forms of fish.

"Of course," said Mary, slowly, "I told her a story about--my trouble at
the High School. But I could see that she knew all the time. I'm sure
now that was what decided her to go--by herself. Some friend or other
got her some sort of position--in Philadelphia. Of course she went
without saying anything to me...."

Her voice, which could be so annoyingly calm at times, was deeply
troubled. Charles expressed sympathies, with haste; and, indeed, he felt
them now, oddly and disturbingly. It was as if Miss Trevenna, by that
simple act of getting down off other people's backs, had too suddenly
upset his whole opinion of her.

"Don't you think, after all," he said presently, "it may be easier for
her somewhere else for a while, than--"

"Oh, easier in a way, yes! But I know she felt, and I think, too, that
her only hope of really putting her life together again, ever, was
here--where she broke it in two. To go and bury herself among strangers
won't ever settle anything. Oh," exclaimed Mary, "if she could only,
only _marry_ now! I suppose people might stop thinking of her as a
pariah then, I suppose she might come back! But what's the use of
hoping? She's still crazily in love with that man, you see."

"What!--she _is_! Why'd she leave him then--?"

The former principal regarded him, drawing on her gloves. She had dark
eyebrows, well-marked and unusually arched; they gave a peculiar
intentness to her blue gaze, and a faint habitual interrogativeness.
Now, perhaps at the young man's expression, she laughed, suddenly and
naturally. Her spirit was not broken certainly.

"And women are really so awfully simple, too! Of course she left him,
Mr. Garrott, because she didn't think he cared enough for her any longer
to--justify her."

And, grave again, she asked, directly: "Have you really doubted that she
has a higher ideal of love than half the good people who've wanted to
run her out of the city and stone her?"

This, indeed, Charles had had no reason to doubt. He, of course, had
never shared the low opinion of a woman, that she had but one virtue,
and that one too crudely appraised. His complaint against this girl had
been upon a wholly different ground--now abruptly fallen beneath his
feet. He was troubled with the sense that this young figure, in
vanishing, had suddenly touched the dignity of tragedy. He had
remembered, with a little shock, that Miss Trevenna was not yet
twenty-five years of age.

And still, he, the authority, knew that having a high ideal was not
enough.

As the two moderns left the hotel, he said in a grave manner: "Let me
take you home."

"No, don't think of it! I'm only going to the car-line," said Mary; and
added absently: "I've been trying all week to go to see Angela, and now
I must."

"Ah, yes!--certainly!" said the luncheon host hastily, and a look that
could only be described as guilty flitted visibly over his face.

But this disappeared; the somewhat chastened authoritative look returned
at once. Pursuing his tutorial round, Charles seemed able to think of
nothing else but Mary's ill-starred friend, who had so damaged Mary, who
had so staked and smashed her own life, on a sentence in a book.

And who put that sentence into a book, and who was going to wipe it out
with another, if not he, Charles? Here, it might be, he had a pointer or
two to give to that great compeer of his, the lady in Sweden.

He had done Miss Trevenna a serious wrong, of course; he had judged her
by the company she kept. It was an age when cheeky "prophets" were
shouting from every bush a New philosophy which amounted to this: that
civilized society must be made accommodating to self-indulgent people.
They did not mention, very probably they did not know, that it had not
been easy to civilize society, and that self-indulgent people had not
done the job. With such shallow egoists he had classed Miss Trevenna;
and now, silent still, she had finely refuted him. There was, indeed, a
quality not for little folk in this girl's fierce imprudences. At the
test, she had repudiated the Ego, kicked off all the meanness and
flabbiness of her teachings. But in the meantime, unfortunately, these
teachings had done for her.

And it seemed to Charles Garrott, tramping intently along (for the
downpour gave him the freedom of the streets to-day) that it would be a
sweet and glorious thing if, say, a dozen of these leathern-lunged
professors of a new chaos could be gathered up, from the studies and
libraries where they sat so snug around the world, and brought here to
share this girl's catastrophe and go with her in her exile. And by
George!--they shouldn't squirm out by trying to blame it all on a mere
ignorant Public Opinion either! No, he, Charles, having a lot of them
together thus, would improve the occasion to explain, once and for all,
that freedom was not a thing that any chance passer could pick up and
use, like a cane; but, rather, the last difficult conquest of a unified
race. He would inform them that it was only too fatally easy to act
"free," at others' expense, the difficult and important thing being,
precisely, not so to act. And as to love, he would hammer into their
thick heads that the way to freedom was NOT through the delightfully
easy course of "demonstrating experiment" by self-elected Exceptional
People, but by the far more difficult demonstration that men and women
could be strong and constant in their affections, and trustworthy in
their passions.

There, indeed, was a demonstration for Exceptional People to get to work
on at once. Why write large books to declare that "the great love" was
its own justification. Why waste good ink upon an ideal truism? On what
day would a New book-writer teach men and women how to love greatly, or
how to tell even a little love from love's baser counterfeit? So long as
every schoolboy, drawn by a brief spark, will swear that his is the
great love; so long as men greatly love one person this year, and next
year quite another; so long as they will gladly deceive themselves, or
ape emotions above them, lest they must deny themselves a passing
indulgence: thus long would untrustworthy mortals need the hard
restraint of Law.

"Why, if men and women had the quality of love needed to make 'freedom'
work," thought the tutor suddenly, sloshing along toward the
Choristers', "they wouldn't need the freedom! No, then they'd be
perfectly satisfied with monogamous marriage."

Decidedly impressed with this epigram, Charles thought at once of "Notes
on Women." To draw the ruined life of Miss Trevenna across the line of
his new novel had, of course, come into his mind while he yet talked
with Mary. But he was fully aware that not one novel, or five, would
ever plumb bottom here.

Nevertheless, these thoughts pursued the young man through his lesson
with Miss Grace Chorister, and up to the very door of the Studio. There,
he suddenly became a working author again.

It was now five-thirty o'clock in the rainy afternoon. The demands of
hospitality had forced the postponement of Miss Grace a full hour, and
the cutting altogether of the old lady who was studying French. Entering
his retreat thus belatedly, Charles shot a look ahead at the
writing-table, according to his habit. A letter lay on the table,
wearing a distinctly business air; and when the young man was still
several paces off, he saw that the envelope bore the name of "Willcox's
Weekly."

For the most part, Charles's communications from editors had come to him
in long envelopes of an ominous, a rejectional, fatness. Now it was his
hour to see other samples from the editorial envelope supply, square
envelopes, gratifyingly thin. Breaking the square thin envelope of
"Willcox's Weekly" with nervous hurry, Charles read:--

     DEAR MR. GARROTT:--

     We have pleasure in accepting your interesting sketch of Miss
     Wing, for early publication in the WEEKLY. Our "Persons in the
     Foreground" department is always in the market for entertaining
     material of this character.

     Check for $20 will follow in due course. We are, with thanks,

     Yours sincerely,

     WILLCOX'S WEEKLY.

Having read these few lines once, the author, still standing, read them
again, and yet again. Upon his lip was the faint smile it had worn when
he looked at Mary at the luncheon--before she began telling him things
for his good. He was fairly entitled to wear this smile; but now it
seemed in danger of becoming fixed for life.

He was selling write-ups of Mary like hot cakes; there was no other word
for it. He had written and sent out three write-ups--an unprecedented
number about a single person--and now he had sold two of them already.
He had hoped to plant, say, one write-up among the weeklies--to get
quick results--and now he had planted two in the weeklies. Moreover, the
third write-up had been in the hands of a famous weekly for ten days
now.

That he had managed it all with remarkable adroitness, the young man
could not conceal from himself. Cunningly enough, he had based all the
write-ups on the fact that Mary Wing, at thirty, had risen almost to the
top of a large city school system, where no woman had ever risen before.
For that made Mary a public figure; that justified the write-ups. But,
the bait thus thrown, he had given to each eulogy a special character
and thesis of its own, always with an eye to local effects. This piece
here, for example, which "Willcox's Weekly" found so extremely
interesting and entertaining, concerned Mary the Freewoman, and touched
delicately yet with vigor upon her late persecution for righteousness'
sake. And this piece, the most personal and the best of the lot, alone
bore the signature of Charles King Garrott. He had got Hartwell to sign
one, Elsie White Story, President of the State Equal Suffrage League,
to sign another. And only yesterday, Mrs. Story had telephoned that
_her_ piece (Mary the "Feminist"--only you may be sure Charles had not
used that horrible word) had been gobbled up by the "Saturday Review,"
and sent around the "Review's" delightful letter.

So Charles could recall Mary's hard saying, that day at the High School,
with a sense of triumph now. She, who had said he couldn't help her, had
rather overlooked this gift he had, his power and his art.
Unquestionably, the thing was going to break big: she would have the
surprise of her life....

"Great heavens! _How I can write!_" suddenly exulted the young man,
throwing out his arms. "I'll beat 'em all some day!"

Upon which, exactly as at a cue in a play, the door from the bedroom
opened, slowly and quietly. And there stood Judge Blenso in the crack, a
flat package in his hand.

Between uncle and nephew there passed a long stare. The uncle began to
turn a little pale. But it was the nephew who spoke first, nervously and
yet expectantly too:--

"Prepare yourself, Charles, my dear fellow! I much fear it's
'Bandwomen'!"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a long time before he was alone again.

There were moments in every writer's life, of course, when he was
obliged to wish frankly that he didn't have to have a secretary. What a
writer most wanted at times was solitude, just a chance to sit quietly
and think things over.

A great while Judge Blenso had pottered about under his little red
"Nothing But Business, Please" sign. Now he was posting elaborate
entries in his secretary's book, now he sang sweetly to himself over
wrapping-paper, paste, and twine. For if his sedentary employer's
failure to blow up, this time, had momentarily nonplussed the Judge, the
sight of the letter from "Willcox's Weekly" had raised him to the
highest spirits again at once. That distant people, entire strangers,
were actually proving willing to exchange real money for words written
by Charles there, and typed by him, Judge Blenso,--here was a delightful
thing, full of novelty and promise. And nothing would do, of course, but
that he must start the rejected novel out upon another journey to New
York without loss of a moment's time. Business _before_ pleasure, rain
_or_ shine. That was _his_ way.

But he went at last, to make his toilet for the express-office. And
Charles, alone, sat taking stock, with no more exultation.

Blank and Finney's letter had proved to be twin-sister to the remembered
letter from Willcox Brothers Company. That is to say, it was rejection,
flat and unqualified. But this time, after the first shock, Charles had
perceived that he did not seem to be much surprised. It appeared that
his expectation of the old novel had, after all, died violently on that
other day. It was almost as if he himself had come to despise the old
novel, because the publishers despised it--as if that were any
reason...

From the mantel he had plucked a thick ledger entitled (on a neatly
typed label), THE RECORD. This ledger was the great work of Judge
Blenso's life, and large enough for twenty authors. Here the Judge set
down, with much pains and a striking assortment of colored inks, the
detailed progress of each of Charles's manuscripts: "When Finished,"
"When Sent Out," "Where Sent," "Editor's Decision," "Editor's Comments
if Any," "Remarks," etc. On these pages, the essential part of
"Bondwomen's" career (officially known as Entry 2) was thus recorded:--

                                                 _Comments
                                 _Decision._      if Any._

    1. Willcox Brothers
    Company                       Adverse.      Declined for
                                                financial reasons.

    2. Blank and Finney              do.           do.

The Record now showed nine entries, including the novel. Entry I was
"The Truth About Jennie," which the Judge had insisted on posting in, to
give a tone of success to his work at the outset. Entries 3, 4, 5, and 6
were short stories; Entries 7, 8, and 9, the write-ups of Mary. The
pages devoted to the write-ups made, as we know, stimulating reading,
but with the fiction entries the case was otherwise. Here under
"Comments if Any," the words "See printed form, on file," appeared with
monotonous, indeed sickening, regularity. The Record did show, indeed,
that the "Universal," in rejecting Entry 5,--"When Amy Left Home,"--had
written a personal letter furnishing the Judge with this "Comment":
"Excellently written, but claimed unsuited to his present needs. Let him
hear from us again." Otherwise, rejection was unmitigated.

A scant showing for the work of four years, look at it how you would.
One examining these coldly dispassionate annals would probably say,
offhand, that there was but one form of writing Charles King Garrott was
qualified to do: that was the write-up form. He had just read his two
letters again, his acceptance and his rejection, side by side. Unusual
and peculiar it seemed that the only writing he had sold for money,
since "Jennie," was this series of articles designed to bring fame to
Mary Wing. Of course, as far as that went, a man would like a little
fame for himself, now and then....

"Why, I'm a fool to think I can write!" groaned the young man, suddenly.
"I'm wasting my life! I ought to be carrying bricks up a ladder."

His fall from complacence was, indeed, complete. However, every writer
knows these little ups and downs. It may be, that Charles did not
believe his bitter words, even then. And now his secretary reëntered,
checking thought.

"Well! Now for the express!"

Judge Blenso wore a new English mackintosh and an olive felt hat,
rakishly turned up in front. No board of social investigators could have
commended him for spending virtually all his wage upon his back; but the
results seemed always to justify him none the less.

"And, my dear fellow!--you shouldn't worry, as the expression goes!
Bandwomen's a charmin' novel, a charmin' sweet love-story, and James
Potter Sons'll be sure to take it--gad, by the first mail!"

Having seen it with his own eyes in Willcoxes' famous letter, the Judge
was now finally convinced that "Bandwomen" was the correct title of
Entry 2, just as he had said in the beginning. Further argument being
useless, the young man returned a vague reply.

"And there's that other idea of mine, too," said the Judge genially,
halting with his package under his arm--"bringing your sketches of Miss
Wing out in book form! Put in Entry 1, too 'Jennie's Truth,' if we
liked--make a regular holiday giftbook! Gad, you know, Miss Wing's
little pupils at the school would give us a whackin' sale!"

He went out blithe upon his duty. After an interval, the adoring voice
of Mrs. Herman floated up, beseeching him to put on his ar'tics.

At the Studio table Charles sat, struggling to get down to work. He had
put away The Record, put away embittered thoughts. But he did not get
down to work with much success all the same, the reason being that his
great Subject, unluckily, was no longer clear in his mind.

From the table-drawer he had produced a stack of manuscript, an inch
high; and now he sat, not reading it, but merely disapproving it _en
masse_. The stack was his premature effort to begin, really to begin his
new novel--six chapters of the new novel written, fifteen thousand
words. Launching upon this draft an hour after he finished Mary the
Freewoman, he had pushed on, night after night, at first with confident
rapidity. Latterly, he had become conscious of an increasing sense of
resistance. And now he knew that all this was mere waste stuff,
accomplishing nothing but to show him what not to write.

Well, but what to write then? What did he really want to say? It was
absurd; but he did not know. It really seemed that he saw too much to
settle, with enthusiasm, upon anything. By constant accessions of fresh
understanding, his centre of balance, his novel's chief prerequisite,
was kept in a continuous state of flux....

Of "material" on the Unrest, Charles possessed a superfluity; of
"plots," of "significant characters" and "illustrative incidents," his
head was fuller than his pencil would ever write. His problem, of
course, had always been for the fixed point of view and the moral
"line." No longer could he be satisfied with that crude, simple line
which had contented him in his first book, which still contented the
other fellows: the line which "proved," as _Lily Stender_ proved, that
economic independence was the automatic salvation of women. He knew that
wasn't the whole story now. As for writing a book to show that Woman's
Place was the Home, of course that had never crossed his mind, even when
most strongly gripped by conservative reactions. His quest was for a
framework which should develop conflicting values on a far finer scale.

Of course, what he should have liked to show was a wholly admirable
woman: one who combined all the sane competence and human worth of the
best new women, with the soft faculty for supplying beauty and charm of
her old-fashioned sister. But that day in Mary's office had left him
with the honest suspicion that such a goddess did not exist, and
couldn't. From the other direction also, as noted, his delicate scales
had been joggled, with unsettling literary effects. The too hasty
manuscript on the writing-table by no means followed the "line" the
author had first plotted, prior to his meditations in the Green Park,
after the bridge-party. No, in this draft the Home-Maker was married and
had three children in Chapter One. Through all, the desire to rebuke the
egoism of the day had persisted, as clearly the point of view most
inviting to him, fullest of possibilities. And now Miss Trevenna, in
some way, had disturbed and unsettled him there too....

The rain beat against the Studio windows. The green-shaded lamp burned
dully on the author's table. Big Bill, without surcease, ticked off the
author's minutes. Charles rubbed the bridge of his nose, pondering
deeply. Just now, as he turned the pages of his private book--where the
essay form had long since been abandoned, where appeared the most
surprising vacillations of authoritative opinion--he had made a somewhat
striking discovery. It had suddenly come upon him that "Notes on Women"
had, gradually but distinctly, dwindled down into "Notes on Mary,"
"Notes on Angela Flower," and "Notes on Flora Trevenna." In short, it
appeared that, in the most unconscious way, he had been seeking to
extract his "line" from his own story, as it were, from "life."

The discovery came upon the young man as most arresting and significant.

"And I don't know where I stand, that's just the trouble! I ought to
wait awhile," he thought, aloud. "See how it all works out.... Things'll
be turning up...."

On which--once more--Judge Blenso's picturesque head came sticking
through the Studio door, and Judge Blenso's rich voice said,
officially:--

"Young gentleman here with a letter, Mr. Garrott. Admit him?"

Returning to actuality with a slight start, Charles replied, "Admit
him--certainly!" A day for letters, indeed!

Forthwith, the Judge standing aside, the young gentleman stepped into
the Studio. A grave-looking young gentleman he proved to be, of some
sixteen years, perhaps, with a dome-like forehead, a resolute mouth, and
thick spectacles. He entered in silence, in silence held out the missive
referred to.

"Good-evening," said Charles. "Thank you. This comes from--?"

"My sister, Angela Flower."

The young man's heart seemed to drop a little.

"Ah, yes! And--ah--is there--an answer?--"

"I'll wait and see," said Wallie Flower, following instructions, in a
deep, calm voice.

"Ah, yes. Sit down a moment, won't you?"

He essayed a bright negligence which he was far from feeling: this thing
had come suddenly. No amount of scientific argument, no recollection of
sharp rebukes received, had ever convinced Charles that he had cut a
fine figure in the affair on the sofa. Indeed, the very ease with which
he had avoided all further consequences of his Rash Act, by the purely
mechanical device of street-cars, had deepened, rather than diminished
his consciousness of obligations unfulfilled, of caddishness, in short.
To salute a girl tenderly after her bridge-party, and then never go
within a mile of her again--well, that _was_ a little crude, say what you
would.

Hence Mr. Garrott, opening Angela's envelope with the blurred "Mr.,"
anticipated bitter reproaches, anticipated being termed a brute again,
and called on to be honorable without further delay. Hence again, as his
eye leapt over the neat lines, and found only sweet forgiveness and
generous friendliness, he felt a sudden upstarting of relief and
gratitude. A more perfect note had never been written! Why, the charming
girl wasn't expecting anything of him at all!

Or, rather, nothing at all worth mentioning. On a second glance through
the perfect note, the hypercritical young man did observe an expression
or two not up to the general standard, perhaps. "I did not think it
would be so long before I would see you again." "When you are not so
busy, you must come in to see me." On the whole, it could be argued that
it was rather a mistake to put those sentences in. Fine as the note was,
it would have been a little finer still without them. Yet, under the
circumstances, what more natural? And of course, as far as that went, he
and the city traction system had the issue in their hands.

So Charles looked up buoyantly at the bearer of good tidings, to speak.

The bearer, however, had clearly forgotten his presence. He had remained
standing, three feet from the table-end, and was found to be gazing, in
the most pointed manner, at the old Studio lamp. The grave face of Miss
Angela's brother plainly expressed amusement, and a certain good-natured
contempt.

"Hello!" said Charles, diverted. "Anything wrong there?"

Without turning, the boy answered with a small dry chuckle: "Yes.
Pretty near everything."

"Well! I've noticed it hasn't been burning well. Need a new mantel, I
suppose--"

"New mantel won't do you any good long's your air-draft's choked that
way."

"Oh! So that's the trouble, is it?"

"That's one of them. P'r'aps you like it that way?"

The proprietor of the lamp having disclaimed such a fancy, the strange
lad said: "Well, I'll fix it for you, then. Sit steady."

He reached up an arm long as a monkey's, which shed drops of water on
the writing-table, and the green glow suddenly faded out, leaving the
Studio in total darkness.

Out of the Stygian gloom Charles said: "There's another light there.
I'll--"

"I know. Thought I might as well look into that one, too, while I'm at
it. Just give your globe and chimney a minute to cool."

"Oh, of course!--certainly."

"Don't s'pose you want to stand a new mantel for the lamp?"

"I'm enough of a sport, but I fear there's not a new one in the house."

"Hold it for me, please," said the boy.

A pinpoint of light had appeared in the blackness; it moved toward
Charles's hand. He received the little searchlight, let it go out,
hastily found and pushed the button again. And then Miss Angela's
brother began to take his lamp all apart, cleaning it, blowing through
it at unexpected places, and wiping the parts with a dark oily rag,
which, luckily enough, he seemed to have in his coat-pocket.

The lad's single-mindedness, his un-selfconscious matter-of-factness had
attracted Charles at sight. He recalled what Mary Wing had told him of
Wallie Flower's struggles to get an education. Thus, as the
light-repairing proceeded in the almost total darkness, a conversation
grew up, at first largely question and answer. And the upshot of it was
that Charles, as a tutor, offered to instruct Wallie Flower, free
gratis, in German and English, the two college entrance subjects in
which he was still somewhat deficient.

This odd development came at the end of the talk, when the illuminating
power of both Charles's and the Judge's lights had been notably
improved. When the brother understood that further education was being
offered him for nothing, a gleam came suddenly into his oddly mature
gaze.

He almost exclaimed: "Do you know German?"

"You might say I wrote it."

He pondered. "That means you do know it?"

"Like a member of the family."

"Do you teach nights?"

"I'm going to teach you nights."

And it was so arranged, the lessons to begin directly after Christmas.
The boy became briefly embarrassed, boggling over his thanks. But
Charles cut him short. "I'm doing it because I want to. That's the only
reason I ever do anything."

Relieved, Miss Angela's brother turned to the door, for all the world
like one who had come to mend the lamps, and nothing else.

"By the way," said Charles, casually. "Thank your sister for her note,
and say that I'll send an answer by mail."

He was left pleased with the interview, and with himself. In the
generous gift of three hours a week to Angela's brother, he perceived
something fitting and compensatory. If obligation existed--and it did,
in a way--did not this discharge it, subtly and modernly? Kiss the
sister on the sofa, tutor the brother in the Studio--what more fair or
honorable than that?

One thing had rather struck him, of course--Wallie Flower's saying that
he had hated to come away from Mitchellton. This, it seemed, had been
chiefly due to Mr. Bush, the boy's science teacher at the Mitchellton
Academy, whom Wallie clearly adored, whose eyebrows he had blown off in
an experiment only last summer. As he had previously understood that
both the Doctor and Mrs. Flower had also been attached to Mitchellton,
it really appeared that Miss Angela was the only member of the family
who had actually desired to make the move. And she had moved.

But this thought--like the hypercriticisms on the note--merely knocked
at the door of the young man's mind and passed on. He felt himself
warming anew toward this simple Type, with its charming friendly
instincts and its sweet forgiveness of the stormy ways of men. On his
return from his holiday, he resolved that he would give Angela some
token of his regard more substantial than a note by mail: send her, say,
with that book of hers, a costly box of appreciative blossoms.



XII


Unlike the ladies in the books, Angela, regrettably enough, did not get
a "sheaf of letters" every morning. Mr. Garrott's answer to her note,
which lay beside her breakfast-plate on the second day following, was,
indeed, her only mail that week. Hence it was with feelings of
excitement that she seized a table-fork and hastily slit the envelope.

Angela read:--

     DEAR MISS FLOWER:

     May I say how deeply I appreciate your note? And will you
     please believe that I have blamed myself entirely for what you
     so generously call our misunderstanding? While, of course, I
     must continue to blame myself, you cannot know how pleasant it
     is to be permitted to feel that you have forgiven me.

     With the deepest appreciation, and all the good wishes of the
     season, believe me,

     Yours sincerely,

     CHARLES KING GARROTT.

It must be said of this note that it was the sort that puts its best
foot foremost. First impressions of it were agreeable, but it did not
wear. On the second reading, Angela perceived that, though as nice as
possible, Mr. Garrott's reply said nothing about calling, which, in a
manner of speaking, was the true subject of the correspondence. By the
time she had read the reply half a dozen times, she found it flatly
disappointing. Two days later, when she heard through Cousin Mary Wing
that Mr. Garrott had gone to the country, not to return till after the
New Year, she was conscious of a sudden and pervading hopelessness.

The feeling applied, not to her principal friend alone, but to all the
conditions of her life.

Angela understood, of course, that Mr. Garrott's remarkable offer to
tutor Wallie for nothing was an attention to her, and a very handsome
one. Still, it was not just the sort of attention that a young girl
prizes most, perhaps; and in especial it did not meet the needs of this
particular situation. To have a busy man-friend teaching German to your
little brother on your account is very flattering, indeed; but it does
not necessarily lead to the early clearing-up of a personal
misunderstanding. That Mr. Garrott had been much worried by their
misunderstanding, all along, Angela had known, by means of that womanly
intuition of which we read so much; now his note said so, in so many
words. But, manlike, he still did not see that, at heart, she was the
same girl that had attracted him so in the beginning, and that if he
would but call, she would make everything as it had been before.

How was she ever to see him again now?

At nineteen, youth accepts life's vicissitudes unquestioningly, but at
twenty-five, a womanly woman (if still without a home, a husband and
three curly-headed little children) has had time to whittle a number of
observations to a fairly sharp point. Angela thought her situation a
hard one, and it was. Wealth, influence, valuable connections--these
aids were not for her. All the ordinary opportunities enjoyed by girls
"in society," she lacked--in chief, opportunities of meeting people
casually, as at parties, of seeing the same people again and again,
under the most agreeable auspices. Her family simply failed to put her
in a party position, as it might be called; in consequence of which, it
came to this, that really her only meeting-place for the few people she
knew was on the street, walking. And even at the best, of course, that
method (by the mere laws of choice and chance) was most unsatisfactory.

Suppose that Mr. Garrott _had_ been taking walks all the time, for
instance, but, by reason of her having called him a brute, was choosing
other streets--how was she to know? A city is a big place, and one young
girl in a tight skirt cannot walk very fast or far, or cover a large
amount of space in a given time.

"Marna" alone was outstanding; and it carried but the slenderest
anticipations. Moreover, that question, all these depressing questions,
were academic now, and would be for weeks to come. The little coterie
had scattered far, and she had no means of filling the empty places.

There followed the dreariest days Angela had known since winter before
last in Mitchellton.

"How can you _expect_ anybody to notice us, mother?" she exclaimed, one
day. "The family of a poor, obscure doctor, living in a _hut_ on a back
street, with not a living soul to help us! I think it's remarkable I
accomplish as much as I do."

It was on this day, a cold Sunday afternoon shortly before Christmas,
that the lonely girl carried out a good intention she had had in mind
for some time. She wrote a long, intimate, sisterly letter to her
favorite brother Tommy, who had got so far away since he married money
in Pittsburg.

Angela had just come in from a freezing, eventless walk with Fanny
Warder. (Fanny, who as Mrs. Flower said, had made a great success of her
life, marrying at twenty, seemed to be on an indefinite "visit"; there
was talk, of course.) Having first thawed her hands at her register,
which was supposed to waft up heat from the stove in the dining-room
below, but didn't particularly, Angela drew up her rocking-chair into
the zone of ostensible warmth. She sat with one slender foot curled
under her, by a trick that no man has ever mastered. And this time she
had not searched for the formal tools of a note-writer, but employed a
stub of a pencil and a pad upon her lifted knee.

"Dearest Tommy," wrote Angela, and followed with a solid paragraph of
very affectionate greeting. She went on:--

     Well, Tommy, I promised to write you how things were, after we
     got settled down. I must say the outlook is rather discouraging
     at times--and home isn't what it was as you remember it! Do you
     remember what fun we used to have even in Hunter's
     Run--driving in to "the balls"--and how fine it was in
     Mitchellton as long as you were there? Well, everything is
     _sadly_ changed now! Wallie, I'm afraid, hasn't improved as he
     gets older, he seems to rarely or never think of anybody but
     himself--and, of course, having fun is simply something he
     _doesn't care for_! He shuts himself up in his room every
     night, making horrible mixtures in a "sink" he's put in--that
     smell up the whole house, and never _dreams_ of contributing to
     the housekeeping expenses--though he's been raised now to _ten
     dollars a week_! Father is sadly changed, he gets quieter and
     quieter all the time.

     Sometimes I'm really worried about him, he's so _indifferent_!
     He never jokes any more, and doesn't try to get any patients,
     though I _know_ he could get lots with his reputation. He seems
     despondent, Tommy, and sometimes doesn't even come in for his
     office-hour--and the other day he lost a patient that way that
     the Finchmans sent, she waited half an hour and then went! But
     though he may have liked the country life better; and let us
     all _vegetate_; that can't be it--for he certainly made no
     objection when the family _consensus_ seemed to be that we
     should move here! Of course, we have to face the fact that he
     and mother aren't very _congenial_, it is her problem, and
     while I wouldn't criticize mother for worlds and she certainly
     does her duty as wife and mother--I do think it's a _great
     mistake_ for her to always make her attitude a sort of
     _reproach_, saying how "she's sacrificed herself to him" and
     all--you know what I mean--

     Mother really gets along better than any of us--especially as I
     now do _all_ the work of the entire house!

The young writer paused, staring chillily at the register. She rarely
looked out the window now, hers being the blank certainty that there
would be nothing to see. Moreover, it was dusk. So, rising presently,
she lighted the gas, and resumed her sad sisterly letter.

Of her mother she wrote in some detail: of the various friends of her
girlhood she had renewed acquaintance with, and how she was always
exchanging calls with Cousin This or Martha That, who was So-and-So
before she married. To Angela, it had really seemed funny how all these
connections of her mother's, whose social possibilities they had so
often discussed before they left Mitchellton, had resolved themselves
into dejected old ladies who had had unhappy marriages, and whose
children had also had unhappy marriages, as a rule, or were in some
other way unavailable as friends. Out of five families thus exhumed by
Mrs. Flower, positively only one unattached young person had emerged,
and this one, named Jennie Finchman (!), while certainly well-meaning,
was a shy, anxious, painfully homely little thing who had never had a
good time in her life, and gave all her pocket-money to a mission in the
Dutch East Indies.

     Well, Tommy [continued Angela], I've tried to give you a
     picture of the new home like I promised--and I only wish it was
     more encouraging! As for myself--the only outside person I had
     to help me was Cousin Mary Wing, and she is a "New Woman," as I
     wrote you in my Thanksgiving Day letter, and doesn't go with
     anybody but _advanced older_ people!--and, besides, she got
     into a terrible scrape, poor dear, and was dismissed from the
     school! Cousin Mary, it's only fair to say, has done more for
     me than anybody else, introducing me to her older woman
     friends--who have called on me, and several have invited me to
     teas, lectures, and etc.! But, of course, none of them were
     _social_ people really, or at least of the younger set--and I
     practically haven't been invited to a single party, except
     "dove ones"! The one exception was a meeting of an "advanced
     club," where I met several attractive men, who have been as
     nice to me as you could _possibly expect_.

     But the truth is, Tommy, money counts a great deal more here
     than it did in Mitchellton; all the girls who are prominent
     socially have wealthy families behind them! I think I would
     hold up the family end quite well on very little--but I have
     hardly a decent "rag to my back," my _clothes_ let everybody
     know I am a person of _no importance_, so the little inner
     circle sees no reason to take me up,--mother and I have figured
     that with only _fifty dollars_ I could get a really nice new
     suit, and a simple evening dress as well,--and perhaps hat and
     shoes, all of which I _sorely need_! But, of course, poor
     father simply hasn't got such a sum, and Wallie puts all his in
     the bank--for college next year, he has $240 there now! Tommy,
     you know I don't mean to accuse the family of being
     selfish,--father told us in advance that we would be poorer
     here,--but besides that--nobody in the family but you ever
     seemed to _understand_ that a girl can't accomplish anything
     unless she is given some sort of a _chance_. Even mother
     doesn't understand, she just thinks "things happen"! She is
     always telling how in _her_ day men would work hard all day
     "superintending the farms"--and then at night ride twenty miles
     on horseback, to just talk for an hour to some girl of no
     special attractions! I can't make her see that men simply
     _aren't like that_ any more.

The concluding paragraph of the letter merely described the writer's own
daily round, especially touching on the dull walks, so rarely broken by
a familiar face, which remained almost her only form of recreation. Here
Angela decided to put in one sentence in a less reserved vein, which she
did: "Well, Tommy, if you mean to make any thank-offerings to 'the poor'
this Christmas, you know where they will be _most appreciated_!" But, as
she loved her brother devotedly, it was also natural for her to return
to a sweet and generous note in farewell: "For your sake, Tommy, I am
glad you aren't here, with all the trials and hardships, but out in the
world having a happy life of your own!"

The completion, stamping, and sending-off of the letter to Tommy left
Angela with a sense of definite accomplishment. It was as if something
pleasant had happened in the family at last, or at least was going to
happen very soon. Unfortunately, however, this agreeable feeling, having
such small relation to reality, was born but to sicken and die. Time
proceeded with no pleasanter happenings than before, and a letter from
Daniel Jenney, of Mitchellton--whose ring had caused the trouble--became
a positive event.

By now, no doubt, the first natural excitement of "going to the city" to
live had subsided. Enthusiastic anticipations had been rubbed bare by
hard actuality, poverty, Finchmans, and so on. By this time also the
young home-maker had systematized her housekeeping, as she herself
said, and commonly ordered from butcher and grocer by means of Mrs.
Doremus's telephone, three doors away. With experience, too, Angela had
cut down the daily area of cleaning and polishing, from her first
youthful excesses. Small incentive there was to rub your fingers to the
bone on a house which was hopeless from the start, and which practically
nobody but her mother's sad friends ever set foot in. Thus--and also
through the all but eccentric indifference of the men of her family to
beauty and charm--Angela had more time than ever for thinking. And the
more she thought, the more clearly she saw that social progress in a
strange city was solely a matter of what might be called favorable
self-advertisement, and that this sort of advertisement, in her case at
least, was solely a matter of just a little money.

But where was money to come from? Little could be expected from Tommy,
even at the best. As for the housekeeping allowance (on which
home-makers properly rely for some personal "pickings"), that held out,
alas, yet frailer hopes. So closely had her father and mother calculated
the budget, indeed, that in three months she had squeezed but five
dollars and a half out of it: this, though she had early investigated
the cheaper cuts of meat and learned the desirability of never paying
cash.

"Oh," thought the girl, again and again,--"if father'd _only_ get some
patients!"

Mary Wing's pretty sitting-room had, indeed, established definitely in
Angela's mind the close connection between money and work in an office.
But, for the sound reasons explained by her to Cousin Mary, Angela could
never consider work in an office as a possibility for herself. What,
really, would become of the Home, while she went rushing daily to an
office, to make money for her personal adornment? Besides, she could not
but see that Cousin Mary was herself proof of the fact that going to an
office had a very unfortunate effect upon a girl. Argue as you liked,
the fact remained that, even in this so-called advanced age, the normal,
sweet, attractive girls, the girls who were prominent socially, were
never office-girls.

In short, how to get money without working for it? That, truly, was the
great question confronting every nice girl, every womanly woman....

To Angela, it gradually came to seem that nothing pleasant was ever to
happen to her again. Not only that, but the pleasantest sort of things
seemed to be happening all the time to everybody else.

Returning Mary Wing's call one day, in the hope of news (Cousin Mary's
disgrace was being generously forgiven, now that the Badwoman had gone
away), Angela picked up two items that depressed her curiously. One was
that Donald Manford had got that position he was trying for in Wyoming:
that meant that one member of the coterie would vanish for good within
three months' time. The other item concerned a remarkable series of
articles about Cousin Mary that were coming out in the magazines all of
a sudden, and which Cousin Mary said were written by Mr. Garrott, though
admitting that his name wasn't signed to them. The Finchmans, whom
Angela had met on the street, said, "How do you like having a celebrity
for a cousin?" Cousin Mary, for her part, seemed to like being a
celebrity immensely. Angela had never seen her in such high spirits; it
really seemed in bad taste, considering the recent past. And, of course,
Angela wondered a little if Mr. Garrott, the departed, wouldn't have
written something about her, too, but for the misunderstanding.

A chance meeting with Mr. Tilletts, on the way home from this visit,
hardly helped much. The seeking widower, afoot for once, had seemed
hurried; he merely paused for a hasty word or two, and then was on his
way again.

"Considering I haven't a soul to help me, I think I've done remarkably
well," the girl protested once more, as if answering an inner voice, to
her mother next day. "We've been here only a little while, and I have
three men-friends already."

"Who is the third?" inquired Mrs. Flower.

When Angela mentioned Mr. Tilletts, her mother said, laconically: "He
has never called."

"Men don't call any more, mother, I've said again and again! It's
practically gone out."

Not feeling very well to-day, she lay in an old wrapper atop the
sway-backed bed. Mrs. Flower sat, for company, by the outlooking window,
dutifully stitching at a frilly "waist" which Angela had begun, but not
finished. But her mother was a beautiful seamstress and really enjoyed
an occasional task.

"Besides," said Angela, listlessly making a dimple in her pretty cheek
with the end of a bone-handled button-hook, "I think Mr. Tilletts will
call. He specially asked to--only a little while ago."

Mrs. Flower, after a speaking silence, observed: "Donald Manford never
sent you the post-card from Wyoming."

"Well--all the time in the world hasn't passed yet, mother!"

"Your Cousin Ellie Finchman says he is deeply interested in this Miss
Carson. She hears he has made her an offer."

"How could Mrs. Finchman possibly know that, mother? Besides, _I_ don't
care! I like Mr. _Tilletts_ better than Mr. Manford!"

Coming to bloom in the age of Chivalry, Angela's mother had enjoyed a
great deal of "attention" before she decided to bestow herself upon the
worthy Doctor. Hence it was constitutional with her to take a belittling
position toward less successful young women, including even her own
daughter. Equally natural was it for Angela, with no such opportunities
as her mother had had, to hold fast to what successes she had, and even,
it may be, for memory to magnify them somewhat. And yet, in the
freemasonry of women, she never resented her mother's coolly judicial
summaries, and in this case, frankly felt the maternal slap to be
justified. Really, Mr. Manford had never paid her any direct attentions,
which perhaps had something or other to do with her admiring him so
little as yet.

On this day, the lonely young girl's spirits seemed to touch their
nadir. How _could_ anything pleasant happen? There was no imaginable
way.

"Oh, mother!" she exclaimed, with an exasperation rare to her. "Why,
_why_, couldn't you and father give us _one_ relation that would help
us? Did you ever _hear_ of any poor people before that didn't have a
_single_ rich relation?"

Then she cried out: "Oh, _please_ don't mention Mrs. Ashburton!"

It was surely the most natural, reasonable, and human complaint in the
world. In family talk, it had an established standing, too, having first
been formulated far back at Hunter's Run. But now it was as if Angela
had flung her challenge in the teeth of fate once oftener than fate
could stand.

On the very next day, in brief, the fairy godmother came rolling up to
the door.

We read how it is always darkest just before the dawn. Angela, who knew
that pleasant things rarely just happened, indoors, had gone out, so it
was that she missed the direct distribution of gifts. But, as it
chanced, she had been having her first really good time, since the
earlier part of the bridge-party. In fact, on Washington Street, at
about the same time and place, she had met Mr. Tilletts again; and now
he was not hurried at all. It pleasantly developed that Mr. Tilletts's
doctor had ordered him to stop riding around in his great car, and that
henceforth he would be walking constantly. Moreover, the genial gallant,
after a considerable promenade, had taken Angela to tea at Mrs.
Hasseltine's famous shop, and, at parting--sure enough--made a
provisional engagement to call "one evening this week." Altogether, the
coterie seemed in a fair way to pick up a new member, after all.

Whether fascinating or overplump, Widower Tilletts unquestionably
possessed the magic power, wielded by man alone, to restore the
self-esteem of a neglected young girl. Angela opened the front door of
home in a livelier humor than had been hers for weeks. And so entering,
she found her mother standing in the hall, and heard at once tidings
which, though not for her exactly, yet made her forget herself
altogether.

Mrs. Ashburton had been, and gone. Mrs. Ashburton was going to send
Wallie to college, at once. Mrs. Ashburton was going to give Wallie
_five hundred dollars a year_, till he had got his education.

This oft-cited lady, at last the waver of the magic wand, was Mrs.
Flower's first cousin. Close friends in their girlhood, their ways had
long ago parted; and, since Dr. and Mrs. Flower's visit to New York in
1896, amenities between them had hardly gone beyond an exchange of cards
at Christmas. But now it happened that Mrs. Ashburton, _en route_ to a
balmier clime than hers, had "broken her trip" here, after the frequent
way of tourists, and, having duly viewed the sights of the city from a
cab window through the morning, had bethought her to look up her
resident kin. So the rich relation came to the little house on Center
Street.

By chance, it was Saturday afternoon, and Wallie was alone in the house.
It seemed that an experiment he had been working on for days had just
turned out a failure, and he had opened all the windows and the front
door by way of letting out the smell. But even then he did not see the
lady standing on the steps, so intent was he on the large glass retort
in his hand. His face was quite white, and beaded with perspiration. So
Mrs. Ashburton had described it to Mrs. Flower, who came in to find her
just leaving for hotel and train. She had asked: "What are you looking
at that brown liquid so hard for?" "That's it; it's brown," Wallie had
muttered, still without looking at her. "You mean it ought to have
turned out white?" said she. "No, green," said Wallie, frowning and
squinting. "Where'd the chlorine go to?" "Why do you care so much?" Mrs.
Ashburton asked, more and more interested. "Why do I _care_?" he said,
scornfully; and then, as if becoming conscious of her, personally, for
the first time, he turned his spectacles on her and said calmly: "You
wouldn't understand, ma'am. A--a problem here.... Well, I don't
understand it myself." And then, losing her again, as it were, he
actually endeavored to shut the door, with the lady outside. Mrs.
Ashburton had had to push against it, she said, and put her foot in the
crack, to attract his notice. "I'm your cousin--_your cousin!_--Mrs.
Ashburton!" she cried. "And I want to come in and talk to you, please."
And this she had done, with the amazing result mentioned above.

