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Title: Pray You, Sir, Whose Daughter?
Author: Gardener, Helen H. (Helen Hamilton), 1853-1925
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.

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PRAY YOU, SIR, WHOSE DAUGHTER?

By Helen H. Gardener


R. F. Fenno & Company

9 and 11 East 16th Street

New York

1892


I saw a woman sleeping. In her sleep she dreampt Life stood before her,
and held in each hand a gift--in the one Love, in the other Freedom. And
she said to the woman, "Choose!"

And the woman waited long; and she said: "Freedom!" And Life said, "Thou
hast well chosen. If thou hadst said, 'Love,' I would have given thee
that thou didst ask for; and I would have gone from thee, and returned
to thee no more. Now, the day will come when I shall return. In that
day I shall bear both gifts in one hand." I heard the woman laugh in her
sleep.

Olive Schreener's Dreams.



DEDICATED

With the love and admiration of the Author,

To Her Husband

Who is ever at once her first, most severe, and most sympathetic critic,
whose encouragement and interest in her work never flags; whose abiding
belief in human rights, without sex limitations, and in equality of
opportunity leaves scant room in his great soul to harbor patience with
sex domination in a land which boasts of freedom for all, and embodies
its symbol of Liberty in the form of the only legally disqualified and
unrepresented class to be found upon its shores.



PREFACE.

In the following story the writer shows us what poverty and dependence
are in their revolting outward aspects, as well as in their crippling
effects on all the tender sentiments of the human soul. Whilst the many
suffer for want of the decencies of life, the few have no knowledge of
such conditions.

They require the poor to keep clean, where water by landlords is
considered a luxury; to keep their garments whole, where they have
naught but rags to stitch together, twice and thrice worn threadbare.
The improvidence of the poor as a valid excuse for ignorance, poverty,
and vice, is as inadequate as is the providence of the rich, for their
virtue, luxury, and power. The artificial conditions of society are
based on false theories of government, religion, and morals, and not
upon the decrees of a God.

In this little volume we have a picture, too, of what the world would
call a happy family, in which a naturally strong, honest woman is
shrivelled into a mere echo of her husband, and the popular sentiment of
the class to which she belongs. The daughter having been educated in a
college with young men, and tasted of the tree of knowledge, and,
like the Gods, knowing good and evil, can no longer square her life by
opinions she has outgrown; hence with her parents there is friction,
struggle, open revolt, though conscientious and respectful withal.

Three girls belonging to different classes in society; each illustrates
the false philosophy on which woman's character is based, and each in a
different way, in the supreme moment of her life, shows the necessity of
self-reliance and self-support.

As the wrongs of society can be more deeply impressed on a large class
of readers in the form of fiction than by essays, sermons, or the facts
of science, I hail with pleasure all such attempts by the young writers
of our day. The slave has had his novelist and poet, the farmer his,
the victims of ignorance and poverty theirs, but up to this time the
refinements of cruelty suffered by intelligent, educated women, have
never been painted in glowing colors, so that the living picture could
be seen and understood. It is easy to rouse attention to the grosser
forms of suffering and injustice, but the humiliations of spirit are not
so easily described and appreciated.

A class of earnest reformers have, for the last fifty years, in the
press, the pulpit, and on the platform, with essays, speeches, and
constitutional arguments before legislative assemblies, demanded the
complete emancipation of women from the political, religious, and social
bondage she now endures; but as yet few see clearly the need of larger
freedom, and the many maintain a stolid indifference to the demand.

I have long waited and watched for some woman to arise to do for her sex
what Mrs. Stowe did for the black race in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," a book
that did more to rouse the national conscience than all the glowing
appeals and constitutional arguments that agitated our people during
half a century. If, from an objective point of view, a writer could
thus eloquently portray the sorrows of a subject race, how much more
graphically should some woman describe the degradation of sex.

In Helen Gardener's stories, I see the promise, in the near future,
of such a work of fiction, that shall paint the awful facts of woman's
position in living colors that all must see and feel. The civil and
canon law, state and church alike, make the mothers of the race a
helpless, ostracised class, pariahs of a corrupt civilization. In view
of woman's multiplied wrongs, my heart oft echoes the Russian poet who
said: "God has forgotten where he hid the key to woman's emancipation."
Those who know the sad facts of woman's life, so carefully veiled
from society at large, will not consider the pictures in this story
overdrawn.

The shallow and thoughtless may know nothing of their existence, while
the helpless victims, not being able to trace the causes of their
misery, are in no position to state their wrongs themselves.

Nevertheless all the author describes in this sad story, and worse
still, is realized in everyday life, and the dark shadows dim the
sunshine in every household.

The apathy of the public to the wrongs of woman is clearly seen at this
hour, in propositions now under consideration in the Legislature of New
York. Though two infamous bills have been laid before select committees,
one to legalize prostitution, and one to lower the age of consent, the
people have been alike ignorant and indifferent to these measures. When
it was proposed to take a fragment of Central Park for a race course, a
great public meeting of protest was called at once, and hundreds of men
hastened to Albany to defeat the measure.

But the proposed invasion of the personal rights of woman, and the
wholesale desecration of childhood has scarce created a ripple on the
surface of society. The many do not know what laws their rulers are
making, and the few do not care, so long as they do not feel the iron
teeth of the law in their own flesh. Not one father in the House or
Senate would willingly have his wife, sister, or daughter subject to
these infamous bills proposed for the daughters of the people. Alas! for
the degradation of sex, even in this republic. When one may barter away
all that is precious to pure and innocent childhood at the age of ten
years, you may as well talk of a girl's safety with wild beasts in the
tangled forests of Africa, as in the present civilizations of England
and America, the leading nations on the globe.

Some critics say that every one knows and condemns these facts in our
social life, and that we do not need fiction to intensify the public
disgust. Others say, Why call the attention of the young and the
innocent to the existence of evils they should never know. The majority
of people do not watch legislative proceedings.

To keep our sons and daughters innocent, we must warn them of the
dangers that beset their path on every side.

Ignorance under no circumstances ensures safety. Honor protected by
knowledge, is safer than innocence protected by ignorance.

A few brave women are laboring to-day to secure for their less capable,
less thoughtful, less imaginative sisters, a recognition of a true
womanhood based on individual rights. There is just one remedy for the
social complications based on sex, and that is equality for woman in
every relation in life.

Men must learn to respect her as an equal factor in civilization, and
she must learn to respect herself as mother of the race. Womanhood is
the great primal fact of her existence; marriage and maternity, its
incidents.

This story shows that the very traits of character which society (whose
opinions are made and modified by men) considers most important and
charming in woman to ensure her success in social life, are the very
traits that ultimately lead to her failure.

Self-effacement, self-distrust, dependence and desire to please,
compliance, deference to the judgment and will of another, are what make
young women, in the opinion of these believers in sex domination, most
agreeable; but these are the very traits that lead to her ruin.

The danger of such training is well illustrated in the sad end of Ettie
Berton. When the trials and temptations of life come, then each one
must decide for herself, and hold in her own hands the reins of action.
Educated women of the passing generation chafe under the old order of
things, but, like Mrs. Foster in the present volume, are not strong
enough to swim up stream. But girls like Gertrude, who in the college
curriculum have measured their powers and capacities with strong young
men and found themselves their equals, have outgrown this superstition
of divinely ordained sex domination. The divine rights of kings, nobles,
popes, and bishops have long been questioned, and now that of sex is
under consideration and from the signs of the times, with all other
forms of class and caste, it is destined soon to pass away.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton



PRAY YOU, SIR, WHOSE DAUGHTER?



I

To say that Mrs. Foster was cruel, that she lacked sympathy with the
unfortunate, or that she was selfish, would be to state only the dark
half of a truism that has a wider application than class or sex could
give it; a truism whose boundary lines, indeed, are set by nothing short
of the ignorance of human beings hedged in by prejudice and handicapped
by lack of imagination. So when she sat, with dainty folded hands whose
jeweled softness found fitting background on the crimson velvet of her
trailing gown, and announced that she could endure everything associated
with, and felt deep sympathy for, the poor if it were not for the
besetting sin of uncleanliness that found its home almost invariably
where poverty dwelt, it would be unjust to pronounce her hard-hearted or
base.

"It is all nonsense to say that the poor need be so dirty," she
announced, as she held her splendid feather fan in one hand and caressed
the dainty tips of the white plumes with the tips of fingers only less
dainty and white.

"I have rarely ever seen a really poor man, woman, or child who was at
the same time really clean looking in person, and as to clothes--"

She broke off with an impatient and disgusted little shrug, as if to
say--what was quite true--that even the touch of properly descriptive
words held for her more soilure than she cared to bear contact with.

John Martin laughed. Then he essayed to banter his hostess, addressing
his remarks meanwhile to her daughter.

"One could not imagine your mamma a victim of poverty and hunger, much
less of dirt, Miss Gertrude," he began slowly; "but even that sumptuous
velvet gown of hers would grow to look more or less--let us say--rusty,
in time, I fear, if it were the only costume she possessed, and she were
obliged to eat, cook, wash, iron, sew, and market in it."

The two ladies laughed merrily at the droll suggestion, and Miss
Gertrude pursed up her lips and developed a decided squint in her eyes
as she turned them upon the folds of her mother's robe. Then she took up
Mr. Martin's description where the laugh had broken in upon it.

"Too true, too true," she drawled; "and if she dusted the furniture
a week or so with that fan, I'm afraid it would lose more or less
of its--gloss. Mamma quite prides herself upon the delicate
peach-fuzz-bloom, so to speak, of those feathers. Just look at them!"
The girl reached over and took the fan from her mother's lap. She spread
the fine plumes to their fullest capacity, and held them under the rays
of the brass lamp that stood near their guest. Then she made a flourish
with it in the direction of the music stand, as if she were intent upon
whisking the last speck of dust from the sheets of Tannhauser that lay
on its top A little cry of alarm and protest escaped Mrs. Foster's lips
and she stretched oat her hand to rescue the beloved fan.

"Gertrude! how can you?" She settled back comfortably against the
cushions of the low divan with her rescued treasure once more waving in
gentle gracefulness before her.

"Oh, no," she protested. "Of course one could not work or live
constantly in one or two gowns and look fresh, but one could look and be
clean and--and whole. A patch is not pretty I admit, but it is a decided
improvement upon a bare elbow."

"I don't agree with you at all," smiled her guest; "I don't believe
I ever saw a patch in all my life that would be an improvement
upon--upon--" He glanced at the lovely round white arms before him, and
all three laughed. Mrs. Foster thought of how many Russian baths and
massage treatments had tended to give the exquisite curve and tint to
her arm.

"Then beside," smiled Mr. Martin, "a rent or hole may be an immediate
accident, liable to happen to the best of us. A patch looks like
premeditated poverty." Gertrude laughed brightly, but her mother did not
appear to have heard. She reverted to the previous insinuation.

"Oh, well; that is not fair! You know what I mean. I'm talking of elbows
that burst or wear out--not about those that never were intended to be
in. Then, besides, it is not the elbow I object to; it is the hole
one sees it through. _It_ tells a tale of shiftlessness and personal
untidiness that saps all sympathy for the poverty that compelled the
long wearing of the garment."

"Why, my dear Mrs. Foster," said Martin, slowly, "I wonder if you have
any idea of a grade of poverty that simply can't be either whole or
clean. Did--?"

"I'll give up the whole, but I won't give in on the clean. I can easily
see how a woman could be too tired, too ill, or too busy to mend a
garment; I can fancy her not knowing how to sew, or not having thread,
needles, and patches; but, surely, surely, Mr. Martin, no one living is
too poor to keep clean. Water is free, and it doesn't take long to take
a bath. Besides--"

Gertrude looked at her mother with a smile. Then she said with her
sarcastic little drawl again:--

"Russian, or Turkish?"

