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´╗┐Title: Under the Skylights
Author: Fuller, Henry Blake, 1857-1929
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Under the Skylights" ***

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



HENRY BLAKE FULLER

UNDER THE SKYLIGHTS

       *       *       *       *       *

PREFATORY NOTE

The short concluding section of this book--that relating to Dr. Gowdy and
the Squash--is reprinted by permission from _Harper's Magazine_. All the
remaining material appears now for the first time.

       *       *       *       *       *

CONTENTS

  THE DOWNFALL OF ABNER JOYCE

  LITTLE O'GRADY _VS._ THE GRINDSTONE

  DR. GOWDY AND THE SQUASH.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE DOWNFALL OF ABNER JOYCE

       *       *       *       *       *

THE DOWNFALL OF ABNER JOYCE



I

With the publication of his first book, _This Weary World_, Abner Joyce
immediately took a place in literature. Or rather, he made it; the book
was not like other books, and readers felt the field of fiction to be the
richer by one very vital and authentic personality.

_This Weary World_ was grim and it was rugged, but it was sincere and it
was significant. Abner's intense earnestness had left but little room for
the graces;--while he was bent upon being recognised as a "writer," yet
to be a mere writer and nothing more would not have satisfied him at all.
Here was the world with its many wrongs, with its numberless crying
needs; and the thing for the strong young man to do was to help set
matters right. This was a simple enough task, were it but approached with
courage, zeal, determination. A few brief years, if lived strenuously and
intensely, would suffice. "Man individually is all right enough," said
Abner; "it is only collectively that he is wrong." What was at fault was
the social scheme,--the general understanding, or lack of understanding.
A short sharp hour's work before breakfast would count for a hundred
times more than a feeble dawdling prolonged throughout the whole day.
Abner rose betimes and did his hour's work; sweaty, panting, begrimed,
hopeful, indignant, sincere, self-confident, he set his product full in
the world's eye.

Abner's book comprised a dozen short stories--twelve clods of earth
gathered, as it were, from the very fields across which he himself, a
farmer's boy, had once guided the plough. The soil itself spoke, the
intimate, humble ground; warmed by his own passionate sense of right, it
steamed incense-like aloft and cried to the blue skies for justice. He
pleaded for the farmer, the first, the oldest, the most necessary of all
the world's workers; for the man who was the foundation of civilized
society, yet who was yearly gravitating downward through new depths of
slighting indifference, of careless contempt, of rank injustice and gross
tyranny; for the man who sowed so plenteously, so laboriously, yet reaped
so scantily and in such bitter and benumbing toil; for the man who lived
indeed beneath the heavens, yet must forever fasten his solicitous eye
upon the earth. All this revolted Abner; the indignation of a youth that
had not yet made its compromise with the world burned on every page. Some
of his stories seemed written not so much by the hand as by the fist, a
fist quivering from the tension of muscles and sinews fully ready to act
for truth and right; and there were paragraphs upon which the intent and
blazing eye of the writer appeared to rest with no less fierceness,
coldly printed as they were, than it had rested upon the manuscript
itself.

"Men shall hear me--and heed me," Abner declared stoutly.

A few of those who read his book happened to meet him personally, and one
or two of this number--clever but inconspicuous people--lucidly
apprehended him for what he was: that rare phenomenon, the artist (such
he was already calling himself)--the artist whose personality, whose
opinions and whose work are in exact accord. The reading public--a body
rather captious and blase, possibly--overlooked his rugged diction in
favour of his novel point of view; and when word was passed around that
the new author was actually in town a number of the _illuminati_
expressed their gracious desire to meet him.