Angela felt that the family tide had turned at last. She would scarcely
have been human if it had not occurred to her how easily she might have
been the one to be struck by the golden lightning; but such passing
notions in no sense marred her sincere, though vicarious, joy over this
great news. Moreover, it did seem, of course, that such a sum as five
hundred dollars could not percolate into a family at any point without
raising the whole level of prosperity very appreciably; and it was with
whole-hearted happiness that she skipped upstairs to congratulate her
lucky brother in the little bedroom she would not have to clean or
"make" any more.

"Something _very_ nice is going to happen to _me_ soon, too!" she
thought gayly, as she undressed that night. "I feel it in my bones!"

Her mind naturally slanted toward her favorite brother, with an
intuitive increase of hopefulness. And, true enough, it was from
generous Tommy that the more personal blessings presently came, though
in a form that had not entered Angela's dreams.

Tommy's reply to her sisterly letter promised at first, indeed, to be as
disappointing as Mr. Garrott's had been, and for the same reason: it
omitted the essential thing. Angela, having shaken the letter, and then
shuffled the pages, early discovered that there was no thank-offering in
it. Similarly, Tommy's sentences seemed to contain nothing more
substantial than affectionate regrets: setting forth what a struggle he
had trying to keep up with the set that Nina had always moved in; how he
was five thousand dollars in debt now, getting deeper, and never had a
nickel to jingle for himself, and that was the God's truth; how it had
always been his dream to do something big for his sister, and certainly
would do the same when old Mottesheard (Nina's father) died; how the old
chap hung on in a way you wouldn't believe....

Angela read with a certain sense of chill. Truly womanly, she, of
course, never questioned the superior claims of wives. And yet it did
seem a little hard that Tommy (who made a large salary as a bond
salesman, or something like that) should lavish everything on a girl he
had never heard of three years ago, while she, his own sister--

And then, turning into the fourth page, she came on a passage which
checked all minor-key reflections instantly. In their place, rose and
grew a startled astonishment. Tommy, noting what she had written about
her long, dull walks, was offering to _give her an automobile_.

At first, Angela simply could not take in this offer as a solid reality.
It sprang upon her like some wild, exciting joke. She read, with her
breath coming faster and faster, and her soft eyes as big as saucers:--

     Now, Sis, I know a car may strike you offhand as a good deal of
     an undertaking for a poor family, but you'd find it wouldn't
     prove so at all. The car I have in mind for you is a little
     simple one, that you could easily run and manage yourself. A
     man from the nearest garage will teach you how to drive it in
     an hour. There'd be no upkeep at all, with the easy city use
     you'd give it--practically no expense of any kind but gasoline.
     The little car is old, of course, but still sound as a trivet,
     and it'll run till you wouldn't believe it on a gallon or so of
     juice....

For a space the letter faded from the young girl's vision. Before her
mind's eye flashed a series of entrancing pictures: pictures of herself,
no longer the lone, slow pedestrian in a too large city....

     And don't think you would be depriving us [Tommy went on]. Nina
     _will_ have a new car every year, and we've really had no use
     for this one for some time. By the by, didn't you tell me there
     was an old barn in your back-yard, or an alley? Why wouldn't
     that do for your garage? Then you would have your car ready at
     hand, without storage cost, and could take it out at a moment's
     notice and go for a spin with your friends.

     Now think it over, Sis, and let me know if you want it. I can
     ship it at once, by prepaid express. Nina has a frank....

"Oh, _mother_!" cried Angela excitedly. "Tommy wants to give me an
automobile!"

The heads of the Flowers lifted from their breakfasts as if jerked by a
common string.

When the breath-taking letter had been read again, aloud this time,
there followed a family symposium, the question being whether or not
Angela could have the automobile. To her surprise and delight, it
appeared that there was really no question; all the family wanted her to
take the automobile; all agreed with Tommy that it would not be a
prohibitive undertaking. Mrs. Flower, an habitual conservative, pointed
out that there would be nothing to lose in any case: if having the
automobile proved impracticable, Angela could simply sell it. Wallie
said that, if the automobile came before he left for college, he would
teach Angela how to run it himself, thus eliminating the expense of a
man from the garage. And, finally, her father astonished her by saying
that he would find the necessary funds--estimated at ten dollars--for
repairing the abandoned shed, which now leaked dangerously, into a
serviceable little garage.

At nine-thirty o'clock that morning Angela rushed out of the house to
the nearest telegraph office, to dispatch her happy reply. Excited
though she was, however, she did not forget to count the words:--

     Crazy about it Tommy. Arrangements made. What kind is car?

     A. F.

Tommy's response came at bedtime:--

     Car started to you this afternoon. It is a Fordette. Happy New
     Year.

     TOMMY.

The night before Wallie started North for college Angela went to him in
his little bed-and-workroom and asked the temporary loan of seventy-five
dollars. In the interval, she had learned that her father had a patient;
it seemed, indeed, that he had had her for some time, only she was not
an office patient, so nobody had known about her. Also, Angela
anticipated that the housekeeping allowance would prove rather more
squeezable now, with Wallie gone. Still, one cannot pass into the
motor-car classes on a shoestring, of course; and Wallie, with his
prodigal allowance and his handsome store in the bank, now literally
rolled in wealth.

Brilliant prosperity, however, did not seem to have improved her little
brother's character; he proved to be as reluctant as ever to "part."
After a good deal of unworthy haggling, he agreed to lend Angela but
fifty dollars, and actually entered the amount in a ridiculous little
black book he kept for such things.

The joke of it was that fifty dollars was really more than Angela had
expected. She went out from the interview well pleased. Her resolve was
to spend thirty dollars of Wallie's loan on a new suit, and keep all the
rest for gasoline.



XIII



They had all cautioned her, her father, her brother, the nice man who
sold the gasoline, to pick the quietest streets, and to go very slowly.
So, from the alley-mouth, her safe progress had been by Gresham Street
straight to peaceful Mason, where the traffic was so reassuringly light;
and now, as she rolled securely out Mason Street, there began to dawn
within her a first shy confidence. She went as slowly as her
well-wishers had meant, at least; prudently close to the known haven of
the sidewalk she kept at all times; now and then she stopped short, just
to see if she could, and always she could. Through all, was the
indescribable thrill of really doing it for herself now; lingering
incredulity but gave a sharper savor to delight. And she was continually
excited with the consciousness of large new possibilities here, of
personal power in quite a new dimension.

It was possible to go on indefinitely out Mason Street, but at Olive
(always a quiet thoroughfare) she was seized with a sudden
adventurousness. She decided to turn up Olive, in short; not meaning to
stop at the Wings', of course, but just thinking that if the Wings were
looking out the window as she went by, it would be quite a pleasant
thing. The enterprise, once conceived, was carried out with perfect
technical success; but at the moment of passing the Wings', unluckily,
an enormous ice-wagon came lumbering close by, riveting her attention,
leaving her not so much as an eyelid to wink toward people's windows.
Hence, she never knew whether the Wings were looking out or not. But her
confidence waxed. At Center Street the rumble of a street-car warned her
to stop a moment--just in time, too, for the car was hardly two blocks
away--and when the car had passed, what must she do but roll boldly
across the tracks and into the altogether unexplored regions beyond!

What prompted her to do this? Of course, the natural thing was to turn
down Center Street a block and get straight back to quiet Mason, which
had been duly tried and not found wanting. Afterward, she remembered
distinctly that she had been on the point of doing just that. Was it the
new adventurousness that beckoned her on, instead? Was it something yet
subtler and more mysterious? At any rate, here she was pushing into a
quarter of the city where she had never set foot in her life, where, in
all human probability, her foot alone would never have brought her. And
lo, she had not gone a block into the undiscovered country when a wonder
befell, and with a little jump, all but a little cry, she saw the lost
member of her coterie rise suddenly before her.

He had come round the unknown corner just ahead, and was walking
straight toward her. She became aware of the beating of her heart. All
this, it must be understood, was the very first time that Angela had
taken out her Fordette alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Garrott was just off the train. Two hours in a day coach might have
cramped his long legs; there might have been cinders down the back of
his neck. Nevertheless, he advanced with an unmistakably lively tread,
continually slapping his leg with a folded periodical of a size and
shape like "Willcox's Weekly."

Nor was the coterie member's presence on the Wings' street mere blind
chance, either. Those remarkable articles in the magazines about Cousin
Mary, which had but popped as a rumor into one of Angela's ears and out
the other, had naturally occupied a somewhat more prominent place in the
thought of their creator. He remained, indeed, dazzled by the
completeness of the write-ups' triumph.

Charles had stayed in the country four days longer than he had intended.
And in his extended absence his whole mine of publicity had gone off
with a brilliant suddenness that had startled him. The successful sale
of the third write-up before he left town had assured a decisive _coup_,
but the quick action the weeklies had given him went beyond all reason.
He had not hoped that even the first of the write-ups could see print
before the middle of the month, say; on the contrary, he had discovered
the last and best of them--the one signed Charles King Garrott--on the
train just now, in "Willcox's," for January 10th. In short, in the space
of a Christmas holiday he, Charles, had spread the vindicating feats and
features of his "demoted" friend to the four corners of the globe.
Literally that, for did not the combined circulation of "Willcox's," the
"Saturday Review," and "Hervey's National" exceed two million copies
weekly (this on the word of the circulation managers themselves, a class
of men whose consecration to the austerest veracity has passed into
proverb)? Surely there remained few literate persons in the world to-day
who could plausibly pretend that they had never heard of Mary Wing.

And Mary (as Angela had noted) had appreciated these extraordinary
services to the full. The letter she had written him in the country,
after the appearance of the "Saturday Review" article, was uniquely
grateful. A beautiful letter Charles had thought it; he had it in his
inside pocket now. And the interesting thought it had raised was this:
If his usually independent friend could be as grateful as that for the
write-ups, what would she say when his whole plan worked out, and his
Public Opinion had overwhelmed the School Board for her? Thus, on the
train, after reading "Willcox's" piece three times, and now as he strode
up the quiet back-street from the station, the author was intently
plotting out the next, or practical, stage of his campaign, still
unsuspected by her: the stage of the reprinting of the write-ups in the
local papers, in fine, of repeated editorial endorsement of the same, of
the outburst of letters from "Indignant Taxpayers," "High School
Graduates," and "Old Subscribers"--practically all, of course, written
by Uncle George Blenso and himself.

His thoughts proved increasingly stimulating to the home-come Charles.
And when he came to Olive Street, he suddenly bethought him to turn up
that way; not expecting to stop at the Wings', of course (for he had an
engagement to call there this evening, much as if he hadn't been a
modern at all), but merely thinking that if he should happen to meet
Mary it would be quite a pleasant thing....

Having turned, the buoyant young man presently sent, as it were, a
scouting eye on ahead. And it fell, not upon the friend he had made
famous in a night, but upon an Object approaching.

The object was a conveyance, a little vehicle of the self-propelling
type. It was an automobile, clearly; a runabout, you would have to term
it, though certainly of a pattern adopted in no recent year. So steep
and bobbed was this runabout's little body, so quaintly archaic its
contour, that it stirred in the beholder dim recollections of the early
days of the horseless age, of strange pictures seen in scientific
magazines back in the nineties. Very slowly the little vehicle
approached, but very loudly, too, with an increasing bias toward the
sidewalk, with queer rumblings and groanings, with the oddest snorts.

Charles's puzzled eye lifted. And so it was that it encountered again
the soft gaze that he had last seen misted in tears, upon a sofa. And so
he heard the pretty voice, that had once referred to him as a brute,
saying:--

"How do you do, Mr. Garrott!... I--I'm very glad to see you back!"

"Why--Miss _Flower_!"

Sheer surprise had halted him in his tracks, and the self-propelling
runabout, which had been almost stationary all along, became entirely
so, right at the curb.

"When did you get home?" Miss Flower was finishing, laughing, a becoming
color in her cheeks.

"I'm just in--this minute! How are you? I--ah--didn't realize at all
that it was you." He had taken the small hand she offered, momentarily
flustered, despite all effort, by the utterly sudden re-meeting. He was
aware that the girl looked a little conscious, too. But something in her
gaze seemed to be trying to tell him that bygones were bygones now; and
she went on with reassuring naturalness:--

"I hope you had a nice holiday? I've wanted very much to see you, and
thank you myself. About Wallie, I mean--your offering to teach him--"

"Oh!--Why, _that_!"

"It was really the nicest thing. I--haven't seen you since, but you
don't know how much I--we all appreciated--"

With recovered poise the young man easily brushed aside these thanks.
"But I'm awfully glad," he added, "that he didn't wait for me, after
all."

"Oh!" she exclaimed. "You _heard_, then?"

He mentioned his letter from Mary Wing, causing her to say, "Oh,"
again.--"Wasn't it _wonderful_! I knew you'd be interested...."

She was prettier than he remembered--or was it merely that the new hat
(trimmed but yesterday) was more becoming than the old?--and her gaze,
though not reproachful a bit, had for him a quality subtly appealing. Of
the lives and loneliness of young womanly women--of that forced
_waiting_ which dams up all energies unused, and hangs the spirit to
thrash about in a void, working over each small event to a towering
importance--of such matters, a man, even Charles, the authority, knew
only through the powers of his imagination. Charles did observe,
however, that this girl seemed very glad to see him. And he felt that he
now reciprocated these feelings.

"But," said he, with a hypocritically pleasant look at the vehicle,
"Santa Claus seems to have remembered you, too! This is something new,
isn't it?" said Charles, though feeling that new was hardly the word.

"Yes,--aren't you surprised? My brother in Pittsburg gave it to me. I've
just learned to run it! It was so exciting!"

And then, in a pretty, hesitating way, she said: "Won't you let me drive
you--home, or wherever you're going? I'd like to, so much. I--want so to
tell you all the news."

He protested that he could not think of using Miss Flower as a taxicab.
But when she urged it, in pleasing, ingenuous sentences, and explained
that she was out only to drive about anywhere, for practice, it did not
occur to him to maintain the churlish negative. And, indeed, this was
exactly what he had desired from the moment of reading her perfect note
last month--sweet reconciliation in just such a casual way, admitting or
entailing next to nothing.

So the returning author of the write-ups was to be seen carefully
squeezing himself, and "Willcox's," into the seat of Tommy's delightful
gift.

"Let's see--the engine's still going--isn't it?" said she, rather
superfluously, it seemed, in view of the uproar. "Then I have to kick
that and push this over...."

As the girl said, so she did, her look a little anxious, her young face
flushed with excitement. And, sure enough, the vehicle, of a
self-propelling type, suddenly shook itself with a few loud snorts, and
jumped forward with a jar.

"And what sort of car is this?" resumed Charles, dissembling intense
curiosity as mere sympathetic interest.

"It is a Fordette," replied Angela, not without pride.

As they wobbled round the corner, narrowly missing the sidewalk, she
added in the same proud manner: "And this is my very first drive by
myself."

The taking of the corner (she explained that she could not turn round
alone yet) meant that he was not going to pass the Wings', after all;
but Charles hardly noticed that. He had himself to look to, in his
somewhat unusual position. However, the drive to the Studio, though
noisy, was very short; her completely feminine inefficience as a driver,
their snail's progress, could not extend it over many minutes; and the
whole thing proved as easy and reproachless as could possibly have been
wished. Light friendly talk was the note, flowing without embarrassment
now. Angela told of the two great happenings in her family, seeming to
count upon his interest, and getting it genuinely enough, too. He was
glad, sincerely, that Luck had smiled on this girl, who had seemed to
him not to be having much of a chance. But she was not one, even so, to
take all the conversation to herself; it was a trait that he had noted,
and liked, in her from the beginning.

"Mr. Garrott," she said, at the first little pause, "aren't you going to
have some stories out pretty soon now? You know you told me you were
writing some--before you began your book?"

How gladly Mr. Garrott would have reported a little luck, too! But no,
he was still known to Tables of Contents only as the author of
write-ups. Somewhat ruefully, he explained to Angela his position about
the editors; namely, that the sooner the lot of them came under the eye
of a lunacy commission, the better for all concerned.

She became the comforter: "But perhaps they've accepted some of your
stories while you were away so long!" He, however, knew that there was
nothing in that.

"Well, no--no. You see, my--my relative who lives with me, Judge Blenso,
looks after my mail when I'm away. And he's been sending me the casualty
lists from time to time."

"But that story I liked so much--you told me a little about it one
day--about Helena and her husband, don't you remember, who went off to
the desert island--"

"Oh, that? That's been declined--yes, declined three times, if I
remember rightly--"

"_Really!_ But how _could_ they! I should think they would have _jumped_
at it! Why, I thought it was just wonderful...."

Her instinct for supplying charm was not amiss, it seemed.

"By the way," said the young author carelessly, as they curved into his
own street, "have you happened to see this?"

And he not only showed Angela his "Willcox's," with the write-up in it,
but bestowed it upon her, for her own. It developed that he had extra
copies in his pocket.

Angela was very grateful for the magazine. Everything was as pleasant
and friendly as possible. And at parting, she said, with only the
slightest return of self-consciousness:--

"This has been a very short drive, Mr. Garrott! I hope we can have a
real one some day soon."

To that the young man, standing on the sidewalk before his own door,
replied with a courteous generalization. Wariness was reflexive with
him, so to say. But then, as he looked at the soft young face, he seemed
to become suddenly conscious of the essential caddishness of his past
behavior, and of yet another feeling, too, less coolly judicial. Had not
the Kiss, in fact, set this girl somehow apart from others, remaining as
a subtle bond after all?

Pressing her slender hand, he added: "Meanwhile, I've enjoyed this one
very much! You've been--extremely good to me."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Willcox's" had given Mary the Freewoman a fine spread. The write-up
occupied all of one of its large pages, with three paragraphs "Continued
on Page 49," among the Men's Ready to Wear Clothing. Out of the middle
of the text, the best of the portraits supplied by Fanny Warder gazed
back steadily at the two relatives in the Studio. The famous Mary was
seated in a flowered armchair, and seemed just to have looked round over
her shoulder. Her delicate, quite girlish, face wore her characteristic
look of faint, grave interrogation; her eyes were intent and fine.

"Gad, you know!" said Judge Blenso, who had seen Charles's name in print
for the first time with an exclamation of pride and pleasure. "Why, it's
stunnin', my dear fellow! Simply stunnin'!"

But the mind's eye of Charles, looking down at the life-like
presentment, was seeing that confident gaze averted; the ear of his
fancy was hearing the low sounds of womanly emotion in this quarter at
last. That, of course, was just after he had gently said to her--why, it
might be next week!--"Do you remember telling me one day that I couldn't
help you at all? Why, Miss Mary, did you really suppose I'd let you go
on as a Grammar School teacher till _May_!...."

"Bring 'em out as a holiday book--that's what I say! Why, good gad,
Charles!--we only got twenty dollars for that piece there!"

The young man laughed absently, and removed his overcoat. A glance at
Big Bill showed that it was just four o'clock. He had examined the mail,
heard the secretary's unfavorable reports. The Studio, after nearly
three weeks' holiday, suggested the necessity of work undoubtedly; he
was as far from settling upon his Line as ever. But it seemed that he
didn't feel like plotting scenarios to-day.

The "Post," the "State," the "Chronicle"--why shouldn't he go down there
now, get the thing started at once?...

"Oh, Judge, by the way! Do you know whether Miss McGee ever brought back
that book I lent her?--fat red book, called 'Marna'?"

"'Marna,' 'Marna'? Never heard of it. Yes, that's so, she did! Here it
is!" said the Judge, and forthwith plucked Miss Angela's long-kept loan
from the bookcase close by.

"That's it! Let's lay it here on the mantel. Then maybe I'll remember--"

"And borrowed a lot more, too!" exclaimed the Judge, suddenly laughing
loud and long. "Gad, I lent her an armful, fact!--night we had the
sleet-storm!"

"You did?--good! We'll convince her we're her true friends yet."

His secretary, having gazed at him a moment with brilliant blankness,
suddenly exclaimed: "Why, Charles, my dear fellow, you're looking like a
fighting-cock! You must have put on a stone--fine! Here, let me feel
your muscle!"

Charles tried to evade that ceremony, but it was, of course, no use.
Having caught him going through certain setting-up exercises one night,
and being misled by the light remark he let fall, Judge Blenso was
irrevocably convinced that the sedentary Charles had an affair of honor
on his hands. The night he made this discovery--the very night Charles
secretly began the exercises, of course, the night of the day he had
seen Mysinger on the street--the Judge had become almost dangerously
excited, springing from bed and walking about a long time in his
pajamas, saying over and over: "The old blood'll tell! Gad, you know!
It's the old blood!" All attempts to explain, then and since, had been
utterly without effect.

However, a knock on the door interrupted the proceedings, and Mrs.
Herman came walking into the Studio--a dark, round, rosy little body,
beetle-browed but beaming.

"Such a popular man I never saw!" said she, roguishly. "One lady meeting
him and driving him up from the station, another calling him up before
he's hardly arrived, and goodness knows who'll be next!"

"Why, who's calling me, Mrs. Herman?"

"It's Miss Wing!--waiting at the phone! And no wonder, with all you and
the Judge have done for her, I'm sure! Judge, I hope you find your new
chair comfortable?"

Having received the unexpected summons with a peculiar start of
gladness, the young man descended the stairs with the most agreeable
anticipations. To do a valuable service for a friend is, with some
natures, to become fonder than ever of that friend; and Charles, from
the moment of reading her unprecedented letter, was aware that his
original services to Mary had distinctly had these sentimental
reactions. (For of course such natures _are_ sentimental, disgustingly
so, and real Men--not to say realistic men--invariably hate and despise
their friends, and speak to said friends at all only with a view to
taking away their money or their wives.)

So, sitting down at the little telephone-table in the dark rear-hall,
Charles smiled to himself and said, in a false voice:--

"Pardon me, but is this the famous Miss Wing, who--"

And Mary's voice seemed to spring toward him through the receiver, like
an embrace: "Oh, _King Charles_!"

It was a little name she had made long ago by turning his first two
names about, but reserved for rare occasions only. Rare also was it to
hear this commonly contained voice so deeply stirred.

"Welcome home! I hope I didn't interrupt your work, but it seemed I
couldn't _wait_! And, of course, I haven't _half_ thanked you yet,
haven't begun to tell you how much--how much--I appreciate all you've
done for me...."

Once more, the fortunate Charles was brushing aside a lady's
gratitude--rather generously, considering the infrequency of grounds of
gratitude here. He laughed gaily into the receiver.

"The real point is, why under the sun did you connect me right away with
the remarkable outburst of popular admiration? Hartwell went gossiping
about, I suppose?"

"I didn't need Mr. Hartwell to tell me anything about that! But--"

"Aha! So Fanny told you about the photographs--"

"She never breathed a word--"

"Good-evening, Miss Holmes!--old Watson speaking! Will you kindly
explain your--!"

"Why, of course there wasn't but one person on earth who could have done
such a beautiful thing for me!"

All alone in the hall, Charles felt himself coloring with pleasure.
However, the unwonted flush was not for long.

"I have to pinch myself," the girl's eager voice rushed on (did it sound
just a thought more triumphant than even the author of the write-ups
could have expected?),--"for every magazine I pick up is full of nothing
but Me! I've just seen 'Willcox's'--oh, you don't know how much I liked
that! You've simply taken my breath away! And then to come in and find
_this_!--everything beautiful happening to me at once! I--"

"What? _More_ honors, celebrity?"

"The greatest!--the most wonderful! Mr. Garrott, what DO you suppose?"

Mr. Garrott hardly liked the slant the conversation was taking. The
understanding was that whatever beautiful things happened to the Career
were to happen exclusively through him now.

"Why!--I can't guess! Not--Has the School Board--"

"Pish for the School Board," cried the voice that was wont to be so
calm. "You're talking to _the new Secretary of the League_!"

"I'm.... _What?_"

"The person you're conversing with, if you please, is the General
Secretary of the National League for Education Reform!" Her happy laugh
rang on the wire: "Are you _staggered_? Well, I am, too! I simply can't
begin to take it in...."

Had Mrs. Herman's house fallen about his ears, the young man at the
telephone-table could, indeed, scarcely have been staggered more. His
sense was of one falling headlong through space. He gripped the edge of
the table with a large left hand, and for the instant there was no
speech in him.

"I found the letter from Dr. Ames when I got in just now--oh, the nicest
letter, explaining everything! And of course I wanted to tell you right
away--you've been so good about wanting to help! Don't you remember, it
was you who spoke of this as my brilliant revenge? We little thought
then ..."

_Wanting to help!_ Doubt not, that was the body blow. "No--no! And I--I
really don't take it in--even now," he was saying, struggling
desperately for his mask. "I--ah--I'd given up all--idea, you see! Why,
I understood that was _all off_! I--"

"Of _course_--so had I! That's what makes it such a wonderful bolt from
the blue! There was another candidate, you see--a college president,
imagine!--and Dr. Ames says he felt he ought to be very discreet and
reticent till it was all settled. But I was elected unanimously, and
must be in New York to take charge of the office on March 1st...."

It was the complete collapse of his triumph and his hope: he would not
be going to the newspaper-offices now. But that sentence, that concrete
date, took the whole matter deeper still. Charles Garrott took a firmer
grip on Mrs. Herman's little table. Now his voice came firmer, too:--

"The first woman secretary they ever had!... Why--it's _immense_!"

In the ensuing dialogue, in which, for pride's sake, he sought to strike
just the right felicitatory note, there was an instant when the
possibility flashed upon him that the stunning event was itself but the
unimagined by-product of the write-ups. The directors had decided not to
give the distinguished post to an obscure provincial teacher, when all
of a sudden his great broadside of fame for Mary had come roaring in
among them. The thought, in this moment of utter frustration, seemed
actually welcome to him. But it had hardly fluttered before Mary struck
it dead, in the most incidental manner: incidental--since, to be just,
she, having no knowledge whatever of his secret plans, could hardly
guess what annihilation she was dealing out to them. It developed, in
short, that her election, though held back a few days to be ratified by
the trustees of the League's endowment fund, had actually taken place on
December 27th. And it was too readily recalled that the first of the
write-ups had not appeared till the following day.

"Yes--yes!... Fine holiday, thank you!--fine! But of course--no triumphs
like this to report!..."

"Well!--I mustn't keep you now, of course!" said the victorious voice.
"I'm looking forward to seeing you ..."

No, it was sufficiently clear that he had but labored to heap coals in
Newcastle. It was just the case of the old write-up, last year; only now
a thousand times worse. Often before, this desire in him to help, this
spontaneous protecting instinct which seemed to be always flowing out
here, had been rebuffed and defeated. But this time, his defeat seemed
to be final. And, hanging up the receiver at last, the young man sat
silent with the feeling that something valuable and important had
suddenly departed from his life.

He felt that he had been rather imposed upon, but that didn't matter
particularly. He felt beaten, as he had never been beaten before, and
that seemed to matter a good deal. With an odd and profound sense of
blank chagrin, he recognized, at last, that when Mary Wing had said that
she didn't need his help, she had been merely stating a literal and
obvious truth. How he had been such a fool as ever to think otherwise?

But deeper than all this, it seemed clear from the beginning that he was
disappointed in his friend, personally. Had he not read into her all
along, and put into the write-ups, a rather finer quality than she, in
fact, possessed? Spinsters were entitled to a man's freedom to follow
away their work--of course. But it seemed that he had never been able to
imagine Mary as actually seizing this Right. And now, here she was doing
it, with joy--the end of next month. Now behold her, whose praises he
had so superfluously sung round the world--just an ordinary Redmantler
after all, it seemed, exultantly striking off mother, home, friends; a
female Egoist, no more, visibly engaged in "fiercely hacking away"....

He could, indeed, scarcely take it in. And stoutly he assured himself
that his whole feeling about the matter would have been different--if
only she had showed, at once, that this would be a wrench for her, that
her thought was colored by a sense of values not connected with her
Self. But no; it seemed that the new General Secretary had no thought to
spare for the immaterial business of being a sister and being a
daughter.

       *       *       *       *       *

So Charles's call at the Wings' on the evening of his homecoming wore a
complexion not contemplated by him when he had arranged the matter.

He had made this engagement, under the general misapprehension, in his
reply to Mary's grateful letter last week. And now he had to keep it,
however malapropos, resolved as he was that she should never sense any
criticism or disapprobation in him. To seek to "influence" her,
naturally never entered his mind. No, he was her casual spectator now
and henceforward; he had dipped his oar in her affairs for the last
time.

But the call was hardly much of a success, despite all efforts. Mary,
having now had time to recapture her usual poise, no longer impressed
one as being so unreservedly overjoyed with herself. It was noted that
she kept referring to the write-ups, kept assuring him how delightful
she found it to be a celebrity as well as a Secretary, etc., etc. The
caller's intellect coldly gave her credit for "being very nice."
However, no niceness could help much to drape the stark obtruding facts;
no civilities seemed fitted to cope with the intangible wall suddenly
sprung up in the old friendship. And if there had lingered in Charles's
mind some revolting incredulity, some reactionary insistence that Mary
could never really carry out the typical exploit of the Egoette, the
talk this evening finally killed it. The famous educator's sentences
made it clear, once and for all, that she was Leaving Home for good--for
her own good, of course--on the 1st day of March succeeding.

Charles was determinedly "sincere" throughout the brief call,
continuously and spuriously hearty. Inwardly, his resolve grew more and
more fixed that this young woman, who was so rarely competent to Lead
Her Own Life, should be permitted to lead it quite unassisted
henceforth. For himself, he decided that his life should go to the
unremitting service of pure Letters. But of such matters, of course, he
permitted his agreeable chatter to yield no hint. Taking his departure
upon a new wave of felicitations, he could but congratulate himself upon
the trained adeptness of his mask.

And Mary, having shut the door upon her caller, stood leaning against
it, her arched brows drawn together in a faint frown, her fine eyes
faintly bewildered.

"Now what," she said, half aloud, "have I said or done, or left unsaid
or undone, this time?"

And then she went slowly back to her mother's bedroom, where she found
her mother with stockings to darn, and (taken unawares) her eyes a
little red.



XIV


In the Home on Center Street, the shrunken curtain was rarely hooked
back on the nail now. And on the ledge of the little window that gazed
toward the Blest, the shabby opera-glasses gathered dust.

As is perfectly understood, Careers in the making are the stuff to make
conservatives of others. Observing Egoettes, an authority, if male,
inevitably reacts, thinking better and better of the gentle business of
supplying beauty and supplying charm. Charles Garrott, in short, having
repudiated all connection with the life of Mary Wing, was in just the
proper frame of mind to applaud the life of Mary's so different cousin.
And Charles did applaud it--certainly. But, of course, such purely
scientific endorsement did not controvert another established known
truth, namely, that, under certain circumstances and as applied to
certain individuals, the supply of the soft commodities referred to may
very well prove a little in excess of the demand.

The well-known thought first flickered back into Charles's mind on the
third day of his homecoming. At the moment, he stood on the corner
nearest Berringer's, having just dismounted there from Miss Angela's
conveyance. On the fifth day of his homecoming, at the same corner, his
reflections on supply and demand were assuming an increasing
definiteness.

"Well, then--good-bye!" he was saying, with his fatal pleasantness. "And
thank you very much for the lift."

From the seat of Tommy's valuable donation, Angela was gazing up at him.
And he saw that her face, which had been smiling, was touched with a
brief seriousness.

"Oh, you know I've enjoyed it--so much! But--we never seem to have
anything but these little bits of talks. I'm sorry.... Perhaps I'll see
you to-morrow?"

"Ha!--quite likely!--yes! Thank you! Well!--_good-bye!_"

And he turned away toward luncheon and the good man-talk with a crescent
uneasiness, having failed to point out--possibly failing to
remember--that to-morrow was Saturday, and he would be off to the
country again.

Day before yesterday, he had encountered the conveyance as he left the
Demings' at one o'clock. To-day, he had overtaken it on his walk
downtown--literally that, for he was a fast walker and a little
absent-minded besides. Thus he had now enjoyed three peace-making drives
with the girl he had once parted from forever, all in the course of his
first five days at home. And now at the end of their third pleasant
talk, particularly after these last prospective remarks of hers, Charles
could not but feel that the true object of these re-meetings had been
satisfactorily accomplished. Now the reconciliation was complete; now he
felt no lingering shadow of doubt of his forgiveness for having once
been a brute.

He did not regret the drives; he was very glad, indeed, to be good
friends again; but his subtle instinct seemed to warn him that he and
Angela would do best, would get along with the fewest misunderstandings,
without a rapidly developing intimacy. And, taking the higher view, it
clearly was not right, it was not moral, that a confirmed bachelor like
himself should go on indefinitely monopolizing a nice young Spinster
Home-Maker's time.

Returning to town on Monday, Charles, though in the kindest way, went to
Berringer's by the Center Street car-line. He felt, indeed, that he was
really looking out for the girl's higher good more than for his own: she
lacked that competence to manage her own life, so harshly flaunted by
others. All passed off well. On Tuesday he utilized the traction system
again, with equally satisfying results. And then, on Tuesday afternoon,
as he trod professionally from the old lady's who was studying French to
Miss Grace Chorister's, he suddenly ran upon the Fordette again.

By an odd chance, the quaint little vehicle was standing still, directly
in front of the Choristers'. His reconciled friend was out of it,
standing by, bending well over the car, peering into it. Nevertheless,
by some sixth sense, she saw him at once and, straightening up with a
pleased smile, she waved and called:--

"Oh, Mr. Garrott!--how glad I am to see you! Do you know how to crank?"

He approached with the gallantest air, the most civil speeches. All the
same, as he bent to his hard labor--for the Fordette proved dangerously
stiff in the crank--and politely sought to explain how to avoid killing
the engine for the future, he was conscious of a certain sense of
rebellion.... Excellent, laudable, justifying things, beauty and charm;
but the plain fact was that he, Charles, was simply not in the market
for them at present, that was all.

The friendship, indeed, was well cemented now; the talk characterized
with a growing confidence.

"Oh, how strong you are!" said Angela admiringly, as he finally got the
old engine to spinning. "I do wish I could do it like that! Now you must
let me pay you for your trouble!--won't you? I'm just driving around,
really, so don't think--"

"Oh, thank you, but I go in here. Business hours, you know! Well! Now
you're--"

"Oh, is this where you teach every afternoon?" asked Angela, with
interest, gazing past him at the handsome stone "front" of the
Choristers'. "Oh, yes, Miss Chorister.... How long does the lesson
last?"

"Oh, an hour--usually. But, of course," added the young man, his eye
wavering slightly, "that depends somewhat--on circumstances--"

"You don't get out till about half-past four, then? I do _wish_ you
weren't so awfully busy! Mr. Garrott, have you been away again? I don't
seem to have seen you at all for a good many days now."

"Yes! That's it!--been away again! I go away all the time--practically.
And when I'm here, why, it's nothing but work, work, work, from morning
to night, for me! It's a wonder to me I have a friend left, I have to be
so horribly unsociable--_always_. But," continued Charles, "I'm glad I
happened by in time to be of some help. By the by, hadn't you better get
in and try her out? I don't like to rush on to my lesson till I know
you're all right."

"Yes, I suppose I had. I oughtn't to stop you now."

His suggestion, indeed, had a striking reasonableness. Fortunately, the
try-out proved quite successful, after only a little pushing and
kicking. But the Fordette snorted from before the Choristers' very
slowly, Angela looking back over her shoulder, smiling at him, a pretty
and appealing look on her entirely feminine face.

Charles went up to his daily hour with Miss Grace, in a brown study.

Miss Grace, it must be known, was a Temporary Spinster, verging toward
Permanence; she was round, gentle, blonde, by no means displeasing or
ill-looking. Had the world been the normal place Old Tories took it to
be, Miss Grace would undoubtedly have been one of those happy women who
find themselves, at twenty-five, with a home, a husband, and three
darling little curly-headed children; and there were a hundred signs
that so she would have found full happiness indeed. But the world being
not normal now, but, on the contrary, in Unrest, something remote had
gone wrong with Miss Grace, parting her from her manifest destiny.
Perhaps the panic of 1907 was to blame, or a decrease in the visible
gold supply; perhaps the trouble was in that hard saying of the
Redmantlers, that Love was going out. At any rate, here hung Miss Grace
on the parent stem in Washington Street, a Waiting Woman: the
non-understanding and unaccounted-for Anomaly in a disordered social
system; an adult human being thirty-two years old, with nothing upon
earth to do.

Miss Grace's subjects were Sociology and the History of the World. An
agreeable soul herself, she noted that her tutor's manner this afternoon
was taciturn and distrait. As he was concluding his remarks upon the
thirty pages of Lester Ward that made her lesson, she noted that he lost
his thread suddenly, and left a sentence permanently hanging in mid-air.
Back into the tutor's head, in fact, the artless questionings of another
had popped with arresting force: "_Is this where you teach every
afternoon? You get out about half-past four?_" From taciturn, Mr.
Garrott's manner became restless and rather irritable. And when the hour
of four-thirty arrived, he did not snap his watch at Miss Grace and
depart at once, according to his almost invariable habit. No, he moved
in a novel manner, to the drawing-room window. And he stood there, oddly
and irresolutely, gazing out, first up the street and then down.

Why had he mentioned that the lesson lasted an hour usually? Why hadn't
he said, frankly, that it lasted till five or six o'clock, and often
later?

Slowly but surely the idea was being established that it was the natural
and usual thing for him and Angela to drive in the old Fordette every
day. It was time for him definitely to break up this idea. Otherwise,
what was to be the end of it all?--that was what he wanted to know. More
and more he seemed to become aware of a gentle claim, an indescribable
pressure, very soft, yet rather alarmingly sure. Why on earth couldn't
she be satisfied just to be pleasant friends once more? Why all this
talk of future meetings, of seeing you again all the time?

Miss Grace stood some distance behind her tutor, observing his strange
behavior. Somehow her attitude wore the air of a typical expression of
character. Miss Grace had flutterings, as witness her growing knowledge
of the Merovingians; she even pretended to nibble fearfully at her
tutor's occasional exhortations, that she cease her parasiting and go to
work. But beneath such vague symptoms of Unrest, it was clear that she
remained as her tradition and environment had fixed her, a Woman of
Romance: that is to say, a being gladly content to serve as the
spectator and audience of Man.

"Mr. Garrott," she said suddenly, in her rather childlike voice, "I
don't believe you are a bit busy this afternoon. You really must stay
for tea. Nobody's coming in, sister's out, and you know you haven't
stayed for perfect ages."

To her surprise, the unsocial tutor accepted at once. He remained with
his pupil till quarter past five. Thereupon, he reached his Studio
without interruption, entirely on foot.

Charles (thinking for the young girl's highest good) was rather pleased
with this development. By accident, he seemed to have hit upon quite a
satisfactory sort of _modus vivendi_: street-cars to Berringer's, and
tea at Miss Grace's till dark. Next day he tried the programme again.

This time, it did not work out quite so well: the secret truth of the
matter being that, at bottom, all Spinsters have certain well-defined
points in common. That, in fact, is what makes them a class. And,
speaking in the large, you may say that there is no such thing as a
Permanent Spinster.

Lessons at the Choristers' took place in the library, a stately room,
yet charming, too. Into it, a dusky maid wheeled a double-tiered
tea-table, all mahogany and glass, silver and china atop, little cakes
and small enticements on the deck below. Talk of historical matters
ceased. There sprang up light prattle of the little things Miss Grace
knew and liked best.

The tutor, basking by the fireside and waiting for night, was not
unhappy. Though he frequently lectured Miss Grace, through long use he
really liked her. Now, he was also consciously grateful for her haven
from the too social life of Washington Street. That he could not go on
taking tea with Miss Grace every day for the rest of his life he, of
course, knew well; but he would just take each day's problems as he came
to them. Meanwhile, this Spinster supplied a quiet charm. Her hands
hovered ministeringly over the tea-table. For a plumpish woman, she had
noticeably small hands, graceful and white. When the tutor made her a
civil compliment, she colored like a school-girl.

[Illustration: THIS SPINSTER SUPPLIED A QUIET CHARM]

Following the compliment there was a moment of fire-lit silence. And
then Miss Grace's voice said softly and sweetly:

"You are looking at my ring. I'm wearing it--"

So that ended _that_.

The tutor was on his feet so abruptly as to set the tea-things shaking.

"No! No, I wasn't--I swear! I must go at once," said Charles.

Unaware of the painful memories her womanly words evoked, Miss Grace
naturally looked very much surprised.

"But--_what's_ the matter? Why, you act as if it were something improper
for you to look at my ring!"

"Absurd," said the tutor, with a gesture.

He had merely remembered, all of a sudden, something very important he
had to do, that was all. Pardon his haste, but he had already stayed too
long, he feared.

Indifferent to Miss Grace's bewilderment, he left at once, wondering if
voluntary celibacy could not exist, and be respected, upon this earth.
And next day, as he stood on the corner of Center Street awaiting his
good, safe street-car--indeed, as he was in the very act of boarding the
said safe car--the little Fordette chugged up behind and nipped him.

It was a pure accident, and he knew it. But he saw at once that no
accident could well have been less opportune. It involved a discovery
highly prejudicial to his future.

Angela, indeed, had not even seen Mr. Garrott. She had merely perceived,
rounding the corner into her own street, that she was about to run over
somebody, and had awkwardly clapped on her brake, just in time.
Recognizing her friend in the person she had so nearly bumped, she gave
a little feminine cry of mirth and excitement; and, while she apologized
and laughed over the strange coincidence, Charles's car, of course,
suddenly clanged away and left him. The rest followed, as the night the
day.