"Well, but fun' and nonsense aside, Gertrude," said her mother, "a plain
hot bath at home would make a new creature out of half the wretches one
sees or reads of, and--"

"Porcelain lined bath-tub, hot and cold water furnished at all hours.
Bath-room adjoining each sleeping apartment," laughed Mr. Martin. "What
a delightful idea you have of abject poverty, Mrs. Foster. I do wish
Fred could have heard that last remark of yours. I went with his clerk
one day to collect rents down in Mulberry Street. He had the collection
of the rents for the Feedour estate on his hands--"

"What's that about the rents of the Feedour estate?" inquired the head
of the house, extending his hand to their guest as he entered. Mrs.
Foster put out her hand and her husband touched the tips of her fingers
to his lips, while Gertrude slipped her arm through her father's and
drew him to a seat beside her. Her eyes were dancing, and she showed a
double row of the whitest of teeth.

"Oh, Mr. Martin was just explaining to mamma how your clerk collects
rent for the porcelain bath-tubs in the Feedour property down in
Mulberry Street. Mamma thinks that bath-rooms should be free--hot and
cold water, and all convenient appointments."

Fred Foster looked at their guest for a moment, and then both men burst
into a hearty laugh.

"I don't see anything to laugh at," protested Mrs. Foster. "Unless you
are guying me for thinking Mr. Martin in earnest about the tubs being
rented. I suppose, of course, the bath-rooms go with the apartments,
and one rent covers the whole of it. In which case, I still insist that
there is no reason why the poor can't be clean, and if they have only
one suit of clothes, they can wash them out at night and have them dry
next morning."

The men laughed again.

"Gertrude, has your mamma read her essay yet before the Ladies' Artistic
and Ethical Club on the 'Self-Inflicted Sorrows of the Poor?'" asked Mr.
Foster, pinching his daughter's chin, and allowing a chuckle of humorous
derision to escape him as he glanced at their guest.

"No," said the girl, a trifle uneasily; "Lizzie Feedour read last time.
Mamma's is next, and she has read her paper to me. It is just as good
as it can be. Better than half the essays used to be at college, not
excepting Mr. Holt's prize thesis on economics. I wish the poor people
could hear it. She speaks very kindly of their faults even while
criticising them. You--"

"Don't visit the tenement houses of the Feedour estate, dear, until
after you read your paper to the club," laughed her husband, "or your
essay won't take half so well. College theses and cold facts are not
likely to be more than third cousins; eh, Martin? I'm sure the part on
cleanliness would be easier for her to manage in discussion before she
visited the Spillini family, for example."

"Which one is that, Fred?" asked Mr. Foster.

Martin, a droll twinkle in his eye. "The family of eight, with Irish
mother and Italian father, who live in one room and take boarders?"

There was a little explosive "oh" of protest from Gertrude, while her
mother laughed delightedly.

"Mr. Martin, you are so perfectly absurd. Why didn't you say that the
room was only ten by fifteen feet and had but one window!"

"Because I don't think it is quite so big as that, and there is no
outside window at all," said he, quite gravely. "And their only bath-tub
for the entire crowd is a small tin basin also used to wash dishes in."

"W-h-a-t!" exclaimed Mrs. Foster, as if she were beginning to suspect
their guest's sanity, for she recognized that his mood had changed from
one of banter.

The portière was drawn aside, and other guests announced. As Mrs. Foster
swept forward to meet them, Gertrude grasped her father's arm and looked
into his eyes with something very like terror in her own. "Papa," she
said hastily, in an intense undertone; "Papa, is he in earnest? Do the
Feedour girls collect rent from such awful poverty as that? Do eight
human beings eat and sleep--live--in one room anywhere in a Christian
country? Does--?"

Her father took both of her hands in his own for a moment and looked
steadily into her face.

"Hundreds of them, darling," he said, gently. "Don't stare at Miss
Feedour that way. Go speak to her. She is looking toward us, and your
mother has left her with Martin quite long enough. He is in an ugly
humor to-night. Go--no, come," he said, slipping her hand in his arm and
drawing her forward through the long rooms to where the group of guests
were greeting each other with that easy familiarity which told of
frequent intercourse and community of interests and social information.



II.

Two hours later Gertrude found herself near a low window seat upon
which sat John Martin. She could not remember when he had not been her
father's closest friend, and she had no idea why his moods had changed
so of late. He was much less free and fatherly with her. She wondered
now if he despised her because she knew so little of the real woes of
a real world about her, while she, in common with those of her station,
sighed so heavily over the needs of a more distant or less repulsive
human swarm.

"Will you take me to see the Spillini family some day soon, Mr. Martin,"
she asked, seating herself by his side. "Papa said that you were telling
the truth--were not joking as I thought at first."

Her eyes were following the graceful movements of Lizzie Feedour, as
that young lady turned the leaves of a handsome volume that lay on
the table before her, and a gentleman with whom she was discussing its
merits and defects.

"I don't believe the call would be a pleasure on either side," said Mr.
Martin, brusquely, "unless we sent word the day before and had some of
the family moved out and a chair taken in."

The girl turned her eyes slowly upon him, but she did not speak. The
color began to climb into his face and dye the very roots of his hair.
She wondered why. Her own face was rather paler than usual and her eyes
were very serious.

"You don't want to take me," she said. "I wonder why men always try to
keep girls from knowing things--from learning of the world as it is--and
then blame them for their ignorance! You naturally think I am a very
silly, light girl, but--"

A great panic overtook John Martin's heart. He could hardly keep back
the tears. He felt the blood rush to his face again, but he did not know
just what he said.

"I do not--I do not! You are--I--I--should hate to be the one to
introduce you to such a view of life. I was an old fool to talk as I did
this evening. I--"

"Oh, that is it!" exclaimed Gertrude, relieved. "You found me ignorant,
and content because I was ignorant, and you regret that you have struck
a chord--a serious chord--where only make-believe or merry ones were
ever struck between us before."

John Martin fidgeted.

"No, it is not that I would like to strike the first serious chord for
you--in your heart, Gertrude."

He had called her Gertrude for years. Indeed the Miss upon his lips was
of very recent date, but there was a meaning in the name just now as
he spoke it that gave the girl a distinct shock. She felt that he was
covering retreat in one direction by a mendacious advance in another.
She arose suddenly.

"Lizzie Feedour is looking her best tonight," she said. "She grows
handsomer every day."

She had moved forward a step, but he caught the hand that hung by her
side. She faced him with a look of mingled protest and surprise in her
face; but when her eyes met his, she understood.

"Gertrude, darling!" was all he could say. This time the blood dyed her
face and a mist blinded her for a moment. She remembered feeling glad
that her back was turned to everyone but him, and that the window
drapery hid his face from the others, for the intensity of appeal
touched with the faintest shimmer of happiness and hope told so plain
a story that she felt, rather than thought, how absurd it would look to
anyone else. She did not realize why it seemed less absurd to her.
She drew her hand away and the color died out of his face. Her own was
burning. She had turned to leave the room when his disappointed face
swam before her eyes again. She put out her hand quickly as if bidding
him good-night and drew him toward the door. He moved beside her as in a
dream.

"After you take me to see the Spillini family," she said, trying to
appear natural to any eyes that might be upon her, "we--I--" They had
reached the portière. She drew it aside and he stepped beyond.

"There is no companionship between two people who look upon life so
unequally. Those who know all about the world that contains the Spillini
family and those who know nothing of such a world are very far apart in
thought and in development There is no mental comradeship. I feel very
far from my father to-night for the first time--mamma and I. I have
looked at her all the evening in wonder--and at him. I wonder how they
have contrived to live so far apart. How could he help sharing his views
and knowledge of life with her, if he thinks her and wishes her to be
his real companion and comrade. I could not live that way."

She seemed to have forgotten the newer, nearer question, in
contemplating the problem that had startled her earlier in the evening.
John Martin thought it was all a bit of kind-hearted acting to cover
his retreat. He dropped her hand. A man-servant was holding his coat. He
thrust his arms in and took his hat.

"Will you take me to see the Spillini family _tomorrow?_" asked a soft
voice from the portière. A great wave of joy rushed over John Martin. He
did not know why.

"Yes," he said, in a tone that was so distinctly happy that the
man-servant stared. The folds of the portière fell together and John
Martin passed out onto Fifth Avenue, in an ecstasy.

He is willing to share his knowledge of life with me--of life as he sees
and knows it--she thought, as she lay awake that night. He does not wish
to live on one plane and have me live on another. That looks like real
love. Poor mamma! Poor papa! How far apart they are. To him life is a
real thing. He knows its meaning and what it holds. She only knows a
shell that is furbished up and polished to attract the eye of children.
It is as if he were reading a book to her in a language he understood
and she did not. The sound would be its entire message to her, while he
gathered in and kept to himself all the meaning of the words--the force
of the thoughts. How can they bear such isolation. How can they? she
thought with a new feeling of passionate protest that mingled with her
dreams.



III.

"Sure an' I'd like to die meself if dyin' wasn't so costly," remarked
Mrs. Spillini, as she gazed with tear-stained eyes at the little body
that occupied the only chair in the dismal room. "Do the best we kin,
buryin' the baby is goin' to cost more than we made all winter out o'
all three boarders. Havin' the baby cost a dreadful lot altogether, an'
now it's dyin's a dreadful pull agin."

Gertrude Foster opened her Russian leather purse and Mrs. Spillini's
eyes brightened shrewdly. There was no need for the hesitancy and choice
of words that gave the young girl so much care and pain. Familiarity
with all the mean and gross of life from childhood until one is the
mother of six living and four dead children, does not leave the finest
edge of sentiment and pride upon the poverty-cursed victims of fate.

"If you would allow me to leave a mere trifle of money for you to use
for the baby, I don't--it is only--" began Gertrude; but the ready hand
had reached out for the money and a quick "Thanky mum; much obliged" had
ended the transaction.

"I shall not tell mamma _that"_, thought Gertrude, and she did not look
at John Martin. It was her first glimpse into a grade of life to which
all things, even birth and death, take on a strictly commercial aspect;
where not only the edge of sentiment is dulled by dire necessity, but
where the sentiment itself is buried utterly beneath the incrustations
of an ignorance that is too dumb and abject to learn, and a poverty that
is too insistent to recognize its own ignorance and degradation.

"Won't you set down?" inquired Mrs. Spillini, as with a sudden movement
she slid the small corpse onto the floor under the edge of the table.
"I'd a' ast you before, but--"

"O, don't!" exclaimed the girl; but before her natural impulse to stoop
and gather up the small bundle had found action possible, John Martin
had placed it on the table.

"Oh, Lord; don't!" exclaimed the woman, in sudden dismay. "The
boarders'd kick if they was to see it _there_. Boarders is
different from the family. We could ate affen the table afther, but
boarders--boarders'd kick."

"Could--do you think of anything else we could do for you?" inquired
Gertrude, faintly, as she held open the door and tried to think she was
not dizzy and sick from the dreadful, polluted air, and the shock of the
revelation, with all that it implied, before her.

Four dirty faces, and as many ragged bodies, were too close to her for
comfort. There was a vile stew cooking on the stove. The air was heavy
and foul with it Gertrude distinctly felt the greasy moisture on her kid
gloves as they touched each other.

"No, I don't know's they's anything _more_ you can do," replied
the passive, hopeless wreck of what it was almost sacrilege to call
womanhood. "I don't know's they's anything more you could _do_ unless
you could let the boarders come in now. They ain't got but a little over
ten minutes to eat in an' dinner's ready," she replied, as she lifted
the pot of steaming stuff into the middle of the table and laid two tin
plates, a large knife and a bunch of iron forks and spoons beside it.

"Turn that chair to the wall," she added sharply to one of the children,
who hastened to obey the command. "They'll _all_ have to stand up to it
this time. I ain't a goin' to shift that baby round no more till it's
buried, now that I _kin_ bury it. Take this side of the table, Pete. I
don't feel like eatin.' You kin have my place 'n the ole man ain't here.
Let go of that tin cup, you trillin' young one. All the coffee they is,
is in that. Have a drink, Mike?" she asked, passing the coveted cup to
the second boarder. Gertrude was half-way down the dark hallway, and
John Martin held her arm firmly lest she step into some unseen trap or
broken place in the floor.

When they reached the street door she turned to him with wide eyes.

"Great God," she moaned, "and people go to church and pray and thank
God--and collect rent from such as they! Men offer premiums to mothers
and fathers for large families of children--to be brought up like that?
In a world where that is possible! Oh, I think it is wicked, wicked,
wicked, to allow it--any of it--all of it! How can you?"

John Martin looked hopeless and helpless.

"I don't," he said, in pathetic self-defense, feeling somehow that the
blame was personal.

"Oh, I don't mean you!" she exclaimed, almost impatiently. "I mean all
who know it--who have known and understood it all along. How could men
allow it? How dared they? And to think of encouraging such people to
marry--to bring into a life like that such swarms of helpless children.
Oh, the sin and shame and outrage of it!"

John Martin was dazed that she should look upon it as she did. He was
surprised that she spoke so openly. He did not fully comprehend the
power and force of real conviction and feeling overtaken in a sincere
and fearlessly frank nature by such a knowledge for the first time.

"I should not have brought you here," he said, feebly, as they entered
the waiting carriage which her mother had insisted she should take if
she would go "slumming," as she had expressed it.

She turned an indignant face upon him.

"Why?" she demanded.

He tried to say something about a shock to her nerves, and such sights
and knowledge being not for women.

"I had begun to feel that he respected me--believed in me--wanted, in
truth and not merely in name, to share life with me," she thought, "but
he does not: it is all a sham. He wants someone who shall _not_ share
life with him--not even his mental life."

"You would come here with papa, would you not?" she asked, presently.
"You would talk over, look at, think of the problems of life with
him,"--her voice began to tremble.

"Certainly," he said, "but that is different. It--"

"Yes, it is different; quite different. You love papa, and it would be a
pain to you to keep your mental books locked up from him. You respect
papa, and you would not be able to live a life of pretense with him.
You--"

"Gertrude! Oh, darling! I love you. I love you. You know that," he said,
grasp ing both her hands and covering them with kisses. She snatched
them away, and covered her face with them to hide the tears which were a
surprise and shock to herself.

"I should not have taken her there," he thought. "I'm a great fool."

He did not at all comprehend the girl's point of view, and she resented
his. He could not imagine why, and her twenty years of inexperience in
handling such a view of life as had suddenly grown up within her, made
her unable to express quite fully why she did resent his assumption that
she should not be allowed to use her heart or brain beyond the limits
set for their exercise by conventional theory. She could not express
in words why she felt insulted and outraged in her self-respect that he
should assume that life was and should be led by her, upon a distinctly
different and narrower plane than his own. She knew that she could not
accept his explanation, that it was his intense love that wished to
shield her from knowledge of all that was ugly--of all the deeper and
sadder meanings of human experience; but she felt unequal to making
him understand by any words at her command how far from her idea of an
exalted love such an assumption was.

That he should sincerely believe that as a matter of course much that
was and should be quite common in his own life should be kept from,
covered up, blurred into indistinction to her, came to her with a shock
too sudden and heavy for words. She had built an exalted ideal of
absolute mental companionship between those who loved. She had always
thought that one day she should pass through the portals of some vast
building by the side of a husband to whom all within was new as it would
be to her. She had fancied that neither spoke; that both read the
tablets of architecture--and of human legend on every face--so nearly
alike that by a glance of the eye she could say to him, "I know what you
are thinking of all this. It stirs such or such a memory. It strikes the
chord that holds these thoughts or those." But she read as plainly now
that this man who thought he loved her, whom she had grown to feel she
might one day love, had no such conception of a union of lives. To him
marriage would mean a physical possession of a toy more or less
valuable, more or less to be cherished or to be set under a glass case,
whenever his real life, his real thoughts, his deeper self were stirred.
These were to be kept for men--his mentally developed equals. She
understood full well that if she could have said this to him he would
have been shocked, would have resented such a contemptuous
interpretation of what he truly believed to be a wholly respectful love,
offered upon wholly respectful terms. But to her, it seemed the mere
tossing down of a filbert to a pretty kitten, that it might amuse him
for a few moments with its graceful antics. When he tired of the kitten,
or bethought him of the serious duties of life, he could turn the key
and count on finding the amusing little creature to play with again next
day in case he cared to relax himself with a sight of its gambols. She
resented such a view of the value of her life. She was humiliated and
indignant. The perfectly apparent lack of comprehension on his part of
any lapse of respect in attitude toward her, the entire unconsciousness
of the insult to her whole nature, in his assumption of a divine right
of individual growth and development to which she had no claim, stung
her beyond all power of speech. The very fact that he had no
comprehension of the affront himself, added to it its utterly hopeless
feature. The love of a man offered on such terms is an insult, she said,
over and over to herself; but aloud she said nothing.

She had heard, vaguely, through her tumult of feeling, his terms of
endearment, his appeals to her tenderness and--alas! unfortunately for
him--his apologies for having taken her to such a place. She became
distinctly aware of these latter first and it steadied her. They had
reached Washington Square.

"Yes, that revelation in Mulberry Street was a horrible shock to me,"
she said, looking at him for the first time since they had entered the
carriage; "but, do you know, I think there are more shocking things than
even that done in the name of love every day--things as heartless and
offensively uncomprehending of what is fine and true in life as that
wretched woman's conduct with the lifeless form of her baby."

He recognized a hard ring in her voice, but her eyes looked kind and
gentle.

"How do you mean?" he asked, touching her hand as it lay on her empty
purse in her lap.

"I don't believe I could ever make you understand what I mean, we are so
hopelessly far apart," she said, a little sadly. "That an explanation
is necessary--that is the hopeless part. That that poor woman did not
comprehend that her conduct and callousness were shocking--_that_ was
the hopeless part. To make you understand what I mean would be like
making her understand all the hundreds of awful things that her conduct
meant to us. If it is not in one's nature to comprehend without words,
then words are useless."

His vehement protests stirred her sympathy again.

"You say that love brings people near together. Do you know I am
beginning to think that nothing could be a greater calamity than that?
Drawn together by a love that rests on a physical basis for those who
refuse to allow it root in a common sympathy and a community of thought
it must fail sooner or later. A humbled acceptance of the crumbs of
her husband's life, or a resentful endurance of it, may result from
the accursed faithfulness or the pitiful dependence of wives, but
surely--surely no greater calamity could befall her and no worse fate
lie in wait for him."

Her lover stared at her, pained and puzzled. When they reached her door
he grasped her hand.

"I thought you loved me last night, and I went away in an ecstasy of
hope. Today--"

"Perhaps I do love you," she said; "but I do not respect you, because
you do not respect me." He made a quick sound of dissent, but she
checked him. "You do not respect womanhood; you only patronize
women--you only patronize me. I could not give you a right to do that
for life. Good-bye. Don't come in this time. Wait. Let us both think."

"Let us both think," he repeated, as he started down the street.
"Think! Think what? I had no idea that Gertrude would be so utterly
unreasonable. It is a girl's whim. She'll get over it, but it is
deucedly uncomfortable while it lasts."

"Mamma," said Gertrude, when she reached her mother's pretty room on the
third floor. "Mamma, do you suppose if a girl really and truly loved a
man that she would stop to think whether he had a high or a low estimate
of womanhood?"

The girl's mother looked up startled. She was quite familiar with what
she had always termed the "superhumanly aged remarks" of her daughter,
but the new turn they had taken surprised her.

"I don't believe she would, Gertrude. Why? Are you imagining yourself
in love with some man who is not chivalrous toward women?" Mrs. Foster
smiled at the mere idea of her daughter caring much for any man. She
thought she had observed her too closely to make a mistake in the
matter.

Gertrude evaded the first question.

"I once heard a very brilliant man say--what I did not then
understand--that chivalry was always the prelude to imposition. I
believe I don't care very especially for chivalry. Fair play is better,
don't you think so?" She did not pause for a reply, but began taking off
her long gloves.

"Which would you like best from papa, flattery or square-toed, honest
truth?"

Her mother laughed.

"Gertrude, you are perfectly ridiculous. The institution of marriage, as
now established, wouldn't hang together ten minutes if your square-toed,
honest truth, as you call it, were to be tried between husbands and
wives. Most wives are frightened nearly to death for fear they will
become acquainted with the truth some day. They don't want it. They were
not--built for it." Gertrude began to move about the room impatiently.
Her mother smiled at her and went on: "Don't you look at it that way?
No? Well, you are young yet. Wait until you've been married three
years--"

The girl turned upon her with an indignant face. Then suddenly she threw
her arms about her mother's neck.

"Poor mamma, poor mamma," she said. "Didn't you find out for three years
_after?_ How did you bear it? I should have committed suicide. I--"

"Oh, no you wouldn't!" said her mother, with a bitter little inflection.
"They all talk that way. Girls all feel so, if they know enough to feel
at all--to think at all. They rage and wear out their nerves--as you are
doing now, heaven knows why--and the beloved husband calls a doctor
and buys sweets and travels with the precious invalid, and never once
suspects that he is at the bottom of the whole trouble. It never dawns
upon him that what she is dying for is a real and loyal companionship,
such as she had fondly dreamed of, and not at all for sea air. It
doesn't enter his mind that she feels humiliated because she knows that
a great part of his life is a sealed book to her, and that he wishes to
keep it so."

She paused, and her daughter stroked her cheek. This was indeed a
revelation to the girl. She had been wholly deceived by her mother's gay
manner all these years. She was taking herself sharply to task now.

"But by and by when she succeeds in killing all her self-respect; when
she makes up her mind that the case is hopeless, and that she must
expect absolutely no frankness in life beyond the limits of conventional
usage prescribed for purblind babies; after she arrives at the point
where she discovers that her happiness is a pretty fiction built on air
foundation--well, daughter, after that she--she strives to murder all
that is in her beyond and above the petty simpleton she passes for--and
she succeeds fairly well, doesn't she?"

There was a cynical smile on her lips, and she made an elaborate bow to
her daughter.

"Oh, mamma, I beg your pardon!" exclaimed the girl, almost frightened.
"I truly beg your pardon! If--you--I--"

Her mother looked steadily out of the window. Then she said, slowly,
"How did you come to find all this out _before_ you were married, child?
Have I not done a mother's duty by you in keeping you in ignorance, so
far as I could, of all the struggles and facts of life--of--"

The bitter tone was in her voice again. Gertrude was hurt by it, it was
so full of self-reproach mingled with self-contempt. She slipped her arm
about her mother's waist.

"Don't, mamma," she said. "Don't blame yourself like that. I'm sure you
have always done the best possible--the--"

Her mother laughed, but the note was not pleasant.

"Yes, I always did the lady-like thing,--nothing. I floated with the
tide. Take my advice, daughter,--float. If you don't, you'll only
tire yourself trying to swim against a tide that is too strong for you
and--and nothing will come of it. Nothing at all." The girl began to
protest with the self-confidence of youth, but her mother went on. She
had taken the bit in her teeth to-day and meant to run the whole race.