Almost the first thing she said was: "Oh, is _this_ where you take the
street-cars, when you haven't time to walk?"

Charles's reply indicated that he was very erratic and uncertain in
these matters, taking the cars now at one point, now again in a totally
different quarter of the city.

So the two friends, no longer constrained by misunderstanding, started
off on the slow mile drive to Berringer's. In the course of this drive,
Charles had his first justifying thought of Mary Wing in ten days.

He recognized, with deep misgivings, that this girl's attitude toward
him was wholly ingenuous and natural, the "claim" he complained of but
the spontaneous expression of her girlish conception of their relations.
That, of course, was just the worst of it; in that naïveté (oh, surely
this was the Naïve Sex!) was her soft strength. He, with his cursed weak
politeness, knew not how to withstand her maidenly theory; she, on the
other hand, had new means of putting it forward constantly. All was
changed, he saw now clearly, from the instant when she came riding back
into his life at the wheel of the ancient Fordette.

How was he to have any privacy of movement henceforward; how get from
place to place?

Beside him, the girl was talking, with simple pleasure, of bridge. It
appeared that she was thinking of having another party next week, in
honor of Cousin Mary. Mr. Tilletts was very anxious to improve his game,
she mentioned.

"And I think I'll invite you too," she said, with becoming
coquetry--"even though you've never paid your party-call--for the other
one!"

But why wasn't she sometimes at home, home-making? That was what he
should like to know.

And aloud, he spoke with hard brightness of the weather.

Through her seemingly incessant practice, Angela drove better now; not
efficiently or rapidly, but no longer with her first anxious air,
stopping short when she saw a wagon a block away. This left her more
freedom and enterprise for conversation. Mr. Garrott's meteorological
comments soon petered out. Subtly, gently, her manner seemed to reprove
him for wasting their time, as it were, on trivialities.

She said presently: "Did you ever read that book I lent you, Mr.
Garrott--'Marna'?"

The young man groaned inwardly. He could not understand why he had not
returned the book last week as he had intended--with or without the
blossoms--instead of dilly-dallying along this way, till some point was
made of it. True enough, Angela interrupted his loquacious apologies:--

"Oh, it isn't that! I really don't want the book at all. But--"

She drove a few feet farther--an appreciable interval at four miles an
hour--and ended, rather wistfully:--

"I wondered if you weren't keeping it--for another reason. I mean--just
because you didn't want to come to return it."

"Why, what an idea! Ridiculous!--"

"Mr. Garrott, you know you _have_ seemed to--since--"

"You've no idea how overworked I am these days--never a minute to call
my own! Why, there's your cousin, Mary Wing,--one of my best
friends,--and I haven't so much as laid eyes on her--but once--since
'way before Christmas! Think of it! And that's--"

"You used to be willing to take a _little_ time for pleasure," said
Angela, looking away from him, "before--we had that awful
misunderstanding."

"It gets worse and worse all the time!" said Charles, hastily. "That's
what I say! That's writing!--yes, indeed!--inexorable--once let it into
your life, and it eats it all up--forcing a man to be a--a hermit for
life, you might say. But there was something I was very anxious to tell
you, Miss Flower. Let me see ... slipped me for the moment. Ah--oh,
yes!--did you know Donald Manford's back again?"

"Oh! No, is he? I hadn't heard."

"Yes, old Donald got back Sunday, full of pride and honors...."

And then into the eyes of the worried young man there shot a faint
gleam.

He had mentioned Donald absolutely at random, but the moment he heard
the youth's name on the air, an idea exploded in his brain, leaving
behind a dull hope. Unlike himself, Donald was a marrying man. Why, when
you stopped to think of it, wasn't Angela the very girl for him? And
why, then, shouldn't he, Charles, frankly reversing his purposes at the
Helen Carson luncheon last month, bring together once more these two
nice, simple cousins of the too-modern Mary, just as he had done that
night at the Redmantle Club, when all the trouble had begun?

Of course, at the moment, Charles's "psychology" was not quite so
elaborate as this. The thought, indeed, flashed through his brain in
purely concrete form, thus: "_That's it! I'll put her on to Donald._"

Forthwith, he launched upon a voluble talk, an address, at once
extolling Donald's character and throwing out suggestive commentaries
upon it: how Donald had come home in the vein of a boy let out of
school, seeming to feel that at last his playtime had come; how he (so
different from himself, Charles) openly sought and hungered for pleasure
now, was mad for some good times. And, observing closely, he thought
that Miss Angela looked interested in his exposition, too, though hardly
so interested as one might have liked, perhaps.

"Why, I didn't think he was that sort of person at all," said she.

"I've never seen a man change so--come out so--in my life! Landing this
great job, you know!--it's taken a great weight off him. And then the
thought that he has only a few weeks more at home, too--it's really
revolutionized his character! Why, Miss Flower, the man's all but quit
work! Really! He ..."

A knocking sense of disloyalty--to Mary's known plans--checked him, but
briefly. What was that to him now? Had not Mary convinced him, once and
for all, that she was more than competent to manage her own affairs?
Deliberately, the young man released his valuable information:--

"Why, he leaves his office every afternoon at four o'clock--rain or
shine--and walks up Washington Street, absolutely hunting for somebody
to come and give him a little fun! But who is there to do it? He's been
out of things so long, he hardly knows anybody! And then, too, Donald,
beneath that--ah--standoffish manner of his, is really a shy man. What
he needs most, really, is encouragement...."

To all of which Angela's final reply--delivered after a slight
silence--was: "You seem to love to talk about Mr. Manford to-day, Mr.
Garrott." And then she took the wind out of his sails completely by
saying:--

"I don't think of Mr. Manford really as a friend of mine. You know--I
often think you're the only real friend I've made, since we left
Mitchellton."

During the remainder of the drive, Charles thought it best to affect an
amiable absent silence. But that gained him nothing, any more than his
treachery to Donald and Miss Carson. Before she released him at the now
too familiar corner near Berringer's, the girl said, simply and
seriously:--

"Mr. Garrott--aren't you really _ever_ coming to see me again?"

Why again? When had he ever been to see her? And why all this talk of a
misunderstanding? _He_ had never misunderstood anything.

"Why, yes!--yes, certainly!--when I ever find a minute to see anybody!
Ha, ha! But--when that'll be--"

It was her great merit in his eyes that she had never really reproached
him. It seemed to cost her an effort to go on:--

"You've never forgiven me for--for saying what I did that night. You
know you haven't! But if you'd ever come to see me--so that we could
really have a talk--I feel I could make you understand that I--never
really meant it!"

The maiden's gaze at once embarrassed and vastly depressed him. In it he
read, as if spread upon a bill-board, her soft certainty that, though he
himself might not realize it yet, he was her man....

In the restaurant, the four or five entirely masculine persons with whom
Charles commonly lunched took note of his peculiar gloom. It was their
whim to assume that a valued pupil had just discharged Charles without a
character. Theirs was a crude and noisy wit. But the tutor ignored,
hardly heard, their gibes. He sat withdrawn and silent over his chicken
hash (for which Berringer had no less than fourteen different names).
And before his fascinated mind's eye there unrolled an endless vista of
driving duets, with the gentle feminine pressure closing down ever more
and more irresistibly upon him.

What to do, what to do? That was the question. There did not seem to be
a corner of the city now where the Fordette did not go poking its ugly
mug.

All very well to say: Be bold, be cold. Refuse under any conditions to
get into the Fordette. That, to him, was simply not a possible line of
conduct. Inability to be successfully rude to people, even under the
most favorable circumstances, had long been recognized as the damnable
flaw in his character. And as to this very peculiar case--how could the
roughest boor, the most thoroughgoing cad, repel and affront a nice
young girl whom he voluntarily kissed but last month--one whose only
fault, after all, was a fatal constancy?

Now he fairly confronted the two distinct and fundamental weaknesses in
his position: the moral and the mechanical, the Kiss and the Fordette. A
just thinker always, he would not deny, even now, that it was his own
free-will act that had first altered everything. If he took the ground
that he had kissed, with warmth, a girl he cared nothing on earth about,
what sort of person did that make him? No better than a Frenchman, daft
about La Femme. She, it could not be gain-said, really paid him a finer
compliment, took the nobler view of him, when she assumed that those
salutes had signified something. She was not without right to her naïve
confidence. And now that she had this maidenly expectancy firmly mounted
upon a gasoline engine--do what he would, he could not escape a ripening
affection. She would get a call out of him yet. There would be another
bridge-party, and he would be at it. And after the bridge-party....

Alone with his thoughts among his noisy companions, Charles drew a
handkerchief across his brow. A Home was, indeed, a sweet and beautiful
thing. But the positive fact was that he, Charles, did NOT want one made
for him at present. And still, the soft advance that leads straight to
Homes pressed resistlessly on.

Great Heavens, what a price to pay for one little kiss on a sofa!...
Well, two or three little bits of kisses, then. What a price! What was
the reason of it, where the justice?

He spoke aloud, for almost the first time at his lunch, with sudden
heat: "I believe I'll move away from this town!"

The remark elicited a shout of laughter. In the midst of it, the tutor
rose and stalked intently away. It had just occurred to him that he
might force a quarrel on Angela, on some trivial pretext: pretend that
she had hurt his feelings in some way--about not returning that book of
hers, perhaps--something like that. The old dodge: a million men must
have worked it. But even as he dallied with the notion, Charles knew
very well that the ruthless strength was not in him. Besides, his
thought now had taken a cold retrospective turn, interesting in its way:
the sight of Talbott Maxon, grinning there, had roused old associations
in him. Talbott was a good one to laugh! But the Oldmixon girls had had
him laughing out of the other corner of his mouth.

How had he ever lost sight of _that_ little affair?

People like G. B. Shaw might go about pretending that they had invented
the idea of Woman the Pursuer. But the fact was that he, Charles, had
personally discovered the elementary truth before he was out of his
teens. Experience, you would have said, had driven it home
unforgettably. All the way up to the old lady's who was studying French,
tucked away in an obscure corner of the street-car, Charles was soberly
going back over the instructive time he and Talbott had had with a group
of Temporary Spinsters--all of five years ago--and wondering how under
the sun he had ever allowed its lessons to grow dim.

That old trouble had started casually, too--how sharply it all came back
now! At a dance it was, when Talbott, who was also fatally kind-hearted
(and was pushed by a chaperon from behind, besides), had invited Susie
Oldmixon to abandon the wall for the waltz. Of course, he had been stuck
for four dances for his pains: of course Miss Oldmixon--a womanly
girl--had misconceived the character of that long set-to; of course she
invited him to a party in a day or two. Then it was that Talbott,
sensing how things were going, had introduced him, Charles, much as a
cowardly conscript offers a substitute. But the base act had gained him
nothing; the Oldmixons produced a friend of theirs, Sarah Freed,--how he
came to loathe the sight of Sarah!--and upon the instant, he and Talbott
found themselves caught up together in a literally endless chain of
little engagements, usually thus: a party, a party-call, another party,
etc. Naturally, they had early had the bright thought of breaking the
chain by not paying any party-call; and at once, this very same kind of
soft pressure was put upon their weak chivalrousness: "Ethel thinks you
must be mad with her," one or the other of the loyal sisters would say.
"You know you've never paid your party-call." If they yielded, and went
and paid their party-call, it was not considered that they had then
discharged their duty like soldiers; no, by an inexplicable shift in the
point of view, the call was straightway viewed as a personal
"attention," and they were at once invited to another party. So it went:
these girls had reduced to an intuitive science the feminine instinct
for making one thing lead to another. Of course they were always
offering to teach him and Talbott something, as auction or the Boston;
always trying to lend them something--like "Marna"--which would have to
be returned. And even if all the regulation pitfalls were fairly
side-stepped, it really accomplished nothing, for in that case Sarah or
the Oldmixons were sure to have a Visitor. Even Sarah Freed, of course,
rather hesitated to ring you up on the telephone and say: "Please,
please, come to see me! You know I haven't a thing in the world to do
but sit and think about men, and you're the only man who has spoken
politely to me since 1908." But none of the virgins minded at all
ringing you up and saying, "Do come to see my Visitor."

The worst thing in it all (reflected Charles, with worriment, in the
street-car) was that Sarah and the Oldmixons were far from being brazen
hussies; they were really nice girls, only sharpened a little by tedium
and the creeping fear of "failure." Odd though it seemed, they actually
remained almost completely unconscious of their own processes. And still
it had taken him and Talbott nearly a year to get out of the soft
vicious circle; and still he remembered distinctly that they had then
agreed upon the following as their invariable rule of conduct,
thenceforward: Never be polite to a womanly girl, unless positive you
want to marry her.

A _year_! And of course he had never kissed Sarah and the Oldmixons,
either....

Charles went on his rounds in a humor of fatalistic despondence. The
mood proved premature, decidedly: while there is life, there is hope.
And it seemed that he, by too much thinking, had wrongly discounted the
promising aspects of his case. He had builded rather better than he
knew.

When his lesson with Miss Grace was over, at four-thirty that afternoon,
the tutor said gloomily:--

"I can't stay for tea to-day. But I think I'll just stand here, and look
out of the window a little while."

Of course, after yesterday, there could be no more tea-taking. Equally
of course, caution was more needed than ever. "Don't wait for me,"
muttered Charles, reconnoitering, to Miss Grace. And then he forgot her
entirely as his eye, shooting out the window, fell upon Donald Manford
sauntering carelessly along, over the sunny street.

From the Choristers' window, Charles gazed out at his young friend with
moroseness and moody envy. What he had told Angela about this youth was
(by chance) almost literally true. Donald--hitherto a hard worker,
through Mary Wing's unceasing influence--_was_ visibly relaxing the ties
he was so soon to sever; he _had_ come home in distinctly a holiday
humor. And a lot of good that did him, Charles! Donald walked Washington
Street there with utter free-and-easiness, with almost insolent
impunity. Dull, lucky Donald! He, of course, did not have the devilish
gift; Donald kissed no one. No one viewed Donald as her own true man; no
home-maker chased him all over the city in a Fordette.

Behind him, Miss Grace pushed a flat button on the wall and said:
"Tea'll be ready in a minute, Mr. Garrott. You really might as well
stay, you know, as stand there looking out of the window."

The tutor made no reply. In fact, he did not hear Miss Grace. By strange
luck, he was in the grip of an extraordinary, a truly fascinating
experience. Quite suddenly, his ears had been captured by a sound from
the street, a sound that had an arresting familiarity among all other
sounds, a peculiar whirring, a rumbling, and a snorting, insistent,
growing louder. Upon earth, was there but one noise like that?

Swifter than a bullet, Charles's eyes had gone speeding down the
spacious street. And his heart leapt up within him as they lighted upon
the self-propelling conveyance approaching--but half a block away,
chugging steadily nearer....

Yes, his word to the wise had not been wholly wasted, it seemed. There
rumbled the good little Fordette after unconscious Donald, gaining on
him, gaining almost rapidly....

"Mr. Garrott, what _are_ you looking at?"

"Oh!... Nothing," said the tutor in a muffled voice.

But in truth, he was looking, with breathless interest, at the fairest
sight seen by him in many a long day. Safe behind the Choristers'
curtains, with general joy, with the acute delights of a born
strategist, Charles saw what had so often happened to him, happen now to
poor old Donald.

By odd coincidence, it fell out that the re-meeting of Mary Wing's two
cousins took place within fifty feet of the Choristers' window. What
more natural than that Angela, in the moment of passing her home-come
friend, should look over her shoulder and speak a pleasant greeting? Or
that Donald, surprised and civil, should unconsciously take a responsive
step or two toward the sudden speaker of the greeting? What more
certain than death or taxes but that the Fordette should thereupon come
to a halt--which it did so easily and naturally? (Oh, how perfectly
simple it all was, as you stood off and watched, how gentle and friendly
and inexorable!) Casual talk seemed to spring up: how easily Charles,
peeping with starting eyes between the parted curtains, could imagine it
all!--"I'm so glad to see you back! I've wanted so to congratulate you
on your great success! I'm crazy to hear about Wyoming!" And presently
those crucial words, so innocent-looking, so sweet: "Mr. Manford, won't
you let me," etc. "Truly I'm just out for a drive." And--sure
enough--oh, by George! _Hooray!_ There was the poor fool grinning; there
he was compressing himself, clambering right into the jaws. _Ah, there,
Miss Mary!..._ And there the two young people went snorting away up the
street: perfectly normally, though something in Donald's cramped
position, his long legs hunched up to his chin, did oddly suggest a
captive, seized and bound.

The tutor astonished Miss Grace by bursting into a wild roar of
laughter.

       *       *       *       *       *

But of course, he understood, on cool analysis, that this really settled
nothing. That exciting spectacle, which seemed to make the whole process
so extremely concrete, represented a hope, nothing more. And the more
this hope was scrutinized, the less substantial it seemed to become.
Walking safely home in the golden afternoon, Charles suddenly recalled,
with cold annoyance, a remark Donald had made, after his second walk
with Angela in November: "Charlie, she worries me." And Angela, for her
part,--though of course womanly, and hence agreeably plastic in her
affections,--really seemed hardly more attracted to Donald, as yet.
Charles thought he knew the reason, too. With a fresh chill, he recalled
the look the girl had given him, on the corner near Berringer's,
to-day.

Had he really "put her on" to Donald even in the remotest degree? Was it
not highly probable that she, patrolling Washington Street at
four-thirty, had been looking, not for Donald, but for another?

Of course, there could not be the slightest doubt that--for the present,
at least--Angela preferred him to Donald, infinitely, unreasonably. And
Angela usually got what she wanted, too, it seemed. For example, she had
wanted to move her family from Mitchellton to this city, where he,
Charles, lived. And she had moved.



XV


He fell instinctively into a small manoeuvre, which was merely this:
that he quietly shifted forward his public itinerary by quarter of an
hour. Next day, he started rapidly toward the street-cars at quarter
before one, and shot out of Miss Grace's at quarter past four, sharp.
Ultimate detection was certain, of course; but for the moment the
trifling ruse did seem to win a hardly hoped-for respite in the headlong
courtship. Neither on Friday, nor again on Monday, was the Home-Making
Fordette so much as seen. And the next disturbance of the authority's
delicate social scales, and of the author's Line, came, as might be
said, from precisely the opposite direction.

In the Studio, matters had continued to progress backward. Once here,
and the door safely shut, Charles had been steadily at work, the
hymeneal shadow put resolutely from his mind. No writer's time, he had
pledged himself, should go to somber meditations on the cosmic
consequences of a kiss, still less to fruitless bitterness concerning
wasted write-ups, the hardness of Egoettes, etc. Day by day, he had
wooed that subtle calm of the spirit which is the bread and meat of
authors; night by night, expended himself in the service of pure
Letters. And it had all been for nothing.

Contrary to explicit resolve, in short, he had been making a fresh
attempt at his new novel, hoping--rather weakly--that his mind wasn't
quite so unsettled as he secretly knew it was. And, once more, he had
been well punished for his rashness. Symptoms of weakness having
developed increasingly through the week just past, on Monday evening
Charles took his medicine, just before supper. Ten thousand words of
brand-new manuscript lay in his drawer there; and he would be lucky if
he could save a thousand of them for the novel that should be.

Of the "line" taken by this second abortive effort, the less said the
better. It suffices to suggest that if Mary Wing had been a totally
different sort of person, it might never have been undertaken at all.

Of all ways of spending the time known among men, unquestionably the
most abominable, the most nerve-wrecking and devilish, is Thinking up a
Book. Charles smoked box after box of cigarettes, couldn't sleep at
night, talked in his sleep when he did, and was growing a scowl between
his brows almost as dark as poor Two-Book McGee's--the interesting Type
that was leading its own life and wished it weren't. The final
conviction of the worthlessness of his work was hardly calculated to
improve the young man's state of mind. He was, indeed, profoundly
discouraged and concerned. For ten weeks now he had been struggling to
isolate a point of view which would at once "carry" all his newer
observations on his Subject, and command the support of his unqualified
conviction. And to-night he seemed further away from his goal than he
had been the day he finished "Bondwomen."

However, what brought Charles's humor to a sudden head this evening,
what precipitated the fury in which Donald Manford found him--Donald,
entering so happy and fine in the evening regalia which the match-making
Mary seemed to clap on him every night nowadays--by chance had not to do
with his own book at all, but with another's.

In short, the young author, very injudiciously in view of his resolve to
think of Egoettes no more, had been dipping into "Marna."

This book of Angela's had long lain as a plague on the mind of Charles.
For a space, he had not returned the book because of the estrangement,
or misunderstanding; for another space, because of the swiftly ripening
intimacy, compelling the general policy of lying low; and now a large
fresh obstacle had risen, in the girl's unfortunate remarks directly
connecting the return of her book with a call. Whether, after that, he
could harden his heart to slip "Marna" back to her by the hand of the
Judge--without any appreciative blossoms, needless to say--remained to
be seen. So long as the situation remained as it was, Charles had
decided simply not to take up the worry at all.

Hence Angela's book rested, gathering dust on the Studio mantel. And,
chancing to come on it in his moody pacings after supper, the author had
picked it up, in mere resentment at its being there. Standing hostilely,
he permitted himself to skim a few pages of the stuff, toward the end.
Next, with growing intention, he looked into the middle. And finally,
he sat frankly down with "Marna" in the Judge's new easy-chair.

It had occurred to him that it was probably his professional duty to see
what sort of line on the Unrest the other fellows were taking these
days. This book here was enjoying an immense vogue; every newspaper
reminded you that it was the Best Selling Book in America. What truth,
then, did it have to tell? Or--put more simply--it may be that Charles
had merely fallen a weak victim to the true writer's continual
temptation and longing, viz.: to clutch at anything, anything, that will
keep him from having to write, or think up.

Angela's book (which was so strangely unlike Angela) had come from the
typewriter of a brilliant and industrious British Thinker. From the
"literary criticism" and publisher's advertising that he read--and he
seemed to read little else in these days--Charles had already gathered
that "Marna" followed that simple "ultra-modern" line which to him, with
his expanding knowledge, now seemed so oddly old-fashioned. In his
standing skim just now, he had noted, with quickening distaste, how
easily _Marna_ accomplished a glorious Career: as, indeed, a girl has
small excuse for not doing, when she has an able author working for her
night and day. In particular, he observed that her "demonstrating
experiment in freer forms of union" turned out far more happily than
poor unauthored Flora Trevenna's. As well as Charles could make out,
_Marna's_ swain not only had a wife living when she met him, but was
engaged to another woman besides. But when the splendid girl said to
him, on page 478: "What a joy, beloved, to strike back at the grubby
little people who're trying to fetter the love-spirit! Ah, but I'm glad
you're married!"--after this, every one knew that it was all up with _De
Bevoies_, who, being a poet, could hardly be expected to argue back at
agreeable talk of this sort. (_Marna_ had met him at an anarchist
"social"; he was stunningly modern, and borrowed two pounds from her the
first thing next morning.) Not long after the talkative but Higher
Honeymoon on the Breton Coast, _Mrs. De Bevoies_ died, with thoughtful
promptness, and it was noted that the New couple at once adopted the
old-established form of union, after all, and (of course) quickly became
the toasts of London.

"_George!..._ How easy writing would be," thought Charles, with great
indignation--"if only the truth were as simple as that!"

And then, seated under the lamp Wallie Flower had so skillfully
repaired, he turned to page 1, intent upon getting this other fellow's
heroine, and her Career, at the point of origin. The _Twexhams_, he
learned, lived quietly, thirty miles from London. (Their address, if it
is of the smallest interest, was Fernleigh Cottage, the Priory, Dean's
Highgate, Lower-Minter-on-the-Mavern, Essex.) _Marna Twexham_ had the
striking beauty conventional among the Freewomen of fiction. Having had
a year at college, attended several gatherings in the Redmantle Club
vein, and read three or more books in which unmarried women told the
truth about Life, she inevitably reached the conclusion that it was her
duty to make herself free. Put in another way, she saw that it was her
duty to go to London. For, of course, "young women of genius" understand
perfectly that freedom is a matter of geography, a metropolitan
consummation, as we might term it, and would properly smile at the
antediluvian who maintained that people can be free in the suburbs, if
they can be anywhere. Thus _Marna_ smiled at the old fogey, her father,
who opposed her going to London to be free. It seemed that the old chap,
for reasons Charles could not fathom, actually wanted to keep the girl
with him. "There are dangers in London that a good woman knows nothing
of," he said, warningly; but _Marna_ eyed him so knowingly that he
changed his tune at once. "You are all we have left, Marny dear," he
wheedled. "Don't go away from us--yet, at any rate." "Why is it assumed
that a woman who does not choose to marry is _left_?" asked the wise
strong girl; and while her father scratched his head over this poser,
she continued, firm but kind: "Really, you know, Dad, the idea that
people have got to spend their lives together merely because of an
accidental birth relation--really, you know, all that's jolly well
played out. We've proved quite too awfully much about the beastly
repressive influence of the family-tie." "But your sister!--poor invalid
Muriel!" pleaded old _Twexham_. "She loves you so much, she so dependent
on you! It will kill her to--" _Marna's_ smile, checking his maundering,
was a great credit to her self-control (the author said). To set up
playing checkers with a neurasthenic spinster, against a soul's sacred
duty to itself and mankind! "Can't you really see, Dad," she said, quite
patiently, "that a trained nurse can look after my sister much more
efficiently than I can?" "It isn't that--exactly," faltered the
moss-back parent. "It's your love she needs. And--I feel that you _do_
belong to us, Marny dear! I feel that--" "No, father," replied the
glorious creature, gazing out the oriel window, over the terrace,
rose-garden, etc., and into the morning sun. "I belong--out there! Such
small abilities as I may possess," said _Marna_ with exquisite modesty,
"belong to the Race. Such small contributions as I may be able to make
to the thought of my time, I dare not withhold. I cannot be weakly
sentimental--and stay," she concluded, with some feeling. (And indeed
Dean's Highgate _was_ a quiet, dull place; Lower-Minter-on-the-Mavern,
also.) Presently, the old fellow broke down and wept, and then _Marna_,
repelled, eyeing him as if he were something odd and decidedly
contemptible, said firmly ...

"Nasty little beast!" cried Charles Garrott, aloud.

He leapt from Judge Blenso's easy-chair, and glared about like one
desirous of something to kick, and that right quickly. Then, with a
flashing understanding of his need, he went springing toward the Studio
window. And passionately he flung the window wide, and passionately he
hurled the best-selling book in America forth into the winter night.

"Faugh!" shouted Charles.

Down in dark Mason Street, the shooting "Marna" struck the limb of a
large tree, and caroming violently, bounded back against a passing old
gentleman in a black felt hat, who looked like a Confederate veteran.
The old 'un, starting with annoyance, clapped a hand to his shoulder,
and gazed round and up; then, suddenly catching sight of the young man
standing at the third-story window, he shouted something in a high angry
voice, and brandished an aged arm with menace. But the young man merely
continued to stand there, silently scowling down at him. So then the old
gentleman, composing himself but resolved that he should not be smitten
for nothing, picked up Miss Angela Flower's new book from the sidewalk
before him, dusted it carefully with an experienced handkerchief, and
hobbled away with it into the darkness.

"Disgusting little Egoette!" said Charles, scowling after him.... "And
that's the sort of stuff that passes for _thinking_ nowadays! That's the
stuff our women are reading, forming their--"

"Who're you cussing out the window, Charlie?" said Donald Manford's
hearty voice behind him.

Charles wheeled sharply.

He resented being walked in on this way; resented all companionship from
his kind just now; in especial, he resented Donald Manford's contented,
care-free face. At the same time, this face of Donald's awakened other
and different emotions, relative to the slim hope it embodied, and
enjoining tact, some cunning.

So, controlling himself, Charles merely said: "Well? What're you horning
in here for?"

"Dying for one glimpse of your sweet phiz. Nice welcome!" laughed the
young engineer, exuberantly. "But how'd you ever get into a street-row,
Charlie, out of your third-story window?"

"Oh!... Just talking to myself. Bad habit of mine," he said, with an
effort. "You're rather flossy to-night!--out to give the girls a treat,
I gather. Let's see. German, I suppose?" Laying his tall hat tenderly on
the Judge's little typewriter-table, Donald acknowledged the soft
impeachment.

"Well, who's the lucky lady, this time?--Or maybe you're stagging?"

"Who, me? Not on your life! I've got Miss Carson again--lucky thing!"

"Indeed," said the author, coldly.

"And a pippin she is too! Talk about clever, Charlie! By Jove, there's a
girl that makes a fellow use his cocoa all the time, let me tell you!"

Charles sat down heavily at his writing-table, and lit a cigarette. Mary
Wing managed her affairs well, indeed. He spoke with mysterious
bitterness:--

"You _are_ blossoming out! If anybody'd told me last year that you'd be
praising one of the new highbrow sisters, I'd have kicked him downstairs
for a liar."

"When a girl can look like that, my boy--"

"Developing into a regular man-flirt too, aren't you? Last I heard of
you, you were driving up Washington Street with Miss Flower."

Instead of resenting the odious epithet, Donald's face was seen to
assume a pleased smirk.

"Ho!--had your spies on me, have you? Why, did we pass you to-day?"

[Illustration: "HO!--HAD YOUR SPIES ON ME, HAVE YOU?"]

Charles's heart seemed to leap a little. "Why, no," he said, sweetly. "I
was speaking of one day last week. So you stole another drive
to-day--you sly rascal!"

"Don't know that you'd call it driving, exactly. Where'd that brother of
hers dig the little four-wheeler, d'you s'pose? I thought that kind were
extinct, same as the Dodo--"

"Why, I think it's a very nice little car, Donald! Small, old-fashioned,
yes--but very comfortable and--easy-going. I've--ah--had a--a number of
pleasant drives in it. The real trouble is," said Charles, with immense
carelessness, "she honestly doesn't know how to manage it very well as
yet. And I, of course, don't know how to teach her--unfortunately."

Having seated himself in Judge Blenso's chair, Donald was lighting, with
a lordly air, one of Judge Blenso's cigars; the Judge himself being at
his club, through lack of interest in the Studio. Extinguishing his
match by waving it languidly back and forth, the youth said, with a
faint reminiscent smile:--

"Well, I gave her a pretty good lesson this afternoon, far as that goes.
Had a very fairish time, too. Nice little girl, she is."

The author gazed, with a sort of nervous incredulity. He laughed
hurriedly.

"Nice!--well, I should say so! She's--she's charming! You'll have to
look pretty sharp if you want any more drives there--too much
competition! But, of course, she may not be _bookish_ enough, to suit
your new taste--"

"Oh, bookish, no. She's not that sort. I'll tell you what your little
friend is, Charlie," said the young engineer, with an air of
insufferable conceit. "She's what _I_ call a womanly woman."

Charles averted his eyes. This simple fool's quick response to the
"putting on" treatment almost passed belief. Unquestionably, Donald was
far more receptive to feminine influences now, than he had been in his
industrious pre-Wyoming days; again, mere use, mere custom and
propinquity, were famous for accomplishing just these wonders. Still,
Charles's philosophic overmind, contrasting this grin on Donald's face
with that unflattering remark of his last November, threw out a
different concept, viz.: that perseverance in a woman is a marvelous
thing.

But the hope, though it shot up delightfully, was a thin one yet. Dull
Donald went on knowingly:--

"But speaking of the competition, what's happened to you, old horse?"

"How do you mean, happened to me?"

"Your little friend says you used to meet her nearly every day for a
drive, but now you haven't been seen for days. I told her you'd probably
changed your hours a little, as I'd seen you at lunch earlier than--"

"You did?" said the author, looking at the engineer with unconcealed
annoyance. "Well, you were mistaken, that's all! You had no business to
say anything of the sort. Of course, my hours may vary a little--in
fact, they vary a good deal. Great heavens, I--"

"Well, don't get peevish about it!--friendly tip I'm giving you, that's
all. She thinks you're mad with her--do you get me? Says you've never
forgiven her for something she said to you once--some misunderstanding
you had--you know, I guess--"

"Why, damnation, we never _had_ any misunderstanding! I'm _busy_! I
don't undertake to start to lunch at a certain particular second--"

"Well, don't tell it to me!" said Donald, cheerfully. "Trot along and
explain it to her, that's the way.--I say, Charlie--change the
subject--did I tell you what old Gebhardt said to me the first day we
looked over the plans? About my concrete bridge over Sankey River?"

And then the childish egotistical youth was off. It seemed, indeed, that
the monologue ensuing was what he had come for; it seemed that he had
dressed himself one hour too early for the German with just this most
agreeable of all purposes in his mind: to sit and have a good long talk
about himself. Charles received his boastings with restless boredom,
marking meaninglessly on the pad before him, moodily biding his time. He
could have kicked Donald for his stupidity in mentioning his trifling
change of hours; but of course his need was to get the conversation back
to Angela quietly, without arousing the slightest suspicion. His need
was that Donald should agree to give Angela regular lessons in driving
the Fordette, every day through the lunch-hour.

But Donald, happening to note the face of Big Bill, came suddenly to his
feet: and then, as suddenly, gave the talk an unlooked-for turn.

"I say, Charlie! How about you and old Blenso for the Wings' apartment?"

Charles's head came slowly round. "How about what?"

"Dashed sight more comfortable than up your two flights here!"

"The Wings' apartment is for rent?"

"Didn't you know that, old stick-in-the-mud? What's the matter with you?
Mary's been hunting a tenant for two weeks."

Charles, finding it unnecessary to state that he had not seen Mary for
exactly that length of time,--barring one very transient meeting on the
street,--merely indicated, without any polish, that, not being a
gadabout ass like some, he made no pretense of keeping up with all the
latest tittle-tattle.

He then asked, in a voice indicating no interest in the subject: "What's
Mrs. Wing going to do?"

"Going to North Carolina to live with Fanny."

"With Fanny!... I suppose she didn't consider going with Miss Mary?"

"Couldn't stand the pressure. Why, New York would kill her off like a
fly! And besides, she doesn't want to get too far away from the Warders,
you know. Of course, Fanny can't make her very comfortable just now--but
we talked it all over and that seemed the best arrangement, all round."

"I see."

"Mary can't turn back now, of course. Well, Charlie," said Donald,
earnestly, "I don't hold with her fool notions, and all that but hang it
all!--she's no ordinary woman, and this is no ordinary job. Those people
are giving her two assistants and $5000 a year. What d'you know about
that for a poor little girl?"

He was struggling to get into his overcoat without "breaking" his
shirt-front--going at once, evidently. But Charles had lost sight of his
strategic intentions.

"Well, how about you two old chaps for the furnished apartment--February
fifteenth, if you want it?"

Charles observed that he couldn't look at it. Donald, as if only
stimulated by his host's taciturnity, became sentimental.

"First Mary, then Mrs. Wing, then me--this is going to be a break-up,
Charlie, do you realize it? I'm beginning to feel it, too, let me tell
you! Jove," said Donald, putting on his shining head-piece and bringing
the conversation back to himself simultaneously--"now that I come right
down to it, _I_ don't want to leave this good old town!"

He departed, to his unconscious match-making. Charles, left alone,
merely sat on at his table. And all that he thought of Angela Flower now
was of an insignificant remark she had let fall, the first time they had
walked together: "Mr. Garrott do you know who _Marna_ reminded me of?
Somebody you admire a great deal...."

And then for half an hour, his writer's mind insisted on working over
and over that detestable conversation between _Marna_ and her father,
and changing it a little, just a little touch here and there, to make it
fit smoothly upon Mrs. Wing and Mary....

"I tell you," said the lonely authority, suddenly, bringing his fist
down on the table with a thump,--"this whole Movement's a failure if it
lessens _woman's lovableness_! I tell you the whole object of this
Movement is to make women _more lovable_!"

For he, of course, had never thought--like the author of "Marna" for
example--that passionate love was the only sort of love worth
mentioning. In that narrow sense, in her sufficiently cheap faculty for
stirring the senses of men, it was clear that woman, whatever she did or
left undone, would always remain "lovable." But as to love in broad and
human terms--well (to keep the subject wholly impersonal); could any one
in his senses call _Marna_ a lovable being? No, her creator, in his
determination to show how strong and "free" she was, had quite
unconsciously made her a harsh and vain self-worshiper, revolting to
decent persons. Had he, as we might say, thus inadvertently given the
whole thing away? Was it finally true that a woman could not claim and
lead her Own Life, except at a heavy price--paid down in her best
treasure? Was the ruthless Career-Maker but the logical other-form of
the waiting, the too pursuing, Maker of Homes?

From his drawer, Charles presently pulled out the former exercise-book
which had enjoyed the great rise in the world. In this book, he had
written no sentence since his remembered Notes on Flora Trevenna. Now he
set down with a firm hand:--

     What is called the Woman's Movement is seen, in the last
     analysis, to be only every woman's struggle between two
     irreconcilable impulses in her own nature.

Having written that sentence, the young man stared at it long. To him it
was like a bright beam of light, turned upon the roots of his peculiar
problem. For if these two impulses were in truth irreconcilable, why
need he go on struggling to reconcile them in a heroine he could
unreservedly admire?



XVI


With the sun of a new noon, with the recurring need of obtaining
sustenance from one's environment, there came again the more practical
problems of this weary world.

At ten minutes past one on this day, Tuesday, Charles went slipping from
the house of the little Deming boys to that of the old lady who was
studying French. She lived, luckily, but three doors away. She was a
very lively old lady, and possessed her tutor's high regard. But that
she might represent help to him, that she could personify the tutelary
god of Bachelors rushing at last to his aid, had simply never crossed
his mind.

The old lady's regular lesson-hour was, of course, two-thirty o'clock.
But, as it happened, she had had her last instruction in the French
language for some time to come, it having popped into her head, and that
of the old gentleman her husband, to go to Palm Beach for a three weeks'
vacation. Hence her tutor's presence in her drawing-room at this
unwonted hour seemed to be due to mere chance (though who knows?). In
short, as he saw it, he had merely "stopped by" to deliver a list of
irregular verbs, which the old lady was to master completely while at
the Beach.

Having stopped, Charles did not start again upon the instant: far from
it. Friday's and Monday's run of luck had not been expected to keep up
indefinitely, at the best. And Donald's blundering remark betraying his
ruse had inevitably suggested the idea of experimenting a bit with
opposite tactics, to wit: quietly turning his schedule backward, for
variety's sake, and starting to lunch very late. Thus it was that
Charles, having said all he had to say to the old lady, lingered to say
it all again, and again, clinging verbosely to his oldest living pupil
as it were, while one eye shot perpetually out the front window, close
beside which he had taken up his position.

For the third time, the old lady promised to be studious on her holiday.

"Don't you remember how well I knew the plurals of the _-ou_ nouns
yesterday?" said she, chipper as a boy. "Well, my husband had heard them
every one to me the night before!--that was how I did it! Well, don't
you see, I'll make him hear me the verbs every afternoon while he's
taking his nap--over and over!"

"Exactly, ma'am. Do just that. Have him hear them over and over--every
afternoon. That's the only way really to master them--the only possible
way. And as I say--be sure to take along your dictionary and your
Fontaine's 'Fables,' and read three or four pages every day--except
Sunday. I said that just now, I know. But, ma'am, it's one of those
things that--ah--can't be said too often--"

Here the tutor's eye, reconnoitering out the window again, fell upon a
motor-car just coming to a standstill before the old lady's door. He
started, nervously. But, of course, this was not the Fordette: it was
five times too big, at least.

And he said, in a quickened voice: "Whose car is that standing out
there?"

"Why, mine, of course! Eustace stops for orders before going down to
bring my husband up and I just sign to him out of the window if there's
nothing. Indeed I hoped you wouldn't make me read my 'Fables' while I
was away, but I will if you say so, for of course I'm going to learn
French. And you take care of yourself, young man. You haven't looked
well to me for several days."

"I'm not quite well, ma'am, I fear," said Charles. "I was just thinking
I'd better let Eustace drive me down with him, if you don't mind.
I--ah--scarcely feel like walking to-day."

"Of course. And have him bring you up again when he takes my husband
back, why don't you? My dear young man, I reproach myself. I'd have had
him call for you at the Demings' and take you down every day, but you
know you always said you loved to walk."

"I did--I used to--but--ah--I rather think I've been overdoing it, of
late. I've been walking more than is good for me. Well!--thank you very
much. I'll go and get right in, shall I?"

Having wished his aged pupil a happy journey once more, Charles started
toward the door, much pleased with his lucky stroke. And then, all at
once, a splendid idea burst upon him, a vast and brilliant possibility.
And in exactly the same instant, he heard the chipper voice of the old
lady speaking again behind him, rather thoughtfully:--

"I wish I could persuade you to use my car altogether while we're
away.... But I suppose you'd think that fearfully--fearfully _effete_!"

"WHAT?"

It must have seemed odd to her, the instantaneousness with which her
tutor sprang round. And then he began to move back toward her, very
slowly, round unwinking eyes glued upon her.

"Ah--_what did you say_?"

"You look astounded. I suppose you're offended at the suggestion. Now,
really--why not take my car while I'm away?" said the old lady. (What a
dear, what a darling old lady she was, to be sure!) "Why are you young
men so reckless with your health, breaking it down with all this foolish
walking, up and down--"

"Oh, ma'am!" stammered Charles. "I--I hardly know what to say. I'm not
offended in the _least_--feeling as I do at present. But I--I really--"

"Then I'll make you do it!" she said, with the greatest energy. "I'm
going to exert all my will-power--I'm chock full of it, I warn you!--and
make you use the car regularly from now on, and stop this walking.
Promise me! I'll have Eustace report to you every morning for his
orders, and you are to use him as your own ..."

The tutor stood like a man entranced. Before his mind's eye there were
unrolling the most enchanting pictures: pictures of the same series that
had fascinated Angela's mind's eye when her brother had offered her the
Fordette, but of precisely the opposite intention; pictures of himself
whizzing securely from point to point, here or there at his careless
ease, all walking henceforth reduced to the mere hurried crossing of
sidewalks....