"Do you suppose I did not know about the Spillini family? About the
thousands of Spillini families? Do you suppose I did not know that the
rent of ten such families--their whole earnings for a year--would be
spent on--on a pretty inlaid prayer-book like this?" She tapped the
jeweled cross and turned it over on her lap. The girl's eyes were wide
and almost fear-filled as she studied her handsome care-free mother in
her new mood.

"Did you really suppose I did not know that this gem on the top of the
cross is dyed with the life-blood of some poor wretch, and that this one
represents the price of the honor of a starving girl?" She shivered, and
the girl drew back. "Did you fancy me as ignorant and as--happy--as
I have talked? Don't you know that it is the sole duty of a well-bred
woman to be ignorant--and happy? Otherwise she is morbid!" She
pronounced the word affectedly, and then laughed a bitter little laugh.

"Don't, mamma," said the girl, again. "I quite understand now, quite--"
She laid her head on her mother's bosom and was silent. Presently she
felt a tear drop on her hair. She put her hand up to her mother's cheek
and stroked it.

"The game went against you, didn't it, mamma?" she said softly. "And you
were not to blame." She felt a little shiver run over her mother's frame
and a sob crushed back bravely that hurt her like a knife. Presently two
hands lifted the girl's face.

"You don't despise me, daughter? In my position the price of a woman's
peace is the price of her own self-respect. I did not lose the game. I
gave it up!"

Gertrude kissed her on eyes and lips. "Poor mamma, poor mamma," she said
softly, "I wonder if I shall do the same!" For the first time since she
entered the room, the daughter appeared to appeal for, rather than to
offer, sympathy and strength. Her mother was quick to respond.

"If you never learn to love anyone very much, daughter, you may hope
to keep your self-respect. If you do you will sell it all--for his.
And--and--"

"Lose both at last?" asked the girl, hoarsely. Katherine Foster closed
her eyes for a moment to shut out her daughter's face.

"Will you ever have had his?" she asked, with her eyes still closed.
"Do men ever truly respect their dupes or their inferiors? Do you truly
respect anyone to whom you are willing to deny truth, honor, dignity?
Is it respect, or only a tender, pitying love we offer an intellectual
cripple--one whose mental life we know to be, and desire to keep,
distinctly below our own? Do--" She opened her eyes and they rested on
an onyx clock. She laughed. "Come, daughter," she said, "it is time to
dress for the Historical Club's annual dinner. You know I am one of the
guests of honor to-day. They honor me so truly that I am not permitted
to join the club or be ranked as a useful member at all. My work they
accept--flatter me by praising in a lofty way; but I can have no status
with them as an historian--I am a woman!"

Gertrude sprang to her feet. Her eyes flashed fire.

"Don't go! I wouldn't allow them to--" The door opened softly. Mr.
Foster's face appeared.

"Why, dearie, aren't you ready for the Historical Club? I wouldn't have
you late for anything. You know I, as the vice-president, am to respond
to the toast on, 'Woman: the highest creation, and God's dearest gift to
mankind.' It wouldn't look well if you were not there."

"No, dear," she said, without glancing at Gertrude. "It would not look
well. I'll be ready in a minute. Will you help me, Gertrude?"

"Yes," said the girl, and her deft fingers flew at the task. When the
door closed behind her mother and the carriage rolled away, she threw
herself face down on the bed and ground her teeth. "Shall I float, or
try to swim up stream?" she said, to herself. "Will either one pay for
what it will cost? Shall--"

"Miss Gertrude, dinner is served," said the maid; and she went to the
table alone.

"To think that a visit to the Spillini family should have led to all
this," she thought, and felt that life, as it had been, was over for
her.

Aloud she said:--

"James, the berries, please, and then you may go."

And James told Susan that in his opinion the man that got Miss Gertrude
was going to get the sweetest, simplest, yieldingest girl he ever saw
except one, and Susan vowed she could not guess who that one was.

But apparently James did not wholly believe her, for he essayed to
sportively poke her under the chin with an index finger that very
evidently had seen better days prior to having come into violent contact
with a base-ball, which, having a mind and a curve of its own, had
incidentally imparted an eccentric crook to the unfortunate member.

"Don't you dast t'touch me with that old pot-hook, er I'll scream,"
exclaimed Susan, dodging the caress. "I don't see no sense in a feller
gettin' hisself all broke up that a way," and Susan, from the opposite
side of the butler's table, glanced admiringly at her own shapely hand,
albeit the wrist might have impressed fastidious taste as of too robust
proportions, and the fingers have suggested less of flexibility than is
desirable.

But to James the hand was perfect, and Susan, feeling her power, did not
scruple to use it with brutal directness. She had that shivering dislike
for deformity which, is possessed by the physically perfect, and she
took it as a private grievance that James should have taken the liberty
to break one of his fingers without her knowledge and consent. Until he
had met her, James had carried his distorted member as a badge of honor.
No warrior had worn more proudly his battle scars. For, to James, to be
a catcher in a base-ball club was honor enough for one man, and he had
never dreamed of a loftier ambition. He had grown to keep that mutilated
finger ever to the fore as a retired general might carry an empty
sleeve. It gave distinction and told of brave and lofty achievement, so
James thought.

Susan had modified his pride in the dislocated digit, but he had not yet
learned to keep it always in the background. It had several times before
interfered with his love-making, and James was humble.

"Oh, now, Susie, don't you be so hard on that there old base-ball
finger! I didn't know it was a-going to touch your lovely dimple,"
and he held the offending member behind his back, as he slowly circled
around the table towards the haughty Susan. "By gum! I b'lieve I left a
mark on your chin. Lemme see." She thought she understood the ruse, but
when he kissed her she pretended deep indignation and flounced out of
the room, but the look on her face caused James to drop his left eyelid
over a twinkling orb and shake his sides with satisfaction as he removed
the dishes after Miss Gertrude had withdrawn from the dining-room.



IV.

The visit to the Spillini family had, indeed, led to strange
complications and far-reaching results. No one who had known young
Seldon Avery and his social life would ever have suspected him, or
any member of his set, of a desire to take part in what, by their club
friends or favorite reviews, was usually alluded to as the "dirty pool
of politics." For the past decade political advancement, at least in New
York, had grown to be looked upon by many as a mere matter of purchase
and sale, and as quite beneath the dignity of the more refined and
cultured men. It had been heralded as a vast joke, therefore, when young
Selden Avery, the representative of one of the most cultured families
and the honored son of an honored ancestry, had suddenly announced
himself as a candidate for the Assembly. His club friends guyed him
unmercifully. "We never did believe that you were half as good as you
pretended to be, Avery," said one of them, the first time he appeared
at the club after his nomination, "but I don't believe a man of us ever
suspected you of the depths of depravity that this implies. What ever
did put such a ridiculous idea into such a level and self-respecting
head? Out with it!"

Banter of this nature met him on every hand. He realized more fully than
ever how changed the point of view had grown to be from the historical
days of Washington or even of Lincoln. He recalled the time when in
his own boyhood his honored father had served in the Legislature of his
native state, and had not felt it other than a crowning distinction. Nor
had it been so looked upon then by his associates.

Nevertheless the constant jokes and gibes, which held something of a
real sting, had become so frequent that, young Avery felt like resenting
his friends' humorous thrusts.

"I can't see that I need be ashamed to follow in the footsteps of my
father," he said, a little hotly. "Some of the noblest of men--those
upon whom the history of this country depends for lustre--held seats in
the Assembly, and helped shape the laws of their states. I don't see why
I need apologize for a desire to do the same."

"It used to be an association of gentlemen up at the state capital, my
boy. Today it is--Lord! you know what it is, I guess. But if you don't,
just peruse this sacred volume," laughed his friend, sarcastically,
producing a small pamphlet.

"Looks to me as if you'd be rather out of your element with your
colleagues. 'M-m-m! Yes, here is the list. Hunted this up after I heard
you were going to stand for your district."

The English form of expression was no affectation, for the speaker was
far more familiar with political nomenclature abroad than at home. He
would have felt it an honor to a man to be called upon to "stand" for
his constituency in London, but to "run" for it in New York was far less
dignified. Standing gave an idea of repose; running was vulgar. Then,
too, the State Legislature did not bear the proportionate relationship
to Congress that the Commons did to Parliament, and it was always in
connection with that latter body that he had associated the term.

"Let me see. One, two, three, four, 'teen 'steen--yes, I thought I
was right! Just exactly nineteen of your nearest colleagues are saloon
keepers. One used to keep that disorderly house on Prince Street, four
are butchers, one was returned because he had won fame as a base-ballist
and--but why go further? Here, Martin, I'm trying to convince Avery that
it will be a trifle trying on his nerves to hobnob with the new set he's
making for. Don't you think it is rather an anti-climax from the Union
to the lower house at Albany? Ye gods!" and he laughed, half in scorn
and half in real amusement.

John Martin had extended his hand for the small pamphlet of statistics.
He ran his eye over the list, and then turned an amused face upon Avery.

"Think you'll like it?" he asked, dryly. "Or are you taking it as my
French friend here says his countrymen take heaven?"

"How's that?" queried Avery, smiling. "In broken doses--or not at all?"

The French gentleman stood with that poise which belongs to the
successful man. He glanced from one to the other and spread his hands to
either side.

"All Frenchmen desire to go to ze heaven, zhentlemen. Why? Ah, zere air
two at-traczions which to effrey French zhentle-man air irresisteble.
Ze angels--zey air women--and I suppose zat ze God weal also be an
attraction. Ees eet not so?"

Every one in the group laughed and he went on gravely on.

"I zink zat eet ees true--ees eet not?--zat loafly woman will always be
vara much ob-searved even in ze heaven eef we zhentlemen are zere. Eef?"
He cast up the comers of his eyes, and made another elaborate movement
of his hands.

The others all laughed again.

"Yes, zhentlemen, ze true Frenchman cares for two zings: a new
sensation--someings zey haf not before experienced,--and zat ees God;
and for zat which zey haf obsearved, but of which zey can naavear
obsearve enough--loafly woman!"

The explosion of laughter that greeted this sally brought about them a
number of other gentlemen, and the talk drifted into different channels.
Presently young Avery glanced at his watch and started, with rather
a sore heart toward the door. He remembered that he had promised the
managers of his campaign that he would be seen that evening at a certain
open-air garden frequented by the humbler portion of his constituency.
He concluded to go alone the first time that he might the better observe
without attracting too much attention. This plan was thought wise to
enable him to meet the exigencies of the coming campaign when he should
be called upon to speak to this element of this supporters.

Once outside the club house, he took a card from his pocket and glanced
at the directions he had jotted upon it.

"I'll walk across to the elevated," he thought, "and make my connection
for Grady's place that way. It will save time and look more democratic."



V.

The infinite pathos of life was never better illustrated, perhaps, than
in the merrymaking that night at Grady's Pavilion. The easy camaradarie
between conscious and unconscious vice; the so-evident struggle the
young girls had made to be beautiful and stylish, and the ghastly result
of their cheap and incongruous finery; their ignorant acceptance of
leers that meant to them honest admiration or affection, and to others
meant far different things; their jolly, thoughtless, eager effort to
get something joyful out of their narrow lives; the brilliant tints
in which they saw the future, and the ghastly light in which it stood
revealed to older and more experienced eyes, would have combined to
depress a heart less tender and a vision less clear than could have been
attributed to Selden Avery. Not that Grady's Pavilion was a bad place.

Many of the girls present would not have been there had it been known as
anything short of quite respectable; but it was a free and easy place,
where vice meets ignorance without having first made an appointment,
where opportunity shakes the ungloved hand of youth and leaves a stain
upon the tender palm too deep and dark for future tears to wash away.

"I wonder if I am growing morbid," mused Avery, as he sighed for the
third time while looking at the face of a girl not over eighteen
years old, but already marked by lines that told of a vaguely dawning
comprehension of what the future held for her. Her round-eyed companion,
a girl with a childish mind and face, sat beside her, but all the world
was bright to her. Life held a prince, a fortune and a career which
would be hers one day. She had only to wait, look pretty, and be ready
when the apple of fortune fell. Her part was to hold out a pretty apron
to break its descent.

"Oh, the infinite pathos of youth!" muttered Avery, feeling himself very
old with his thirty years of wider experience as his eyes turned from
one girl to the other. "It is hard to tell which is the sadder sight;
the disillusioned one or the one who will be even more roughly awakened
to-morrow."

His heart ached whenever he studied the face of a young girl. "There is
nothing so sad in all the wretched world," he sometimes said, "as the
birth of a girl in this grade of life. I am not sure that the nations
we look upon as barbarous because they strangle the little things before
they are able to think--I am not at all sure that they are not more
civilized than we after all. We only maim them with ignorance and utter
dependence, and then turn them out into a life where either of these
alone is an incalculable curse, and the combination is as fatal as fire
in a field of ripened grain."

The younger girl was looking at him. Her wide expectant eyes rested on
his face with a frankness and interest that touched his mood anew.

"Poor little thing," he said, half aloud; "if I were to see her bound
hand and foot and cast into a den of wolves, I might hope to rescue her;
but from this, for such as she there is absolutely no escape. How dare
people bring into the world those who must suffer?"

"Huh?" said a voice beside him. He had spoken in a semi-audible tone,
and his neighbor had responded after his habitual fashion, to what he
looked upon as an overture to conversation.

"I did not intend to speak aloud," said Avery, turning to glance at
the man beside him; "but I was just wondering how people dared to have
children--girls particularly."

The man beside him turned his full face upon him and examined him
critically from head to foot. Then he laughed. It was the first time he
had ever heard it hinted that it was not a wholly commendable thing to
bring as many children into the world as nature would permit. His first
thought had been that Avery was insane, but after looking at him he
decided that he was only a grim joker.

"I reckon they don't spend no great deal of time prayin' over the
subject," he said, laughing again. Then he crossed his legs and added,
"an' I don't suppose they get any telegrams tellin' them they're goin'
to _be_ girls, neither. If they did, a good many men would lick the boy
that brought the despatch, for God knows most of us would a dam sight
ruther have boys."

The laugh had died out of his voice, and there was a ring of
disappointment and aggrieved trouble in it. Selden Avery shifted his
position.

"I was not looking at it from the point of view of the parents of
unwelcome girls," he said, presently, "but from the outlook of the girls
of unwelcome parents. The reckoning from that side looks to me a good
deal longer than the other." His voice was pleasant, but his eyes looked
perplexed and determined. His neighbor began to readjust his opinion
of Avery's sanity, and moved his chair a little farther away before he
spoke.

"Got any children of your own?" he inquired, succinctly. Avery shook
his head. The man drew down the comers of his mouth in a contemptuous
grimace. "I thought not. If you had, you'd take it a dam sight easier.
Children are an ungrateful lot. They're never satisfied--or next to
never. They think you're made for their comfort instead of their bein'
for yours. I've got nine, and I know what I'm talkin' about. If you've
got any sympathy to throw away don't waste it on children. Parents, in
these days of degenerate youngsters, are passin' around the hat for
sympathy. In my day it was just the other way. If one of the young ones
went wrong, people pitied the father and blamed the child. Now-a-days
they blame the father and weep over the young one that makes the
mischief. It makes me mad."

He shut his teeth with a suddenness that suggested a snap, and flashed a
defiant look about the room.

Avery glanced at his heavy, stubborn face, and decided not to reply. He
was in no mood for controversy. And what good could it do, he said to
himself, to argue with a mere lump of selfish egotism?

"That is an unusually pretty girl over by the piano," he said, in a
tone of mild indifference which he hoped would serve as a period to the
conversation.

"She's Tom Berton's girl," was the quick reply. "Berton's up to Albany
most o' the time, with me. I represent our district. She's a nice little
thing. She'll do anything you ask her to. I never see her equal for
that. It's easier for her to do your way than it is to do her own. She
likes to; so everybody likes her. I wish I had one like her; but my
girls are as stubborn as mules. They won't drive, and they won't lead,
and they'd ruther kick than eat. I don't know where they got it. Their
mother wasn't half so bad that way, and the Lord knows it ain't in _my_
family. The girl she's with is one o' mine. She looks like she could eat
tenpenny nails. She might be just as pretty an' just as much liked as
Ettie Berton, but she ain't. She's always growlin' about somethin'. I'll
bet a dollar she'll growl about this when we get home. Ettie will think
it was splendid. She'd have a good time at a funeral; but that girl of
mine 'll get me to spend a dollar to come here and then she'll go home
dissatisfied. It won't be up to what she expected.

"Things never are. She's always lookin' to find things some other way.
Now, what would you do with a girl like that?" he asked suddenly.
Then without waiting for a reply, he added, "I give her a good tongue
lashin', an' as she always knows it's comin', she's got so she don't
kick _quite_ so much as she used to, but she just sets an' looks sullen
like that. It makes me so mad I could--"

He did not finish his remark, but got up and strolled away without the
formality of an adieu.

Avery watched his possible future colleague until he was lost in the
crowd, and then he walked deliberately over to where the two girls
stood.

"I have been talking with your father," he said, smiling and bowing to
the older girl, "and although he did not say that I might come and talk
to you, he told me who you were, and I think he would not object."

"Oh, no; he wouldn't object," said the younger girl, eagerly. "Would he,
Fan? Everybody talks here. He told me so before we came. It's the first
time we've been; but he's been before. I think it's splendid, don't
you?"

The older girl had not spoken. She was looking at Selden Avery with half
suppressed interest and embryonic suspicion. She still knew too little
of life to have formed even a clearly defined doubt as to him or his
intentions in speaking to them. She was less happy than she had expected
to be when she dressed to come with her ever-dawning hope for a real
pleasure. She thought there must be something wrong with her because
things never seemed to come up to her expectations. She supposed this
must be "society," and that when she got used to it, she would enjoy it
more. But somehow she had wanted to resent it the first time a man spoke
to her, and then, afterward, she was glad she did not, for he had danced
with Ettie twice, and Ettie had said it was a lovely dance. She had made
up her mind to accept the next offer she had, but when it came, the
eyes of the man were so beady-black, and the odor of bay rum radiated
so insistently from him that she declined. She hated bay rum because
the worst scolding her father ever gave her was when she had emptied
his cherished bottle upon her own head. The odor always brought back
the heart-ache and resentment of that day, and so she did not think she
cared to dance just then.

Selden Avery looked at Ettie. He did not want to tell her what he did
think and he had not the heart to dampen her ardor, so he simply smiled,
and said:

"It is my first visit here, too; and I don't know a soul. I noticed you
two young ladies a while ago, and spoke of you to the gentleman next
to me and it chanced to be your father"--he turned to the older girl
again--"so that was what gave me courage to come over here. If I had
thought of it before he left me, I'd have asked him to introduce me, but
I'm rather slow to think. My name is Selden Avery."

"Did father tell you mine?" she asked, looking at him steadily, with
eyes that held floating ends of thoughts that were never formed in full.

"No, he didn't," replied Avery, laughing a little. "He told me yours,
though," turning to the merry child at his side. "Ettie Berton, Tom
Berton's daughter."

Ettie laughed, and clapped her hands together twice.

"Got it right the first time! But what did he give me away for and not
her? She is Francis King. That is, her father's name's King, but she is
so awfully particular about things and so hard to suit she ought to be
named Queen, I tell her, so I call her Queen Fan mostly." There was a
little laugh all around, and Avery said:--

"Very good, very good, indeed;" but Francis looked uncomfortable and so
he changed the subject. Presently she looked at him and asked:--

"Do you think things are ever like they are in books? Do you think this
is? She waved her hand toward the music and the lights. In the books I
have read--and the story papers--it all seems nicer than this and--and
different. It is because I say that, that they all make fun of me and
call me Queen Fan, and father says--" she paused, and a cold light
gathered in her eyes. "He don't like it, so I don't say it much, now. He
says it's all put on; but it ain't Everything does seem to turn out so
different from what you expected--from the way you read about. I've not
felt like I thought _maybe_ I should to-night because--because--" she
stopped again.

"Because why?" asked Avery, laughing a little. "Because I'm not a bit
like the usual story-book prince you ought to have met and--?"

She smiled, and Ettie made a droll little grimace.

"No, it wasn't that at all. I've been thinking most all evening that it
wasn't worth--that--"

"Oh, she's worried," put in Ettie, "because she got her father to spend
a dollar to bring her. She's afraid he'll throw it up to her afterward,
and she thinks it won't pay for that, so it spoils the whole thing
before he does it--just being afraid he will. But I tell her he won't,
this time. I--" Francis' eyes had filled with tears of mortification,
and Avery pretended not to have heard. He affected a deep interest in
the music.

"Do you know what it is they are playing now?" he asked, with his eyes
fixed upon the musicians. "I thought at first that it was going to
be--No, it is--Ton my word I can't recall it, and I ought to know what
it is, too. The first time I ever heard it, I remember--"

He turned toward where Francis had stood, but she was gone. "Why, what
has become of Miss King?" he asked of the other girl. Ettie looked all
about, laughed and wondered and chattered as gaily as a bird.

"I expect she's gone home. She's the queerest you ever saw. I guess she
didn't want me to say that about her pa. But it'll make him madder than
anything if she has gone that way. He won't like it at all--an' I can't
blame him. What's the use to be so different from other folks?" she
inquired, sagely, and then she added, laughing: "I don't know as she is
so different, either. We all hate things, but we pretend we don't. Don't
you think it's better to pretend to like things, whether you do or not?"

"No," replied Avery, beginning to look with surprise upon this small
philosopher who had no conception of the worldly wisdom of her own
philosophy.

"I do," she said, laughing again. "It goes down better. Everybody
likes you better. I've found that out already, and so I pretend to like
everything. Of course I do like some of 'em, and some I don't, but it's
just as easy to say you like 'em all." She laughed again, and kept time
with her toe on the floor.

"Just what don't you like?" asked Avery, smiling. "Won't you tell me,
truly? I won't tell any one, and I'd like to be sure of one thing you
object to--on principle."

"Well, tob--Do you smoke?" she asked.

He shook his head, and pursed up his lips negatively.

"I thought not," she said, gaily. "You look like you didn't. Well, I
hate--hate--hate--hate smoke. When I go on a ferry-boat, and the air is
so nice and cool and different from at home, and seems so clean, I just
love it, and then--"

"Some one sits near you and smokes," put in Avery, consolingly.

"Yes, they do; and I just most pray that he'll fall over and get
drownded--but he never does; and if he asks me if I object to smoke,
I say, 'Oh! not at all!' and then he thinks I'm such a nice, sensible
girl. Fan tells 'em right out that she don't like it. It makes her
deadly sick, and the boys all hate her for it. Her father says it's
da---- I was going to say his cuss word, but I guess I won't. Anyhow,
he says it's all nonsense and put on. I guess I better go. There is
her father looking for us. Poor Fan'll catch it when we get home!
Good-night. I've had a lovely time, haven't you?" She waved her hand.
Then she retraced the step she had taken. "Don't tell that I don't like
tobacco," she said, and started away laughing. He followed her a few
steps.

"How is any fellow to know what you really do like?" he asked, smiling,
"if you do that way?"

"Fan says nobody wants to know," she said, slyly. "She says they want to
know that I like what they want me to like, and think what they think I
think." She laughed again. "And of course I do," she added, and bowed in
mock submission. "Now, Fan don't. That's where she misses it; and if she
don't--reform," she said, lowering her voice, as she neared that young
lady's father, "she is going to see trouble that is trouble. I'll bet a
cent on it. Don't you?" she asked, as she bestowed a bright smile upon
Mr. King.