"But I--I'm afraid it would be an imposition! I don't deny it would be
a--a pleasure--a benefit--feeling as I--"

"Then that's settled! Imposition, nonsense! As it happens, you will be
doing us a favor. Why, wasn't my husband saying only last night that
Eustace, having nobody at all to look after him, was certain to spend
these three weeks in one long spree, and be worn to a shadow when we get
back? His habits are so unfortunate, I warn you about that--"

"It's so--_awfully_--kind of you, ma'am! I hardly know how to--"

"Not another word!--leave all the rest to me. And you really don't look
well, young man. Now, shall I have Bruce make you something,--oh, very
nice,--before you start down? Oh, why, bless you, I take a julep myself
whenever I feel the least bit like it!"

Then the ardor of his gratitude really touched the old lady, even though
it seemed excessive for her small courtesy. Later, looking out the
window, to sign to Eustace, she saw that the young man was actually
laughing to himself with pleasure, as he went down the front steps. She
thought him a very strange young man.

       *       *       *       *       *

He gave his machine-god standing orders, which, after all, proved simple
enough. Eustace and the Big Six were to pick him up at the little Deming
boys' every day at one o'clock, and drive him to lunch; Eustace and the
Big Six were to call for him at Mrs. Herman's every afternoon at
half-past three, and take him to and from the Choristers'. Those,
positively, were the only danger-points, these the small arrangements by
which peril was to be circumvented. And he had not overrated the value
of his brilliant gift from fortune; the arrangements, being made, were
executed with the happiest success. In the fine big limousine of the old
lady (_la grande jolie limousine de la vieille_) Charles pursued his
daily rounds in complete security, and he hardly saw the shadow of
another meeting now.

Or rather, there was the possibility of but one more meeting; and, that
scarcely seemed to matter, now that he had so clearly won back his
voluntary celibacy.

At Saltman's bookstore, he had purchased a fresh copy of the odious
"Marna," and in his new kindness and good-will toward all, he finally
resolved to return the book in person, and to ask for Angela at the
door, to boot. Utter freedom of the city upheld his native dislike for
being a mere rude boor. And by one simple venture, he could honorably
liquidate all claims, pay at one stroke all the various calls demanded
of him: the book-call, the party-call, and the call in acknowledgment of
the Kiss.

Even if Angela should happen to be at home when he called, the isolated
meeting could hardly lead to trouble. But, after all, of course, the
point was to fulfill rather the letter of a call than its essential
spirit. Charles thought it decidedly for the best that Angela should not
be at home at the time. Thus he further procrastinated, awaiting an
afternoon so sweet and balmy that every owner of a self-propelling
vehicle would be morally certain to be out in it.

And then, while he so dallied about the Call, while his own days
continued to reel off smooth as clockwork, a faint new cloud began to
steal over his first careless happiness. Having finally saved himself,
the unheroic bachelor felt his deadened consideration for others slowly
and reluctantly stirring into life.

The first time he in his speedy limousine passed captive Donald in the
Fordette, Charles was even more pleased than he had been that other
day, at Miss Grace's window. By chance, he overhauled the little
conveyance on the second day of the new era, as he shot away from the
Choristers' at half-past four o'clock; and, captivated by the sight of
the simpleton engineer in his own old place, he could not resist leaning
forward as he drew abreast, knocking on the window and waving gayly to
the two nice normal cousins of Mary. He saw that Angela, recognizing
him, gave him one swift surprised stare. And then the old lady's Big Six
leapt by her, as the limited leaps by a tank in the night, and he sat
back convulsed with a brilliant diplomat's delights.

He, indeed, had put her on. Clearer and clearer it grew that he could
beat Mary Wing at match-making, if at nothing else under the sun.... Let
her look to herself!

But the second time Charles had this interesting experience--just two
days later, on his drive to Berringer's--he did not knock on the window,
or laugh, or even smile. No, this time he sat still on his luxurious
seat, looking straight ahead. And presently he found himself arguing,
very earnestly and conscientiously, and somewhat as follows:--

While it might be true that for the moment Angela liked him best
(entirely owing to the tender feelings aroused by the Kiss) no one could
deny that a match between her and Donald would be a far more suitable
thing. In fact, such a match would really be very suitable, indeed,
whatever cold-blooded eugenists like Mary Wing might think. Talk as you
liked, Donald was not at all the man to be happy with a girl who firmly
and continually "made a fellow use his cocoa." On the contrary, Donald
was the mere simple, primitive male who wanted a woman that he could
"protect," feel superior to and be coddled and attended by. And any
fair-minded person must admit that Angela, whatever little faults or
foibles she might seem to have, was precisely this sort of girl. Harsh
nonsense about her Sacred Duty to the Race was not in her.

Did she, indeed, have any faults--real faults of character, that is?
Womanly though she was, she was no idler, no parasite like Miss Grace,
for instance, but a genuine worker, accustomed to pay her own way by the
practice of a highly specialized and difficult business. This business,
at best, was a monotonous and grinding one; she herself was a stranger,
poor and lonely. Was it so wicked, then, that in her leisure-hour she
should wish to drive out occasionally, and meet her young friends?

The Big Six, "Marna," the matter of the Wings' flat, doubtless each had
contributed in its way to put Angela back in her true light: the light
she had shone in before the days of the wooing. Admit, if you liked,
that for the moment her purely feminine, or pursuing, side might seem to
be just a little over-developed: that, argued Charles, was but a
temporary, and really a proper and necessary manifestation. The Home
that Angela was at present engaged in making was Dr. and Mrs. Flower's
Home. The Will in things had it that every girl should have a Home of
her own to make. There lay the momentary source of Unrest: considered
rightly, the Fordette was merely the ingenious instrument employed by
the Will for working out its high designs. Once that was accomplished,
once Angela was established in her own little nest as Donald's sweet
true wife, then, beyond doubt, her essentially womanly side would at
once spring into full possession of her. Then she would fairly settle to
her life-work of making her own Home, while supplying large quantities
of just the sort of beauty and charm that engineers appreciate most.

Moreover (concluded Charles's argument of the case) marriage was clearly
a matter where quixotism was misplaced, and a man's first duty was to
himself. And, finally, of course he would never have put her on to
Donald, if he had known that the old lady was going to lend him her
limousine. But he had not known: and that was the old lady's fault if
anybody's.

On the night of this day, by chance,--the day of Donald's known fourth
drive in the instrument of the Will,--as Charles lay prone upon the
Studio lounge, feebly thinking up, Judge Blenso suddenly opened the
Studio door and said: "Charles! A lady at the 'phone!" Instantly coming
to an elbow, Charles inquired who this lady might be; and the Judge
(whose manner toward his relative had markedly changed, since Charles
was known to have abandoned his exercises and foregone his affair of
honor) replied with great coldness: "It's Miss Rose. Come along!" "Miss
Rose?" repeated Charles, slowly beginning to rise. "Why, I don't--"
"Yes, yes, I said! Miss Rose! No!--let me see! Miss Flower--something of
the sort! Good gad, how long're you going to keep her waiting?" But
Charles, remembering the promised bridge-party in a flash, said: "I'm
sick, Judge," and lay back on the lounge forthwith. "Ah--just say,
please, that you found me lying down--not well at all. She might leave a
message, if necessary." To which the Judge replied, disgusted: "I don't
wonder you're sick, the sickenin' life you lead! By gad, sir!--can't
even _walk_!..."

No message came back other than that Miss Flower was sorry to hear he
wasn't well. But the little incident, though nothing came of it, showed
clearly that she wasn't going to give him up without a struggle, Donald
or no. He could never feel completely safe until she was married, and
that was the truth. And he still had that cursed book to return, too.

But it seemed that his higher nature, once aroused, would not go quietly
back to sleep again. The first glad selfish days were over. When, on the
Tuesday following, he again saw Donald as Angela's willing captive,
when, shooting by, he observed the fatuous youth ogling and smirking
over his predicament, as much as to say that there was no such person as
Helen Carson, then Charles's face became very grave, his look intensely
thoughtful. And when he reached Berringer's that day, he ordered--sure
enough--"Wait for me, Eustace." And when he emerged from Berringer's, at
a little before two, he said, in the face of all resolves:--

"To Olive and Washington Streets, Eustace. And then turn and go slowly
out Dean Street, toward Lee Grammar School."



XVII


Partly because she was not ready to resign her place in the schools,
partly, perhaps, to heighten the dramatic stinging quality of what she
called her "brilliant revenge," Mary Wing had kept her great _coup_ a
secret for the present. So she, famous wherever weekly periodicals were
read round the world, honored officer-elect of a powerful national
organization, walked daily, in sun and rain, to a grammar school as
before.

As to looks and appearance, Charles had always recognized Mary as one of
the variable women. She was not indifferent on those subjects, he
judged, but the utilitarian supremacy of work in her life commonly
produced that effect. Mary rarely went to parties any more; but at her
flat in Olive Street she often enough entertained at dinner,
strategically, a person or two of consequence in the educational or
political world. Charles (being, of course, of not the slightest help to
anybody) had never been invited to but one of these little dinners. On
that solitary occasion, the look and air of his friend in evening dress
had considerably surprised him, and in several other ways, including the
dinner, he had absorbed agreeable impressions of Mary not tallying with
other impressions. However, pretty clothes and pretty manner were deemed
too good for every day, it seemed; for the realities, Mary dressed as
plainly as she acted. And now, trudging homeward along this slightly
squalid street, she looked, it must be admitted, not like a shining
celebrity at all, but just like an ordinary person, a school-teacher,
and rather a fatigued one at that.

So, at least, thought the author of the write-ups, catching sight of her
through the glass over Eustace's shoulder, noting the somewhat droopy
manner of her walk. But he reflected, there was no satisfying some
people. And hastily clutching up the speaking-tube of the old lady, he
gave the order which brought his great car to a standstill; and so
stepped forth upon the sunny sidewalk, just in front of her.

The General Secretary looked up, with a small start at finding herself
intercepted. She saw Charles Garrott, and her face changed perceptibly,
though under what impulse he could scarcely have said. That his recent
demeanor must have seemed slightly puzzling to her, the young man was,
however, sufficiently aware: and now he was all at once conscious of a
want of ease within himself, a rare and odd constraint.

Hence he fell instinctively into his lightest and most mask-like tone:
"Well met! I was hoping I might run on you somewhere out this way. Do
get in and let me take you home."

Mary accepted at once, with pleasure.

"But whose beautiful car is this you're using now?" she went on easily.
"I was sure I saw you whiz by in it the other day."

"Oh, this!--yes!--I must tell you about it."

So due explanations covered the start of the drive. Establishing his
famous friend in the old lady's limousine, Charles told, in modified,
expurgated form, how he had got possession of it. For Angela's benefit,
he had lately informed Donald that he was unwell from overwork: that was
why he had to ride in a closed car wherever he went. Report of this had
unluckily reached Mary, it seemed, necessitating more explanation: that
he was not sick at all, unless you would count writer's sickness, etc.,
etc.

"And this saves such a lot of time, getting around, too--which is no
small thing."

The conclusion of the explanation was followed by a small silence:
scarcely one of the golden sort, but rather a dearth of conversation
such as had once been rare between these two. But Mary, whose manner
seemed as usual, or perhaps only the least bit more polite, broke it at
once, saying cordially:--

"So you have an extra hour for your own work now? That's splendid! And
how's your new novel getting on?"

"Oh!--not at all, thank you! I've made two starts, but both of them
proved false, I regret to state. So now I'm back at zero again. It's a
hard business, writing a book.... And as far as I can make out, I'm
specially handicapped by having all sorts of foolish theories as to what
a novel ought to be. If I were only a good plain realist now, how simple
life would be!"

His tongue loosened; he found himself embracing the chance topic, so
hard and impersonal, so beautifully remote from everything that fretted
his mind. He had come, magnanimously, to give one fair warning about
Donald; but no doubt he planned it that his warning should fall
casually, half-buried in other talk. There was such a thing as being too
generous for self-interest, of course. Or possibly Charles perceived
that the sound of his own voice, running surely along on a subject of
which he knew everything, and she knew nothing, gave him just that sense
of easy command of the situation which his manly need demanded.

Mary had said courteously: "You think realism is so much easier to
write?"

"I've never tried, of course--but doesn't it impress you so? You
remember old Meredith said distinctly, that was the cue for little
writers. And I must say I think he had an idea what he was talking
about. In fact," continued Charles, with unwonted loquacity, while his
limousine rolled rapidly, "if I were old and generally recognized as the
dean of American novelists--kindly do not laugh--and was visited for
counsel by a young writing fellow who had no literary abilities except
industry--why, I should say to him at once, 'My dear young man, become a
realist, of course. That is really the only line where you will find
your want of abilities a positive advantage. If you possess any shred of
humor, charm, insight, sympathy, idealism, so-called,--above all,
idealism,--and if you are cursed with any sense of form and unity, and
feel that a story ought to have a beginning and an end, and be _about_
something in the mean time,--why, trample on all this as you would on so
many snakes,' I should say to him. 'Get it fixed firmly in your dull
mind that life is dreary and meaningless, or has but a material meaning,
if you like, and that sound fiction must behave accordingly. Then,' I
should say to my young friend, 'if you will but choose as your heroine a
young girl with more looks than character--and not necessarily such a
lot of looks either--who comes up to the city to get on, it is
inconceivable to me that even you could fail to score a great realistic
success.'--'But,' we can imagine this fellow, this nonexistent admirer
of mine, saying, 'I don't understand you. What am I, as a creative
author, to put in to take the place of the insight, humor, unity, and
all the rest that I've eliminated?' 'My poor boy, I've just told you,' I
should reply. 'Industry and pessimism. That is all a realist knows and
all he needs to know. You tell me you have the industry. I tell you that
the pessimism is the easiest little trick to pick up in the world.'
But," said Charles, in his own voice, "I fear, Miss Mary, I 'm putting
you to sleep with all this musty shop-talk--"

"Indeed, no!--it's extremely interesting," said the heroine of the
write-ups, very civilly, but looking straight ahead. "You don't often
talk about your work."

"Haven't often had the chance," thought Charles. And if that was
considerably unjust, he did not seem to mind at all, but rather was
pleased by the knowledge that Mary observed his copious ironic manner,
and found it baffling and queer.

"Well,--in conclusion, as you public speakers say,--I was only going to
add that I didn't know enough to swallow my own medicine. The trouble
seems to be--Well, take the horrible thing called sentiment now, that
makes a sophisticated realist so sick. I look about me and, try as I
will, I seem to see the disgusting thing very much alive and
kicking--not something made up by a fourth-class writer to tickle
shopgirls, but actually playing a prominent part in the hard world round
me, all the time, everywhere. I seem--"

"I don't see how any one could deny that!"

"It wouldn't seem so, would it?" said Charles respectfully, and a sudden
faint gleam came into his eye. "But really isn't that what they do, in
effect? Here am I, as an observer, seeing men and women all round me
doing things they don't want to do, giving up things they do want to
do"--did his voice, too, acquire a thin edge?--"for immaterial reasons
that can only be traced to some inner ideal--hated word! And then here
am I, as a writer, required to deny all these observations of mine--and
for what reason? Merely, as far as I can make out, to keep some sour
chap with a defective liver, probably a German to boot--why are Germans
so pessimistic, do you know?--from calling me a sentimental ass. Of
course we admit," he prattled on, taking note of the passing streets,
"that sentiment is weak and childish and Victorian, and 'idealism' is
the screaming joke on Western civilization. Still, isn't it my only
business as a writer to find out whether or not these contemptible
things do act and react in the life I see? And if they do--must I
represent the contrary, merely to please the peculiar taste of a small
sad school that has no God but a second-hand mannerism bagged from dear
old Europe?--By the way, are you in a special hurry now?"

"Why, no. Not at all."

"Good!--Eustace," called Charles through the tube, "drive more slowly."

And then, feeling himself completely master of the situation now, the
young man said with quite a gay laugh:--

"And to add to all my other troubles, I've deliberately gone and taken
Woman for my subject! That will make you smile! You remember you warned
me in advance it was a theme I didn't know the first thing about."

But Mary was not observed to smile.

"I did say that, in fun once," she said, punctiliously, after a
perceptible pause--"but, of course, I didn't mean it--in any literal
sense. Indeed, I think--"

"But you were right--absolutely!--that's just what I want to say! I 'm
finding out more and more every day how true that word was. This whole
Movement now--what is it? What's it for? Blest if I know! The last time
we talked about it, you may remember, I took the ground that the
Movement--or what I supposed was the Movement, that week--suffered by
confusing itself with another propaganda it hadn't a thing under the sun
to do with. But--"

"No--what propaganda? I don't remember."

"Oh!--Personal Liberty!... The Cult of the Ego, perhaps you might call
it. But, of course, for all I know," said the light masterful Charles,
"that is the Movement, and always has been. Only last week I lighted on
a new formula--sort of a definition--to-morrow I'll probably discard it
for another. It's very unsettling--for my writing, you know. By the
way--can't you help me out a little? What would be your best definition
of the Unrest--for literary purposes?"

But Mary, with a carefulness not usual to her, eluded controversy,
merely saying it all depended on how you looked at it, or words to that
effect. And then she gave him a small thrill by neatly taking his bait.

"But what is your new definition?"

"Oh, that! Definition's too grand a word, of course. I merely wondered
if what is called the Woman's Movement was anything more than a
projection--don't you know?--of an everlasting struggle going on between
two irreconcilable elements in every woman's nature."

The car rolled in silence.

"There's a pessimistic definition for you! For I suppose," said the
friend of women, and could no longer keep the seriousness out of his
voice, "it must be true that every struggle implies the defeat--of
something.... Doesn't it? I suppose we can really never get away from
the sad discovery of childhood, that we can't eat our cake and have it
too."

"That's interesting! But I don't believe I understand you altogether.
What do you symbolize as the cake?"

She, the strong and successful, had turned on him her level arched gaze,
intent with its habitual interrogativeness. It was instantly clear that,
though she might be struck with his few remarks, she was far indeed from
being struck personally. And her sudden characteristic look was to him
like a hand held up, the banner of her independence flung out--and just
in time, too.

Charles laughed mirthlessly. He was aware of the lameness of his reply.

"Exactly!--what? It all depends on how you look at it, as you just said.
And I seem unable to look at it the same way two days running.... Number
6 Olive Street, Eustace."

Mary's response escaped him.

He sat staring through the glass, at the passing sights, a curious sense
of anti-climax within, a strange flat feeling of failure. He was like a
boy who, having run valiantly at a jump, tamely subsides and ducks under
the string. What then? Had he really been about to court a new
humiliation by _lecturing_ Mary Wing? Telling himself that he came
generously to warn her about Donald, had he actually been thinking that
he would discuss the personal losses involved in Leaving Home?--perhaps
by some frankness even bridge the gap in the old friendship? It really
did seem that some such thoughts must have lurked in his mind, judging
by this sense within him now.

Then, out of blankness and frustration, the young man felt slowly rising
a deep exasperation, a mighty grievance. So he shook himself at once,
donned his mask quickly while yet he could, and said in quite a
natural-seeming voice:--

"But I'm afraid I've bored you horribly with these purely literary
troubles. And, by the way,--speaking of realism versus romance just
now,--how are Donald and Miss Carson getting on these days?"

She appeared a little surprised at the change of topic, but replied
easily: "Oh!--very well, indeed, I believe. They're together somewhere
nearly every evening.--But why--"

"Really! That relieves me--knowing your serious interest in that affair.
I was beginning to fear Donald might be wandering a little in his
affections."

"Wandering? No--how do you mean?"

"Well, he has seemed quite attentive to your pretty cousin of late,
don't you think?"

Then the Secretary turned her head again, sharply. And it hardly
improved Charles Garrott's frame of mind to perceive that, of all he had
said in the strangely talkative drive, this alone had really touched
her: this, which affected her personal purposes, her Own ambitions.

"Angela? Why, not that I know of! I didn't know he'd seen her at
all--except one casual meeting, perhaps!"

"I've happened to see them driving together from tune to time, as I plod
about on my rounds. But no doubt it's all quite casual, as you say,
since you've heard nothing about it."

"You have? But please tell me!--where have you seen them together--and
when?"

He cited particulars from his collection, damaging ones, though perhaps
not so damaging as he could have made them had not self-interest
restrained. Still, something in him was not displeased as he saw his
old friend's concern steadily deepening.

"I'm surprised, and--frankly, I 'm sorry," she said slowly, at the end.
"Of course Angela's a dear girl, very sweet and attractive, but--I
shouldn't like Donald to see too much of her--in view of my other hopes!
I've had good reason to think that he's really interested in Helen, and
she in him.--Well!" she went on, after a small pause, "this seems to
require some diplomatic management. Donald has engagements for every
evening this week--but--"

"It's in the daytime that he meets Miss Flower. At least, I don't think
she takes the Fordette out at night."

Beside him on the padded seat, Mary sat silent, a little pucker between
the dark brows which set such a question-mark in her colorless face.
Considering her formidable strength, it was odd how all but ethereal,
how sincerely girlish, she could look at times.

"Well, Donald's going to New York on Friday," she said, thoughtfully.
"He's had a fine offer from Blake & Steinert--to go into the firm, had
you heard?--so fine that I think he'd have taken it, and thrown over
Wyoming, if I had let him! He'll be gone nearly a week. Then, about the
time he comes back, I've arranged to have him invited to Creekside, the
Kingsleys' place at Hatton, for a week-end party. Helen's to be
there--I've really been hoping great things of that. Meantime," she
rounded up efficiently, "there are the afternoons. Perhaps I could start
him to playing golf, or something of that sort.... I suppose, of course,
you're too busy to--"

"I?" said the young man, hastily. "Oh, I fear I can offer nothing to
rival Miss Angela's attractions just now."

"Does it look as serious as that? Well," she said, with a sort of
determined friendliness, "all the more reason that I should like to have
your help."

He hardly repressed a sardonic laugh. "Are you asking me to help _you_?"

"What's so extraordinary about that?"

"Not a thing, of course. I wasn't certain I'd understood you, that was
all."

But it appeared that the idea of helping this young woman had ceased to
have the smallest pulling power now. Rather, there was bitterness in the
thought that she still seemed ready to use him when she could.

He said, with savage urbanity: "Perhaps you might get Donald a
motor-cycle, and encourage him to practice up as a Speed Demon."

The remark was received in entire silence. It was probably true that she
literally did not understand him. All the same, his displeasure grew.

"But really," he continued sweetly, "if these two young people are so
strongly attracted to each other--love at first sight, who
knows?--really, is it judicious to interfere? Don't you believe in
elective affinities at all?"

"As a matter of fact, you know, Donald was greatly attracted to Helen,
at first sight. And as for Angela, I'm certain--"

"You see," he interrupted, stung beyond all calculations, "my personal
idea is that Miss Angela would probably make him a more suitable wife."

That unwisdom made everything worse at once; for Mary, after one glance
at him and a stare out the window, said in a changed, "diplomatic" tone:
"Well, I mustn't let you misunderstand me, at any rate. You know, I've
agreed with you perfectly, all along, that she's thoroughly charming....
And, by the way, she likes _you_ so much, too!"

Charles froze instantly.

"In fact, she thinks you're much more attractive than Donald--or did,
just a little while ago. I have her word for it. So if she's seeing a
good deal of Donald just now, I don't believe it's from affinity,
necessarily!"

"Indeed?"

"She was inquiring about you the last time I saw her--saying that she
never saw you now, asking if you ever spoke of her to me, and so on. I
told her, of course, you did, and repeated some of the compliments you
paid her--"

Again he interrupted her, now with some slipping of his mask. It was
true, to be just, that Mary Wing knew nothing of his long struggles to
elude the Fordette. Nevertheless, her patent desire to hand him back to
it, merely by way of furthering a little her plans for Donald, seemed
somehow the last straw. A friendly reward for magnanimity this! And it
may be some touch of purely male chagrin enhanced the philosophic anger,
that any woman should be thus eager to pass on him, Charles, to another.

"I believe my remark was that I considered Miss Angela a suitable wife
for Donald. So far as I am aware, I do not come into the conversation at
all. If your suggestion is that I should step in and take her off his
hands--in order to help you--may I beg you to put such an idea from your
head, once and for all?"

It was clear that he astonished her: made her indignant as well. Her
scrutiny of him was direct and sharp: but she did not speak at once, as
if weighing her words or firmly counting ten, and when she did speak,
her manner bore evidences of strong control.

"You are rather puzzling to-day. I should like to know what you have on
your mind. 'Take her off his hands!' Do you really think that's quite
the way to speak of a girl who--"

"I don't, indeed. But the idea was your own, was it not?"

"Mine!--why, how can you! I only--"

"Then why not let things take their natural course, as I suggested?"

On that, turning her head away from him, she said quietly, too quietly
in fact: "I'm afraid you wouldn't understand now, if I were to tell
you."

That seemed to bring the conversation to a natural _impasse_. And
then--as if no touch were to be wanting from this embittering hour--at
just this instant, as Eustace slowed down to make his curve into Olive
Street, the two estranged friends in the old lady's limousine found
themselves looking together into the eyes of their common and particular
enemy, Mary's former principal at the High School.

Mr. Mysinger, her conqueror and his own, no less, was approaching down
the sunny promenade. He gave the two in the car just one full surveying
stare; then casually moved his gaze a degree or two away. But, as he
dropped back out of the range of vision, Charles could have sworn he saw
a smile springing under the glossy mustache he had once pledged himself
to pull off.

But this time, he felt no such bitter hostility toward the victorious
foe as had shaken him on that other remembered occasion. There was a
transient flicker of the Old Blood toward his temples, a brief iciness
within, and that was all. Recalling the childish folly of the setting-up
exercises, he experienced a cold mirth: "Why, of course, she'd say she'd
have licked Mysinger herself, if she'd considered it worth the trouble!"
And, at his old friend's side, Charles had the most disloyal thought of
her that had ever knocked at his mind. Was Mysinger, perhaps, so
entirely to blame for the ancient friction? Had he, Charles, been
principal of the High School, did he think he would have found Mary so
acceptable, so perfect, a subordinate?...

Assisting her to alight at her door, the young man inquired politely if
she had yet found a tenant for her flat. Mary replied, quite distantly,
he thought, that the John Wensons were going to take it. His comment was
that old Jack should make her a fine tenant. He courteously sent his
regards to her mother; he amiably wished her a good-afternoon.

And then he shut the limousine door on himself so hard that the glass
shook.



XVIII


Finding himself unable to reflect with pleasure or pride upon this
interview, Charles resolved, within the hour, not to reflect upon it at
all. For the fourth time--or was it the fourteenth?--he determined to
think of Egoettes no more. At least, he had given his warning,
unthanked, and that ended it. He might rest upon the ground that the
match would really be a very suitable thing; or, conversely, he might
argue that Donald was just amusing himself a little with Angela, at odd
times, while at heart perfectly true to Helen, etc. But chiefly he stood
upon the warning which made all this Mary Wing's concern henceforward,
and no longer his. And, bent upon bringing his last relation and duty in
the case to a clear, honorable conclusion, Charles sallied from the
Studio next morning with the new "Marna" tucked under his arm.

But there seemed to hang a curse over everything connected with this
unhappy book. Because he had brought it with him to-day, the azure
heavens became overcast at noon; at two o'clock, it was drizzling
dismally; and all that afternoon, and all the next day, the cold rain
poured in torrents. To call in such home-keeping weather would be a
wanton provocation: Charles hung off, yet again. The third day proved
well worth waiting for, a brilliant, blue, and tingling day, gloriously
inviting to all owners of vehicles. And now a new plague befell. When
Charles emerged from Miss Grace's on this day, his face firmly set for
his duty, the Big Six wasn't there.

The discovery was most disconcerting. The young man stood irresolute on
the Choristers' steps, "Marna" clutched in his hands, gazing up and down
the street.

Unfortunately, Eustace's habits had not been kept completely virtuous by
his light duties with his mistress's tutor. The grinning black rascal
had got himself pleasantly illuminated the first day, and had remained
in that state with considerable consistency ever since. However, being
kept excellently tipped, he had never failed to meet an appointment
before; and Charles, eyeing the spot where Jehu should have been, but
wasn't, was most unpleasantly struck with his own sense of helplessness
ensuing. It really appeared that soft custom had made him as dependent
on the limousine as if he lacked the means of locomoting for himself.

He scanned the horizon. Many vehicles rolled up and down Washington
Street, but his own swift chariot was nowhere among them.

Then, while he irritably hesitated between telephoning to the garage, on
the off chance that Eustace might be there, and tamely abandoning the
enterprise once more, a third alternative, ingenious in its way, quite
unexpectedly offered itself. Down the street came jogging a carriage for
hire--empty. Providence seemed to be directing straight at him, Charles.
And, by chance, he knew this old carriage well; Walter Taylor's
carriage, it was; many and many a time had it driven him forth to
parties when he was young and gay.

On the first quick impulse, Charles went springing down the Choristers'
steps.

"Walter!... Here, you old rascal! Where're you going?"

"At libbuty, suh!" cried Walter Taylor, drawing rein with alacrity.
"Whar mout you wish to be druv, Mist' Garrott?"

"Well!--Perhaps I'll let you--"

The young man hesitated, fractionally, struck with the rattletrap's
supreme lack of dignity. Then, with decision, he plucked open the
weather-beaten door.

"One seven East Center. And look sharp now!" he ordered, stepping
in--"I'm in a hurry. Mind you don't stop for anything!"

"Yassuh! Sutney, suh!" said Walter Taylor, with great enthusiasm, and
gave his old nag a prodigious wallop.

So it fell out that, for his first call at the Flowers' since the
bridge-party--his party-call, his book-call, and his call about the
Kiss--Charles Garrott fared forth in a closed livery hack.

Inside the hack, Charles laughed briefly; and then at once began to
react. In the fine afternoon, numbers of people were abroad. Strangers
seemed to look with surprise at the apparently able-bodied young man who
liked thus to trot around in a hack; chance acquaintances were seen to
smile in passing; more than one called out derisive remarks. Charles
himself questioned whether his employment of the hack was quite
reasonable.... Seemed inconsistent till you stopped to think. Inasmuch
as he was going straight to see Angela, why, it might be asked, all this
elaborate precaution in advance? Well--there was really no inconsistency
there; no, none at all. He was _not_ going to see Angela; he was only
going to pay The Call, while she was out in her Fordette--a totally
different matter. But this raised fresh questions of consistency: how
was he going to hold his position that Angela was just the wife for
Donald, if he himself would only go to see her in a hack?... Well, the
answer to that was simple enough, too. Donald was a marrying man, while
he, Charles (though probably still liked best) emphatically was not.
Moreover, Donald was a primitive male, while he, Charles, was a
modern.... Or, no, perhaps he wasn't a modern, exactly--but--yes, he
_was_ a modern, a true one, while others he could name were only
self-centered extremists....

At Gresham Street, the hack turned south, at Center it turned back west.
Walter Taylor, up aloft, began to look for his street-number. And then,
while Charles still argued uneasily about the spiritual differences
between Donald and himself, his eye all at once fell on Donald in the
flesh, close by--striding up Center Street homeward on his way from the
office he left so early now.

The sight of the youth at this moment was unwelcome to Charles.
Instinctively, he sat far back in the hack. But Donald, unluckily
turning at the sound of wheels, had caught sight of him; and he stopped
stock-still on the sidewalk at once, staring with unaffected interest.

"Well, I'll be darned!" he said, as the carriage came up with him.
"Whither away in the sea-going, old top?"

Unwillingly appearing at the window, Charles said: "Well, Donald....
Just driving around."

"Driving!--Thought you must be going to a funeral, at least," said
Donald, stepping along to keep up. "Here! Stop the blamed thing! I want
to look you over."

"You don' want me to stop, does you, Mist' Garrott?" bawled down Walter
Taylor from the box.

"No, I told you! Go on!"

Walter cut his nag a mighty crack, and with the same movement drew rein
sharply.

"Here's yo' number, suh!" he cackled, with great merriment. "One seven,
like you said! Yassuh!"

So the hack halted, and the fare reluctantly discharged himself. His
friend, having come up, halted, too, a few feet away; it was noted that
his gibing expression had suddenly altered. And then Charles understood
instantly that this fool's destination was no other than his own.

"Oho!" said Donald, slowly and suspiciously. "So this is where you were
driving around to?"

Controlling an immense complication of sensations, Charles said coldly:
"You mean you're going to--the Flowers', too?"

"You've guessed it!" retorted the engineer, with a slight touch of
consciousness. And he added, assuming an indifferent air: "Just got to
stop by and leave a book Miss Flower lent me."

And then, for the first time, Charles noticed the volume in a gaudy
wrapper protruding beneath Donald's sturdy arm. The coincidence was
remarkable, to say the least of it. It was also exceedingly annoying.

"Time, too," quoth the primitive male. "I've had it since before I went
to Wyoming."

On Angela's sidewalk, the two young men stood gazing hard at each other.
Whatever the argument in the case, it was surely Charles's higher nature
that spoke at last, icily but firmly:--

"I am going here to return a book, and also to pay a call--on the
family. If you wish, I will return your book for you."

"Couldn't think of troubling you, Charlie, old top."

"As you like, of course--"

"But as I'm going in, anyway, why need you stop at all? Glad to take
charge of your book for you. Save you a little hack-fare."

To this, Charles disdained reply. So the two members of the coterie,
with their books to return under their arms, stepped up the bricked
walkway side by side.

Charles rang the Flowers' loud little bell. Having done so, he turned on
the shabby verandah, with the intention of looking Donald hostilely up
and down. But he found that Donald was already looking him up and down,
in the most hostile manner conceivable. Then the youth's dullness, his
grotesque conception of a male rivalry here, his impervious blind
asininity,--all this acting upon the original concern about the Call,
produced a sudden infuriation. Speech flowed from Charles:--

"Of all the laughing jackasses that ever broke loose from a zoo, I do
think you take the cake, Manford. How you keep from falling off bridges,
or butting out the pan where your brain ought to be on stone-copings,
passes all understanding. If I didn't have you to look at, I wouldn't
believe it possible that an ordinary well-meaning chucklehead could
deteriorate so horribly, just in a week or two."

Donald seemed slightly nonplussed by this attack. All that he could
muster in reply was some very poor childish stuff, introduced by
shakings of his head and "significant" tappings of his forehead.

"So that's why they sent him around here in a closed carriage--oho! Old
Doc Flower's an alienist--forgot that! H'm! Funny how it runs in the
family. First old Blenso, now poor Charlie-boy ..."

Then a servant opened the door, and relieved the high tension instantly
by saying, in reply to two simultaneous questions, that Miss Flower was
out.

Donald looked slightly crestfallen. Charles's look was the opposite. The
youth's presence here had strongly suggested that Angela was known to be
in, despite the fine weather. When the Flowers' servant--answering
Donald's "Oh, she's out, is she?"--said further that Miss Angela had
gone driving with a genaman, his relief rose to genuine thanksgiving.
And then Donald cleared the air completely by cavalierly handing in his
book, with only his card for acknowledgment, and clattering away down
the steps. Evidently, he sought a little amusement here, and nothing
more.

Charles himself hesitated on the veranda. The thing was over and done
with. The Call was formally and honorably paid. Perhaps he only wanted
to do something different from Donald; perhaps he thought to mark
signally his revised good opinion of Angela; or perhaps mere revulsion
of feeling swung him into exuberant excesses. At any rate, in the very
act of extending his book, he recalled a long-forgotten promise, and
said suddenly, but tentatively:--

"And Dr. Flower? I suppose he's out, too?"

"Him? Naws', he's in," said the slatternly and ill-favored woman.

"What!--he is? Are you sure?"

"Ef yo' want to see him, walk in."

"Ah--well, I'll just stop and see him for a few moments. That is, _if_
he happens to be at leisure."

So the hack waited in front of the Flowers', and Charles stepped (for
the first time on his own motion) over the threshold of Angela's Home.

He felt that this was a superfluous proceeding; it turned out
considerably worse. Having entered the Home, he found himself abruptly
plunged into the middle of it, as it were. In fact, the impromptu
extension of the Call to Dr. Flower, besides everything else that could
be said against it, proved as inopportune as could well have been
imagined.

The _contretemps_ indicated was due to the servant (Luemma, in short),
who apparently did not believe in announcing visitors, or perhaps had
never heard of the civil custom. She merely stood by, in a disapproving,
suspicious sort of way, while the caller deposited his book on the
hatstand beside Donald's, and removed his overcoat and gloves. And then
she said, with a manner no whit better than her appearance:--

"Walk this way."

Charles, necessarily assuming that this was the rule of the house,
walked that way.

The hall of the Home was narrow and dark, the pervading atmosphere noted
as somewhat cheerless. It was not lighted and decked for festivity now,
as on the famous night of the bridge-party: parlor and dingy little
dining-room, glimpsed in passing, wore (to the author's sensitive eye) a
depressing air, vaguely suggestive of failure, incompetence and the
like. But that, of course, is the front that poverty so commonly wears:
all the more reason that a hard-worked Temporary Spinster, or vicarious
Home-Maker, should wish to get out sometimes, and go and meet her
friends....

However, Charles also was conscious of a wish to get out. Why was he
doing this, exactly? Really, now, what was the sense of it?

The black worthy was leading him toward a shut door in the dusk beyond
the dining-room: the office, clearly, of that patientless provider,
Angela's father. Now the young man was aware of voices behind that door,
or rather of a voice. It was a woman's voice, pitched in rather a
complaining key, and for the first second Charles thought, with a start,
that it was Angela's. It wasn't, of course; but his steps instinctively
slackened.

"Ah--the Doctor seems to be engaged--after all," he threw out, in
lowered tones. "Perhaps I'd better come another day."

"Naws', he ain't engaged. Just him and Miz' Flower talkin'."

Charles, truth to tell, was scarcely reassured by that assurance: he did
not like to run in on a strange couple this way, in particular when the
lady was speaking in that tone. But his sour guide had not paused. And
now there came a different voice through the thin door: a man's voice,
faintly humorous, faintly sarcastic, and considerably weary. It was
recognizably the voice of the esteemed Doctor, and it said, with fatal
distinctness:--

"Is it possible you forget, madam, that you're speaking to your husband
and the father of your children?"

If the feet of the reluctant caller had lagged before, they now stopped
short. One of his overminds perceived instantly that the strange words
he had had no business to hear possessed a sort of distorted
familiarity, like a horrid parody of a sentiment known and established;
but as to that, there was not time to speculate now. What was only too
plain was that something like a domestic scene was afoot in the office
of the home, making the intrusion of a stranger peculiarly inapropos.

"Don't!--I'll not stop now!" he murmured hastily and sharply. "Just take
these cards here, and--"

But the maladroit blackamoor was already opening the door; and the young
man's last stand against the Call was put down with a brief and surly:--

"Genaman to see Doctor. Walk in."

That settled the matter, beyond any undoing. Charles Garrott was a
caller now, whether or no. With an embarrassment such as none of his
many calculations about this hour had anticipated, he stepped blundering
in upon Angela's unwitting parents.

Dr. Flower's small office was dark; its light came only through a single
window from a narrow air-well. Hence, the forms of the lady and
gentleman in it were at first but dimly apprehended. Having turned in
their seats at the sound which disturbed their privacy, they seemed to
be peering together, in silent inquiry, at the intruder. It was the
intruder's move, obviously; and, being in for it, he did his hasty best
to pluck a hearty calling manner over his decided malease.

"Oh!--good-afternoon, Dr. Flower! It's Garrott, Charles Garrott--perhaps
you may remember--"

Now the dim forms were rising together, the tall Doctor's with a jerk:--

"Ah, yes! Howdo, Mr. Garrott! Quite--"

"I hope I'm not interrupting! I stopped to return some books,
and--ah--finding that Miss Angela was out, I thought I'd take the
opportunity--"

"Quite so--very kind! Come in! But I'd better make a light? Take seat,
sir. Mrs. Flower?"

The Doctor's manner, of course, was natively too queer to betray
anything, even astonishment at the Call. But it was not observed that
Angela's mother bore any of the marks of a lady surprised in the middle
of a "scene," and this was a relief, unquestionably; the parents didn't
know him for an eavesdropper, at any rate. Agreeably accepting his
introduction of himself, Mrs. Flower was bestowing upon him a dim but
comforting smile, and a limp hand to shake.

"I feel that I already know you, Mr. Garrott. I've so often heard my
daughter speak of you," she said, in the slightly plaintive voice he had
heard through the door. "She'll be so sorry to miss you...."

The hearty Charles spoke his little mendacity.

"But a friend of hers from Mitchellton is here to-day to see her--Daniel
Jenney--and Angela has just taken him out for a little drive in her car,
to see the town. I feel sure she'll be in soon, though."

Mr. Jenney's presence in the city was the best news heard by Charles in
many a day. All in all, things weren't going off so badly. And, if he
knew Angela in the least, she would not be in soon, either; he had
thought of all that on the verandah.

Then the Doctor's match caught the gas with a faint _pop_, and the
little room filled with a high white light. In the sudden brightness,
the caller's eye noted two unrelated matters almost together. One was
merely an ash-tray upon the mantel. The other was Mrs. Flower herself,
and her unexpected resemblance to her pretty young daughter. Line for
line, the two faces were different enough, no doubt, and this one was no
longer young. But to a stranger's eye, the general likeness was rather
remarkable; Charles was much struck with it.

"Sit down, sir," said the Doctor, and contributed his match to the
ash-tray.

"Ah, thank you."

But of course he could not sit down while Angela's mother remained
standing and conversing with him; and she did so stand and converse a
moment or so, rather idly, seemingly uncertain whether she intended to
stay or go, and trying to make up her mind. Once or twice she glanced at
her husband undecidedly, as if he might have something to do with the
matter; and no wonder. But her final verdict was that she was to go; and
Charles was rather glad that it worked out this way, though why he
hardly knew.

Mrs. Flower's decisive remark was that she must get on with her
household duties. She gave Charles her limp hand again, again mentioned
her daughter's distress, if she missed him; she bestowed upon him
another pretty and somewhat significant smile; and then faded out of the
Call, leaving behind a vague impression of feminine inadequacy and a
button missing from her black waist.

So the young man was left with the worthy Doctor, who could speak so
sarcastically to a defenseless woman, his wife. And for a space he found
the tête-à-tête heavy going, indeed, and was more oppressed than ever
with the essential meaninglessness of it all.

Angela's father did not look like a brute, but only dryer, queerer,
shabbier, than before. He jerked his neck more, looked more unrelated to
his environment. He was very civil, but he cocked his eye too much
toward the ceiling, felt too little responsibility as to keeping a
conversation going. Charles's efforts (hearty enough, despite the
counter-feelings going on within him) seemed to bound off dead from that
juiceless, withdrawn manner. Having refused a cigar (there was a little
talk about smoking, but he couldn't keep it going), he proposed for
discussion the Doctor's son Wallie, his education, abilities as a
chemist, skill as a lamp-repairer, etc. The topic promised well, and did
well for a couple of minutes, but petered out mysteriously and beyond
resurrection. The Doctor's work out at the Medical School yielded almost
nothing; the weather enjoyed but a brief and fitful run. Presently,
Charles found himself fairly driven to Mary Wing, and her imminent
departure to lead her own life; and this subject won a real success,
though not of a sort he could take much satisfaction in. It quickly
developed that Angela's parent held ante-bellum views on Woman, which he
put forward with some dry zest, in the strange backhanded fashion noted
by Charles in their previous meeting. After a very few exchanges, the
old eccentric was delivering himself of paragraphs like this:--

"Ah, you throw out that suggestion? An interesting idea!--quite so!"
(Charles had thrown out no suggestion of any sort.) "Your observation is
that the Lord has formed woman specifically for the needs of family and
the home--quite so!--and that efforts to change her destiny seem to
result in constitutional perversion? Well, sir, I dare say the
physicians would support your contention there, too. Who knows?"

Even "Marna," even Mary Wing, had never made Charles so conservative as
this. Oddly enough, he found the Doctor's criticisms unwelcome; it was
his turn to let a subject die from malnutrition. In the pause, he
considered whether he had not called long enough now. About to rise, he
chanced to note a worn volume of Henderson's "Stonewall Jackson" lying
open on the table, and asked, with little hope, if the Doctor had read
it. The old codger replied: "I am reading it now for the seventh time,
sir." And to the young man's agreeable surprise, he at once uncocked his
eye from the ceiling (where he seemed to have meant to leave it
permanently), and began to talk along almost like a regular person.

During the remainder of the Call, conversation flowed very
satisfactorily. It appeared that the War was one of this old codger's
subjects, even as Woman was Charles's; and he talked well, too, now that
he cared to, criticizing strategy as one having authority, revealing,
behind that spare, intensely conservative manner, flashes of broad
outlook and incisive speech which might have helped to explain why the
Medical School had been glad to draw this man from Mitchellton to its
staff. But the truth was that Charles Garrott heard scarcely a word of
this excellent discourse. Once he had got Angela's father fairly going,
he became captured and fascinated by a totally independent line of
thought.

In short, the young man's gaze had returned to almost the first thing he
had definitely noticed in the Home, to wit, the ash-tray on the Doctor's
mantel.

The ash-tray was really a large saucer, or small plate, and the
intriguing and really exciting thing about it was that it contained the
remains of scarcely less than a dozen cigars. Just before he made the
lucky remark about Henderson's "Life," the caller had inadvertently
discovered two more cigar-ends, poised perilously on the mantel's edge;
this it was that had started him reacting yet again. For, considering
that the Doctor was out a large part of the day, lecturing, it appeared
incredible that he could have achieved such astonishing results since
morning. Rather, the mantel had the air of having stood undisturbed for
some little time....

"If those men," he was saying, "had but shot another way, that night at
Chancellorsville--"

"Ah, sir! the vast 'ifs' of history. And none bigger than that, it may
be. Yet, as I say ..."

From the large heaped saucer, with its ring of spilled ashes, the
detective eye flitted over the room, briefly, somewhat guiltily, yet
uncontrollably. It received an impression of dust on the table, dust on
the bookshelves, disorder pervasively, and a waste-basket brimful of
trash. Finally, the eye rested anew on the Doctor himself, with his
frayed collar and joyless mien. And all the time, under the mask of the
caller, a question was irresistibly rising and thrusting itself upon the
attention of the authority: What housekeeper had charge of this untidy
little room, what home-maker was in the business of supplying beauty and
charm to this jaded gentleman?

Unaware that he was being thought of in these terms, Angela's father
reverted austerely to the Seven Days' fighting around Richmond....

The scientific inquiry had a perfectly proper answer, of course. In the
truest sense, Mrs. Flower was the housekeeper in question; that faded
belle, with the button off her waist, owed the beauty and charm due in
this quarter. Not for nothing did she have that distinctly inefficient
voice. And the moment Charles thought of that voice, his mind, with a
sort of jump, made a link, and he understood at once why the Doctor's
strange speech, eavesdropped by him outside the door, had seemed to have
the quality of a parody. Of course! This dry husband, with the
sick-man's face, had merely been giving back, in a masculinized version,
a reminder not infrequently heard on the lips of womanly women, when
married. Before he had invented that ironic retort, how often had
Angela's father heard it said: _I'm your wife, and the mother of your
children...._

"And what," the civil caller said, "do you think of Mary Johnston's
picture of Jackson? I assume, of course, you're familiar with--"

"A brilliant achievement, sir. Indeed, astonishing--for a woman," said
the conservative Doctor, jerking his neck; and resumed.

But the young authority found his reactions oddly and increasingly
disturbing, and shortly rose to go. He had become certain, abruptly,
that he had party-called long enough.

His eccentric host, who had appeared so dryly indifferent to his coming,
seemed, on the whole, to regret his departure. And Charles, perceiving
this, found himself feeling rather sorry for him. But he showed his
sympathies, not by offering to stay longer or to come again, but by
inviting Angela's father to lunch with him at Berringer's, one day very
soon at his convenience.

"I feel that we should further the acquaintance," he said, as they shook
hands, "because of--ah--my long friendship for your--that is, for your
wife's cousin."

And then he had a new surprise; for, though the Doctor's lips twitched a
little at his correction, showing that he was not altogether devoid of
humor, it was with instant seriousness that he said:--

"I do insist upon the distinction, you allege? Well, I'm free to say to
you, sir, that I have but scant sympathy with these fantastic modern
notions. If all women did as my wife's young cousin does, what, pray,
would become of the Home?"

"Ah, what?" said Charles.

And as he thought of Mary Wing's charming and beautifully kept
sitting-room, he seemed to feel his head going round. Surely, he had
never before seen conservatism so magnificent as this.

"Meanwhile, come in again, sir, when you find time. I have few callers,
and have appreciated your visit--"

"Yes!--thank you!"

"My daughter will be sorry--"

And then, as the Doctor opened the door, and his lusterless eye looked
out, he added with an approach to grave pleasure in his voice:--

"Ah, here is Angela now--just in time."

The caller's eye went slipping down the hall; and so it was. In the
light of the open front door, her rural swain behind her, the young
home-maker stood by the hatstand, examining the two returned books she
had just found there. What chance had brought her back thus early,
cutting off his retreat? Had she passed and seen his hack standing
there, and wondered?

But, curiously, Charles's bachelor shrinking from this re-meeting seemed
suddenly to have vanished. All his determined championship of the Type,
dating back to the Redmantle Club, all his personal sense of honorable
obligation, had mysteriously thinned to nothing in half an hour in Dr.
Flower's office. In some way that defied analysis, the interior of the
Home seemed to have wiped out Angela's girlish claim, the ash-tray had
overcome the Kiss. And Charles, bidding her father farewell, went
walking down the narrow hall with a tread firm as a soldier's.

Angela had turned at the sound of voices; she stood gazing somewhat
uncertainly into the dimness (for she was a little short-sighted without
the opera-glasses, and perhaps this was only a patient). The instant of
recognition of her friend was marked with an exclamation, almost a cry,
of pleasure; and she started toward him with the happiest surprised
welcome.

The re-meeting was effected by the hatstand, where Charles had stood on
the day he had borrowed the book he now came to return. Water had flowed
under London Bridge since then. Mr. Jenney, owner of the celebrated
ring, was presented. He was a long-legged, gangling, curly-headed youth,
with a face that was beautiful in its way, no less; and it must have
been a frank face, too, since Charles, the observer, immediately had the
fellow's whole secret. Here was Mr. Jenney's fair ideal, his high star
and lady of dreams; and his full reward for his pure devotion was to be
kept hanging on, a masculine anchor to windward--just in case, as they
say. Still, he might prove the _deus ex machina_ of the issue yet.

At the moment, however, little was seen of Mr. Jenney, since, almost in
the first breath, his star said: "Oh, Dan, father's in now, and he'll
want _so_ to see you!"--and Mr. Jenney straightway withdrew obediently.
One gathered that obedience was his fatal quality.

Thus the unheroic Charles confronted his Temporary Spinster at last, in
her dark home-hall. And she, not guessing the new philosophic resistance
within him, said, with the gayest confident air, and no little archness,
too:--

"Well, Mr. Garrott!... Did you decide to pay your party-call?"

Charles smiled.

"I've been promising myself to come in for some time," he said
pleasantly. "I had several excellent excuses, you see. For one thing,
there was your book, which I've appropriated all this time--"

"Oh, that! I just saw it there--and thought I must have missed you! That
would have been too mean, after all this time!" She glanced toward the
hatstand, adding: "And--Mr. Manford gave you that other one to bring
back, I suppose?"

"No--ah--we came together, but, of course, he left when he found that
you were out. I wanted especially to pay my respects to your father,
so--"

"I'm awfully glad he kept you for me.... How are you now? You don't know
how I've missed you, since you had to stop walking entirely!"

"I've been extremely well, thank you. Or--at least--I've been pretty
well--"

"Oh, I know you haven't been well!--you just try to make light of it!
Mr. Manford told me you were breaking yourself down from overwork--you
oughtn't to do it! And then that night when I phoned, and your Secretary
said you were sick from not taking any exercise, I was worried, truly I
was! I wanted to write you a little note--but--"

"A mere temporary indisposition, not worth a moment of your thought,"
said Mr. Garrott. He was wholly recovered now.

"I'm so glad. You really do look well! It's been ages since I've seen
you! But why," she said, laughing up at him prettily, "am I keeping you
standing at the door like this! Come in the parlor."

"I'm sorry, but I really can't, thank you. I must be going."

She stopped in complete surprise. "Going! Oh, you mustn't go
_now_!--when I've just come in! Why, you _couldn't_!--"

"My time's up, you see, and more. Writing," said Charles sententiously,
"is a dreadful taskmaster. But I've explained all that--"

"I know!--but you're here now! You can surely take a _little_ time, Mr.
Garrott--when I haven't seen you for days and days--"

"I've already overstayed my scant allowance, you see, with your father.
But I'm glad to have had a little glimpse of you, at any rate."

On the whole, he had sought to speak in his usual voice and air; but now
he saw that his new power of firmness had disclosed itself to her not
too sensitive ear. The liquid eyes under the becoming new hat regarded
him with sudden inquiry, puzzled and speculative....

To think seriously ill of this girl, because, perhaps, she was not an
enthusiastic cleaner of the parental home, was not in Charles, the man,
whatever the authority might have to say. Her soft and unlessoned
youthfulness, confronting him, disarmed all criticism. But the chance
resemblance to her plaintive mother had seemed, oddly, to strike him
much deeper. Looking down at this virginal sweet freshness, by the
hatstand and the books, the young man had been full of the elusive sense
that as the daughter looked and charmed now, so the mother had looked
once; and beyond her present air of alluring femininity, he seemed
persistently to be seeing Angela at fifty, sitting idle in an unswept
room and continually reminding a worn-out husband of her sacrifices and
her service.... Pure fantasy, was it, a fiction-writer's imagining born
of a superficial likeness? Or was there a deeper, a more romantic,
kinship between the girl who set so naïve an estimate on the value of
her kiss, and the woman who would plume herself through an indolent
lifetime on the ancient history of her maternity?...

The girl opened her mouth to speak: but there came a welcome diversion.
A step was heard on the wooden verandah, and the two young people,
turning their heads together, saw a liveried servant at the still open
door, bowing, speaking:--

"Miss Flower, marm?"

"Yes--I am Miss Flower."

"Fum Mr. Tilletts, marm," said the servant, extending a note. "And he
say please don't you trouble to write, if you'd kindly send an answer by
me, marm."

"Oh! All right."

Having said, "Excuse me, Mr. Garrott," Angela opened and glanced
through her note, and then remarked: "Mr. Tilletts wants me to go to the
theater with him to-night. How nice!"

Her back to the servant, she made a little deprecating face at Mr.
Garrott; but her voice seemed pleasurably stirred all the same, and her
answer to the chauffeur was:--

"Thank Mr. Tilletts, and say Miss Flower'll be very glad, indeed, to go,
and will be ready at quarter past eight."

Charles wondered afterward if the opportune Tilletts had not subtly
assisted his own withdrawal; but for the moment it rather seemed
otherwise. While Angela spoke to the servant, he had turned hastily
toward his overcoat; and now her hand fell upon his arm, with just a
touch of the spoiled darling air, or at least with that added confidence
which comes to a girl with these concrete evidences of her success.

"No, you mustn't! Don't go yet. _Please!_"

"I'm compelled to, unluckily. I very rarely allow myself the pleasure of
calling at all, you know, and--"

"But you _have_ allowed yourself the pleasure, now, Mr. Garrott!
Oh!--don't be so _firm_! Come in--for only a minute! You can surely
spare me a minute--when I ask you to specially--"

"It is literally impossible."

Angela had extended her small hand to lead him into the parlor. Now she
let it fall at her side, and stood looking at him with a conscious
expression on her face, a pretty expression, but one that he scarcely
liked. Of course both of them knew that it was by no means literally
impossible for Mr. Garrott to come in, for only a minute. But doubtless
a womanly girl could be trusted to find an explanation for his peculiar
speeches that plucked their stingers from them, as it were.

"You're so strange. You're displeased with me, I can see that.
Why?--because I wasn't in when you called? Why, I'm nearly always out on
fine afternoons!"

"I know that," ventured the young man.

"If you'd just told me in advance.... Don't you know I'd never have
gone out with Dan Jenney, if I'd dreamed you were going to call?"

He knew this also, only too well; but this time he only said: "A caller
must take his chances, of course. By the way, let me thank you very
much, again, for lending me that book. I found it immensely
interesting."

"Oh!--'Marna'? I didn't want you to come just for that.... Did she make
you think of Cousin Mary at all?"

He smiled distantly, turned away, and put on his overcoat.

This was done in entire silence; Angela urged him to stay no longer. But
when he turned, hat in hand, to say good-bye, she stood confronting him
again, very near. There was a faint flush on her smooth cheek; her
woman's eyes were very bright; her look upon him was sweet,
self-conscious, and wistful, oddly appealing. Rarely had he seen her
look more girlishly desirable.

"Mr. Garrott, why have you always been different to me since that
night--of my bridge-party?"

"Different?" queried Mr. Garrott.

"Oh, you know you have! You know you've never really got over what I
said to you--and all that dreadful misunderstanding!"

And he knew then that this nice girl would go to her grave thinking of
him as a lover whose confidence in his suit had been reft from him by a
too sharp rebuke. Well, so be it. He was content that she should have
that satisfaction: let that stand as a further liquidation of the old
obligation, a bonus payment on the esteemed Kiss.

"You know you've never forgiven me!"

"I've never had anything to forgive you, Miss Flower."

"Then you've never believed I've forgiven you! I've tried to show you
that I have, that I've truly appreciated all the nice things you've done
for me--but you've still been different."

It was doubtless his imagination, but she seemed to be a little nearer
as she said, with a pink and winsome hesitancy:--

"Can't I make you believe that I--I've really always been the same?"

Extending his hand, the voluntary celibate replied, with cheerful
reassurance: "I believe it now, Miss Flower. Absolutely. Positively. And
now I must run."

Angela did not seem to see the hand he offered. She continued to look at
him, and something seemed to die out of her face,--a momentary
expectancy, was it, or the mere native optimism of youth? Her gaze
turned away from his face, turned back again; and then she suddenly gave
a little laugh, an odd laugh, half angry, half sad:--

"Oh, I do think you're absolutely--_obtuse_!"

And Charles then knew that, whether she realized it or not, Angela was
giving him up.

But still she did not see his farewell hand. Her eyes, going past him
again, had become fixed with a new expression, arresting him, and now
she said, in another tone, what he found perhaps the most interesting
remark in the duologue:--

"Here's Mr. Manford back!"

Charles wheeled, with a little jump.

And sure enough, there, beyond the glass of the door, was the form of
the young engineer, incredibly returning. Yes, there he came back again,
poor, vain, grinning, flattered fool, who only the other day had said:
"Charlie, she worries me."

With one last look at Mr. Garrott, Angela turned to open the door for
Mr. Manford. The greeting smile succeeded the good-bye reproach. And
even in this disturbed moment, the writer's mind was subtly struck with
the symbolism of that gesture: and once again this girl was a type to
him, sister of a million sisters. Even so, must the womanly Spinster,
through all her seeking days, turn from the man who does not desire her
little offerings of beauty and charm, to the man who--well, possibly
may. And it really wasn't right, wasn't fair....

"Old Sherlock!--sees the Fordette outside--guesses who's at home now!"
the man who possibly might was saying, with a tone of buoyant intimacy
and a repellent smirk. "I thought you weren't going to forget me
altogether!... Oh! And there's Charlie-boy, too! Feeling better, old
top?"

Charles looked through him in silence.

But when Angela drifted by them into the parlor--for she avoided any
formal farewell with her former principal friend--and he was passing
Donald to the door, he bent and flung into the youth's long ear one
futile taunt:--

"Fool, I suppose she lent you the sequel!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Before the dingy little house of the Flowers', there stood a line of
waiting vehicles. The passer would have said that a reception, or
perhaps a wedding, was going on within.

To the left, Mr. Tilletts's shining sedan still stood at the broken
curb. The driver, having paused to exchange badinage with Walter Taylor,
was just mounting to his seat. Full in front of the house stood a
conveyance more in character with the unpretentious street: Charles
Garrott's aged hackney-coach, in short. On the other side, at the nose
of the hack-horse and properly leading the procession, stood the stout
little Fordette, resting now from its labors. There only lacked a
bicycle for Mr. Jenney, and something--a donkey, let us say--to stand
for Donald Manford.

And Angela, indeed, had accomplished this; here was her true creative
work, here her self-expression made visible. She it was who, poor and
obscure, with nobody to help her, had drawn these vehicles and these
gentlemen thronging about her door.

"Where toe, suh?" cried Walter Taylor, flourishing his whip.

"Number 6 Olive Street."

The fare spoke all but automatically, out of his new genuine disquiet.
However, he corrected himself at once: "No--wait a minute."

If his position that she was just the wife for Donald lay silently
abandoned somewhere behind him: if the business could no longer be
viewed as Donald's idle-hour amusement, but all at once had come to look
decidedly serious: still, what under heaven was the use of giving Mary
another and more rousing warning? He had warned Mary once, and what was
the result? Two calls from Donald to Angela in the course of a single
afternoon. No; if the labor of taking off was now to follow "putting
on," it was clear that some hand far subtler than the too manly Mary's
would have to do the job. And he knew whose hand was plainly indicated,
too....

And then the young man remembered, with a surprising uprush of relief
and freedom, that this day was Friday, and Donald was off to New York
to-night, within an hour or two. And the foolish youth would be gone a
solid week, too, with Mr. Jenney and Mr. Tilletts left in possession of
the field.

Thus, Walter Taylor, on his box, received a small surprise. Instead of
giving him a new number, Mr. Garrott unexpectedly produced a dollar-bill
from his pocketbook, and tossed it up to him with a sudden laugh.

"That's all, Walter. _I'll walk!_"



XIX


Donald Manford's absence in far-away New York saw the calendar into
February. It was a month which for some time had held a fixed place in
Charles's thought, as Mary Wing's last month at home. Now the days had
brought him this new concern, by no means unrelated to Mary's impending
departure. That Donald was his concern now, as well as hers, he had
acknowledged, once and for all, in that moment of pause by the hack: and
none saw more clearly than he that the acknowledgment was a damaging
one, opening long vistas of annoying possibilities. Well it might be
that all he had once planned and worried for himself, and much more, he
would now have to plan and worry for his weak and amorous friend. And
suppose Mary Wing went off, leaving the whole business still unsettled?

However, there was no use in borrowing trouble. For the present,
Donald's well-wishers enjoyed an interlude of complete repose. And on or
about the day of the simpleton's return to the danger-zone, it was
recalled, he was to be whisked off again to the Helen Carson
house-party, where all might end happily yet. Mary deserved her tittle
of credit for that arrangement, at any rate. Charles, making the most of
these peaceful days, reconsecrated himself to Letters and the finding of
his Line.

Donald himself remained pleasantly unaware of the difficulties created
by his unreliable antics. The youth was known to possess a common
combination of characteristics: he had a novel-hero's chin and an
underlying soft streak. Donald was a little ease-loving; he
unconsciously slanted to the line of least resistance. As to work, Mary
Wing, who had caught him young, had pretty well ironed out his softness;
yet it seemed to persist even there. Witness his dallying for a moment
with an "office proposition" in New York, at whatever emolument, when
far larger professional opportunities awaited him in a Wyoming camp. As
to getting himself married off, Donald's traits were obviously at once
an advantage to his friends and an added risk: they seemed to indicate
clearly that he or she who had his ear last, and took the strongest hand
with him, would win the day. Doubtless his truest friends were most
resolved that such hand should be theirs.

At any rate, the young squire's presentation of himself at the Wings',
on the afternoon of the day he got back from New York, was by
appointment strictly. It was Friday again, a week to a day from his two
calls upon Angela. Donald "stopped by" Olive Street on his hurried way
uptown. Having had a very strenuous part of a day in his office at Hoag,
Hackett & Manford's, and having a number of things still to do before
five o'clock, he designed to give, say, ten minutes to his call upon his
more than sister. He gave thirty minutes, and emerged into the sunshine
with a sobered face. And, on leaving Mary thus, almost the first person
he saw next was Mary's special friend, Charles Garrott, bowling by.

The eyes of the young men met and Donald nodded gloomily. Charles, as it
happened, was but taking a last use of his car, prior to the old lady's
return on Monday. But Donald did not know that, and he thought,
absently, what a fool old Charlie was to ride around this way all the
time, when he had legs and could walk like a man. At the same moment,
Charles, inevitably, was thinking what a fool Donald was, for exactly
the opposite reason. Never again, it might be, would Charles Garrott see
a bachelor walking Washington Street alone, without some vague sense of
circumambient peril.

Charles had not expected to take up the new worries until after the
match-making house-party; but the sight of Donald unprotected out there
made an irresistible appeal to his higher nature, especially as no
trouble to himself would be involved. Accordingly, he answered Donald's
distrait salute with demonstrative smiles and signalings, and
immediately fired an order through the speaking-tube. And the engineer,
surprised, saw the splendid car of the old lady stop with a jerk, back,
wheel, and come sliding up to his side at the curb.

"Well, old fellow! Glad to see you back!" said Charles, hospitably
swinging open the door. "Hop in and let me drive you up! I want to hear
about your trip."

Donald was faintly pleased by this unusual attentiveness. He was one of
those extraordinary persons who never ride when it is possible to walk;
on the other hand, he seldom turned away from the chance of a good talk
about himself. And he was very short of time now, too, owing to his
detention at the Wings'.

So he stepped into the limousine, his manner abstracted and distinctly
consequential.

Charles, smiling slightly to himself, gave the address, and prompted:--

"You're just back, aren't you?"

"And off again at five twenty-two. And I've got two hours' unpacking and
repacking to do before then."

"You _are_ a traveler these days! What's this," inquired Charles,
innocently--"another business trip?"

"House-party at the Kingsleys', down at Hatton. Tell your boy to skip
along there, Charlie. I'm in a rush."

Amiably, Charles spoke into the mouthpiece: "Skip along there, Eustace.
Mr. Manford's in a rush." And resuming he said, with an air of honest
envy: "At the Kingsleys'! By George, that sounds pretty good! Congenial
crowd, winter sports, dancing every night--you're in luck! Who's going
along?"

Donald named the guests. It did not escape the observant Charles that he
named Miss Carson last, after a perceptible pause and in a manner
clumsily careless. Nothing escaped Charles, not Donald's sober face,
certainly not the fact that he had just come from the Wings'. Now, with
a thrill of satisfaction, he understood that Mary had been talking to
the young light-o'-love at last, giving him to understand plainly where
his duty lay. And this look of Donald's was precisely the right look,
too: just the intensely self-important, nervous, faintly complacent,
highly worried look of a man who has suddenly learned that he is going
to be married directly.

He gave the strong Mary another large credit-mark, and continued: "Three
days with that crowd!--how I'd like to get in! As for poor old
Talbott--ha, ha!--he'll foam at the mouth when I tell him about this."

"What's he got to do with it?"

"Why, I thought you'd heard! Miss Carson knocked him flat with one
look--that lunch of mine! He can't see anybody else since, poor chap.
But he admits he doesn't make any time at all."

"She's not the kind that takes to any whippersnapper that comes along."

His odious smugness delighted Charles. So did his fidgeting about, his
hasty glances at his watch, his long solemn stares at himself in the
little mirror.

"Poor old Talbott swears she must be interested in somebody else,"
laughed Charles. "But he confessed he couldn't think of a man he knew
who'd be at all likely to interest a girl like that--I either." And
then, not to overdo it, he said interestedly: "But, Donald, what about
Blake & Steinert?"

"Oh, I turned 'em down," said the coming fiancé, and briefly expanded.
Of the fine old firm, he said: "They were associated with me on Hog Bay
Breakwater." Old Blake was a prince; Steinert a crackerjack. They had
raised their offer, so eager were they to get him, and insisted on
leaving it open for him. He had seen all the shows, lunched at five
clubs, "closed up several important deals," etc., etc.

Dipping up his watch again, Donald said suddenly: "Seen Mary lately?"

This being none of his business, Charles replied with a monosyllable.

"Anything wrong between you two?"

"Not that I'm aware of.... Great heavens! I'm a worker, my good fellow!
I haven't time to fuss around house-partying--pop-calling--all the
time!--Not, of course, that I don't wish I were going--"

"Well, you won't have much time to be pop-calling on Mary," reproved
Donald, with his new responsible soberness. "Drop around this afternoon,
Charlie, after your lessons. See if you can't cheer her up a little."

The limousine reeled off half a block before Charles answered:

"Seems I'm behind the times again. What does Miss Mary need to be
cheered up about, exactly?"

"What d'you s'pose now, Charlie? Going off to New York to live, herself;
me off to Wyoming for two years at least; Aunt Ellen moving to North
Carolina; home broken up--why, I tell you the thing is the worst kind of
smash-up! I've just been with Mary--never saw her so blue in my life."

Charles said, after another silence: "But she understood all that from
the beginning, didn't she?"

"Understood--what's that got to do with it? Besides, you never
understand things till you get right down to 'em. Take me," said Donald,
recurring to his favorite subject with a frown. "I hadn't an idea how
much I was going to mind this business--ending it all here, moving off
to the back side of nowhere to--"

"Well, don't be sentimental about it, for pity's sake! This is a
realistic story we're living, or I miss my guess entirely.--When does
Miss Mary leave?"

"Oh, about two weeks, I believe, but--"

"Two weeks!"

"Wensons want the flat around the 20th, I understand. We didn't speak of
that just now--Mary'll tell you about it. Let's see," said Donald,
fidgeting about and looking first out one window, then another. "Going
to your mother's to-morrow, I suppose? Drop in this afternoon,
Charlie--or to-night. And that's so!--you can take around a package for
me, things I bought for Mary in New York--oh, neck-fichus, silk
stockings--that sort of stuff."

But the thought of himself as Mary's cheerer-up at this juncture in her
Career was bitterly ironic to Charles, and, answering curtly that he
would be too busy to run errands this afternoon, he changed the subject
at once. In short, when did Donald go to Wyoming? Unable to resist the
opening, Donald said that he would probably start on March 15th; and so
began to talk fitfully of himself. At the other window, Charles relapsed
into thought. He did not speak again until the car rolled up to the
entrance of the showy apartment-hotel where Donald lived. Then, rousing
himself abruptly, he said, with a well-done air of negligent
sprightliness:--

"Oh, by the by, Donald--heard anything from our little friend in the
four-wheeler, as you call it? I haven't laid eyes on her since that day
you and I marched up like little soldiers to give back her books. Funny,
that was!--ha, ha!"

Donald's face of a young man about to be married changed perceptibly. He
answered, quite stiffly:--

"I fail to see anything funny in it. Miss Flower's perfectly well, I
believe."

"Good!--glad to hear it. She needs her health, all the driving about she
does.... Why, where'd she see you to-day?"

"I didn't say I'd seen her to-day, that I remember. By Jove, I don't get
a minute to see anybody or anything, rushed about this way all the
time!... Well! Obliged for the lift."

"And how do you know she's well, then?"

"Because she told me so over the telephone, if you give a darn! What's
this about, anyway?"

"Why, not a thing! Why, my dear fellow! Of _course_, I understand
perfectly! You don't suppose I suspect you of being old Tilletts's
rival, do you? Not likely--ha, ha! No, I think it's awfully nice of you,
old fellow, knowing as I do that you don't admire her particularly.
That's what I wanted to say," proceeded Charles, laying his hand
affectionately and detainingly on Donald's arm. "Of course you know she
doesn't have much of a time--attention and all that--oh, I see through
you perfectly! It's just Talbott and the Oldmixon girls over again--"

"Oh, she told me about _you_!" said Donald in a blustering manner; and,
snatching his arm away, he sprang out upon the sidewalk.

His remark evoked curiosity; but Charles's overweening interest was not
in Angela now. And he was thinking intently: "He's not engaged to Helen
Carson yet, by a long shot. He's not even at the station--that's a
mile--on Washington Street. I'd better keep an eye on you, my buck ..."

Aloud he said: "She did?--nothing good, I fear. Here!--wait a minute!
That package for Miss Mary, Donald--I expect you'd better leave it for
me to take, after all. I'll find some way to get it around to her--"

"All right--"

"You bring it by as you start for the station, that's the best way. Then
we'll drive down together," said Charles, fixing his friend with a
compelling gaze. "I've--ah--got some things I want to talk to you
about."

"I'll bring it by," said Donald, non-committally, and rushed away.

He went up seven floors, telephoned for the "staff valet," and proceeded
to business. There was a period of the wildest activity. At the end of
it, the hour being then too late for hope that any expressman would make
the train with the trunk, Donald engaged the valet to secure a
carriage, take down and check the baggage, get him a ticket and a seat,
and be waiting for him with these things at a given point. In such
slapdash, inefficient fashion this young man conducted all his personal
life.

"And mind you see the baggage on the train," he warned the fellow. "This
is an important trip."

He shot down again, dressed to "kill" the house-party, but lugging a
large box, and strode out into the fading sunshine. Before the hotel
door, to his surprise, stood Charlie Garrott's borrowed car, empty, and
before the car stood Charlie Garrott's borrowed driver, greeting him
with all his teeth.

"What're _you_ waiting here for?" said Donald, staring.

"Goin' to drive you an' Mist' Garrott to the deepo--yessuh! Mist'
Garrott tole me to wait right here an' bring you round, suh!"

Donald again was rather touched by the thoughtfulness of his friend.
Take him all in all, old Charlie was a pretty good fellow. However, he
would have ridden down in the hack with the valet, if he had wanted to
ride. Of course, he might send the box around by this fellow--but no, if
old Charlie was expecting him, that would seem pretty short,
particularly as Mrs. Herman's was right on his way.

"I'm much obliged to you--er--Eustace--but I'll walk, I guess. I haven't
had any exercise to-day."

"Boss, he say you mout not ketch yo' train if you was to walk."

"Oh, I've got plenty of time for the train--plenty!" said Donald,
hastily, and shifted the box to look at his watch again. "I'll leave
word for Mr. Garrott myself."

"Suh! Thank you kindly, suh!"

Donald swung off toward Mrs. Herman's, but three blocks distant. Behind
him, unobserved, trailed the old lady's limousine, very slow. When he
was still a block from his destination, the hurrying young man was all
at once struck with an annoying recollection. "Curses!" he groaned. "I
forgot my sweater!" That meant that he would have to go back, without
doubt: for the sweater was a brand-new one, of brilliant Australian
wool, and specially purchased in New York for the winter-sports. Donald,
accordingly, felt unable to linger over his good-bye messages to
Charles. He said hurriedly to Mrs. Herman, who opened the door for him:
"How-do! Please give this box to Mr. Garrott, and tell him I decided to
walk. He'll understand." And on that, he sprang away down the steps, two
at a time, and started swiftly back to the Bellingham.

But just as he reached the corner, he was suddenly arrested by the sound
of his own name, rolling loudly after him down the street.

"_Donald! Hi, there! Stop!_"

Donald halting, looked upward and all about him. Presently, through the
top branches of an intervening tree, he descried Charles Garrott leaning
far out of Mrs. Herman's third-story window. "Well?" called Donald.

"What's the matter? Where're you going?" demanded Charles in a voice
that broke easily through the tree. "I said we'd drive down together!"

He was heard continuing in another tone: "_No!_ Stop, Eustace! Don't go
away--I want you!"

"Much obliged," shouted Donald, "but I'd rather walk."

Charles said something out the window, which Donald failed to catch.

"What say?"

"You come back!" cried Charles, beckoning, while passing pedestrians
craned their necks upward. "Wait for me--just a minute--I'm all ready!
And I've got to speak to you--about several things! About the package!"

But Donald, objecting to the attention they were attracting, shook his
head decisively. "Haven't time now. Forgot something ... back to my
rooms."

"If you haven't time to wait, you certainly haven't time to walk back to
your rooms! You're going to miss your train with all this walking!"

That was pointed enough to cause Donald to pause again, and look at his
watch for the twentieth time. He found that he still had twenty-five
minutes, time enough, of course, but then he might have to hunt for the
sweater, and there was the business of the luggage at the station, too.

Down through the branches boomed the strangely insistent voice of
Charles: "Why, by George! You've only got twenty minutes. Here, take my
car there, quick! You can barely make it, driving fast ..."

And in a lower voice he said: "After him, Eustace! Get him to the
station as fast as you can. Don't fail this time."

Donald was hesitating, struck as Charles meant him to be, with the fear
that his watch might be slow. He now called, with evidences of ill-humor
and disturbance:--

"All right, then! But I can't stop for you."

"Oh, that's all right, old fellow--my matters can wait! I'll look out
for the package! Just you catch your train, that's all!"

Continuing to lean out of the Studio window, Charles watched the dullard
step into the old lady's tightly closed car, and whirl away--safe at
last. As the car shot round the corner, he suddenly laughed aloud: a
triumphant laugh, but charged with irritation, too.

Then Charles, aloft, drew head and torso back into the Studio, banged
shut the window, and found Mrs. Herman just plumping the large white box
of things for Mary down on his writing-table. The spectacle brought
forward the other matter instantly. Of course, he had agreed to receive
the box purely as a means of keeping an eye on Donald.

"Oh, yes--as to the package, Mrs. Herman, perhaps you wouldn't mind
taking it down as you go, and just leaving it on the hall table?
I--ah--shall probably call a messenger to take it--a little later."

"Certainly, Mr. Garrott," said Mrs. Herman, picking up the box again.
"And oh, would you mind telling the Judge I'd like to speak to him a
minute before he goes out?"

"Certainly, Mrs. Herman."

The landlady, lingering, said: "He seems in poor spirits, don't you
think so, Mr. Garrott? His appetite is not what it was. And he goes out
and takes these long walks, alone, day after day, or sits here by
himself in the Studio. I don't think it's good for him. I think he
broods."

"It's nothing serious, Mrs. Herman. He's annoyed with me, I fear, for
giving up some physical culture exercises which he hoped might make a
man of me yet. Also, for being such a continuous failure as a writer."

"But it's not your fault, Mr. Garrott! You do the very best you can, I'm
sure. The Judge is unreasonable--that's what I say. Oh, I could coax him
into a good humor easily enough, but I scarcely ever see him nowadays,
except at meal times. I can't very well offer to go with him on his
walks, can I?--but I'm sure the solitude is bad for him."

"Ah, you should get yourself a little Fordette, Mrs. Herman."

"And what is a little Fordette, Mr. Garrott?"

"Oh--simply a sort of wheeled device for going with people on their
walks. I'm explaining it in a story. But," said Charles, "I won't fail
to give the Judge your message."

Left alone, the young man stood for a space in the middle of the floor,
gazing intently at nothing. Then he seated himself at his table and
produced manuscript from the drawer. Then he put the manuscript back in
the drawer, and stared at nothing again. Finally, he rose, opened the
bedroom door quietly, and said:--

"Judge, I find I have to go out for a little while."

Judge Blenso, in the bedroom, received the friendly information, and
then his message from Mrs. Herman, with only a cold "Very well!" He
stood at a long board, balanced on two distant chair-backs, listlessly
pressing the trousers he didn't have on; his instrument being a patent
electric-flatiron, which consumed quantities of current, which indeed
fairly gave the measure of his landlady's adoration. Catch Mrs. Herman
letting Two-Book McGee use so much as an electric curling-iron in the
Second Hall Back!

"And Judge," added Charles, conciliatingly, "please don't bother to take
that manuscript to the express-office--I mean 'Bandwomen'--unless you
really want the walk."

"Very well! I hear you! Good gad, very well!" said the Judge.

Charles shut the door, regretfully. It had been like this between them
for some weeks now. Even his generosity in quietly yielding the name of
his own only novel produced no softening effect on his secretary's cold
bored disapprobation.

He put on hat and overcoat, descended two flights, picked up the box of
things for Mary, and went out upon his errand. He walked slowly, down
Mason Street to Olive, and at Olive turned south.

For the second time, Donald had contrived to force his hand in regard to
Mary: he was conscious of resenting that. Still--of course he had never
meant to let the old friendship end in estrangement, and doubtless the
casual pretext of the box was better than the formal "call" next week he
had had in mind. To appear as Mary's cheerer-up now was, indeed,
considerably beyond him. Nevertheless, he was well aware that what
Donald had told him in this connection had made an instant difference in
his feeling, made him readier to be friends again. If only she had felt
and realized all this in the beginning, if only she had showed him so
that day over the telephone....

Still, feeling wasn't enough, unfortunately. There was this whole
business about Donald, for instance. In one way he could think of that
almost pleasurably. Mary seemed to suppose that if she but arranged a
house-party and gave Donald a sound talking to in advance, the whole
thing was settled, down to the orange-blossoms. It required him to
revise her crude plannings, put in the omitted _finesse_, and deliver
Donald safely at the station. But Charles, pacing gravely toward the
unpremeditated meeting, large box under his arm, found his thought of
the episode continually seeking deeper levels. If, two weeks from now,
Donald was still not engaged to Helen, whose was to be the
responsibility of pushing him on? Not Mary's, evidently. Was not this
youth, in fact, but one more of those countless intimate obligations
which strong women must "hack away," when resolved to lead their own
lives? Donald was the apple of Mary's eye. Normally speaking, she was
ready to do anything for him. But it seemed that even Donald, if he
crossed the trail of the Career, would have to look to himself.

Or, more probably, he, Charles, would have to look out for him.

At the corner of Washington Street, pausing, the meditative young man
consulted his watch; he shifted the box for the purpose just as Donald
had done a few minutes earlier. It was quarter past five, exactly.
Donald would be at the station now, without doubt, safe on the train.
Well, here was one thing he had done for Mary, at any rate, as he should
not fail to indicate to her. And thus, insensibly, his thought slipped
into the pleasurable vein again, the superior, masterful vein, and his
mind composed the light ironic sentences with which he should make known
to Mary her remissness and his own subtle services.

Stepping down from the curb in this brown study, he all but walked into
a motor-car whirring by: a car that was stealing the wrong side of the
street, and cutting close to the sidewalk at that. Charles stopped and
stepped back, just in time. And then, all in the same breath, his ears,
his eyes, and his nostrils telegraphed his brain what car, and whose,
this was. It was the Fordette, none other, going at an unprecedented
speed, now curving back dangerously to the side where it belonged. On a
cloud of the dark smoke it sometimes emitted, Angela's girlish laugh
came floating back to him distinctly. But Charles's gaze was fixed on
the figure of the man who sat at Angela's side and held the Fordette
wheel; and his eyes all but started from his head as he perceived that
it was Donald....

Yes, it was poor Donald fast in the Home-Making conveyance: Donald,
snatched, she alone knew how, from his wedding-coach.



XX


The famous Secretary sat at her desk in the well-kept sitting-room. She
sat in the midst of documents and letters; large white sheets of her
Education League writing-paper lay before her, the topmost sheet nearly
filled with her neat chirography. Oblivious to small happenings in the
world without, the Secretary was deep in her distinguished
correspondence. But her desk, as it happened, stood in the window, and
the Secretary, after all, was not so immersed in her affairs but that
she looked out into the Park now and then, sometimes for whole minutes
together. She looked, too, into the quiet street before the house. And
so it was that her eyes, in time, fell upon the familiar figure of
Charles Garrott; striding all at once into her range, turning swiftly in
at her door, vanishing again into her vestibule, scarcely five feet from
where she sat.

Though thus aware that she was about to have a caller, Mary did not at
once spring up to go and welcome him. She sat, entirely motionless, her
permanently questioning gaze fixed on the spot where the caller had
passed from view. The ringing of the bell scarcely seemed to penetrate
her consciousness. But then, in a moment, she dropped her pen quickly,
and rose. Standing, she locked her two hands together before her, very
tight, released them again, passed out into the hall, and opened her
front door.