"Yes," said Avery, and lifting his hat, turned on his heel and was lost
in the crowd.

"Where's Fan?" inquired that young lady's father in a tone which
indicated that, as a matter of course, she was up to some devilment
again.

"She got a headache and went home quite a while ago," said that young
lady's loyal little friend. "She enjoyed it quite a lot till she did
get a headache." As they neared the street where both lived, Ettie said:
"That man talked to her, and I think she liked him."

"Humph!" said Mr. King. "I wouldn't be surprised. She'd be likely to
take to a lunatic. I thought he was about the damnedest fool I ever saw;
didn't you?"

"Yes," said Ettie, laughing, "and I liked him for it."

Mr. King burst into a roar of laughter. "Of course you did! You'd like
the devil. You're that easy to please. I wish to the Lord Fan was," and
with a hearty "goodnight," he left her at her father's door, and crossed
the street.

Once outside the garden, Avery drew from his pocket the little pamphlet
which his club friend had given him, and ran his finger down the list.

"King, member the--ah, ha! one end of his ward joins mine! 'M-m-m; yes,
I see. He is one of the butchers. I suspected as much. Let me see; yes,
he votes my ticket, too. If I'm elected we'll be comrades-in-arms, so to
speak I suppose I ought to have told him who I was; but if I'm elected
he'll find out soon enough, and if I'm beaten--well, I can't say that
I'm anxious to extend the acquaintance." He replaced the book in his
pocket as the guard called out, 'Thirty-Fourth Street! 'strain for
Arlem!' and left the train, musing as he strolled along. "Yes, Gertrude
was quite right--quite. We fortunate ones have no right to allow all
this sort of thing to go on. We have no right to leave it entirely to
such men as that to make the laws. I don't care if the fellows up at the
club do guy me. Gertrude--" He drew from his breast-pocket a little
note, and read it for the tenth time.

"I am so gratified to hear that you have accepted the nomination," it
said. "You have the time, and mental and moral equipment to give to
the work Were I a man, I should not sleep o' nights until some way
was devised to prevent all the terrible poverty and ignorance and
brutishness we were talking about the other day. I went to see that
Spillini family again. I was afraid to go alone, so I took with me two
girls who are in a sewing class, which is, just now a fad at our Church
Guild. I thought their experience with poverty would enable them to
think of a way to get at this case; but it did not. They appeared to
think it was all right It seems to me that ignorance and poverty leave
no room for thought, or even for much feeling. It hurt me like a knife
to have those girls laugh over it after we came out; at least, one of
them laughed, and the other seemed scornful, It is not fair to expect
more of them, I know, for we expect so little of ourselves. It is
thinking of all this that makes me write to tell you how glad I am that
you are to represent your district in Albany. Such men are needed, for
I know you will work for the poor with the skill of a trained intellect
and a sympathetic heart. I am so glad. Sincerely your friend, Gertrude
Foster."

Mr. Avery replaced the note in his pocket, and smiled contentedly. "I
don't care a great deal what the fellows at the club say," he repeated.
"I'm satisfied, if Gertrude--" He had spoken the last few words almost
audibly, and the name startled him. He realized for the first time that
he had fallen into the habit of thinking of her as Gertrude, and
it suddenly flashed upon him that Miss Foster might be a good deal
surprised by that fact if she knew it. He fell to wondering if she would
also be annoyed. There was a tinge of anxiety in the speculation. Then
it occurred to him that the sewing class of the Guild might give an
outlet and a chance for a bit of pleasure to that strange girl he had
seen at Grady's Pavilion, and he made a little memorandum, and decided
to call upon Gertrude and suggest it to her. He fell asleep that night
and dreamed of Gertrude Foster, holding out a helping hand to a strange,
tall girl, with dissatisfied eyes, and that Ettie Berton was laughing
gaily and making everybody comfortable, by asserting that she liked
everything exactly as she found it.



VI

The next evening Avery called upon Gertrude to thank her for her letter,
and, incidentally, to tell her of the experience at Grady's Pavilion,
and bespeak the good office of the Guild for those two human pawns, who
had, somehow, weighed upon his heart.

Avery was not a Churchman himself, but he felt very sure that any Guild
which would throw Gertrude Foster's influence about less fortunate
girls, would be good, so he gave very little thought to the phase of it
which was not wholly related to the personality of the young woman in
whose eyes he had grown to feel he must appear well and worthy, if he
retained his self-respect. This bar of judgment had come, by unconscious
degrees, to be the one before which he tried his own cases for and
against himself.

"Would Gertrude like it if she should know? Would I dislike to have her
know that I did this or felt that?" was now so constantly a part of his
mental processes, that he had become quite familiar with her verdicts,
which were most often passed--from his point of view, and in his own
mind--without the knowledge of the girl herself.

He had never talked of love to her, except in the general and impersonal
fashion of young creatures who are wont to eagerly discuss the profound
perplexities of life without having come face to face with one of them.
One day they had talked of love in a cottage. The conversation had been
started by the discussion of a new novel they had just read, and Avery
told her of a strange fellow whom he knew, who had married against the
wishes of his father, and had been disinherited.

"He lost his grip, somehow," said Avery, "and went from one disaster
into another. First he lost his place, and the little salary they had to
live on was stopped. It was no fault of his. It had been in due course
of a business change in the firm he worked for. He got another, but not
so good a situation, but the little debts that had run up while he was
idle were a constant drag on him. He never seemed able to catch up. Then
his wife's health failed. She needed a change of climate, rare and
delicate food, a quiet mind relieved of anxiety, but he could not give
her these. His own nerves gave way under the strain, and at last
sickness overtook him, and he had to appeal to me for a loan."

It was the letter which his friend had written when in that desperate
frame of mind, which Avery read to Gertrude the day they had discussed
the novel together. It was a strange, desperate letter, and it had
greatly stirred Gertrude. One passage in it had rather shocked her. It
was this: "When a fellow is young, and knows little enough of life to
accept the fictions of fiction as guides, he talks or thinks about it
as 'love in a cottage.' After he has tried it a while, and suffered in
heart and soul _because_ of his love of those whom he must see day
after day handicapped in mind and wrecked in body for the need of larger
means, he begins to speak of it mournfully as 'poverty with love' But
when that awful day comes, when sickness or misfortune develops before
his helpless gaze all the horrors of dependence and agony of mind that
the future outlook shows him, then it is that the fitting description
comes, and he feels like painting above the door he dreads to
enter--'hell at home.' Without the love there would be no home; without
the poverty no hell. Neither lightens the burdens of the other. Each
multiplies all that is terrible in both."

Gertrude had listened to the letter with a sad heart. When she did not
speak, Avery felt that he should modify some of its terms if he would be
fair to his absent acquaintance.

"Of course he would have worded it a little differently if he had known
that any one else would read it. He was desperate. He had gone through
such a succession of disasters. If anything was going to fall it seemed
as if he was sure to be under it, so I don't much wonder at his language
after--"

"I don't wonder at it at all," said Gertrude, looking steadily into the
fire. "What seems wonderful, is the facts which his words portray. I can
see that they are facts; but what I cannot see is--is--"

"How he could express them so raspingly--so--?" began Avery, but she
turned to him quite frankly surprised.

"Oh, no! Not that. But how can it be right that it should be so? And if
it is not right, why do not you men who have the power, do something to
straighten things out? Is this sort of suffering absolutely _necessary_
in the world?"

It was this talk and its suggestions which had led Avery to first take
seriously into consideration the proposition that he run for a seat
in the Assembly. It seemed to him that men like himself, who had both
leisure and convictions, might do some good work there, and he began to
realize that the law-making of the state was left, for the most part, in
very dangerous hands, and that a law once passed must inevitably help
to crystallize public opinion in such a way as to retard freer or better
action.

"To think of allowing that class of men to set the standards about
which public opinion forms and rallies!" he thought, as the professional
politician arose before him, and his mind was made up. He would be a
candidate. So the night after his experience at Grady's Pavilion he had
another puzzle to lay before Gertrude. When he entered the hallway
he was sorry to hear voices in the drawing-room. He had hoped to find
Gertrude and her mother alone. His first impulse was to leave his card
and call at another time, but the servant recognizing his hesitation,
ventured a bit of information.

"Excuse me, Mr. Avery, but I don't think they will be here long. It's a
couple of--They--"

"Thank you, James. Are they not friends of Miss Gertrude?"

James smiled in a manner which displayed a large capacity for pity.

"Well, sir, I shouldn't say they was exactly friends. No, sir, ner yet
callers, sir. They're some of them Guilders."

Avery could not guess what Gertrude would have gilders in the
drawing-room for at that hour, but decided to enter. "Mr. Avery;" said
James, in his most formal and perfunctory fashion, as he drew back the
portière and announced the new arrival No one would have dreamed from
the stolid front presented by the liveried functionary, that he had just
exchanged confidences with the guest.

"Let me introduce my friends to you, Mr. Avery," began Gertrude, and two
figures arose, and from one came a gay little laugh, a mock courtesy,
and "Law me! It's him! Well, if this don't beat the Dutch!"

She extended her hand to him and laughed again. "We didn't shake hands
last night, but now's we're regul'rly interduced I guess we will," she
added.

Avery took her hand, and then offered his to her companion, and bowed
and smiled again.

"Really, I shall begin to grow superstitious," he said, in an
explanatory tone to Gertrude. "I came here to-night to see if I could
arrange to have you three young ladies meet; to learn if there was a
chance at the Guild to--"

"Oh," smiled Gertrude, beginning to grasp the situation. "How very nice!
But these two are my star girls at the Guild now. We were just arranging
some work for next week, but--"

"Yas, she wants to go down to that Spillini hole agin," broke in Ettie
Berton, and Francis King glanced suspiciously from Gertrude to
Avery. She wondered just what these two were thinking. She felt very
uncomfortable and wished that he had not come in. She had not spoken
since Avery entered, and he realized her discomfort.

"You treated us pretty shabbily last night, Miss King," he said,
smiling, and then he turned to Gertrude. "She left me in the middle of a
remark. We met at Grady's Pavilion, and if I'm elected, I learn that the
fathers of both of these young ladies will be my companions-in-arms in
the Assembly. They--!" In spite of herself, Gertrude's face showed her
surprise, but Ettie Berton broke in with a gay laugh.

"Are you in politics? Law me! I'd never a believed it. I don't see how
you're agoin' to get on unless you get a--"

She realized that her remark was going to indicate a belief in certain
incapacity in him, and she took another cue.

"My pa says nobody hardly can't get on in politics by himself. You see
my pa is a sort of a starter for Fan's pa in politics, 're else he'd
never got on in the world. Fan's pa backs him, and he starts things that
her pa wants started."

Francis moved uneasily, and Gertrude said: "That is natural enough
since they were friends here, and, I think you told me, were in business
together, didn't you?"

Ettie laughed, and clapped her hands gaily. "That's good! In business
together! Oh, Lord, I'll tell pa that. He'll roar. Why, pa is a
prerofessional starter. He ain't in business with no particular one only
jest while the startin's done."

The girl appeared to think that Avery and Gertrude were quite familiar
with professional starters, and she rattled on gaily.