"Good-afternoon! This is an unexpected pleasure," said she, in her
natural voice, or very near it. "Come in!--or can you?"

Her visitor looked full at her from the vestibule, unsmiling.

"Oh, certainly--if you're not too busy! It's what I am here for. How do
you do to-day?"

"That's nice! You don't often honor us, and--I feared you had merely
stopped to leave that package."

"Ah, yes!--the package! Some things Donald got for you--I suppose you
know? He asked me--"

"Oh! I'm afraid that was very much of an imposition--and I was really in
no hurry for them at all."

She thanked him, relieved him of the pretextual box, laid it on the hall
table, and, with inevitable but extreme infelicity, continued:--

"You saw Donald to-day, then?"

A small silence preceded his controlled reply "Oh, yes!--I saw him."

"I've just packed him off to a house-party at the Kingsleys'--to make
love to Helen Carson. But perhaps he told you?"

In the large mirror overhanging the table, the eyes of the once
excellent friends briefly encountered. She was puzzled by the quality of
his grave gaze.

"He did mention a house-party, I believe. But--"

Turning away toward the sitting-room, Mary filled the pause with a
little laugh: "But you think he won't make love to Helen, perhaps?"

The grave young man, following her, did not burst forth, even then. His
restraint seemed curious, even to himself. Crossing Washington Street
just now, he had been full enough of plain speech, for this young
woman's good. "I've had quite enough of this!" he would say to her. "I
can't and won't give up my afternoons, my life, to playing nurse to
Donald. If you are satisfied to have him marry Miss Angela, well and
good. If not--" and then a last warning, far sharper, far more direct,
than the other. But then as he waited upon her steps, and then as he
looked at her in the door, the springs of this trivial anger had seemed
mysteriously to subside and dry up. No doubt the Career-Maker's own look
had something to do with that. Her face in the afternoon light was seen
to be thin and tired; he thought he detected faint circles under her
eyes, a slightly pinched look about her nostrils. But beyond all that,
beyond any question of "sympathy," or cheering-up, it seemed that the
affair itself had suddenly shrunk in importance. Donald's folly,
Angela's little foibles, seemed to matter less to Charles as he found
himself looking again at the departing heroine of his write-ups.

So he discharged his bolt with restrained formality: "It isn't that. I
was only wondering whether or not you had packed him off, as yet."

"Oh!--but haven't I?... I don't understand."

"I happened to see him a minute ago, driving on Washington Street with
your cousin--Miss Angela."

It was clear that the topic had lost no interest for Mary, at any rate.
She stopped short in the middle of the floor, utterly taken aback.

"_Donald!_--as you came here?"

And, instantly recovering from mere astonishment, her capable gaze flew
to the little watch on her wrist.

Charles reassured her, as dryly as possible: "However, they were headed
toward the station, and going as fast as they could. I think he will
make his train."

"But--it's not possible, I'm afraid! His train goes at five
twenty-two--it's just that now!... Ah, how _could_ he!"

Producing his own valued chronometer, the young man compared it with the
educator's small trinket.

"I believe you're a little fast, aren't you? I'm five-eighteen. And it
was just quarter past when I saw them, for I looked to see. That gave
him seven minutes--"

"Yes--well!--but Angela's little car is so slow--"

"Oh!--it can go fast enough for practical purposes--I've observed.
Besides, Donald may have telephoned and found that the train was late."

"Yes--that's true."

Mary Wing looked toward the window, characteristically composed again,
but evidently concerned enough.

"Well, I hope so. It would be too stupid of him to miss it, after
all ... I can't think how he happened to be with Angela--at the last
minute this way."

"How, indeed? But sit down, do, and I'll tell you why it seems
particularly--mystifying to me. I hope," the formal caller added, with a
glance toward the busy-looking desk, "I'm not interrupting?"

The General Secretary said no, with some brevity.

In sentences less copious and biting than he had sketched out on the
corner, Charles recited the history of his futile afternoon. He could
not, indeed, believe it possible that Donald, having donned the solemn
bridegroom look for Helen Carson, would deliberately throw it off again
for the sake of a short drive in the Fordette: which, to say the least
of it, could be had at any time at his desire. Nor was Donald really a
born fool, who would miss a train through sheer childish carelessness.
The inference was that, encountering Angela, accidentally (more or
less), just after his second start, the youth had calculated that he
still had time to spare; and so had consented to exchange the speedy
limousine for the Fordette: quite probably in no spirit more serious
than that of a venturesome lark. Charles's remarks, at least, took these
generous grounds, reassuring as to the moment. And still a tinge of
exasperation crept into his account of his wasted labors. And still
something in him seemed to require that he should bring these small
responsibilities home where they belonged, for once: leaving them on her
doorstep, as it were, for her to jump over when she went away.

But his story, inevitably, was one of ungallant efforts to evade
impending pursuit. And when, to point up his lesson, he guardedly
suggested a connection between the natural ambitions of Miss Angela, and
the two complete transplantations of her family, Mary Wing seemed to
gather more of his purely private thought than he had intended. One of
her intent interrogative stares brought him to an unintended pause. And
she commented quietly, but rebukingly, he considered:--

"You seem to have changed your opinion of Angela since last week."

There, of course, he hardly cared to justify himself. He could not well
explain what Angela's resemblance to her mother had signified to him,
and why he considered poor Dr. Flower the most magnificent romanticist
in the world.

"I merely suggest," he said, with stiffening dignity, "that she does
seem to be much interested in Donald--and he in her--now. I happen to
know that he called on her twice the day he left for New York, and
talked with her over the telephone this morning. But you mistake me, if
you think I mean to criticize your cousin--personally. I hope I
understand better than that how--all this--is as logical and
mathematical as a natural law. How far in the other direction the
education of women ought to take them ... that, of course, is not for me
to guess.... My point is only that these--these perfectly logical
ambitions--are strong enough to be taken seriously by those who mean to
oppose them."

"Do you doubt that I take this seriously?"

"I have doubted it, I must admit.... Suppose this house-party comes to
nothing, what do you mean to do?"

The former heroine of the write-ups did not answer him at once. She sat
in a straight chair, half-sidewise, a considerable distance away; her
arm was laid along the chair-back, her cheek sunk upon her hand.
Something in the pose made the caller think of Donald's exaggerated
statement, that he had never seen Mary so blue in his life.

When she spoke, it was not again to suggest, offhand, that he should
save Donald by stepping in.

"You are right, of course," she said with a certain dignity herself. "I
haven't been thinking of it as seriously as I should--evidently. Now--if
this doesn't come to anything--I'll need some time to plan about it."

"It's going to be rather troublesome, I'm afraid. And you--I--"

"I'll make it my chief interest, you may be sure."

Then the stiff caller, examining his shirt-cuff as if he had never seen
such an object before, released his logical comment:

"But I'm afraid you haven't left yourself a great deal of time, have
you? Two weeks may prove rather a small allowance--for a difficult
matter like this."

"Oh, I--hope there will be time enough. Meantime, I--"

"I hadn't realized you were going so soon, you see. That will add to the
difficulties, I'm afraid. Donald says you expect to leave on the 20th."

He meant his rejoinders to be unanswerable, and she seemed to find them
so. Glancing up from his cuff in the silence, Charles found his famous
friend's eyes fixed upon him in a strange gaze, which her lids and
lashes veiled at once. Had that look struck him from any other eyes in
the world, he would have labeled it reproachful, without the smallest
hesitation. But Mary was never reproachful: she scarcely thought enough
of him for that; and, besides, the shoe was on the other foot, as she
should know very well.

"I did say something of the sort last week, I believe--though no day was
really settled on. But it was very nice of you," she went on naturally
enough, but with too evident a wish to shift the conversation, "to take
so much trouble about it to-day. I do appreciate all your interest in
it--and I do believe it's going to turn out right, too. Donald certainly
left me with that feeling, this afternoon. So don't let's bother about
it any more now," said Mary. "I'd much rather hear--some more about your
writing. I hope you've gotten the book well started now?"

But Charles, unique among the writers of the world, did not want to talk
about himself to-day. No, he had found the topic for him now.

"No!--I haven't, I'm sorry to say. Your arrangements are all made,
aren't they? Judge Blenso tells me you're going to live with Sophy
Stein, who used to run the Pure Food laboratories here?"

Again her brief look seemed to thrust upon him like a hand, and again
her reply glanced off:--

"Yes--I was planning to live with her. You knew her, didn't you, when--"

"I was going to say--if everything is arranged, perhaps you wouldn't
need to start so early.... Of course, the idea of your friends here
would be that you should wait till the last day."

As she neither approved nor rejected this amiable suggestion, Charles
said: "How does that idea appeal to you?"

To his surprise, instead of answering his question, Mary rose abruptly
and went over to her desk. He then assumed that she wished to show him
some letter bearing on her arrangements for her new life. But it seemed
that her movement had no such object. She merely stood there a moment,
fingering her papers in an irresolute sort of way; and then, without a
word, she moved a little farther, and stood, looking out of the window.

He said, at once with bewilderment and with increasing constraint: "Or
possibly you don't wish me to know when you are going?"

Then Mary Wing turned in the dying light, and said, not dramatically at
all, but in her quietest everyday voice:--

"No, I don't mind your knowing. I'm not going."

And still the authority on women did not understand.

"Not going--when?"

"I've decided not to accept the appointment."

And, sitting down, suddenly and purposelessly at her desk, the young
woman of the Career added in a rather let-down voice: "I haven't told
anybody at all yet. I just decided--last night."

Then came silence into the twilight sitting-room, surely a silence like
none here before it. In the Wings' best chair, the caller sat still as a
marble man, while the little noises from the street grew loud and
louder. And then, quite abruptly and mechanically, he began to rise,
exactly as if an unseen spirit were lifting him bodily by the hair. And
he could feel all the blood drawing out of his face.

"Not going to accept the appointment," he echoed suddenly, in a queer
voice.

And then, as if so reminded that his tongue possessed this
accomplishment, he all at once burst out: "Why--but--why! You _have_
accepted it! It was settled!--long ago! _Not going!_--what do you mean?
Why, what's happened?"

The young woman seated so inappropriately at the desk, gazing so
meaninglessly into pigeon-holes, made no reply. And now Charles Garrott
was walking toward her, walking as the entranced walk, fascinated,
staring with fixed eyes that had forgotten how to wink.

"What're you talking about? I don't know what you mean! Why, what's
happened--what's gone wrong?"

Mary Wing grew restless under his questionings; she spoke with obvious
effort: "Nothing's happened--nothing's gone wrong. I say, I simply
decided that I wouldn't--take the position, after all. I decided I would
refuse it. So I was writing to Dr. Ames--to explain ... That's all I can
say."

But the man standing over her looked more spellbound than ever.

"Explain!--explain what?... Why--you can't put me off like this--can
you?" said he, all his stiffness so shattered by her thunderbolt, all
his struggle but for some effect of poise. "You _must_ know--I'm
tremendously interested. And--I'm obliged to feel that something pretty
serious has happened to make you--"

"No!--nothing has happened at all, I've said. I assure you--nothing."

"But ... You can't imagine how absolutely in the dark ... Do you mean
you've found something else you'd rather do--here?"

"I suppose that's one way of putting it--yes.... Why, I simply say that
when the time came--I wasn't able to do it, that's all.... No, I didn't
want to do it--that must have been it. Of course, people always do what
they really want most."

"You didn't want to do what?... You know, that's just what I don't quite
understand."

"But I've just told you," she protested; and there stopped short.

She had overcome the brief weakness which had seemed to seize her when,
for the first time, she heard her intention declared aloud, the spoken
word, it may be, imparting to it the last irrevocable stroke. She, the
competent, would not be incompetent with her own great affair. And now,
as if she reluctantly acknowledged some right he had to understand, she
seemed to force herself to speak again, in a voice from which her
self-control had pressed all tone.

"I mean that, when the time came, I couldn't pick up and go away--for
good--no matter what was at the other end. I mean I wasn't willing to.
I'd rather not."

She took a breath; and then tone came into her sentences, but it was
only a sort of light hardness.

"I suppose it all came down to this--that I wasn't willing to leave
mother--in the way I should have to leave her. I didn't want to. It was
not possible ... And I'm afraid that's all I can say."

"But of course I understand you now," said the young man instantly, in
the strangest mild voice.

"Then, if you will--please me--let's say no more about it."

To that stanch speech he made no reply: perhaps he did not hear it.
Winter dusk had crept quickly into the pretty sitting-room. The tall
figure motionless by the little desk grew perceptibly dimmer.

That understanding Charles spoke of had come upon him by successive
shocks, each violent in its way. His had been the mere mad sense of a
world too suddenly swung upside down, of the individual himself left
standing brilliantly on his head. That had been just at first; and then
perception had slid into him like a lance, and his feet had struck the
solid ground with a staggering jolt. It was as if, at a word, all the
supporting fabrications of his mind had turned to thin air, and out he
fell headlong, at last, upon the real and the true. And this real and
this true was Mary Wing, nothing else, standing where she had always
stood; Mary, his best old friend, whom he had given his back to,
belabored with harsh words, while she struggled at the crossroads of her
life--to this. Now contrition, now humbleness had shaken the young
authority, a poignant conviction of his failure, in understanding and in
friendship. And then she spoke again, making it all quite perfect with
simple words that he himself, in a dream, might have shaped and put into
her mouth. _I wasn't willing to leave mother._ And after that, it seemed
that nothing about himself could possibly matter in the least.

"You know," he said, quite naturally, out of the small silence, "I think
it's beautiful that a girl like you can feel this way--a girl with your
abilities--your usefulness and splendid success--and now this
magnificent oppor--"

"Don't!--please don't! I hadn't meant to speak of it at all. I--we
won't discuss it, please."

She spoke hastily, pushing back the papers she had been pretending to
arrange, starting to rise. But that word or that movement seemed to
galvanize the still Charles into the suddenest life.

"_Discuss it!_" he cried, in a new voice. "Why, we're going to have the
greatest discussion you ever heard!"

For perhaps the strangest part of this destructive upheaval was that it
seemed to leave every idea he had ever had about this Career completely
reversed. One word from Mary Wing about not leaving her mother, and
nothing seemed to matter but that she, in her fine recklessness, should
not be allowed to sacrifice her triumph and her life.

"No!--please! It's settled now. And it only makes--"

But her friend, the authority, had flung himself into the chair beside
her, like an excited boy, and he seized her wrist on the desk-leaf in an
arresting grip.

"No, it isn't settled till it's settled right!--don't you know that? Is
this your letter to Ames here? Let me tear it up for you now! Refuse the
appointment! Why, Miss _Mary_! You can't think of such a thing! You!--a
worker with a mission--and this your great call!--your big
opportunity--your _duty_! Yes, your--"

She interrupted his flowing modernisms to say, quite patiently: "You're
hurting my wrist."

"Yes, and I'm going on hurting it till I see that letter torn up! Now,
Miss Mary!--listen to me--for once--I beg! You won't suppose I don't
understand--now--what made you sit down to do this, and I--I needn't
say I admire you immensely for feeling so. But--don't you see--if life's
hard, it's not your doing, and if it's hardest on mothers, you can't
change the conditions by a hair's-breadth, no matter what you do....
Why, if you were going to marry Donald, and go off to Wyoming, the break
here would be just as bad, but you'd never think it wasn't right--you'd
know that these were the terms and conditions of life. Oh, you know all
that as well as I! You know the duty isn't from children to parents--no,
I swear, it's from parents to children, every time. And your mother'll
be the first to say so--you know that, too! You know, when you tell her
you're thinking of doing this, she'll go down on her knees to beg you to
take your youth--and your life--and be free--"

He was deflected by one of Mary's normal level gazes, turned upon him.
She said steadily:--

"How long have you been feeling this way?"

"Ten years! And then--for about five minutes."

"I had understood somehow--I don't know how exactly--that you always
thought I should stay here."

The young man felt a flush spreading upward toward his hair, but would
not lower his eyes.

"Perhaps I did have some such feeling--in a sort of--personal, illogical
way. But if it's the last word I ever speak--you've destroyed the last
shred of it."

He rose abruptly, without intention. Nothing in the world was clearer to
him than that he and his reactions mattered little to her now; yet the
desire mounted in him to explain how it was never the thing itself, but
always the feeling about it, that had seemed so important to him.
However, the school-teacher, with a little definitive gesture of the arm
he had released, spoke first:--

"Well, never mind! Don't argue with me, please. It's as over and done
with as something last year--"

But Charles, upon his unimagined task of persuading Mary to act as the
Egoettes act, cried out: "No!--no! Argue! Why, d'you think I'll stand by
and hold my tongue, while you sacrifice the great chance of your life,
your particular dream--for a mere notion of _duty_! I say, and I've
always said, that freedom--and the right to do your work--belong to you,
if to anybody in the world! You've--"

"Do you really suppose I've lain awake all these nights without learning
what my own mind is?"

Having stopped him effectually with this dry thrust, she went on in
another manner, not controversial at all, rather like one speaking to
herself.

"And as for my freedom--that's not involved at all.... I was thinking
just now that maybe this is just what freedom--responsible
freedom--really is--means. It's having the ability and the desire and
the fair chance to do a thing--_and then not do it_."

And then Charles Garrott knew, quite suddenly and finally, that this,
indeed, was no talk in a book, but the realest thing in the world; that
this incredible had really happened: that Mary Wing, the "hard"
Career-Maker, was tossing her Career away....

He stood quite silenced, while she spoke her last decisive word.

"So you see you have a wrong idea of--what I'm doing, altogether. I
appreciate your--being so interested--I value it, you know that," said
Mary Wing in a controlled voice, hard even. "But I can't leave you
thinking that I'm simply sacrificing myself--to my mother, for instance.
It isn't that way at all. Of course, I'm no more to mother than mother
is to me. It's not a sacrifice.... Or, rather--I'm in the position that
people are always in--more or less. Either way, I've got to
sacrifice--and this is the way I choose. But it's getting very dark. I
must light the lamps."

She rose as she spoke, and having risen, bent again, to snap on,
superfluously, her little desk-light. And as she so stood and bent, the
large hand of Charles Garrott reached out suddenly, and began to pat her
shoulder.

She seemed but a slip of a girl, no more, that he, Charles, could have
tossed upon his shoulder, and so walked out upon a journey. But here, in
a wink, she had shot up so tall upon his horizon that he himself, beside
her, seemed to possess no significance at all. She might be right, she
might be wrong: but, to him, the authority, this crashing negation of
the Ego was the flung banner of a splendid trustworthiness, a fitness to
lead her own life, indeed, such as should not be questioned
henceforward. Never had this woman's independence of him spoken out to
him with so clarion a voice as now. And still, over and through her
unemotional firmness, the sense of what a giving-up was here swelled in
him almost overwhelmingly. It was the brilliant prize of ten years'
checkered struggle that his old friend to-day so stoically threw away.
Here was a refusal which would touch every corner of her life to its
farthest reaches....

So Charles Garrott's warring sensations, his humility and his pride in
her, had instinctively expressed themselves in the awkward mute gesture
of his sympathies.

By chance, it was Mary's more distant shoulder that his novel impulse
had prompted him to pat and go on patting: so, from the accident of
their positions, an eye-witness might have been with difficulty
convinced that this man's arm was not actually about the slim figure of
his friend. But a jury, without doubt, would have accepted the friend's
attitude, her entire indifference to what was going on, as fair proof
that this was purely a modern proceeding, and no caress. To ask why he
did this clearly did not enter Mary's head. Had she been a man, indeed,
or he her father, she could hardly have seemed more unaffected by
Charles Garrott's unexampled ministrations.

With what speech he meant to accompany and justify his pattings, Charles
had not stopped to think. He had, in fact, himself just become conscious
of them, when Mary, straightening up, said suddenly in her normal
voice:--

"There's the telephone ringing. Excuse me a minute."

She gave him a brief look in passing, which may have been intended as
some sort of courteous acknowledgment of the pattings after all. And
then she disappeared into the hall, putting an end to talk:
inopportunely he felt; leaving him with, a vague sense of inartistic
incompletion....

The young man stood still in the silent sitting-room, in a duskiness
just punctuated by the small green glow of the desk-lamp.

One of those many minds of his, which are at once a writer's genius and
his curse,--that completely detached, cool overmind which never sleeps,
never ceases to scrutinize and appraise,--was quite conscious that Mary
had held him off with a hand firmer than his own. There was a tremendous
lot that he really needed to say, it seemed, in sheer admiration, sheer
feeling; and, the truth was, she didn't wish to have him say it. No; her
strength, though so far finer and more sensitive than the strength of
the Egoette, was, indeed, not "soft." She would not sentimentalize even
her own suicidal renouncing. As for weeping--he himself had seemed
rather nearer tears than his iron-hearted friend....

But the intense thought of the central mind, of the net Charles, had
never wavered from its great stark fact, that Mary Wing was going to
stay at home--and be a school-teacher.... And why had he, who thought
himself as observant as another authority, been staggered so by the
revelation? Had not he himself divined just this subtler quality in her
long ago, when he found and named her as the best type of modern
woman?... But no, even in "Bondwomen," he had had reservations, it
seemed; open doubts in the write-ups.

And now, Charles the author, in his turn, abruptly collided with a
strange discovery. He stood rigid, startled.... This strength and this
surrender, this power to act, this power to feel, this freedom fine
enough to accept the responsibilities of freedom, and to have no part
with that hollow Self-Assertion which traded round the world in
freedom's name: what was all this but the rounded half of that true Line
which, in the Studio, had so long eluded him? What had he wished to say
about freedom so much as just this? And why need he search in his fancy
now for his wholly Admirable Heroine?...

Mary Wing appeared suddenly in the door. Unmoving, the young man stood
and gazed at her; and so vivid had his imaginings become that his stare
was touched with no greeting, no recognition even. And then, even in the
dusk, he seemed to see that she, his Heroine in the flesh, brought back
a face more troubled than she had taken out, eyes colored with a fresh
anxiety.

He spoke rather confusedly: "What was it? Is anything the matter?"

"Dr. Flower's very ill," she answered hurriedly. "He's had a stroke, or
something. I'm afraid it's very serious. I must go there at once."

All the small fret of the earlier afternoon, every thought and
association with which he had walked into this room just now had receded
so fast and far that re-connection, all in a moment, was not easy.
Charles, staring, seemed to say: "And who, if you please, is Dr.
Flower?" And then his mind replied with a flashing picture of Angela's
father, as he had last seen him, sitting forlorn among his cigar-stubs:
and at once he touched reality again.

"Ah! I'm sorry!" said he; and then: "You must let me go with you."

"Well--thank you--if you like."

And Mary, already moving away toward the bedrooms, added then, in a
colorless sort of way:--

"Who do you suppose telephoned me from there?"

"Who telephoned?--I don't know--"

She paused, half turned, looked back at him, hesitated, and then spoke
but a single word:--

"Donald."

Brief though the reply was, it was sufficient to plant Charles Garrott's
feet permanently upon the earth.

After an interval, with movements purely mechanical, he sought for his
watch. It was quarter past six. And he understood everything then.



XXI


Charles thought that he understood everything now. In so far as he
built a theory on the cold Argument from Design, he understood, of
course, nothing whatever. The truth was that Angela had had other things
than Mr. Manford to think of to-day. That she had gone out in her
Fordette at all was only by the merest chance.

Trouble had come into the little house of the Flowers. As early as one
o'clock, Dr. Flower had preëmpted the family attention. Coming in from
the Medical School half an hour before his regular time, he had shut
himself in his office, without explanation; and there he sat all
afternoon, declining dinner with a shake of his head, and otherwise
strangely uncommunicative and withdrawn. Reminded that this was Friday,
which meant another lecture at half-past two, he only said in his
puzzling way: "Quite so. I have no stomach for the small talk to-day."
Mrs. Flower, stealing now and again to the dark office, doing her duty
as wife and mother, returned each time more concerned by her husband's
remoteness, less reassured by his grave statements that he was not sick,
in stomach or elsewhere. The two women spent a long and uneasy
afternoon. And at the critical moment of it--the moment when, a mile to
the west, Charles Garrott leaned out of his third-story window--Angela
sat anxious in her mother's bedroom, discussing whether or not they
should take the responsibility of calling in Dr. Blakie, on the next
block.

But Angela did not think that her father was ill, exactly: it was more
as if his increasing queerness had reached a sort of climax. And now, by
chance,--or was it destiny, in this its favorite mask?--he quite
suddenly got over his mysterious attack; and the deepening worry lifted
from her young shoulders. Of his own accord, her father emerged from the
office and his unusual aloofness together, and came walking upstairs to
the bedroom, speaking with his own voice--speaking, indeed, more freely
than was his wont. He said at once that his headache was better now:
this being his first reference to his head at all. As if struck by his
daughter's troubled expression as he entered, he smiled at her and
patted her cheek in the kindliest way; and then, becoming thoughtful,
unexpectedly produced a two-dollar bill from his trousers pocket, and
handed it to her with some characteristically strange words about her
dowry, words which afterwards she could never quite remember. There
followed some commonplace family talk, entirely reassuring.

And it was only then, in the certainty that everything was all right
again, that Angela allowed herself to recall her own affairs once more.
It was only then, with the thought that her recovered father very likely
wished to talk alone with her mother, that she left the bedroom and her
two parents together. At the door, she mentioned that probably she would
go out and get a little air, before it was time for supper.

The old clock in the dining-room downstairs had then just struck five.
However, very little more time could have elapsed before the relieved
young girl, hatted and coated, issued hurrying from the kitchen door,
toward the garage that had once been a shed. Yet another minute, and she
was rolling from the alley-mouth.

To snatch Mr. Manford from his wedding-coach: was this the calculation
that sent Angela forth in the fair eve of the disquieting day? Perhaps
such a raid and capture would not have seemed quite a crime to her, or
to any woman that ever lived. But nothing, of course, was further from
her thoughts. That she might conceivably meet Mr. Manford while she took
the air, and even exchange a few words with him, Angela did, indeed,
think, and hope. But this mild maidenly fancy was as innocent as it was
rightfully hers. Good reason she had to know that a little chat in
passing, if so be it should come about, would be no less acceptable to
Mr. Manford than to herself. Had he not told her by telephone this
morning that if he could find so much as a minute in this rushing day,
he would spend it in calling on her?

On the eleventh floor of the Bellingham, Donald stood hastily rolling
his new sweater into a brown-paper parcel. Now into Washington Street,
the little Fordette came curving and snorting toward him: toward him, no
doubt, in a spiritual, as well as a geographical sense. And still the
full depth of the young girl's design was simply this: that her new
principal friend, going off for a gay week-end among maidens more blest
by opportunity than she, might go with a last pleasant thought of her.

For Mr. Manford was Angela's principal friend now; there was no longer
the smallest doubt of that. On that day of culminating results last
week, when the unusual line of vehicles had stood before her door, the
stalwart engineer had definitely moved up to first place in her
thoughts. Not only had Mr. Manford called for an hour and three-quarters
that day, while Dan Jenney cooled his heels in the office, and then went
off for a walk alone: but then also he had first shown, by unmistakable
signs, that he was truly interested in her. Moreover, in the very same
moments, by a strange and rather exciting coincidence, she found herself
becoming almost certain that she was truly interested in Mr. Manford.
She must have been pretty certain, even then, for it was that night
after supper, just before she started off to the theater with Mr.
Tilletts, that she had told Dan Jenney in the parlor, sadly but firmly,
that it could never be, and given him back his ring.

And since then, the shy girlish surmise had been further fed. One
pleasant happening continued to lead to another. When she had asked Mr.
Manford, half-jokingly, to send her some picture post-cards from New
York, for her collection, it was--again--purely from the instinctive
wish to know that she remained in her new admirer's thought, even when
he was far away. But he had sent her not only stacks of the loveliest
post-cards, showing the Flatiron Building, the Statue of Liberty, and
other well-known sights, but also the most beautiful book, called
"Queens"--a book of gorgeous pictures of American girls, all in color,
by one of the most famous artists in Chicago. Of course, common
politeness demanded that she should thank him--for "Queens," if not for
the post-cards--just as soon as he got back. And the resultant talk,
quarter of an hour over the telephone, had been just as satisfying as
possible....

Thus it was nothing less than a complete realignment of the coterie that
had taken place, this week. For if Mr. Manford had advanced rapidly in
the young girl's thought, even more rapidly, of course, had her old
principal friend dropped backward out of it. After the unattractive way
he had showed his pique that day, Angela had thought about Mr. Garrott,
indeed, only long enough to take a final position about him. That
position came simply to this, that if he was the sort of person who
expected to take liberties with you all the time, then he was not the
sort that she, Angela, cared to have anything to do with. She recalled
now her early premonition, that Mr. Garrott was a man of low ideals. And
she was glad to remember how she had put him in his place, the night he
had showed his real nature, and positively refused to compromise her
standards, simply to keep him on, as so many girls would have done.

Now, in the tail of the complicated day, Angela thought only, and with
right, of her engineer. Rapidly up the Street of the Rich she drove, and
alert she kept her eyes. But, in truth, the hope in her heart had been
but a slim one; and now, with each passing block, she felt it growing
slimmer. When she got as far as the Green Park, and saw the time by the
church-clock there, it dwindled away blankly to nothing: the worry about
her father had kept her in till too late, just as she had thought all
along. In short, her mind's eye was picturing Mr. Manford already seated
in his train, when he suddenly made her start and jump by appearing at
her elbow.

The meeting was his doing altogether. The maid scanned the sidewalks as
she proceeded; the man in a closed conveyance came skimming down the
middle of the highway. Nothing on earth could have been easier than for
him to skim on by her unseen, and nobody a whit the wiser. On the
contrary, he must have given the order to stop with instantaneous
alacrity. The very first Angela knew of Mr. Manford's nearness at all
was the sight of his head sticking out the door of a great car, just
ahead of her.

The door was open; the car was coming to a standstill; Mr. Manford was
signaling. Nimbly, with an inner leap of happiness, the girl complied
with his obvious wishes.

The two self-propelling vehicles, the big one and the little, stood side
by side in the middle of Washington Street, while passing chauffeurs
detoured around them with looks that cursed as they went. Between the
vehicles, on the asphaltum, stood Mr. Manford, dark head bared, speaking
sweet, hasty parting words: explaining what a terrible rush he had been
in since eight o'clock this morning, saying (and looking) how sorry he
was not to have been able to call. Eager manly words and self-conscious
manner, he was all that a girl could have wished. But then he stopped
himself, quite abruptly, as if he had recollected something, and put out
his hand with the solemnest look. "_Good_-bye!" he said, and seemed to
sigh, as if he never expected to see her again.

But Angela did not take Mr. Manford's hand. Possibly these two minutes
should have filled the round of her expectancy; possibly not. Now there
rose in her a graceful thought which the sight of her admirer in a
conveyance of his own had momentarily rolled flat.

Lifting her soft eyes to his, she said: "I wish--is there time for me to
drive you to the station? Or had you rather...?"

"By Jove!" said he, staring. "That _is_ an idea!"

The two normal young people gazed at each other through five seconds of
intense silence. When the man's gaze broke, it was only to fling it upon
the watch he had hurriedly jerked out. And that movement seemed to
settle everything. One glance was enough to satisfy the young
bridegroom that there was time. He so announced, and proceeded
accordingly.

Thus, for the second time in fifteen minutes, Eustace and the Big Six
were sent empty about their business. And Donald, dressed to "kill" the
Carson house-party, sprang to the wheel of Angela's Fordette.

"I'll hop her along," cried he, laughing with the excitement of the
thing, as he made the turnabout, "till she won't believe it's _her_!"

And so he did, as old Charlie Garrott, passed unnoticed on the next
corner, could have testified, and did. Ten full blocks Donald proceeded
toward his train at a wholly honorable, indeed dangerous, celerity. And
then his single-mindedness began imperceptibly to yield.

It was, indeed, touch-and-go with Mary Wing's male cousin, here at the
turning-point of his life. Had he not forgotten his sweater--well, who
knows? Now as the station grew steadily nearer, now as the pretty and
familiar voice spoke at his side, one thing was leading to another, and
his nervous fidgeting increased.

It occurred to Donald, not for the first time, that he was being rushed
about a great deal here lately, with never a minute he could call his
own. Managed around all the time--that was about the size of it, here
lately: railroaded along into things, with no chance at all to stop and
think quietly what he wanted to do.... Then, in a quiet stretch before
the turn at Ninth Street, he looked down at the beguiling soft creature
beside him, whom he had come to know so easily, so quickly, and so well.
His gaze rested upon the rounded girlish bosom, rising and falling with
tender young life, at the neck fair as a lily where the V of the thin
white waist liberally revealed it, at the big eyes of a woman looking
back at him so dark and sweet. And he was surprised at the sensations
the look of these eyes now had power to draw up out of him. How? Why?
Had absence made the heart mysteriously fonder? Or was it something in
the intimacy of this swift adventure together--her sharing his dash for
the train like some one who belonged to him?...

"I wish I didn't have to run off this way," he muttered, restively,
after a long silence.

"I'll miss you," said she, and the dark eyes fell.

He found the simple reply oddly stirring, arresting, and significant. He
was going to be away only three days, and she, this dear, different
fellow-being whose gentle weakness already seemed to depend on him, was
going to miss him. At some risk, for they now bounced through the
traffic of Center Street, he looked down at her again. And once again
the sum of all Donald's observations was this, that Angela was a
Woman....

No jawing here about the isms of the day, Browning--Tosti--no,
Tolstoy--those chaps; no arguing back at you over things a man, of
course, knows most about. No; this girl was all Woman....

"I suppose," said she, all at once, "there isn't a train just a little
later you could take?"

By singular chance, the thought of the later train had that second
knocked at Donald's own mind. Marveling at the coincidence, he
hesitated, and answered weakly:--

"Well, there's sort of a train at 7.50--a local. But--this is the train
they're expecting me by."

She made no reply. Glancing down, he got no answering glance: she was
looking, large-eyed and wistful, into empty space. Her silence, that
look, seemed in some subtle way to lay hold on whatever was best in the
young man, compellingly. Beyond his understanding, they seemed to
envelop Donald with a sudden profound pressure, immensely detaining.

Now, over lower roofs, the station clock-tower, two blocks away, shot
suddenly up into the fading sky before them. They saw together that it
was twenty minutes past five.

"Oh, hurry!... You've caught it, haven't you?"

The speech, for some reason, pressed more than the silence. He answered,
shortly: "Remains to be seen." Down the long hill, the little Fordette
raced and rattled. The young man's hard breathing became noticeable. And
the broad entrance of the station was but half a block away when, with
abrupt violence, he threw out his clutch and jammed on his brake.

"I've missed it!" said he, in a voice that brooked no argument.

Tommy's valuable gift had stopped with a hard bump. Angela did not mind
the inconvenience. Her eyes were rewarding her principal friend. Her
heart seemed to turn a little within her. Into her cheeks flowed the
sweet warm pink.

Together, the two normal young people laughed, suddenly, a little
unsteadily. Then, with gayety and some suppressed excitement, they sat
discussing an important point, viz.: what to do with their two hours'
holiday, before the later train?

It was quickly decided that they should go home. Angela's Home was the
one intended; Donald it was who decided the point, as befitted the man.
He flung out a commanding hand to notify whom it might concern that he
purposed to face about, yet again. And the faithful Fordette, which had
set forth with so frail a hope, turned and snorted homeward with the
great victory of its career.

Angela sat with shining eyes. She would not have been a woman, she
would not have been human but a plaster saint on a pedestal, if her
natural happiness had not had the added poignancy of a triumph among her
sisters. Just how far Mr. Manford considered himself interested in Miss
Carson, she had never yet been able to determine exactly; but that
beautiful damsel's position in the scheme of things she, of course,
understood perfectly. If her own intuitions had lacked, there were the
plain hints Cousin Mary had given her only the other day. Hence, since
last week, it was impossible to view Miss Carson other than as a rival,
an enemy almost, and one possessing all the odds. For Miss Carson was
rich and prominent, with powerful family connections behind and around
her, and every possible opportunity and advantage: while she,
Angela,--as we know,--had practically not a single rich relation on
earth, and not one soul to help her but herself. And still--here was Mr.
Manford at her side.

They stepped up on the verandah of the home; and the girl remembered the
anxiety of the afternoon. But, listening as she opened the front-door,
she heard from above the distinct murmur of her mother's voice, talking
to her father, and knew again, with fresh relief, that all was well. Mr.
Manford having accepted an invitation to stay to supper, she disappeared
briefly to confer with Luemma--bribing Luemma with the promise of her
old black skirt, in short, to go out and purchase certain extras, in
honor of the guest. Returning again, she found her guest standing in the
dark hall exactly where she had left him, motionless, a strange absorbed
look on his masculine face. And as he met her eyes, there in the dimness
by the hatstand, some of the fine color seemed to ebb from his cheek.

They went into the parlor, and sat down on the dented sofa; and her
conquest, still, was but part of a day that had belonged to another. But
now it quickly became clear that matters had taken a headlong jump,
beyond all calculation.

It was, indeed, as if the man himself was profoundly reacted upon by
those proofs of his own interest which had so stirred the maiden.
Unknown to any one, he had missed his train and important engagements
for nothing else than to be here with this girl: and it was as if the
fact of itself thrust her far forward in his imagination, wrapped her
about with a new startling significance. Men didn't do these things for
any girl that came along. Or, possibly, the heady sensations were but
the cumulative results of a slower process, and the friendly vehicle now
resting at the door had done its decisive work before to-day. At any
rate, Angela soon observed that Mr. Manford's behavior was quite
embarrassed and peculiar; and of course, in the womanly way, his
manifestations reacted instantly upon her. The more peculiarly
interested Mr. Manford showed himself to be in her, the more peculiarly
interesting she found him. Stranger still, the more she found him
advancing, the more it was in her mind to retreat. Or, no--not in her
mind; it was, of course, much deeper than that. This reluctance could be
nothing else than the ancient virginal recoil, somehow remembered,
strange latter-day reminiscence of old flights through the woods.

Instinctively, Angela talked commonplaces. The man's replies showed that
he hardly listened to her. As she recounted how her father had missed a
lecture for the first time to-day, he interrupted brusquely:--

"What's that ring you're wearing?"

Oh, that; oh, an old family ring, she explained, that her mother had
given her on a birthday once. He must have seen it a dozen of times. Mr.
Manford said, on the contrary, that he had never seen it before in his
life. So--was it the voluntary lingering, perhaps, a backward look
through the leaves, as it were?--Angela lifted her hand for him to see.
The hand was tightly clasped at once. "Where's that other ring--the one
you were going to wear till--you know?" Oh, that one? She had given
that one back to the person it belonged to. When? Oh, last week. Why?
Because she knew then that she could never care for him. "Does that mean
you know somebody you--you care for more?" She said that _that_ wouldn't
mean anything so very much; and thereupon made an effort to withdraw her
hand.

"There is a time for lighting a fire; there is a time for leaving it to
burn of itself." Put otherwise, Angela saw that Mr. Manford wasn't even
glancing at her ring. However, her proper gesture to recover it
accomplished no more than her commonplaces. For the cells and tissues of
the gentleman, too, harbored ancestral memories, masculine recollections
of agreeable old captures. And the touch and cling of the warm soft
_her_ had seemed to set them all to singing, drawing him, drawing him.
So far from recovering that hand of hers, in fine, the fleeing maiden
abruptly lost possession of the other one.

Thus in the storied way, there approached the second Occurrence on a
Sofa. It may have been only the last recoil; it may have been that that
other occurrence, fruitless contact with the low ideals of man, had
permanently injured the womanly trustfulness. There was, at least, a
kind of terror among the mingled sensations, as Angela beheld the second
event resistlessly approaching.

"Oh, please!... You mustn't ..."

And--so sardonically does life twine joy with sorrow in its willful
tangle--it was as she spoke these words that Mrs. Flower, standing at
the head of the dark stairs, first called Angela's name. However, that
call died unheard. The mother's voice was low, the daughter, for her
part, could be conscious of nothing but that this dear and imperious Mr.
Manford was a very difficult person to resist. Perhaps something in her
had been against resistance from the first; but now, over his
inconclusive endearments, the pardonable inquiry sighed from her:--

"Oh, why do you do this? Tell me."

Angela's mother stood two steps farther down: "_Angela!... Angela!_"

But Angela, deep in her great business in the world, once again failed
to hear the alarmed low summons. Now sweet nearer speech filled her
woman's ear. For Mr. Manford, it is welcome to record, did not run, as
the cads run, from that artless challenge: he met it ready, like a
soldier and a gentleman. That touch of lips softer than a flower had
taught this young man, once and for all, what it was he wanted; huskily
his voice came from a swelling chest. "I love you!" said Miss Carson's
anointed, unmistakably. And then, indeed, the maiden, unaware of all
else, let her conquered cheek rest upon her victor's breast: still and
awed with the discovery that she loved, and in the same breath thrilled
with the knowledge that she was a Successful Girl.

For our ruling passions are strong in death: more particularly, of
course, when the death in question is not our own....

Yet her moment of exquisite peace was brief enough, poor child. Scarcely
had the dearest words been spoken, scarcely had she known her awe and
her thrill, when all was snatched from her. That other voice outside,
more insistent, struck suddenly in to her unsteadied mind; too quickly,
the surrendered cheek lifted. There was a swift upstarting, the abrupt
parting of lovers: and after that fear descending, precipitate and dark
as a cloud, over the new great joy.

The course of the succeeding hours was never clear in Angela's memory.
There was a rush of unfamiliar and frightening activity. Donald was gone
at a run for Dr. Blakie. She herself fled for Mrs. Doremus, on whose
judgment her mother much relied. Mysteriously, Mrs. Finchman and poor
Jennie appeared, tipping up the steps. Then Mr. Garrott stood suddenly
in the hall, with Cousin Mary and Mrs. Wing, all very grave and
breathless, they had come so fast. Mr. Garrott must have left very soon;
there was nothing for him to do; but Cousin Mary, who had once meant to
be a doctor, took charge of everything from the start, and was very
helpful. She slept that night in Wallie's room.