"I thought I'd die the time he started them butcher shops for Fan's pa,
though. He hadn't never learnt the difference between a rib roast 'n a
soup bone, 'n he had to keep a printed paper hung up inside o' the ice
chest so's he'd know which kind of a piece he got out to sell; but he
talked so nice an' smooth all the time he _was_ a gettin' it out, an'
tole each customer that the piece they asked fer was the 'choicest
part of the animal,' but that mighty few folks had sense enough to know
it--oh, it was funny! I used to get where I could hear him, and jest die
a laughin'. He'd sell the best in the shop for ten cents a pound, an'
he'd cut it which ever way they ast him to, an' make heavy weight. His
price list was a holy show, but he jest scooped in all the trade around
there in no time, an' the other shops had to move. Then you ought t'
a seen Fan's pa come in there an' brace things up! Whew!" She laughed
delightedly, and Francis's face flushed.

"He braced prices up so stiff that some o' the customers left, but most
of 'em stayed rather'n hunt up a new place to start books in. Pa, he'd
started credit books with _all_ of 'em.

"Pa, he was in the back room the first day Fan's pa and the new clerk
took the shop, after pa got it good'n started. Him an' me most died
laughin' at the kickin' o' the people. Every last one of 'em ast fer pa
to wait on 'em, but Fan's pa he told 'em that he'd bankrupted hisself
and had t' sell out to him. Pa said he wisht he had somethin' to
bankrupt on. But, law, he'll never make no money. He ain't built that
way. He's a tip top perfessional starter tho', ain't he, Fan?" she
concluded with a gleeful reminiscent grimace at her friend. Francis
shifted her position awkwardly, and tried to feel that everything
was quite as it should be in good society, and Gertrude made a little
attempt to divert the conversation to affairs of the Guild, but Ettie
Berton, who appeared to look upon her father as a huge joke, and to feel
herself most at home in discussing him, broke in again:--

"But the time he started the 'Stable fer Business Horses,' was the
funniest yet," and she laughed until her eyes filled with tears, and she
dried them with the lower part of the palms of her hands, rubbing them
red.

"The boss told him not to take anything _but_ business horses. What he
meant was, to be sure not to let in any fancy high-steppers, fer fear
they'd get hurt or sick, an' he'd have trouble about 'em Well, pa didn't
understand at first, an' he wouldn't take no mules, an' most all the
business horses around there _was_ mules, an' when drivers'd ask him why
he wouldn't feed 'em 'er take 'em in, he jest had t' fix up the funniest
stories y' ever heard. He tole one man that he hadn't laid in the kind
o' feed mules eat, n' the man told him he was the biggest fool to talk
he ever see. The mule-man he--"

Francis King had arisen, and started awkwardly toward Gertrude, with her
hand extended.

"I think we ought to go," she said, uneasily, her large eyes burning
with mortification, and an oppressed sense of being at a disadvantage.

"So soon?" said Gertrude, smiling as she took her hand, and laid her
other arm about the shoulders of Ettie, who had hastened to place
herself in the group. "I was so entertained that I did not realize that
perhaps you ought to go before it grows late--oh," glancing at a tiny
watch in her bracelet, "it is late--too late for you to go way down
there alone. I will send James, or--"

"Allow me the pleasure, will you not?" asked Avery, bowing first to
Gertrude, and then toward Francis, and Gertrude said:--

"Oh, thank you, if--" but Ettie clapped her hands in glee.

"Well, that's too rich! Just as if we didn't go around by ourselves all
the time, and--Lord! pa says if anybody carries me off he'd only go as
far as the lamp-post, and drop me as soon as the light struck me! Now
Fan's pretty, but--" she laughed, and made clawing movements in the air.
"Nobody'll get away with Queen Fan's long's she's got finger-nails 'n
teeth." She snapped her pretty little white teeth together with mock
viciousness, and laughed again. "I'd just pity the fellow that tried any
tomfoolery with Queen Fan. He'd wish he'd died young!"

They all laughed a bit at this sally, and Avery said he did not want
Miss King to be forced to extremities in self-protection while he was
able to relieve her of the necessity.

When James closed the door behind the laughing group, he glanced at Miss
Gertrude to see what she thought of it, but he remarked to Susan later
on, that "Miss Gertrude looked as if she was born 'n brought up that way
herself. She didn't show no amusement ner no sarcasm in her face. An' as
fer Mr. Avery, it was nothing short of astonishing, to see him offer his
arms to those two Guilders as they started down the avenue."

And Susan ventured it as her present belief, that if Gertrude's father
once caught any of her Guilders around, he'd "make short work of the
whole business. She ought't be ashamed o' herself, so she ought. Ketch
_me,_ if I was in her shoes, a consortin' with--"

"Anybody but me, Susie," put in the devoted James; but alas, for him,
the stiff, unyielding hooked joint of his injured finger came first
in contact with the wrist of the fair Susan as he essayed to clasp her
hand, and she evaded the grasp and flung out of the room with a shiver.
"Keep that old twisted base-ball bat off o' me! I--"

"Oh, Susie!" said James, dolefully, to himself, as he slowly surrounded
the offending member with the folds of his handkerchief, which gave it
the appearance of being in hospital. "Oh, Susie! how kin you?"

When John Martin, on his way, intending to drop in for the last act of
the opera, passed Gertrude's door just in time to see Avery and the two
girls come down the steps, his lip curled a bit, and his heart performed
that strange feat which loving hearts have achieved in all the ages
past, in spite of reason and of natural impulses of kindness. It took
on a distinctly hard feeling towards Avery, and this feeling was not
unmixed with resentment. "How dare he take girls like that to her house?
I was a fool to take her to the Spillinis, but I'd never be idiot enough
to take that type of girl to _her_ house. Avery's political freak has
dulled his sense of propriety."

Mr. Martin wondered vaguely if he ought not to say something to
Gertrude's father, and then he thought it might possibly be better to
touch lightly upon it himself in talking to her.

He had heard some gossip at the opera and in the club, which indicated
that society did not approve altogether of some of the things Gertrude
had recently said and done; but that it smiled approvingly at what
it believed to be as good as an engagement between the young lady and
Selden Avery. Martin ground his teeth now as he thought of it, and
glanced again at the retreating forms of Avery and the two girls.

"It was that visit to the Spillinis, and the revelation of life which it
gave her, that is to blame for it all," he groaned. "I was an accursed
fool--an accursed fool!"

That night Gertrude lay thinking how charmingly Selden Avery had met
the situation, and how well he had helped carry it off with Ettie and
Francis. "He seemed to look at it all just as I do," she thought. I felt
that I knew just what he was thinking, and he certainly guessed that I
wanted him to see them home, exactly as if they had been girls of our
own set. "Poor little Ettie! I wonder what we can do with, or for, such
as she? She is so hopelessly--happy and ignorant." Then she fell asleep,
and dreamed of rescuing Ettie from the fangs a maddened dog, and Francis
stood by and looked scornfully at Gertrude's lacerated hands, and then
pointed to her little friend's mangled body and the smile upon her dead
lips.

"She never knew what hurt her, and she teased the dog to begin with,"
she said. "You are maimed for life, and may go mad, just trying to help
her--and she never knew and she never cared." Gertrude's dreamed had
strayed and wandered into vagaries without form or outline, and in the
morning nothing of it was left but an unreasonably heavy heart, and a
restless desire to do--she knew not what.



VII.

When Avery took his seat in the Assembly he learned that Ettie Berton's
father had been true to his calling. He still might be described as a
professional starter. Any bill which was in need of some one to either
introduce or offer a speech in its favor, found in John Berton an
ever-ready champion.

Not that he either understood or believed in all the bills he presented
or advocated. Belief and understanding were not for sale; nor,
indeed, were they always very much within his own grasp. He was in the
Legislature to promote, or start, such measures as stood in need of his
peculiar abilities. This was very soon understood, and many a bill
which other men feared or hesitated to present found its way to him and
through him to a reading. For a while Avery watched this process with
amusement. He wrote to Gertrude, from time to time, some very humorous
letters about it; but finally, one day a letter came which so bitterly
denounced both King and Berton, that Gertrude wondered what could have
wrought the sudden change.

"He has introduced a bill which is now before my committee," he wrote,
"that passes all belief. It is infamous beyond words to express, and,
to my dismay, it finds many advocates beside King and Berton. That a
conscienceless embruted inmate of an opium dive in Mott Street might
acknowledge to himself in the dark, and when he was alone, that he could
advocate such a measure, seems to me possible; but men who are in one
sense reputable, who--many of them--look upon themselves as respectable;
men who are fathers of girls and brothers of women, could even consider
such a bill, I would not have believed possible, and yet, I am ashamed
to say that I learn now for the first time, that our state is not the
only one where similar measures have not only found advocates, but
where there were enough moral lepers with voting power to establish such
legislation. It makes me heartsick and desperate. I am ashamed of the
human race. I am doubly ashamed that it is to my sex such infamous laws
are due.

"You were right, my dear Miss Gertrude; you were right. It is outrageous
that we allow mere conscienceless politicians to legislate for
respectable people, and yet my position here is neither pleasant, nor
will it, I fear, be half so profitable as you hope--as I hoped, before I
came and learned all I now know. But, believe me, I shall vote on every
bill and make every speech, with your face before me, and as if I were
making that particular law to apply particularly to you."

Gertrude smiled as she re-read that part of his letter.

She wondered what awful bill Ettie's father had presented. She had never
before thought that a legislator might strive to enact worse laws than
he already found in the statute books. She had thought most of the
trouble was that they did not take the time and energy to repeal old,
bad laws that had come to us from an ignorant or brutal past.

It struck her as a good idea, that a man should never vote on a measure
that he did not feel he was making a rule of action to apply to the
woman for whom he cared most; she knew now that she was that woman for
Selden Avery. He had told her that the night he came to bring the news
that he was elected. It had been told in a strangely simple way.

Her father and mother had laughingly congratulated him upon his
election, and Mr. Poster had added, banteringly: "If one may
congratulate a man upon taking a descent like that."

Gertrude had held one of her father's hands in her own, and tried by
gentle pressure to check him. Her father laughed, and added: "The little
woman here is trying to head me off. She appears to think--"

"Papa," said Gertrude, extending her other hand to Avery, "I do think
that Mr. Avery is to be congratulated that he has the splendid courage
to try to do something distinctly useful for other people, than simply
for the few of us who are outside or above most of the horrors of life.
I do--" Avery suddenly lifted her hand to his lips, and his eyes told
the rest. "Mr. Foster," he said, still holding the girl's hand, and
blushing painfully, "there can never be but one horror in the world too
awful for me to face, and that would be to lose the full respect and
confidence of your daughter. I know I have those now, and for the rest
--" He glanced again at Gertrude. She was pale, and she was looking with
an appeal in her eyes to her mother.

Mrs. Foster moved a step nearer, and put her arm about the girl. "For the
rest, Mr. Avery, for the rest--later on, later on," she said, kindly.
"Gertrude has traveled very fast these past few months, but she is her
mother's girl yet." Then she smiled kindly, and added: "Gertrude has set
a terrible standard for the man she will care for. I tremble for him and
I tremble for her."

"Tut, tut," said her father, "there are no standards in love--none
whatever. Love has its own way, and standards crumble--"

"In the past, perhaps. But in the future--" began his wife.

"In the future," said Gertrude, as she drew nearer to her mother, "in
the future they may not need to crumble, because,--because--" Her eyes
met Avery's, and fell. She saw that his muscles were tense, and his face
was unhappy.

"Because men will be great enough and true enough to rise to the ideals,
and not need to crumble the ideals to bring them to their level."

Avery bent forward and grasped her hand that was within her mother's.

"Thank you," he said, tremulously. "Thank you, oh, darling! and the rest
can wait," he said, to Mrs. Poster, and dropping both hands, he left the
room and the house.

Gertrude ran up-stairs and locked her door.

Mr. Foster turned to his wife with a half amused, half vexed face.
"Well, this is a pretty kettle of fish. What's to become of Martin, I'd
like to know?"