At ten o'clock, Donald left her to take Mrs. Wing home; but he, her new
comforter, returned directly, in the sweetest way, to say good-night.
Earlier in the evening Donald had dispatched a telegram to Mrs. Kingsley
at Hatton, in which he said: "Serious illness in my family prevents
coming." The due excuse was strong enough, in all conscience. But the
matter had gone beyond illness now.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus it was that the strange day, already memorable to Charles Garrott,
memorable, too, to Mary Wing, turned past all counting into the
unforgettable day of Angela's life. Thus, into the little house in
Center Street, life and death came stepping side by side.

After this day, there came another, and another and another: and still
it seemed that death overshadowed life, and joy was overwhelmed in
grief. The shadow of this first final parting seemed to close down on
the young girl's happiness like a cover, and for a space her engagement
was less real to her than the shut office downstairs, the empty seat at
the table.

But youth, after all, is made for life, and thereby equipped with a
merciful resilience. The passage of time, mere use, worked wonders. And
Angela's blessing it was, no doubt, that from the beginning she had
others than herself to think about, and the need for much activity.
First and foremost, there was Donald, who was with her morning, noon,
and night, whose first sight of her in a black dress had moved him
almost to tears. It was not fair to the man who had won her that she
should give way to a limitless melancholy. Beyond that, loomed the
sudden colossal fact of the wedding, which would have to take place
almost immediately; for her duty now was to her future husband, and the
demands of his work must overcome her girlish shrinkings from such
unwonted haste. And a wedding must mean clothes, at all times, and
clothes, even at the plainest and simplest, must mean some thought and
some diversion.

Insensibly, death turned back to life again. The great confused day of
Angela's life was a week old; it was two weeks old; it was three. And
winter now was fading from the softening air...

They were the quietest weeks imaginable. Except her mother and her
_fiancé_, Angela saw no one for days together, not even Mary Wing. For
Mary, as it happened, was sick at this time--her first illness in five
years, so Mrs. Wing said. She had caught cold, it seemed, in the wet at
the funeral, and the cold had developed into quite a serious attack of
bronchitis, which kept her in bed two weeks or more. Thus the young
couple, in their mourning, were left completely to themselves. In their
isolation, in the still little parlor, they were planning at great
length about their future, going over and over their new common problems
from every possible angle. And the more Angela's fatherlessness was
accepted as a permanent fact in the order of the future, the clearer it
became that this fact must color and affect everything else.

In chief, this question of the girl's came more and more to the front
of the loverly discussions: How could she go off to wild remote Wyoming,
now that her mother was a widow?



XXII


It was March now, the mild March of an early spring. There came new
days, zephyrous and sweet. All the world seemed to love a lover. But
other matters were afoot in the world, too, necessarily: afoot even in
the old coterie itself.

Charles Garrott, descending Miss Grace's steps on an afternoon that
looked like April and felt like May, thought not of young Romance. What
with the groom's absorption, and Mary Wing's unprecedented illness, the
old principal friend had, indeed, heard little or nothing of the happy
pair through these days. He had accepted the event, long since, once and
for all, with fatalistic philosophy; and though the nuptials were now
but six days distant, they were far from his mind in this moment, as,
his hated tutor's stint done, he turned his long stride hurriedly toward
Olive Street.

Charles, as we know, was not a caller. It was true that he had hardly
seen Mary Wing since the day when she, the heroine of his write-ups, had
so suddenly indicated herself as his larger heroine as well; true also
that, in the engrossed and very fruitful solitude of the Studio
succeeding, he had thought of her much, bookishly and otherwise. But
these facts had not changed the essential nature of Charles. Still he
was not a caller; still when he rang people's door-bells, it was morally
certain that he had definite matters to urge upon their notice.

And so it was to-day. Charles, in a word, had conceived a new plan for
helping Mary.

That she, the admirable, by way of reward for her smashing denial of the
Ego, should find herself fixed for life as a grammar-school teacher,
"demoted" and disgraced: this state of things had naturally seemed
unendurable to Mary's good friend. That Mary did not need his help, that
he recognized her now as competent, in the finest sense, to manage her
own affairs henceforward, seemed to have little or nothing to do with
the case. Hence, while she lay withdrawn from the battle of life with
bronchitis, the helper had been elaborately at work on new lines:
stalking School Board members for Mary, in fine, with great cunning. But
this plan, unluckily, his fourth and most troublesome, had lately
collapsed about his ears. It had cost the young man much valued time,
and not a little money for lunches; and the net practical result of it
had been to leave him angrily conscious of "influence," mysteriously
pervasive, and by no means possessed by him. A friendly disposition
toward Mary, personally, seemed to be everywhere joined to an unshakable
conviction that she could not hope to get back to the High School before
the fall, if then. Such was the fruit of five diplomatic conferences:
the sixth had stopped Charles short. Young Dr. Hazen, who was almost as
much Mary's representative on the School Board as Senff was Mysinger's,
informed him that Mary herself had already canvassed over the Board with
him, Hazen, and abandoned all hope in that quarter.

What, indeed, could he do for Mary Wing that she could not do better for
herself?

The fifth plan concerned Public Opinion again, and a new use of the gift
he had. It inspired less confidence in its author than any that had
preceded it. And it was to submit it, in advance, for Mary's discussion
and approval, that Charles now presented himself at the Wings' front
door.

However, he met with a disappointment. Mary was out. She had gone to the
Flowers' soon after luncheon--unexpectedly, it appeared--and, at
half-past four, was not yet back. That seemed more or less surprising.
Mrs. Wing, who had answered his ring, looked somewhat concerned, he
thought. However, as it was agreed that Mary could not remain with
Angela indefinitely, the caller decided, after brief hesitation,--for
the Studio allured in these days as never before,--to wait for her.

So he came again into the sitting-room, and Mrs. Wing sat to keep him
company. Naturally, there was but one subject for their conversation.

Charles liked Mrs. Wing. She always began every conversation with him by
asking: "And how did you find your dear mother on your last visit?"
Mary's mother had never seen his mother, and possibly never would, but
(being a frightful sentimentalist) she assumed that all mothers are
dear. It was next her habit to inquire whether Charles had written any
stories lately, and why they never saw anything of his in the magazines.
Such things tended to create a bond. And recently the tie had been
strengthened by an unusually intimate talk on the subject of Mary, whose
surrender of her great prize had, indeed, upset and distressed her
mother even more than Charles had predicted.

To-day, again, Mrs. Wing appeared somewhat unlike her usual calm self.
She omitted her inquiry about Charles's writing altogether (thus denying
him his chance to mention the recent rather gratifying acceptance of
Dionysius, no less), and the flattering things she kept saying of Angela
had, to his ear, a faintly tentative ring, requiring his confirmation.
But his first vague wonder, whether anything could have happened, was
soon lost in other reactions. Thus, he had to wince a little in
agreeing, once more, that Donald's future wife was a thoroughly "womanly
girl." Few authorities enjoy denying the ripe sum of their own best
thinking. But a later remark of Mrs. Wing's took a much deeper twist in
his mind.

"Really," she said, slowly and dubiously, following a pause, "I have but
one fault to find with Donald's choice, and that is--well, frankly,
Angela seemed to care so little for Paulie and Neddy Warder.... And
Donald was such a goose over them, dear boy."

As he did not see his way clear to replying to that, "I hope you're
mistaken, ma'am," Charles merely smiled vaguely, and said nothing. But
what he thought, on the delicate implication, was nothing about Angela
at all--only that Donald had been rather less of a goose over Paulie and
Neddy than Mary Wing had been....

Then the sitting-room clock ticked for a space, while Mrs. Wing communed
with herself. And Charles, gazing out into the park, waiting for his
friend, thought how it was that a young woman's work--even an
extraordinary young woman like Mary--always subtly lacked just that
ultimate touch of grim seriousness which justified the "fierce hackings
away" of a man. For, as an abstract truth, there was positively no such
thing as a Permanent Spinster: and women who were not spinsters, and
normally desired Paulies and Neddies of their own, could not possibly
fulfill their longings without serious complications to themselves, then
and thenceforward. It was no human or escapable "tyranny" that had made
Woman, to this degree, to her glory or her disaster, forever the victim
of her sex: and, by the same token, fixed the final responsibility for
the economic support of the family upon the shoulders of the predestined
and uncompromised provider, Man....

Yes, then and thenceforward ... Could you, for example, imagine Mary
Wing--who had had chances to marry before now, who might reasonably
marry at any time--could you picture Mary packing off her three little
darlings to a crèche every morning, that she might go and grow her soul
at a desk somewhere? Maybe so; but he wondered....

He was thinking whether he could contrive to discuss the crèche and
endowment arguments in his novel--for of course you could make a story
carry just a certain amount of "solid stuff," and only dreary prigs of
readers would lie still while you tried to feed them forcibly with a
spoon--when all at once Mrs. Wing, near by, was heard to strike her
hands together, with a little ejaculation.

"Oh, Mr. Garrott! I do believe Mary's at the High School all the time!"

That made the thoughtful visitor turn swiftly enough.

"At the _High School_?"

"It's so stupid of me!" she explained, with some relief, it seemed.
"I've just remembered. You know, she never cleared her papers and things
out of her office closet there, and it got on her mind when she was
sick. And to-day, when she came in from school, she told me she had
arranged with Mr. Geddie over the telephone--the man who has her office
now--to go and attend to it this afternoon. Yes, that's it--I'm sure!"

"Oh!" said Charles, not a little perplexed. "And then, you mean--she
decided to go to the Flowers' instead?"

"Well, to go there first--I suppose. Donald came in just as she finished
lunch--to talk with her about something. Then, when he had gone, Mary
told me she was going down to see Angela. It was all rather
unexpected--and somehow the High School went out of my mind completely."

"But I hope nothing's happened?" he said quickly.

"Well--I don't know that there has."

Perplexity passed at once into the certainty that something had
happened. The instant thought in the young man's mind was: What's Angela
done now? Having risen, he gazed with direct inquiry at his elderly
friend. But her eyes glanced away from him; and she put him off further
by repeating: "It was stupid of me to keep you."

Mrs. Wing added that Mary was certainly at the High School now. Charles,
turning disturbed away, remarked that perhaps he would still be in time
to help with the office cleaning, and she said that was very kind of
him.

"She'll be glad to see you, I know. Indeed, she has appreciated all
you've done for her--those beautiful articles, for example--more than
you quite realize, perhaps."

But the young man shook his head, and said with a kind of bitterness:
"I've never done anything for her in my life."

And then, as he took the lady's hand to say good-bye, he asked abruptly:
"But why shouldn't I know what's happened, Mrs. Wing?"

"Oh," said Mary's mother, and hesitated.

"Yes, why shouldn't you?" said she, and hesitated again.

"Well," she began again slowly, "it's nothing so serious, as I
said,--just a fresh disappointment for Mary,--that is really all it
amounts to with me. Very likely Donald has intimated to you that he was
not going to Wyoming?"

The caller stared at her dumbfounded.

"Not going to Wyoming! Why!--why not?"

"Well, he feels, in his new circumstances," said Mrs. Wing, uneasily,
"that it would be more suitable to accept the position in New York.
But--I really had little opportunity to discuss it with Mary. She
seemed--to be frank--much disturbed, she had so set her heart on this
work in the West--"

"More _suitable_!... How?"

"Well, for one thing--it doesn't seem fair to separate Angela so far
from her mother, as would have to be the case in Wyoming."

But into Charles's mind there had suddenly popped back a stray remark
let fall by Donald, in the only talk he had had with him for weeks: "I
tell you, Charlie, it's pretty rough on a girl to be dragged off to live
in a shack nine miles from nowhere!" A mere passing observation, that he
had paid no attention to at the time--but was that it? Was that the
reason why another of Mary Wing's most cherished plans must suddenly
cave in?

He stood utterly dismayed.

"So Mrs. Flower," he asked, with some want of composure, "is going to
live with them in New York?"

"Oh, no,--not for the present, I believe. She feels, and so do I, that
young couples should be left to themselves to make their start. But
they will be so near that they can visit back and forth--which would be
impossible if Donald--"

"But Mrs. Flower can't live here by herself?"

"Well, no," said Mrs. Wing, and fussed with books on the table. "That
has been the great problem, of course. Dr. Flower's death has
complicated the situation sadly. I believe the present plan is for
Wallace--the boy, you know--to come back and live with her--just for the
next few months, while Donald and Angela are finding themselves."

Charles stood without a word. But perhaps his look betrayed what he
felt, for Mrs. Wing threw out her hands with a helpless gesture, and
cried: "Well, he is the man of the family now!"

"However," she added, turning away, "perhaps Mary will be able to hit
upon some other arrangement. That is what she went there for--to talk
the whole situation over with Angela."

But Charles, who had always thought of Angela as "soft" and Mary as
"hard," seemed somehow quite certain that that talk had accomplished
nothing. With brief speech, he moved toward the door. Doubtless struck
with the fixed gravity of his look, Mary's mother, who had been an
old-fashioned girl herself once, said with an effort, and yet firmly
too:--

"It is life itself that is hard. Marriage means--readjustment. That is
the only comment to make."

It was precisely the point on which the silent young man did not agree
with her. To him, as to her, all the sharp force of this tidings was,
indeed, in Mary's new overthrow. And yet for the moment there seemed to
be room in him for nothing else but comments on the vast void in Mary's
so different cousin.

Angela was wanting in the responsible qualities of a full-grown human
being. Her fatal lack was in human worth. It was the sum of all he had
thought about her since the day he had called upon her poor father. It
was the cap and climax of all he meant to say about her in his New
Novel.

So Charles took his leave with an abstracted face.

In the drawer of the Studio table, there was growing now, night by
night, a fresh stack of manuscript, steady and firm upon a new Line.
Mary Wing had straightened out this Line for Charles: Mary who had
taught him once and for all that a woman could be finely independent,
and still uphold the interdependence which held the world together. Yet
Mary, the admirable, was after all but his "contrast" and his foil: it
was for the peculiarities of her opposite that he had finally whetted
his pencil. And, in the intense and retrospective thinking which went
along with the best writing he had ever yet done, the young man
considered that he had got to the bottom of Angela's case, and her
sisters', quite thoroughly explored the souls of the Waiting Women of
Romance.

But this news of her, these final touches as to the Nice Girl's brother
and her future husband, seemed to fling at him, as it were, a last
conclusive chapter for his "Notes on Women." That marriage meant
readjustments he, the authority, doubtless understood as well as
another. That this marriage might make it necessary for Wallie Flower to
be readjusted out of his education: even that was allowed as
conceivable. But that the very first act of Angela's new life should be
to influence her husband in the direction of his weakness, and, as it
seemed, of her own good comfort--what was this, indeed, but a brilliant
certification of all the grounds of his own attack?...

The author's face, the author's swift feet, were set toward the High
School. His errand--now--was to cheer up Mary Wing. "Make her look on
the bright side": so her mother had urged at parting. That necessity
remained as a soreness and dull anger through all the young man's
consciousness. And yet, in nearly a mile's walk, he hardly thought of
Mary once.

He was surveying, as if from a new peak, the unhappy situation of
Home-Makers with their Homes yet to seek: the considerable army of the
involuntary spinsters of leisure. And more than ever now, perhaps, he
saw these sisters as a Type, pathetically marked: the innocent
creatures, the helpless victims, of a dying ideal of themselves.

Here was poor little Angela, his Novel's case in point. She was born a
human being, she was born a being with sex. And in twenty-six years'
contact with the rich and human world, she had gathered nothing to her
sum beyond what tended to enhance her sex's attraction. So selecting,
she had permanently lost the fullness of her double birthright: all in
nice, unconscious and inevitable response to an environment which
continually assured her that being a woman was enough.

If life had been real and bright and turbulent around her, and she sat
within and polished her pink nails, it was because she was a woman. If
she was given no education beyond the demands of provincial parlor-talk,
no training for her hands, no occupation for her head, if no one ever
thought of her as a full-statured being who must pay her way in
substantial coin; this, again, was because she was a woman, and a woman
(if any one bothered with argument at all) some day might--or might
not--be the mother of children. Surely it had not been Angela's fault if
she was early apprised, though through a sweet mist, that she had but
one faculty of any value in the world's market; not her fault if, amid
general approval, she innocently spent her youth and idleness in
tricking out her value, and bringing it steadily to the attention of the
only beings who could have a use for it. Least of all was it her fault
if her peculiar business, and her odd specialized training, were
bounded, not by marriage, but only by a wedding-day. For the final
unnaturalness, the crowning wrong in her situation was exactly this:
that, being told that she must be a wife or nothing, she was
coincidently told that being a wife was a matter which a nice girl did
well to know nothing about....

The author, sharpening his phrases, walked in angry abstraction. He
passed old acquaintances as if he had never seen them before....

Oh, it was true (he conceded), a thousand times true, that many women of
this crude bringing-up did develop, when their time came, a splendid
competence over all their special field. But it was a little too much to
assume that every creature in the female form could be counted on to
perform such a feat of pure character. And Romance, which gallantly or
indifferently made these exact assumptions, defending and cherishing the
queer but comfortable orientalization with the cloak of false
"womanliness," scarcely pretended to believe its own agreeable fictions.

Here was Angela again, his little case in point. Angela was reasonably
good-looking, adopted a flattering attitude toward eligible young men,
knew her place, and kept no opinions on matters of interest to her
betters; hence she was called a "womanly" woman. Being womanly implied
the possession of certain home-making virtues, present and to come;
hence it was assumed, and she inevitably and naïvely assumed, that she
possessed these virtues. Odd as these deductions sounded, he himself, he
could not deny, had swallowed them once,--that night at the Redmantle
Club,--romantically accepting the appearance for the reality, willfully
investing the humdrum commonplace with the full beauties of the ideal.
But for him, at least, all obstinate optimisms concerning La Femme had
exploded with a bang in a party-call. You did not gather figs of
thistles. And now it was no longer conceivable to him that she who in
quarter of a century had developed no human interests, tastes, resources
at all, who seemed to lack even an average interest in Paulie and Neddy
Warder, should all at once blossom marvelously into the responsible and
"justified" matron. No, for him, Angela at forty, having "let herself
go" now that nothing more was expected of her, sat forever in a room
that she had not swept, plaintively reminding a fatigued Donald of the
priceless gift of her Self.

And Donald, though his interest in exploring the creature once so
elaborately mysteried was long since utterly exhausted, would probably
take that argument amiss no more than Dr. Flower had done. Romantic
males, with their poor opinion of the worth of a woman, might hope for
true domesticity, true maternity: but in their hearts they had thought
all along, with a wink, that "possession" was enough. It was "what a
woman was for."

But in that they were mistaken. Possession was not enough. Being a
female was not enough. Great heavens!--thought Charles Garrott, and
muttered as he strode.... What a shame, what a staggering waste of rich
human potentiality, to classify and file away one half the world as only
"_marital rights_!"

Wasn't it about time to stop all this? Wasn't it time for modern writers
to pull away the rosy veils and let the Angelas meet themselves--while
they could still do something about it? Didn't it lay up needless future
misery to go on deceiving helpless women into putting a preposterous
overvaluation upon the mere possession of their sex? Lastly, and above
all, wasn't it a colossal libel on all womanhood to accept the strut and
mannerism born of this deception as the true essentials of
"womanliness"?

_Womanly!..._ Why, womanliness was a prime human quality, integrally
necessary to the work of the world--a great positive quality, not a
little passive one, productive, not sterile, of the spirit, not of the
body. Womanliness was the mother and guardian of great social virtues:
of a finer and deeper emotion, of more sensitive perceptions, of a
subtler intuition of the sources of life, of an all-mothering sympathy,
a more embracing tenderness. Womanliness had no more to do with the
light bright plumage of the mating-season than a waxed mustache had to
do with being a soldier.

There was a time, he understood well, when the fact of womanhood had
implied substantialities: when being a wife meant also being a domestic
factory superintendent, not to mention being a continuous mother. That
time was gone forever. You might argue for the passing, you might argue
against it: meanwhile it had happened. Inexorable economics had dried
the heart from the old tradition; and in the sudden vacuum thus created
there moved and thrived anomalous little creatures who never knew that
they had lost all touch with reality. Untroubled by a rumor of change,
Angela held contentedly to the remnant, a low ideal of herself. But it
was not so with her finer sisters. For the passing of the old
womanliness of four walls and dependence had flung a window wide to a
nobler prospect and a vaster horizon. And already the woman of to-morrow
was rising in her lusty strength to prove her fundamental racial virtue,
her womanliness, upon nothing less than the world.

Well, hadn't he told Mary long ago that the object of all this was only
to make women more like themselves? In that, he would stake his life, he
had been exactly right.

       *       *       *       *       *

A concrete High School smote across the vision of the seer, and the
cloud-stepper's feet trod but the hard sidewalk again.

Groping for truth upon his favorite subject, he had been briefly lost to
the issues of the practical: he had a power of concentration, as he
would have been the first to admit. But the flight of his rhetoric was,
after all, only an incident of his indignation and distress; which
sentiments, he knew all the time, yet had to be faced on their own
account. And now, as he rounded his last corner, and his destination
rose abruptly before him, Charles recalled for what he had been walking
so fast and far.

Or, no ... What was he coming for exactly?

It was all very fine and easy, as a writer, to polish up demolishing
phrases for poor little Angela. But what did he, as a man and a friend,
have to do for Mary Wing?

The helper crossed the street in the lingering vernal sunshine. Here was
the great building where Mary had once held an important place, where
she came to-day, by special permission only, to remove the last traces
of that association. Now that plan with which he had set out to-day
looked back at the young man with rather a small face, and wry. He had
never thought much of the plan: only to persuade Mary to let him make
public the facts about her rejected honor from the Education
League--legitimate news for the papers, fine peg for a new publicity
campaign, etc. But all at once he knew that he wasn't even going to
mention this to Mary now. With what words, then, did he rush to her in
her fresh disaster? Doubtless to say, "I'm awfully sorry." A stirring
exploit. Hadn't she shown him on that other day that she, the strong,
had no desire for his fruitless sympathies?

The truth was, and he had known it from the beginning, he rather shrank
from seeing Mary at all now, in the stress of this final defeat. Final,
yes: for while Angela was attaining success to the full limit of her
small conceptions, every aspiration that Mary had cherished, literally,
had one by one gone down. And if this last was not the worst, perhaps,
neither was it the easiest to bear. No, if anything on earth was
calculated to harden and embitter a woman who could not easily yield,
surely it must be her own so easy overthrow by pink cheeks and soft,
empty eyes.

And these white-stone steps Charles now ascended had for him a
reminiscent power, by no means comforting. The last time he had trod
these steps, he had sworn, in anger, that he, single-handed, would force
the School Board to bring Mary Wing back here, without delay. Mary would
have a right to smile, if she ever heard of that. She had been thrown
out of this building only because she was a woman: under all the
argument, that was positively the reason. And now three months had
passed, and he, her helper, came to say, "Well, I'm very sorry...."

Charles pushed through the tall bronze doors of the High School, where
he had seen Miss Trevenna one day, strode long-faced into the dim spaces
of the entrance hall. It was five o'clock: the whole building seemed
silent and empty. A rare sense of impotence within him, troubled also by
a secret shrinking, the young man went stalking across the corridor
toward the stairways. But just here he encountered a brief diversion.

A glazed door at his left, at which he happened to be looking, came
suddenly open. The door was marked, in neat gold letters, PRINCIPAL'S
OFFICE. And reasonably enough, the jaunty figure that came stepping out
proved to be none other than the principal himself.

Always a hard but uncomplaining worker, Mr. Mysinger was evidently just
leaving for the day. Light overcoat on his arm, stick and gloves in his
hand, he whistled blithely to himself, to the tune of labor done. But at
the sight of Charles Garrott here on his domain, he checked his gay air,
stood still in his official door.

Over half the corridor, the two men gazed at each other. And Mr.
Mysinger's specious face, after the first surprised stare, assumed the
smile of amity and pleasure.

"Ah, Garrott! Well met!"

Charles had halted, too, without premeditation. The chance meeting here
was natural enough. All that gave it the force of coincidence was that
he had in that instant been thinking, not for the first time, of Mary
Wing's old saying of this man: "If he let either Board know that he
wanted me back, it would be done to-morrow...."

"I've wanted to see you for some time," said Mr. Mysinger, smiling and
easy--"about a certain matter of common interest--"

On the great stairway the sound of descending feet was heard, those of a
belated teacher, doubtless. But neither man looked to see. And within
the sedentary Charles there was slowly spreading a vast iciness, akin to
a bodily nausea.

"Can't you step into the office half a minute?"

"Certainly."

Mary's former principal stood aside from his door, bowing, with
elaborate welcome. Charles, advancing, passed through it, passed through
the anteroom, stepped silent into an office large as a magnate's. Here
he stood, just inside the door. Mysinger, following with his faint
swagger, went by him toward his handsome flat desk.

"Have a cigar?"

"Thanks, no."

The good-looking principal leaned against his desk, facing his visitor
with the same air of too good-humored assurance.

"Garrott, let's be frank," said he. "You feel that I am hostile to one
of your friends, and stand in the way of her advancement in the schools.
You are really mistaken in that. So far as my personal opinions might
carry weight, I am anxious for her--for all the teachers--to go forward
just as fast as their abilities would justify. But as you know, Garrott,
the Board and the Superintendent settle all these matters, and I myself
am only one of the teachers under their direction."

He paused encouragingly. But the young man at the door only continued to
look at him with the same lidless fixedness.

"At the same time," said the principal, a rather more resolute note
tingeing his voice, "you appreciate as well as I that teachers
can't be picked up and moved about like chessmen. We must have
some--permanence--some constancy--to insure efficiency. And frankly, my
personal judgment--after fifteen years' experience, and considering the
brilliant work of Johnson Geddie--is that you could hardly hope to see
your friend promoted--well, immediately."

"So you would advise--?"

Mysinger's eyelid seemed to flutter a little: he really did have a
purpose, it seemed.

"I am told--ahem!--that your friend has recently received a most
flattering offer--from elsewhere?"

How had he known this? "Well?"

"Well, the party in question," said he, with his set smile, "seems to
have a certain prejudice against me. She refuses to speak to me, in
fact,--why, I cannot imagine. All the same, I am, and always have been,
her sincere well-wisher. And after earnest thought, I honestly feel sure
that her friends would make no mistake if they urged her not to let slip
this--ahem--well-deserved promotion. I thought," he added, his gaze a
threat now, "I'd better bring the point to your attention."

Charles's fixed eyes did not waver. But before them there unrolled a
thin gray mist, briefly shutting the principal from his sight. The mist
queerly turned red, and became shot with fiery sparks. Then all cleared;
and, behind him, the young man's hand felt for, and touched, the open
door. Gently, moving only his arm, he shut it. And it seemed to him that
he must be turning white inside.

"You," said he, "are more used to insulting women than I am."

Mysinger flung up a deprecating hand. "Tut, tut, my dear sir! Talk of
that sort does no good whatever, I assure you. You would do well to look
at the matter in a sensible way, and believe that I speak--_Here!
What're you doing there?_"

The principal had suddenly heard a strange sound: the click of his own
key in his own lock, in fine. At the same time, his visitor was observed
to be regarding him with a new and peculiar intentness, arresting and
significant. And his only reply to his host's indignant inquiry was to
drop the key in question in his coat-pocket.

Now Mary's old conqueror, and his own, had straightened from that
lounging swagger. His voice rang more angrily: "You--! What do you think
you're up to, anyway--?"

"I think I'm going to beat you to a pulp," said the author,--"_you
puppy_!"

And he started forward with a kind of bound, like one who goes to fill,
at last, a long-felt need.



XXIII


Mary Wing was considered a reliable person. When she announced that she
would clean out an office closet on a certain day, you could make your
plans on the thing's being done. And to-day--if her usual principles
might have weakened a little--Mary was further bound by the definite
engagement she had made. As Charles had reflected, a demoted
grammar-school teacher could not walk in and out of a principal's office
like one who had some rights there.

Mary had not remained at the Flowers' interminably, after all. She had
entered the High School before Charles Garrott had arrived at Olive
Street, and had been upstairs for half an hour, when Charles, following
on to help her, strode through the great bronze doors. Nevertheless, she
was a full hour behind the time mentioned to Mr. Johnson Geddie over the
telephone, and this increased her hope that her only too obliging
successor would not be found waiting for her. However, Mr. Geddie was
found waiting for her; very much so, in fact. Nothing could have
exceeded the exuberance of his courtesy, and nothing could have been
less welcome.

The new assistant principal was a plump, white person, in whose face a
reddish mustache and gold-rimmed spectacles--his own personal addenda,
as it were--were the only salient features. Not brilliant, he was rising
by character, evinced in an unconquerable optimism. "Keep a-smiling,
brother--it costs you nothing!"--so Mr. Geddie's roguish eyes seemed
continually to say. But perhaps they seemed to say it more than normally
to-day, by way of striking a happy average with the quite unsmiling late
incumbent.

Mary, during her brief tenancy, had stored here a long accumulation of
printed matter, chiefly duplicate files of "The New School," with sundry
assorted leaflets of the Education Reform League. Her task to-day was to
go through these files, destroy what was no longer useful to her, and
pack the rest for removal. Her successor had thoroughly prepared for
her. There on the floor was the packing-case, there on the floor was a
table to sit at, there against the wall stood a stepladder. But Mr.
Geddie would not weary in well-doing. The moment he understood what the
proposition was, as he termed it, he said that, of course, he would help
Miss Wing. Refusals drowned in a sea of smiles. Allow Miss Wing to climb
that rickety ladder, and lift down those heavy stacks of magazines?
Positively, she must not ask him that. Trouble? A pleasure, Miss Wing; a
genu-wine pleasure.

He had his way, as people of strong sunny character always do. Mary,
having overcome the impulse to make an excuse and abandon the
enterprise, sat at the little table. Kind Mr. Geddie went up and down
the ladder, fetching her dusty armfuls to sort over. In the intervals,
for he had the shorter end of the job, he was down on his knees beside
her, brightly stacking discarded "New Schools" into piles against the
wall.

The work went forward steadily, on the woman's part almost in silence.
That, however, made no difference. It was the man's power to be able to
talk more than enough for two, and he did. As the old assistant
principal grew steadily more quiet, the new one seemed increasingly
buoyant. And it seemed to Mary that she had been listening to his
conversation for a long, long time, at the moment when she heard him
suddenly exclaim, from the ladder:--

"Well, well! Look who's here! Come for the spring-cleaning, Mr. Garrott?
Ha, ha!"

She, in her inner absorption, had failed to hear the approaching feet.
But at that she raised her head, with a kind of jerk.

"Don't mind the dust, Mr. Garrott--it eats all right! Ha, ha! Walk in!"

Mr. Garrott stood silent in the office door, looking at Miss Wing. The
eyes of the old friends briefly met. Something in the young man's
appearance vaguely arrested Mary Wing. She had noted, as her glance
lifted, the torn glove on his right hand. Now she was remotely aware
that the face looking back at her so intently appeared somehow subtly
changed: there was something faintly wrong with it, it seemed. But such
details Mary's consciousness hardly registered at all. All in one flash,
she wondered how he happened to be here, thought how good it was of him
to come, and knew that she had never been less glad to see anybody in
her life.

"Good-afternoon," said she.

"How'do, Miss Mary?" said Charles; and then started forward. "How are
you, Mr. Geddie? I seem to be rather late to help with the good work."

"Yes, sirree!--Can't come in at the eleventh hour and take our credit
away! Can he, Miss Wing?--ha, ha! All over but the applause!"

However, Mr. Geddie did not know himself for a tactful man for nothing.
Observing that Miss Wing continued to drop magazines on the floor in
silence, and that her young man there didn't seem to know what to do
with himself, he gracefully adopted a new position. From the third round
of the ladder, he made a roguish address, the meat of which was that
there was a whole corner left of the bottom shelf, and if Mr. Garrott
insisted, etc.

"I'll relieve you with pleasure," said Charles, coldly.

So Mr. Geddie lumbered down from the ladder, wiped his hands on his
pocket-handkerchief and re-attached his cuffs. He implored Miss Wing to
make herself absolutely at home in his office, assured her, not once but
three times, that John the porter, on the floor below, would be
positively gratified to do any service for her, however small. In the
moment of parting, he volunteered a new civility.

"Why, here, Mr. Garrott!" he hastily exclaimed, "your coat's all dusty
in the back! That won't do! Just a minute while I get my whisk--"

But Miss Wing's young man interrupted him rudely.

"No, I'm not dusty at all! Thanks--don't trouble."

Another person who didn't know the value of a smile, clearly. And the
man _was_ dusty, of course. Well, no affair of his, of course. Mr.
Geddie kept a-smiling.

"Well, good people!" said he. "Olive oil!"

When he had got a polite distance down the hall, Miss Wing's young man
shut the office door upon him. So at last came privacy. For the first
time, since the unforgotten afternoon last month, Charles Garrott stood
alone with his admirable heroine.

He moved toward her, deliberating.

Downstairs there, he had been having five of the most engrossing, the
most completely satisfying, minutes of his life. Being able to come
upstairs at all, he had come in the spiritual state of his stimulating
experience. Over all that was unsettled and unhappy, there persisted in
him a fierce young elation. By the oddest luck, he was not here
empty-handed, after all: he came with something rather better
than a hope to give. And doubtless--since he was incurably a
sentence-maker--there had already come into his head discreet phrases
with which to communicate the hope, at least: phrases which, though
gallantly suppressing his own exploits, might yet be somewhat tinged
with a protector's strength.

But all this dropped from Charles's mind in the instant when Mary raised
her head over the table, and looked at him.

He had seen his friend for a few minutes on Friday, her first day up and
about. But that passing glimpse, it seemed, could hardly have counted.
For now her gaze had an unexpected power for him: the sight of her came
on him with a sort of impact, as if this were some one he had heard
about often, but never before seen. Undoubtedly, that small phenomenon
was due to the amount he had been thinking about her of late, behind her
back, as it were. But beyond all this, the particular look of Mary's
face had made him instantly certain that, whatever she had gone to
struggle with Angela about to-day, she had, indeed, been routed. And
that he had not miscalculated the effect of this upon her, he was also
certain from the first sound of her voice....

Mary did not look up as her helper advanced, or cease the work of her
hands. But it was she who spoke first:--

"How did you happen to come here?"

"I've been to your house. Your mother told me you were here."

She said, with a curious stilted politeness: "It was very good of you to
come. But really you must not wait for me, please. I have a good deal
more to do--a great deal more--and it is work of a sort that I have to
do alone."

"Miss Mary," said Charles, "your mother told me, at my request, what has
happened this afternoon."

Mary flinched, just perceptibly. But her voice, when she spoke, seemed
harder than before.

"Well, it's the fact. That's all there is to say. There isn't anything
more to discuss."

"I don't mean to discuss it, of course. There was just one thing I
thought of--a--sort of suggestion."

Finding himself neither questioned nor forbidden, he continued: "Do you
think it would be such a bad way out of the--the difficulty, if Donald
were just to go on here for a while?"

Still Mary waited, hardly encouraging him, examining a "New School,"
silently laying it down in the packing-case at her feet.

"I know you feel," said Charles, inspecting the top of her hat, "that
settling down to this consulting work, in a city that offers so many
distractions all the time, won't be a good thing for Donald--from any
point of view. Staying here won't take the place of the chance with
Gebhardt he's throwing away, of course--that's pretty serious. Still,
there ought to be plenty of good work for him to do here--isn't
there?--for a few months, a year or two, if necessary. That would give
him--and you--a little time to adjust things to--the new conditions.
And then from the point of view of the Flowers, too,--of Mrs. Flower, in
fact,--it occurred to me it mightn't be a bad sort of working
compromise.... What do you think?"

"I think it is very sensible," she replied, with the same labored
courtesy. "It is what I suggested, too."

"Oh," said Charles, and paused. "But Donald didn't want to give up Blake
& Steinert, I suppose?"

"I haven't suggested it to Donald."

That brought a considerable silence.

"It's--settled, then?"

"It was settled last week."

A curious let-down feeling took possession of the young man. He pressed
his hand to his forehead; and then for the first time was aware that his
head ached furiously. In the same moment, his eye was unpleasantly
caught by his burst-out gloves. Having stared at his hands for a second,
he silently stripped off the gloves, balled them, and pitched the ball
into a waste-basket near by.

"I'll just have a look into this closet for myself," said he, turning
away. "I don't believe Geddie--"

"No!--please don't!--don't trouble! I really don't need any help, thank
you. I don't ..."

Her wish to be alone was all but woundingly plain to him. And still it
seemed to Charles physically impossible to turn now and walk out of the
door. So, not looking at her, he answered in a peculiarly mild manner
that, of course, this wasn't help at all, only a little indulgence of
himself, which she really mustn't refuse him. And while he yet spoke,
allowing no opportunity for such refusal, he hung his hat on Mr.
Geddie's hook, and all the forepart of him disappeared upward into the
closet.

After an interval rather longer than necessary, he re-emerged to view, a
few periodicals in one hand, a faded bundle of typewritten papers in the
other.

"Geddie's made a clean sweep. There's hardly another armful."

His manner was almost as cheery as Geddie's own. His "note" was to go
ahead as if nothing had happened.

"Put them here?" asked Charles.

Mary Wing's arms quivered a little on the table.

"Put them _anywhere_! It doesn't make the _least_ difference!"

So Charles laid his burden down on the table, and quietly went up the
ladder again. Here, for a space, he pretended to be impossibly busy over
nearly empty shelves.

And then, out of the silence behind him, he heard his friend's voice,
painfully stiff, somewhat strained.

"You see--you oughtn't to have come to see me to-day. I--I'm not fit for
society. I tried to warn you. I haven't had time--to get philosophical
yet."

The helper spoke into the dusty closet: "Well, you don't need to get
philosophical with me. I'm pretty mad myself--as far as that goes."

"I wasn't prepared for it--at all.... And then I've been beating my head
against it--like a fool--all afternoon."

Well he knew Mary's horror of weakness, her warranted confidence in her
own self-control. Well he understood her regret for that uniquely sharp
speech of hers. Was it this, a novel impulse to justify herself in his
eyes, that seemed to force her on, beyond his expectation and against
her own will?

"But don't suppose I went there expecting to have my own way about
everything--manage them around like children. I didn't. I went
respectfully. I went to beg. But it was no use."

Silence: and then the hard voice went on rapidly:--

"She and Donald had talked it all over, and decided that it would be
best for his career to go to New York. She and Donald ... I _did_ think
that, as I was planning Donald's work when she was still in short
dresses, my opinion might have some weight with her. And I thought, just
as you did, that something might be saved if they stayed here for the
present--kept the house and all the rest of it. And then, of course, I
lost my temper--that makes twice.... I reminded her how she had told me
once that nothing could induce _her_ to leave her mother, as a widow....
What was the use? Of course she only cried, and said it was hopeless to
try to explain to me--how differently a woman felt about all these
things when she was going to be married. I believe she said I was
incapable of understanding the new emotions that came with a great
love."

That, indeed, seemed a romantic description of the mild, chance product
of the Fordette. However, the replete young authority only said:--

"Then I suppose it's great love that taught her engineering so
quickly--and all Donald's little peculiarities?"

Mary Wing made no answer. Her capable small hands took up the literature
lately provided by Charles. And when she spoke, it was as if his
unaccustomed acrimony had met and destroyed her own.

"Oh, it's natural that we should see everything differently. She is
really a sweet-natured girl. I'm sorry already for what I said to
her.... And her not wanting to stay here--you mustn't think that's just
a selfish whim--just wanting to live in New York. Of course, what she
wants is to have Donald to herself--to have their young married life to
themselves. And my going there to give advice to-day--naturally that
made her more certain than ever that she could never have that
here--with me just around the corner. She let me understand that,
finally. She intimated that Donald had said as much--he was tired of
being managed.... Oh, it's perfectly natural, perfectly right.
To-morrow, I'll accept it easily enough.... As I say--I haven't had much
time."

He was more touched by that speech than everything that had gone before,
yet more resolved, too, not to say, "I'm sorry."

"As a matter of fact," he asked straightforwardly, "what _was_
decided--as to Mrs. Flower?"

"It's not decided yet, at all. However, I have a plan--another
suggestion--which it seems to me might meet some of the difficulties."

"Aren't there friends or relatives here that she might stay with for a
time?"

"That's it. I think I can persuade her to live with us--till we have a
chance to see how all this--"

"With _you_?"

"It's just a hope, as I say. I didn't think of it till just now. Mother
is very fond of her. And Wallie can't give up college, of course. That
would be--quite the worst thing."

The school-teacher spoke with characteristic matter-of-factness. If she
was adding final touches to the portraits of two women, she did it,
certainly, with supreme unconsciousness. In the brief stillness of the
office, she efficiently neared the end of her task. The top of her table
was almost bare, the litter on the floor was deep. And now she spoke
again, dryly and quite conclusively.

"At any rate, nothing fatal has happened. Nobody knows that better than
I do--really. No doubt it's personal vanity with me, as much as
anything. And now--"

"Do you know," Charles Garrott spoke up suddenly, as if he did not hear
her at all--"I think you're the best I ever knew? The best--the
_best_--absolutely the most of a person--"

She, the strong, seemed to start and shrink; she broke in sharply, with
instant signs of a shaken poise: "No--_please_! You don't understand me
at all. I do--not need sympathy! It's just what I've been trying to
say--"

"Well, you aren't getting it from me, no fear. Sympathy! If ever there
was honest looking up, if ever--"

"No!--don't! I didn't tell you about it for that!--only to explain why I
seemed so ... It was due you. As I say, nobody understands better than I
how unreasonable it is--to be so disturbed. And if you hadn't come here
to-day--"

"Won't you give me credit for some understanding? If you were ten times
as disturbed, I'd think it the reasonablest--"

"Yes--for a woman. Well, I'm not that kind of woman," said Mary Wing,
with curious agitation, as if she could stand any sort of talk better
than this. "Please don't say any more. I don't tell my troubles to be
comforted--patted on the head. I'm not feminine, I hope, after all these
knocks. You make me--"

"Thank God, _no_!" said the young man on the ladder, considerably moved.