"John Martin has never had a ghost of a chance at any time--never," said
his wife, slowly trailing her gown over the rug, and dragging with it a
small stand that had caught its carved claw in the lace. It toppled and
fell with a crash. The beautiful vase it had held was in fragments. "Oh,
Katharine!" exclaimed her husband, springing forward to disengage her
lace. "Oh, it is too bad, isn't it?"

And Katherine Foster burst into tears, and with her arms suddenly thrown
about her husband's neck she sobbed: "Oh, yes, it is too bad! It is too
bad!" But it did not seem possible to her husband that the broken vase
could have so affected her, and surely no better match could be asked
for Gertrude. It could not be that. He was deeply perplexed, and
Katherine Foster, with a searching look in her face, kissed him sadly as
one might kiss the dead, and went to her daughter's room.

She tapped lightly and then said, "It is I, daughter."

The girl opened the door and as quickly closed and locked it. Instantly
their arms were around each other and both were close to tears.

"Don't try to talk, darling," whispered Mrs. Foster, as they sat down
upon the couch. "Don't try to talk. I understand better than you do
yet, and oh, Gertrude, your mother loves you!"

"Yes, mamma," said the girl, hoarsely. "Dear little mamma--poor little
mamma, we all love you;" and Mrs. Foster sighed.



VIII.

The day Gertrude received Avery's letter about bill number 408, she
asked her father what the bill was about. He looked at her in surprise,
and then at his wife. "I don't know anything about it, child," he said;
"Why?"

Gertrude drew from her pocket Avery's letter and read that part of it.
Her father's face clouded.

"What business has he to worry you with his dirty political work? I
infer from what he says that it is a bill that I've only heard mentioned
once or twice. The sort of thing they do in secret sessions and keep
from the newspapers in the main. That is, they are only barely named in
the paper and under a number or heading which people don't understand.
I'm disgusted with Avery--perfectly!" Gertrude was surprised, but with
that ignorance and absolute sincerity of youth, she appealed to her
mother.

"Mamma, do you see any reason why, from that letter, papa should be
vexed with Mr. Avery? It seemed to me to have just the right tone; but I
am sorry he did not tell me just what the bill is."

"You let me catch him telling you, if it's what I think it is," retorted
her father, rather hotly. "It's not fit for your ears. Good women have
no business with such knowledge and--"

Mrs. Foster held up a warning finger to her daughter, but the girl had
not been convinced.

"Don't good men know such things, papa? Don't such bills deal with
people in a way which will touch women, too? I can't see why you put it
that way. If a bill is to be passed into a law, and it is of so vile a
nature as you say and as this letter indicates, in whose interest is it
to be silent or ignorant? Do you want such a bill passed? Would mamma or
I?"

Her father laughed, and rose from the table. "It is in the interest
of nothing good. No, I should say if you or your mother, or any other
respectable mother at all, were in the Legislature, no such bill would
have a ghost of a chance; but--"

Gertrude's eyes were fixed upon her father. They were very wide open and
perplexed.

"Then it can be only in the interest of the vilest and lowest of the
race that good men keep silent, and prefer to have good women ignorant
and helpless in such--" she began; but her father turned at the door
and said, nervously and almost sharply, "Gertrude, if Avery has no more
sense than to start you thinking about such things, I advise you to
cut his acquaintance. Such topics are not fit for women; I am perfectly
disgusted with--"

As he was passing out of the dining-room, John Martin entered the street
door and faced him. "Hello, Martin! Glad to see you! The ladies are
still at luncheon; won't you come right in here and join them in a cup
of chocolate?"

He was heartily glad of the interruption, and felt that it was very
timely indeed that Mr. Martin had dropped in.

"No, I can't take off my top-coat. Get yours. I want you to join me in
a spin in the park. I've got that new filly outside." Mr. Foster ran
up-stairs to get ready for the drive, and the ladies insisted that a
cup of hot chocolate was the very thing to prepare Mr. Martin for the
nipping air. He was a trifle ill at ease. He wanted to speak of Selden
Avery, and he feared if he did so that he would say the wrong thing.
He had come to-day, partly to have a talk with his friend Foster about
certain gossip he had heard. Fate took the reins.

In rising, Gertrude had dropped Avery's letter. John Martin was the
first to see it. He laughingly offered it to her with the query: "Do you
sow your love letters about that way, Miss Gertrude?"

"Gertrude's love letters take the form of political speeches just now,
and bills and committee reports and the like," laughed her mother. "Her
father was just showing his teeth over that one, He thinks women have
no--"

"Mr. Martin, tell me truly," broke in the girl, "tell me truly, don't
you think that we are all equally interested in having only good laws
made? And don't you think if a proposed measure is too bad for good
women even to be told what it is, that it is bad enough for all good
people to protest against?"

"How are they going to protest if they don't know what it is?" laughed
Martin. "Well, Miss Gertrude, I believe that is the first time I ever
suspected you to be of Celtic blood. But what dreadful measure is Avery
advocating now?" he smiled. "Really, I shouldn't have believed it of
Avery!"

"What!" exclaimed Mr. Poster, entering with his top-coat buttoned to the
chin, and his driving-hat in hand. Gertrude still held the letter. "No,
nor should I have believed it of Avery. It was an outrageous thing for
him to do. What business has Gertrude or Katherine with his disgusting
old bills. Just before you came in I advised Gertrude to cut him
entirely, and--"

Mrs. Foster was trying to indicate to her husband that he was off the
track, and that Mr. Martin did not understand him; but he had the bit
in his teeth and went on. "You agree with me now, don't you? What do you
think of his mentioning such things to Gertrude?" He reached over
and took the letter from his daughter's hand, and read a part of the
obnoxious paragraph.

John Martin's face was a study. He glanced at the two ladies, and then
fixed his eyes upon Gertrude's father.

"Good Gad!" he said, slowly and almost below his breath. "If I were in
your place I should shoot him. The infamous--" He checked himself, and
the two men withdrew. Gertrude and her mother waved at them from the
window, and then the girl said: "I intend to know what that bill is.
What right have men to make laws that they themselves believe are too
infamous for good women even to know about? Don't you believe if all
laws or bills had to be openly discussed before and with women, it would
be better, mamma? I do."

Her mother's cheek was against the cold glass of the window. She was
watching the receding forms. Presently she turned slowly to her daughter
and said, in a trembling tone:--

"Such bills as this one," she drew a small printed slip from her bosom
and handed it to Gertrude, "such bills as that would never be dreamed
of by men if they knew they must pass the discussion of a pure girl or
a mother--never! Their only chance is secret session, and the fact that
even men like your--like Mr. Martin and--and--" she was going to say
"your father," but the girl pressed her hand and she did not. "That even
such as they--for what reason heaven only knows--think they are serving
the best interests of the women they love by a silence which fosters and
breeds just such measures as--"

Gertrude was reading the queer, blind phraseology of the bill. Katherine
had watched her daughter's face as she talked, and now the girl's lips
were moving and she read audibly: "be, and is hereby enacted, that
henceforth the legal age in the state of New York whereat a female may
give consent to the violation of her own person shall be reduced to ten
years."

Gertrude dropped the paper in her lap and looked up like a frightened,
hunted creature. "Great God!" she exclaimed, with an intensity born of
a sudden revelation. "Great God! and they call themselves men! And other
men keep silence--furnish all the soil and nurture for infamy like
that! Those who keep silence are as guilty as the rest! Those who try
to prevent women from knowing--oh, mamma!" Her eyes were intense. She
sprang to her feet; "and John Martin, who thinks he loves _me_ is one
of those men! Knowing such a bill as that is pending, his indignation is
aroused, not at the bill, not at the men who try to smuggle it through,
not at the awful thing it implies, but that so strict a silence is not
kept that such as _we_ may not know of it! He blames Selden Avery for
coming to me--to us--with his splendid chivalry, and sharing with us his
horror, making us the confidants of that inner conscience which sees,
in the intended victims of this awful bill, his little sisters and yours
and mine!" There were indignant tears in her eyes. She closed them, and
her white lips were drawn tense. Presently she asked, without opening
her eyes: "Mamma, do you suppose if you, instead of Mr. Avery, were
chairman of that committee, that such a bill as that would ever have
been presented? Do you suppose, if any mother on earth held the veto
power, that such a bill would ever disgrace a statute book? Are there
enough men, even of a class who generally go to the Legislature, who,
in spite of their fatherhood, in spite of the fact that they have little
sisters, are such beasts as to pass a bill like that? A ten-year-old
girl! A mere baby! And--oh, mamma! it is too hideous to believe, even
of--such a bill could never pass. Never on earth! Surely, Ettie Berton,
poor little thing, has the only father living who is capable of that!"

Mrs. Foster opened her lips to say that several states already had the
law, and that one had placed the age at seven; but she checked herself.
Her daughter's excitement was so great, she decided to wait. The
experience of the past few months had awakened the fire in the nature of
this strong daughter of hers. She had seen the cool, steady, previously
indifferent, well-poised girl stirred to the very depths of her nature
over the awful conditions of poverty, ignorance, and vice she had, for
the first time, learned to know. Gertrude had become a regular student
of some of the problems of life, and she had carried her studies into
practical investigation. It had grown to be no new thing for her to
take Francis, or Ettie, or both, when she went on these errands, and
the study of their points of view--of the effect of it all upon their
ignorance-soaked minds, had been one of the most touching things to her.
Their imaginations were so stunted--so embryonic, so undeveloped that
they saw no better way. To them, ignorance, poverty, squalor, and vice
were a necessary part of life. Wealth, comfort, happiness, ambition
were, naturally and rightly, perquisites, some way, some how, of the
few.

"God rules, and all is as he wishes it or it would not be that way,"
sagely remarked Francis King, one day. It had startled Gertrude. Her
philosophy, her observation, her reason, and her religion were in a
state of conflict just then. She had alway supposed that she was an
Episcopalian with all that this implied. She was beginning to doubt it
at times.

Mrs. Foster looked at her daughter now, as she sat there flushed and
excited. She wondered what would come of it all. She had always studied
this daughter of hers, and tried to follow the girl's moods. Now she
thought she would cut across them.

"Gertrude, you may put that bill with your letter. Mr. Avery mailed it to
me. Of course he meant that I should show it to you if I thought best.
I did think best, but now--but--I don't want you to excite yourself
too--" She broke off suddenly. Her daughter's eyes were upon her in
surprise. Mrs. Foster laughed a little nervously, and kissed the girl's
hand as it lay in her own. "It seems rather droll for your gay little
mother to caution you against losing control of yourself, doesn't it?"
she asked. "You who were always all balance wheel, as your father says.
But--"

"Mamma, don't you think Mr. Avery did perfectly right to send me that
letter and this to you?" broke in Gertrude, as if she had not heard the
admonition of her mother, and had followed her own thoughts from some
more distant point.

"Perfectly," said her mother. "He was evidently deeply disturbed by the
bill. He felt that you were, and should be, his confidant. He simply did
not dream of hiding it from you, I believe. It was the spontaneous act
of one who so loves you that his whole life--all of that which moves him
greatly--must, as a matter of course, be open to you. I thought that
all out when the bill came addressed to me. He--" The girl kissed her in
silence.

"You have such splendid self-respect, Gertrude. Most of us--most
women--have none. We do not expect, do not demand, the least respect
that is real from men. They have no respect for our opinions, and so
upon all the real and important things of life, they hold out to us the
sham of silence as more respectful than candor. And we--most of us--are
weak enough to say we like it. Most of us--"

Gertrude slipped down upon a cushion at the feet of her mother, and put
her young, strong arms about the supple waist. She had of late read
from time to time so much of the unrest and scorn back of the gay and
compliant face of her mother. "Mamma, my real mamma," she said, softly,
"I




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