And then that connection which he must have been groping toward for a
month flashed startlingly upon him, and he, the authority, blurted out
like a boy:--

"No--_you're womanly_!"

He saw his old friend's face quiver a little as the strange word struck
her: oddly, it seemed to silence her. But it was not possible that she
could be one half so struck with that word as he, Charles Garrott, was.
_Mary Wing was a Womanly Woman_.... And now she could no more have
stopped his speech than she could have stopped a river when the one gate
in the dam, long locked, has suddenly burst open.

"That's it. Of course.... Funny, I was just thinking over all that as I
walked around here--how different those things are. No, not
different--they don't belong in the same story at all. What's character
got to do with--feathers in the springtime?... Born stupid," said
Charles, in a low, stirred voice--"that seems to explain me. I'd better
have been one-eyed--beat me over the head with it, and still I can't
see.... Won't see. That's it!--it's worse. I'm just an old-line
male--that's what. Just the sort who've taught women not to bother to
try to be womanly when being feminine comes so much cheaper. Why, look
at me, criticizing you in my thoughts, not liking it because you
were--independent. What was that but just pique--don't you know?--just
common ordinary male jealousy--because a woman didn't need my shoulder
to lean on. Manly protector ... seventeenth-century stuff. Well, you've
punished me, don't you worry.... Just standing where you always stood,
just being your Self. Acting straight from your own law all the time,
doing the best sort of things, one after the other--the biggest,
the--the _tenderest_--"

"Don't," said the grammar-school teacher again, but in the littlest
voice he had ever heard from her lips.

Rapt as he was, that voice penetrated him. More, it alarmed him: and
with reason, too. Staring down with a new fixedness, touched with a
faint, purely masculine horror, Charles beheld the strangest sight seen
by him in many a day. Mary Wing, the unconquerable, had suddenly put her
face into her hands.

He had really only been finishing that other talk of theirs, with a
certain sense of right; but of course this wasn't the time for that. He
had been indulging his analytic propensity, his fatal tendency to
comment, at her expense. Hadn't he understood that she feared nothing
so much as his sympathies?...

His friend, in her arresting attitude, sat as rigid as a carven woman.
The stillness in the little office was profound. Then a voice strained
out, very thin, but still not defeated:--

"Don't be alarmed. I'm ... not going to cry."

And that seemed to settle it. It was as if, in that silent struggle
waged all the way from the Flowers' to now, the speaking of the word
itself was the fatal admission. The school-teacher had no sooner
pronounced it than her arms spread suddenly out on the table before her,
and her head came down upon them.

Charles Garrott, on his ladder, was heard to take one breath, sharply.
After that, no sound came from him. Quite motionless he sat, in the
chance position in which the sudden disaster had overtaken him: long
arms dangling from his knees, large feet hooked under a ladder-rung,
some distance down. He hardly winked an eye.

Mary Wing was crying. That painful hard tension had snapped; the
indomitable slim figure drooped beaten, for once. She, also, made little
sound in her peculiar difficulty. But her body shook with a stormy
racking. And it hurt her, he was sure; hurt her physically, as if she
couldn't find tears without breaking something inside....

Strange it seemed that once, in this very room, and only the other day
really, he had wanted to see Mary cry. He had thought of it then as a
desirable sort of symbol, hadn't he?--something of that sort. What did
her tears have to tell him now? Then he had conceived himself as
watching her emotion, moved doubtless, but yet with a secretly gratified
masculinity. Now every heave of those slender shoulders was like a
clutch upon his heart.

And still there was something in Charles that was not distress at all.
He was aware of another and quite different inner sense--peace, the end
of struggle, fulfillment--he could not say what it was. It was strange.
He was not unhappy....

There came, after a time, signs that his friend was overcoming that hard
revolt of feelings too much put upon. Even in the beginning she had
never seemed to abandon herself, quite. At length, somewhat
unexpectedly, she moved, turned from her seat under his eye, and,
rising, went away to the office's one window. There she stood, her back
toward him. And presently she began to clear her throat, with nervous
quick coughings.

Through this, Charles had not spoken, or thought of doing so. To pat
Mary's shoulder, this time, had not entered his head. His instinct
seemed to feel the banality of any intrusion upon her freedom: she
should weep or not weep, just as seemed best to her. Now, as his grave
eyes followed her, it occurred to him that his presence here had been,
and was, a considerable intrusion. And about the time he had reached
this conclusion, Mary spoke, naturally enough, except that a sharp catch
of breath broke her sentence in the middle.

"I'm giving you ... a pleasant visit to-day."

The young man stirred on his perch. He answered, oddly, with a sort of
growl:--

"That's right! I'm a fair-weather friend. Keep things pleasant for _me_
all the time--or good-bye."

His heroine was sniffing repeatedly, in the humanest way. She kept
clearing her throat. Her movements made it clear that she was searching
busily for her handkerchief. However, there lay her handkerchief on the
table, under his eye. And if she, perhaps, hardly wished to turn and
come for it just now, no more did he see his way clear to going and
taking it to her.

"No--but what's the sense of it? I'm--doing just what I told Angela not
to do. Feeling sorry for myself, that's all."

"Well, I don't feel sorry for you. Don't worry about that."

Charles came down the ladder, and stood a moment kicking at the "New
Schools" strewn about the floor.

"Look here, suppose I save time by arranging about this box now? You
want it to go to your house, I suppose?"

"No--I'm going to send it to the grammar-school."

"Oh--all right. I'll attend to it," he said, briefly. "I'll tell the
porter to keep it to-night, and get a wagon to-morrow."

On which, without more ado, he stepped from the assistant principal's
office, and shut the door behind him.

Charles's conference with the negro porter in the corridor below lasted
a minute, perhaps. His diplomatic retirement lasted ten minutes, at
least. His surplus time the young man spent in staring out of a tall
window into a white-paved courtyard. But that it was a white-paved
courtyard, or that it was a courtyard, he never knew. The instant he
found that he was staring at it, he jumped a little, and went
upstairs....

If he had meant this interval as a punctuation and the turning of a
page, Mary, it seemed, had so accepted it. Reopening Mr. Geddie's door,
Charles saw that his absence had been employed for a general setting to
rights. The table had been moved back against the wall; the books and
globe restored to it, the chair Mary had occupied returned to its place,
the window opened to blow out the dust. Mary herself stood in the
middle of the room, coated, buttoning her gloves. Without looking at her
exactly, he was aware that the white veil which had been caught up
around her hat was now let down.

Bygones were bygones, clearly: the least said, the soonest mended.
Charles remarked, exactly as if house-cleaning were the sole interest he
knew of here: "Well, you've made a good job of it."

And Mary replied, with equal naturalness: "I did what I could. John will
have to attend to these things on the floor."

"Yes--I told him to see to that at once."

"He ought to give the closet a good cleaning, too. I'd better tell
him--this is just the time."

"I told him to be sure to scrub the closet. It'll be all right."

Looking up, she said: "You seem to have thought of everything."

"Let me get my hat," said Charles.

But Mary, standing in his way, was regarding him with a sudden
directness he had no wish to reciprocate. And she answered his remark
about the hat with a little exclamation.

"What's the matter with your eye?"

"My eye?" said the young man, and involuntarily put his hand there.
Recollecting, he finished: "Nothing--nothing at all."

The school-teacher came a step nearer, but he went round her as he
spoke, and continued his way.

"But there's a good deal the matter with it!" she exclaimed, concerned.
"It's swollen--it looks discolored, too.--How did you hurt yourself?"

"Oh, that? Oh!" said Charles, carefully fitting on his hat, and then
removing it again. "I remember now--it's nothing. Got a tumble this
afternoon, that's all. Stupid thing."

"You must let me get some hot water down the hall. I'm afraid it's--"

But he indicated, quite brusquely, that his eye was all right, just the
way he liked it, that having water put on it was, in particular, the
last thing he would ever dream of.

She said behind him, slowly, after a pause: "If you won't, you won't, of
course.... But it's so exactly like you--"

"Ready?" said Charles.

But when he turned he found that Mary had turned, too, after him--stood
facing him anew. And this time the confrontation was too near, too
immediate, to be further avoided.

He now discovered that the thin veil had not withdrawn his friend very
far. Looking at her for the first time since her cataclysm, he saw that
her delicate face wore that look described as "rain-washed," which
commonly means peace, but peace at a price. The redness of her eyelids
was quite perceptible. What struck the young man particularly, however,
was the look of the blue eyes themselves. More or less irrelevant eyes
he had always thought them, for all the heavy arched brows which so
emphasized their faculty for steady, sometimes disconcerting,
interrogation. That characteristic grave intentness was in Mary's gaze
now: but it was not this that gave her look its power to hold Charles
Garrott in his tracks.

The peculiar commotion within him gave forth in a short laugh, testy and
embarrassed: "Honestly, if you say the word 'eye' to me again--"

"I wasn't going to speak of your eye," said Mary Wing, with quite
remarkable meekness.... "I was thinking of that remark you made--about
being a fair-weather friend."

And then she went on hurriedly, with a rare, impulsiveness: "I've just
been thinking--I don't suppose since the world began there was ever such
another rainy-day friend as you. It's got so now that I never get into
trouble without thinking right away--as I was thinking this afternoon
when I left the Flowers'--that you'll be right there to help me with it.
Yes, I was. And it's so--perfect. Nothing to spoil it ever--not one thing
for you to gain--all just your rather extravagant idea of what being a
friend means. You don't know--how much it means...."

The strange speech--strange blossom of her disruptive emotion--ended a
little short; but that it ended was the principal thing. Doubtless there
had been a time when words such as these from Mary Wing, this fine frank
expression of abiding friendship, would have been sweet and acceptable
to Charles Garrott, crowning him with a full reward. But it seemed that
that time must have passed, somewhat abruptly....

The two moderns stood, gazing full at each other. And now, in the same
moment, a little color tinged the girl's cheek, beneath her veil, and
the young man turned rather pale.

"Miss Mary, you must be dreaming," said Charles, gently. "I've never
done anything for you in my life. We both know that. Let's go."

Mary, her eyes falling, had resumed the buttoning of her gloves. She
moved toward the door. The descent of the High School stairs was made in
comparative silence. The chief item of importance developed was that
Mary intended to go home by street-car; she was tired, she mentioned. It
seemed that Charles, on the contrary, had no intention of foregoing his
afternoon constitutional. He said that he would see Miss Mary to her
car, however; and he did.

So the old friends parted casually on a street corner, as they had done
a hundred times before.

But in the Studio, there could be no such reserve, no such slurring of
the characteristic services of men. Here combat must have its fair due,
in the moral order of a too sedentary world. Judge Blenso, in brief,
from whom no secrets were hid, had the full facts relative to the
altered eye within ten minutes of Charles's homecoming, an hour later;
and the Judge's cold manner, already somewhat softened by the heartening
acceptance of Entry 3, straightway dissolved in exultation and proud
joy. The reconciliation between uncle and nephew was instantaneous and
immutable, and there followed, by consequence, the most broken, the most
conversational, evening in the history of the Studio.

Charles was very glad to be reconciled with his relative. He was very
glad to feel that his secretary no longer viewed him with bald disgust.
Nevertheless, there were times, necessarily, when a writer wished that
he had no relative and secretary at all; and this, in a word, was one of
them. Charles did not wish, to-night, to go over and over one set of
primitive facts indefinitely; he did not wish to listen to sporting
anecdote and reminiscence, hour after hour; in chief, he did not wish to
go to bed at half-past ten o'clock. However, he did each and all of
these things, perforce.

"Always retire early after a fight!--that was my father's rule, long as
he lived!" cried Uncle George, his black eyes dangerously bright....
"No--let's see. _Before_ a fight--that was father's way! Well, good
gad!--too late for that now! You come along to bed, my dear fellow!..."

But, in time, a sweet snoring from the parallel white couch indicated
freedom, welcome solitude, at last. And then the young man rose
noiselessly in the dark, and slipped back to the familiar Studio, where
all his personal life had so long had its heart and center. On the old
writing-table, in front of which he had sat and pondered so many hours,
so many nights, the green-domed lamp was set burning anew. However,
Charles did not sit at his table now. Beside the lamp, Big Bill without
surcease ticked off the flying minutes of a writer's prized leisure. But
Charles heeded not Big Bill. Wrapped in a bathrobe grown too short for
his long shanks, he paced his carpet on slippered feet, up and down; and
there was no such thing as bedtime now. For this day the authority had
made the last and the best of all his many discoveries about Woman: and
he did not see how he could ever sleep again.



XXIV


Luemma, the twelve-dollar cook, had never dreamed of having
opera-glasses of her own; hence she looked pleased, for once in her
life, when her departing young mistress unexpectedly presented her with
a pair: old and somewhat shabby, doubtless, but still possessing the
valuable power of bringing distant objects near. And it must be assumed
that the nice man who sold the gasoline was equally glad to have the
Fordette for his own: else he would probably not have fattened up the
trousseau, one day, by purchasing the interesting little vehicle (cheap)
for cash.

Because of mourning in the bride's family, the Flower-Manford nuptials
would be "very quiet." Invitations were strictly limited to near
relatives of the contracting parties, with a very few of the most
intimate friends. So the social columns of the "Post" had warned and
notified all persons in due season. However, Charles Garrott, reading,
was not cast down. As the groom's chosen supporter in his "most need,"
Charles had had his fixed place from the beginning.

Further, he considered himself fully entitled to be present in the
category of intimate friends, not to mention his peculiar relation as
one who had narrowly escaped a yet closer privilege in the premises.

Angela's was an afternoon wedding: the hour of "taking place," five
o'clock. At four o'clock on the set day, Charles prematurely snapped his
tutorial watch at Miss Grace (who was still waiting), and rushed away to
his rooms. At half-past four, after scenes of wild haste, he stood out
in the Studio, for final inspection. He was arrayed in what the Britons
like to call a "morning coat": a morning coat new-pressed by Judge
Blenso's skillful hand and patent iron, made glorious by Judge Blenso's
best new waistcoat, especially urged for the occasion. Now the admiring
secretary pinned a white carnation in the morning-coat lapel, as excited
over it all, oddly enough, as if the wedding afoot were his young
employer's own. So dismissed with a blessing, Charles jumped into a
taxicab, at four thirty-five precisely, and shot away to the Bellingham.
Here, in a bedroom upstairs, a brief delay occurred, owing to the
appearance and behavior of the bridegroom. The face that Donald, in his
regalia, turned upon his best man, bursting in, was seen to be a pale
green in color; his voice and speech were highly erratic, his attempt at
a brave smile a sight to rend one's heart. On this pitiful funk,
Charles's gibes, his appeals to the higher nature, had but small effect.
"Here's the ring," said the groom, with a sick croak. "Charlie, hadn't I
better take one little drink?"

However, the cab was swift. The drive to Center Street was but a matter
of five minutes. Once more the two young men were stepping, side by
side, up the worn brick walkway. It made Charles think of the day they
had come to return the books. But this time the line of vehicles before
the weather-beaten door was conclusive testimony to the triumphant
activity within.

In the hall, a lady greeted them, a near relative doubtless. A dim
pleased significant hush seemed to emanate from the lady, and pervade
the house. From behind the dark curtains of the parlor, there proceeded
the murmur of assembled persons, waiting. Even the hatstand, though
essentially unchanged, somehow conveyed a mysterious expectancy.

They were sent aloft to an upper chamber, conceived to be Wallie's. Here
they were instructed to wait quietly till somebody had need of them.

The waiting was rather trying. Tête-à-tête in the small bare room, groom
and attendant talked but fitfully. Donald seemed to have drawn little
courage from his dram. He sat stiffly on a chair-edge, jumping at each
peal of the loud little bell below. Much more unreasonably, the best
man showed signs of nervousness, too: it was observed that he had
cut himself twice while shaving. And suddenly, jerking out his
watch, he announced that probably he had better step out for a
minute--reconnoiter--see what he could see.

"They ought to want you now, seems to me," quoth he. "I'll see. You sit
tight, right there."

"Awright," croaked Donald.

So Charles stepped out from the nuptial waiting-room, and closed the
door behind him. Having done this, he came to a standstill, abruptly:
for here, in the Flowers' still upstairs hall, he beheld just the sight
he had gone forth to seek.

At the other end of the hall, in the dimness, stood the bride's
attendant, Cousin Mary Wing. She, too, had just come out of a door, it
seemed; she, too, had stopped and was gazing. And the first look of the
blue eyes, over the space, released in him, the old helper with his
secret help, a vast content; just touched with a subtle sadness that
such a little gain could mean so much to her now.

He moved toward her in the expectant quiet....

Doubtless, it was no small thing that Mr. Mysinger had kept, more or
less, that promise he had made under threat and duress; marvel enough
that he had, in fact, "personally requested" Mr. Senff to "see what
could be done," etc., as agreed. Surely the whole matter had been fuller
of openings for double-dealing than an egg was of meat. And yet, to
Charles, the upshot of all the hoping and planning had been a cruel
disappointment. For Life, alas, still differs from Romance, realities
still refuse to fade like a dream, at just the suitable moment. In
brief, the School Board, by a majority of one, had yesterday ruled that
Mary should have her reappointment to the High School staff, "as soon as
arrangements would permit"; but of the assistant principal's office no
word was said.

To one who had voluntarily surrendered her great promotion, this seemed
but a scanty recompense. And as for the new plan, his and Hazen's,
concerning the Assistant Superintendency of Schools next year--no
less--("There's really a good chance, now that the Mysinger bunch are
showing a better spirit," said Hazen)--that was much too remote to seem
very substantial just now....

In the dark upstairs hall, the friends greeted briefly, in voices
scarcely above a whisper. Mary said hurriedly: "Donald's here? Angela'll
be ready to see him in just a second."

"I'll produce him--dead or alive."

The best man laid his hand on the banister. But his subconsciousness
warned him that the banisters were dusty, and he took his hand away.

"You look happy to-day."

"Yes--shouldn't I be? Weren't you--pleased, when you read--"

"They've treated you abominably--no other way to express it."

She smiled at him, but looked away. And he perceived, or thought he did,
that the memory of their last meeting remained with her, touching her
manner with a faint self-consciousness.

"You are hard to satisfy," she said. "I've felt like singing all day....
Will you tell Donald to come now?"

"Yes. I'm going to see you after this is over?"

But no, she, the busy, was to stay here for the night, it seemed,
keeping Mrs. Flower company in her daughterlessness. And Charles, having
anticipated this occasion principally as her holiday-time and his own,
turned away with the sense that most of the wedding was over....

Yet this, of course, was but the side-play of elders, counting for
nothing. Now the prime action of the day, the culminating hour, was at
hand.

Donald was whisked away for a brief glimpse at his love. Returning, he
confronted almost immediately the moment of his public appearance and
confession. Word came to Wallie's room that the gentlemen were to
descend forthwith, for better or worse. "Now then!" whispered Charles,
as they started down--"chest out, chin up!" And Donald grinned back
feebly, as if to prove to himself that he still could. Now the dim hush
deepened and thickened, the little house seemed to hold its breath.
There was no music to cover these preliminaries, because of the
mourning. In complete stillness, groom and escort stepped through the
curtains into the assembled company, which, though limited in numbers as
it was, seemed to fill the little car-shaped parlor. Through a narrow
lane between vaguely discerned relatives and friends, the young men
moved to their appointed place. Here they stood, almost stepping on a
stout clergyman, undergoing his frank, interested scrutiny, through a
dreadful pause. Then at last a stir in the company made it clear that
the bride was at hand; and after that Donald could feel that nobody was
paying any attention to him.

So without great pomp or ritual, fuss or feathers, came the great moment
to which all one woman's life had looked forward, to which, conceivably,
it might all look back. Standing statue-like a few feet from her, the
fingers of one hand feeling in Judge Blenso's waistcoat-pocket for the
ring, those of the other resting lightly on the cold Latrobe, Charles
listened to the beautiful words which converted Angela Flower into Mrs.
Donald Manford.

Angela "was married in a traveling-suit." She was a little pale, like
her lord and master; her responses were just audible. And never had
Charles seen her look so maidenly sweet, so feminine and engaging and
desirable. Her soft and pretty face, yet unbroken by a line, was
immensely serious. Her look into the beyond was faintly wistful, a
little awed, supremely innocent. A wonder dawned in the great dark eyes.
Here girlhood ended: in great happiness, doubtless, yet in great
mysteries too. Here came change, so colossal that no man could ever know
change in these terms. Where led this unknown parting of the ways, what
was the heart and meaning of Life?

And Mary Wing's face, glimpsed once or twice over the bride's shoulder,
was surprised wearing much the same look too. No woman, perhaps, even a
fighting educator, listens quite unmoved to these old words. Sweetly
pensive, Mary gazed at her so different cousin. And Charles wondered if
she had got quite philosophical now, and wished that she had something
much bigger to feel like singing about to-day....

"I pronounce you _mon_ and wife," cried the parson: and it was not the
first thing he had pronounced loudly, either.

So came relaxation from the solemn stiffness. There was a flutter of
movement, human speech again, the swift embrace of bride and bride's
mother. Then speech became free and general, and the near relatives
rushed upon the happy pair.

Charles, having wrung Donald's hand in the approved manner, had his due
turn before the center of the visible world. It was the first time he
had seen Angela, to speak to, since the day of the party-call. But,
though she was naturally a little nervous and staccato in the
circumstances, he considered that she received his felicitations with
dignity and graciousness.

"Donald and I appreciated your gift so much. I hope you got my note? It
was perfectly lovely. We shall think of you whenever we use it."

Interesting, indeed, it was to Charles to see these pretty eyes, that he
had once caused to weep, resting upon him with this genuine bright
restless indifference.

"When you're in New York, you must be sure to let us know. Donald and I
will always be so glad to see you. I hope we'll have a guest-room, and
then you must come to stay with us. I do hope you will have better luck
with your stories, Mr. Garrott. I'll be watching for you in the
magazines--remember! How do you do, Cousin Annie? Donald and I
appreciated your gift so much ..."

So Charles Garrott passed on, a bachelor still, still thinking about his
"story."

In the "small reception following"--to quote the "Post" again--Charles
did what he could to make the affair a success, circulating about like a
valued member of the family, speaking winningly to old ladies whom he
did not know, heartening the timid with cake and wine. His own best
moments in the reception were short talks with two Flowers, brothers of
the bride. But Wallie, the chemist and lamp-repairer,--so it was now
written on the stars,--was down for his Easter vacation only: he was
returning to college next week. "The Wings want mother to visit them,
till I come back in June," he let fall, with truly masculine
unconsciousness; and felt no irony in his sister's impending departure
to lead her own life, while Mary Wing, staying at home, took care of her
mother.

As for the older brother, the wealthy and generous Tommy, it seemed that
he had run on all the way from Pittsburg for the express purpose of
"giving Angela away." A handsome volatile little chap, Tommy proved to
be, with a mustache, a manner, and a worried look in the corners of his
eyes: and Charles, introduced, examined him with unaffected interest.
For Charles had often thought of Tommy, often wondered if Tommy might
not be, at heart, a master humorist. Unluckily, that interesting point
was never settled, the acquaintance being cut short untimely by the
general movement toward the hall.

The embarkation of Mr. and Mrs. Manford was "very quiet." There was no
hurling of old slippers, no unseemly merriment. They came down the
narrow stairs amid a little rice, a last subdued chorus of farewells.
The bride's pallor was noticed now, her pretty smile was a little fixed.
The groom, on the contrary, affected the hearty, the jovial: his manly
backbone was obviously reasserting itself, now that he was a lawful
protector henceforward. It was observed on all sides that they made a
good-looking and well-matched couple.

So Angela and Donald went out on their great adventure. And Charles went
with them down the walkway, with a bag or two to carry, doing his duty
as he saw it, to the end. With his own hands he clicked shut the door
of their wedding-coach. (A liveried one it was, the symbolic vehicle not
being available, for reasons explained.) "We'll hope to see you soon, in
our own Home," said Angela, the Home-Maker, the very last thing. And
then the coach leapt away, and he, the old principal friend, stood
motionless, bareheaded in the mild sunshine, staring after it....

Stepping up on the verandah again, Charles encountered the relative who
had welcomed him on arrival--Mrs. Flinchman, Finchman, did she say?--and
who now welcomed him anew, beaming.

"Well, Mr. Garrott!--your friend is a fortunate young man, is he not? I
don't think I ever knew a sweeter, truer, more womanly girl. And you,"
she queried, with immense archness, "knew her so very well, too, I
believe?"

He intimated pleasantly that few, indeed, had known her better, perhaps:
whereon the lady's expression grew more significant than ever.

"Well, no wonder the men were all flocking about her, I'm sure--a
lovely, old-time young woman! But I understand it was love at first
sight with these two--they simply _flew_ together! Ah," said Mrs.
Finchman (Flinchman?) with a sigh, which, however, did not disturb the
deeply gratified look indigenous to women at weddings--"ah, it's very
sweet! A real old-fashioned romance, that's what I call it, Mr. Garrott!
And now that we've come to the end of the story, who can doubt that
they'll live happy ever after--as you literary men are so fond of
putting it?"

"Who, indeed, madam? It--all went off very smoothly, I thought?
Well!--"

"You must be going? Then _good_-bye!--so sorry it's over! Knowing of you
so well as dear Angela's faithful friend, Mr. Garrott, I feel that we
are anything but strangers, and hope so much you will find time to come
in and see us, one evening very soon. We live quietly on Mason Street,
next to the Methodist Church--I and my sweet girl Jennie."

       *       *       *       *       *

He left the house, after all, with Mary Wing, who was going home for an
hour's work on school examination-books, before returning to sup with
Mrs. Flower. This decision she had casually communicated, by the
hatstand just now. So the "holiday-time" came to a six-blocks' walk: and
even that was an after-thought. Truly, if a man had a mind to see this
woman, without definite transactions to discuss, he had need of all his
delicacy and tact. Calls, drives, bridge-parties, going to places, doing
things: she had no room in her life for such as these. Time was more
precious to Mary than to a writer. And she had convinced one writer, at
least, by a moving tribute to his perfect friendship, that she had never
had a personal thought of him in her life.

But Charles did not despair. He was a young man still. And meantime he
was happy.

"You should wear a hat like that every day," she said, agreeably, as
they turned into Washington Street. "You look seven feet tall at
least.... By the way, did you feel your ears burning, about one o'clock
to-day?"

He said no, and smiled a little. Her intention of keeping the
conversation away from certain topics--topics that might have been
uppermost in both their minds to-day, perhaps--had been perfectly
evident to him from the moment they crossed the verandah.

"I met Judge Blenso as I came home to lunch," continued Mary, "and he
stopped for a talk--purely to tell me what a wonderful person you were,
it seemed. But in that connection, he gave me some exciting news--that
you've just had a very flattering offer for 'Bondwomen'--and refused it!
I couldn't understand why."

At that, he looked subtly pleased, while affecting but a modest
amusement. The event in question had been, in truth, sweet balm to the
spirit and the confidence bruised in so many rebuffs. Still, his reply
was only that his relative was born for a press-agent clearly. Requested
to explain this dark saying, he gave a light disparaging account of his
only offer, stating that Appleholt Brothers, before accepting his book,
had desired him to rewrite it throughout, completely revolutionizing the
character of his heroine and omitting not less than fifty thousand
words, including the existing plot.

Mary glanced up at him. "I'm taking this with a little salt--shall I?"

The author laughed. "Well, it was about like that. Still," he added, as
if there were such a thing as carrying modesty too far,--"of course I
could do what they want easily enough--in a month, I think."

"You don't seem excited at all. But you aren't going to do it?"

"On the contrary, I have now formally changed the name of my old novel
to 'Bandwomen,' and--put it in the Morgue."

"The Morgue?"

"A repository for deceased manuscripts, recently founded by my
relative."

"Oh!" said she, slowly. And, after a pause: "You don't feel any longer
that it's good?"

"I _do_ feel that it's good! I'd swear it--before a publishers'
convention. But--it doesn't happen to be the story I want to write any
more. I'm not interested in it."

There was another pause.

"It doesn't represent you now, I suppose? And the one you do want to
write?--you're writing it, aren't you? Judge Blenso says you work till
all hours of the night--and this is going to be your masterpiece."

"I shall have to caution the Judge about this, I see. We won't have a
friend left, between us."

"But I'm interested, very much so. I've wondered ... Do you remember your
speech at the Redmantle Club last winter--on work for women? Do you think
you'd make the same speech to-day?"

"Oh," he said, lightly, "I don't know quite so much as I did last
winter, you see. I'm not in the class with the lady in Sweden any
more.... Why do you suspect my--loyalty?"

"Suspect?--no. I was only deducing from what you just said. I know
something about the point of view you took in 'Bondwomen'--you told me
once--and now if you're so dissatisfied with it that--"

"No!--no! It isn't that! My point of view hasn't changed at all. It's
only--"

He glanced down at her, and away, suddenly struck with hidden
significances, abruptly recalling that this woman beside him had played
hardly less part in the making of "Bondwomen" than in "Bondwomen's"
final consignment to the Morgue....

"I--I want to approach the whole question differently--lay a different
emphasis--that's all.... But if I believed in the value of work last
year, as--as a liberal education in responsibility--I believe in it ten
times as much now. Don't you know that?"

"I'm glad you feel so. And that's what you're going to say in this
book?"

"Hardly anything else."

They walked on a little way in silence. The afternoon was fine; the last
flickers of a vernal sun danced along the sidewalks. Many people moved
on the promenade. The passing moderns attracted the favorable gaze of
not a few acquaintances In appearance, Mary was judged one of the
variable women. She, the worker, with her habitually colorless face and
faintly fragile look, responded remarkably to dress, as Charles had once
before had occasion to note. And to-day, she was dressed as for a holiday
and a fête. However, he hardly looked at her once, throughout the brief
walk.

"Do you know," she said suddenly, again with some touch of
consciousness, he thought,--"every conversation you and I have had for
months has been about _me_? That came over me, with a sort of shock--the
other day. I feel that there's a great arrears to make up. And I doubt
if you know how much I've wanted to hear about this book--since you told
me you had your 'line' straight at last. See how I remember.... Don't
you mean to give me any idea what the story's to be about?"

The young man's heart seemed to move a little within him.

"Can you imagine a writer's turning away from an opening like that?"

"Well--but when will you?"

"It's a long story. I don't think I could make it all clear in five or
seven minutes--and that's all the time you have to spare nowadays."

"Do I seem as bad as that?... But I know literally nothing about it yet,
you see, except what I've just extracted. Idleness is bad for
able-bodied persons, including women. Does that state your point of
view--approximately?"

"Precisely."

"And how are you developing it this time? I mean--with a working-woman
as your central figure?"

"No--principally with a woman who has nothing to do--and reacts
accordingly."

"Oh!... That's what you mean by a difference of approach, I suppose?
She's married?"

"No--that's the trouble."

"You are dreadfully mysterious. How _does_ she react?"

"Of course, she marries."

"Then it's not a story of work at all?"

"Hardly at all. It's an old-fashioned romance."

"I see--told from a new-fashioned point of view?"

Charles laughed. "The description was suggested to me--very recently. Up
to a point, it fits. You see, I'm still learning."

"You know," said Mary, after a step or two, "you like to picture
yourself as one who can't be restrained from talking about himself and
his work, on the smallest provocation. In reality ... Tell me honestly,
do you object to being cross-examined this way?"

His gaze kept straight ahead.

"By you?--oh, no. Of course, I ... I've wanted to tell you my story some
day."

"Then I'll continue my quiz now. I know it's usually a stupid question
to ask--but have you decided on a title yet?"

But that happened to be the one thing he did not care to tell her now.

"You can't fix the title till you're done, you know," he evaded lightly.
"A story changes so. But I have a sub-title in mind ..."

She asked if his sub-title was a secret, and he said no.

"I'd thought of--'A Comedy of Temporary Spinsters'--something like
that," said the author, and, unseen, colored abruptly.

"That's _good_!" Mary exclaimed after a moment. "It suggests--so much!
Temporary Spinsters.... Only--I hope you don't mean to be cruel to your
heroine?"

"Oh, no."

They turned into Olive Street.

"And by the way," said Charles, "she's not my heroine--only my central
figure."

"Oh! Is there a distinction? Then will there be two women in this book?"

"Of course--a common principle of writing. Your central figure-in a
character story--needs the comment of contrast, you know--of a--a foil."

"I hadn't thought of that. You had only one woman in 'Bondwomen,' you
see.... And the contrast--she'll be as different as possible--a
working-woman, I suppose?--a Permanent Spinster! That's interesting, I
think--a study in contrasting types. Now--by my catechism--I really
begin to get an idea--"

"Do you? I don't know. There are points--there are points--which I've
never been able to settle yet, myself."

Mary began to search for her latch-key. Splendidly competent though she
was, she did not appear to have a regular place for keeping her key,
like a man. And Charles wondered if she had quite forgotten that offhand
remark of his, the day of his luncheon to Helen Carson, that he was
drawing his Line from his life....

"But the men in the story," she was saying--rather mechanically, he
thought--"I conclude there must be some, even though you don't mention
them. What type do you make your hero?"

"Oh!--hero! There isn't any. The hero's the reader."

"The reader!--I fear that's too technical for me."

He explained: "My--my study develops by the method of 'progressive
revelation,' so-called--the principal characters being first set out, of
course, with the wrong labels carefully pinned on them. Well, the hero's
just the commentator on this development as it takes place, thinking it
out to save the reader the trouble."

"But--isn't it the theory nowadays that there shouldn't be any
commentator?"

"Oh, there may be a _theory_!" he retorted, the artist briefly flashing
in the man. "However, I comment."

They went up the Wings' three steps, and Mary put her key into the lock.

"But your hero can't be altogether an abstraction," she insisted, thus
engaged--"else how can there be any old-fashioned romance?"

The young man's laugh covered an interest in the conversation intense to
the point of physical pain.

"Really, this won't do. We get it more and more backwards. I haven't
even described the story to you right. It's not an old-fashioned
anything--primarily--it's not a study of types. No, it's--it's an
intellectual autobiography. Do you work on Sundays?"

The school-teacher wheeled in her open but inhospitable door, with
something like reproach in her eyes, and said: "_No!_"

"Then you can't escape me. I'll stay in town this Sunday, and you shall
hear it all from the beginning. You--you've brought it on yourself now."

The two moderns looked at each other. And the young man in the tall hat
was breathing rather hard.

"But--wouldn't that disappoint your mother? I know--I've noticed--that
you never let anything interfere ..."

His look changed perceptibly at that. And still, it was not the son, not
the old critic of Egoettes, who answered, slightly chagrined:--

"What time have you to give me, then? Some day in the summer vacation?"

Mary Wing's eyes fell to her hand on the door-knob. "I hoped," she said,
"that you would come in now."

"But your--your work?"

"I--thought I would take a holiday to-day."

So they went into the house. And Charles stood alone in the Wings'
silent hall, slowly pulling off his wedding-gloves.

In the sitting-room Mary was similarly occupied. Though she was going
back to the Flowers' so soon, she took off her hat. Having done so, she
stood before the mantel-mirror, fluffing up her hair a little, where the
hat had pressed it down. It is the immemorial fashion of women: a
characteristic position, and so an engaging one. Delicately the upraised
arms defined the lines of a graceful figure.

But when Mary saw in the mirror that Charles Garrott had come into the
room, and had stopped short just over the threshold, looking at her, she
knew only that the moment had come when she must make acknowledgments
due for good aid and comfort received. And in her, the strong,
nervousness spread now like a fear.

So she plunged hastily, the moment their eyes met: "I know, of course,
there isn't time to tell me about it now. But--I don't seem to get any
picture of your--your man at all.... What sort of man is he,
personally?"

The author, starting a little, moved forward in the dusky room.

"Oh, let's not speak of him," he said, with visible effort. "He's only a
writer. That's polite for a poor stick."

"No-don't! Tell me--in the action of the story--what does he do?"

"Not a thing--really. Just sits around and thinks."

Strength came into her low voice: "Why--_why_ do you always belittle him
so?"

Continuing to look at her, he said, remotely surprised: "Belittle him?
But I don't."

The school-teacher's fingers closed over the mantel, and the tips of her
nails whitened.

"Then I don't understand at all," she said, steadily. "I've been
thinking that it was he who almost murdered the villain, and gave one of
the Spinsters her old place back...."

Charles Garrott stood like a man turned to stone, fascinated gaze upon
the eyes in the mirror: girlish eyes, doubtless, but quite unwavering
now. And then, in an instant, his face was scarlet from neck to brow.
His embarrassment was frightful to see: that of a soul too suddenly
stripped bare.

"Oh!... So you've been looking through me--all along. I see ... the
Judge didn't confine himself to ... Well, his knowing--was purely an
accident. He had, of course, no--"

"And why must my knowing be an accident, too?"

"I--it was simply something you had nothing whatever to do with. And
there was an understanding--the--the matter was entirely private. You'll
please forget the Judge's--small-talk, and--"

"Not if I live to be a thousand! I'll forget everything--I'll forget my
name!--but that!--no, you ask too much of my feelings."

That, indeed, checked the young man's horrible self-consciousness. He
saw, with unsteadying bewilderment, that this was no light conversation
of hers, that Mary Wing was more deeply moved than he had ever seen her.
And suddenly he was aware, by some swift flicker of his intuition, that
it was to say this to him, and nothing else, that she had come home,
made a holiday, to-day....

"And you told me you had done nothing for me," she said, in the same
passionate low voice--"that day--when you had just done everything--what
nobody else in the wide world would ever have done for me! And you
were--hurt, too...."

She stopped, abruptly. Her face quivered, just perceptibly, but he saw
it. Strange and incalculable.... Surely he had tried to do bigger and
better things for Mary, than the impromptu display of his primitive
passion.... Was this, also, of the primal and everlasting; did this,
too, touch the immutable and true?

The helper was making reply, not exactly with _insouciance_: "Why!--why,
but I can't let you think of it--it was _nothing_! I _enjoyed_ it! I
simply didn't think he had behaved to you as he should. Naturally, I
didn't like that...."

"_You_ didn't--because that's the way you are. You expect nothing--but
give everything. I don't like to hear you make light of yourself. I
don't."

She turned away, went over to her desk by the window, where the school
examination-books awaited her. But once more it was clear that she had
no purpose here. She moved the piled books on the desk-leaf, half an
inch, perhaps, and went on in a controlled voice:--

"But I can't tell you how I felt, and feel, about it. And it's foolish
to--try to say thank you. We must talk of something else.... Sit down,
won't you? I'll give you some light in a minute."

But the young man in the wedding raiment did not sit down, gave no sign
at all that he had heard her conclusive and hortatory speech. His eyes,
turning, had followed her as she went away from him. And now, as she
ended, he only stood and looked; looked over the familiar room at the
slender figure of a woman which, all so suddenly, had shot up to fill
the world for him.

Fading light from the Green Park just touched Mary's face, where she
stood. She was a school-teacher, thirty years old. Life had buffeted
her: hard contacts with the real world had left upon her their permanent
marks, traced lines not to be eradicated beside these fine eyes. This
woman's first youth, her April bloom, was gone forever. But to this man
on the hearthside, her presence, her nearness, were charged now with an
intense power over depths in him which would stir to no fleshly
prettiness.

He had her secret now. He knew her, a Woman revealed. And, standing and
looking at her over the darkening room, he was mysteriously shaken with
a profound emotion.

This was his best old friend, this was the being he admired most upon
earth. She was his dearest comrade, his work-fellow and his playmate,
his human free and equal. She had a mind as good as his, a spirit whose
integrity he respected no less than his own; hands that were capable and
feet that she stood upon, and did not depend. She had an honor that was
not woman's honor, a virtue and character that had no part with the
business of sex. There was no competence a man had that this woman did
not have: she was as versatile and thoughtful and fearless and free as
the best of them. And, through and beyond all this, there was the
discovered marvel, that she had tilled and kept sweet the garden of her
womanhood. Underlying her rich human worthiness, as the mothering earth
lies under a tree, there was the treasure he had hardly glimpsed, this
store of her secret tenderness.

So it was that Charles Garrott spoke up suddenly, with a kind of
huskiness:--

"No, there's only one thing to talk of now. You will have to hear my
story."

The grammar-school teacher did not move. The twilit sitting-room was
stiller than a church. The young man went toward her on feet not now to
be stopped.

"But not from the beginning--no. That doesn't matter. It's the ending--I
have waited to talk with you about."

He stood now by the hard-worked little desk, an elbow rested on the top;
he looked down at the bent familiar head, the thick crown of feminine
fair hair. Just so, he had stood and looked on that other day, when she
had written upon his heart what freedom meant to her.

"I wanted to show how one man--got his education in womanhood--learned
how strength is stronger for being sweet--just by coming to see and
understand the moral beauty of one woman's life.... That is my story.
But it isn't enough to end with."

Some of his dignity, some of his self-control, seemed abruptly to
forsake the hard-pressed young man.

"You are that woman," he said, hoarsely. "You've educated me. But it
isn't enough."

She, his only heroine, raised her head, gave him one look from under her
arched brows; a strange look, that might have said good-bye to the
perfect friendship he had forever changed now. And he saw in the dusk
that her face was very pale.

"You've supposed I want nothing for myself. I am here asking for
everything...."

Her lashes fell. He was so close to her now that, just by putting out
his arm a little, he could have taken one of the small hands on the
desk-leaf. So he did put out his arm thus. Her hand, possessed, was cold
as ice; but it was not withdrawn. No, Mary's hand seemed to stay and
cling, like a hand come Home.

And now he heard her voice, as tender as a mother's:--

"Ah, have I anything to give, do you think--that hasn't been given? What
sort of ending do you want?"

So Charles told her then what sort of ending he wanted. And that, and no
other, was the sort of ending he had.


THE END



By Henry Sydnor Harrison

    ANGELA'S BUSINESS Illustrated.
    V. V.'S EYES. Illustrated.
    QUEED. Illustrated.





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