II

But Abner remained for some time ignorant of "society's" willingness to
give him welcome. He was lodged in a remote and obscure quarter of the
city and was already part of a little coterie from which earnestness had
quite crowded out tact and in which the development of the energies left
but scant room for the cultivation of the amenities. With this small
group reform and oratory went hand in hand; its members talked to spare
audiences on Sunday afternoons about the Readjusted Tax. Such a
combination of matter and manner had pleased and attracted Abner from the
start. The land question was _the_ question, after all, and eloquence
must help the contention of these ardent spirits toward a final issue in
success. Abner thirstily imbibed the doctrine and added his tongue to the
others. Nor was it a tongue altogether unschooled. For Abner had left the
plough at sixteen to take a course in the Flatfield Academy, and after
some three years there as a pupil he had remained as a teacher; he became
the instructor in elocution. Here his allegiance was all to the old-time
classic school, to the ideal that still survives, and inexpugnably, in
the rustic breast and even in the national senate; the Roman Forum was
never completely absent from his eye, and Daniel Webster remained the
undimmed pattern of all that man--man mounted on his legs--should be.

Abner, then, went on speaking from the platform or distributing
pamphlets, his own and others', at the door, and remained unconscious
that Mrs. Palmer Pence was desirous of knowing him, that Leverett Whyland
would have been interested in meeting him, and that Adrian Bond, whose
work he knew without liking it, would have been glad to make him
acquainted with their fellow authors. Nor did he enjoy any familiarity
with Clytie Summers and her sociological studies, while Medora Giles, as
yet, was not even a name.

Mrs. Palmer Pence remained, then, in the seclusion of her "gilded halls,"
as Abner phrased it, save for occasional excursions and alarums that
vivified the columns devoted by the press to the doings of the polite
world; and Adrian Bond kept between the covers of his two or three thin
little books--a confinement richly deserved by a writer so futile,
superficial and insincere; but Leverett Whyland was less easily evaded by
anybody who "banged about town" and who happened to be interested in
public matters. Abner came against him at one of the sessions of the Tax
Commission, a body that was hoping--almost against hope--to introduce
some measure of reason and justice into the collection of the public
funds.

"Huh! I shouldn't expect much from _him_!" commented Abner, as Whyland
began to speak.

Whyland was a genial, gentlemanly fellow of thirty-eight or forty. He was
in the world and of it, but was little the worse, thus far, for that. He
had been singled out for favours, to a very exceptional degree, by that
monster of inconsistency and injustice, the Unearned Increment, but his
intentions toward society were still fairly good. If he may be
capitalized (and surely he was rich enough to be), he might be described
as hesitating whether to be a Plutocrat or a Good Citizen; perhaps he was
hoping to be both.

Abner disliked and doubted him from the start. The fellow was almost
foppish;--could anybody who wore such good clothes have also good motives
and good principles? Abner disdained him too as a public speaker;--what
could a man hope to accomplish by a few quiet colloquial remarks
delivered in his ordinary voice? The man who expected to get attention
should claim it by the strident shrillness of his tones, should be able
to bend his two knees in eloquent unison, and send one clenched hand with
a driving swoop into the palm of the other--and repeat as often as
necessary. Abner questioned as well his mental powers, his quality of
brain-fibre, his breadth of view. The feeble creature rested in no degree
upon the great, broad, fundamental principles--principles whose adoption
and enforcement would reshape and glorify human society as nothing else
ever had done or ever could do. No, he fell back on mere expediency, mere
practicability, weakly acquiescing in acknowledged and long-established
evils, and trying for nothing more than fairness and justice on a
foundation utterly unjust and vicious to begin with.

"Let me get out of this," said Abner.

But a few of his own intimates detained him at the door, and presently
Whyland, who had ended his remarks and was on his way to other matters,
overtook him. An officious bystander made the two acquainted, and
Whyland, who identified Abner with the author of _This Weary World_,
paused for a few smiling and good-humoured remarks.

"Glad to see you here," he said, with a kind of bright buoyancy. "It's a
complicated question, but we shall straighten it out one way or another."

Abner stared at him sternly. The question was not complicated, but it
_was_ vital--too vital for smiles.

"There is only one way," he said: "our way."

"Our way?" asked Whyland, still smiling.

"The Readjusted Tax," pronounced Abner, with a gesture toward two or
three of his supporters at his elbow.

"Ah, yes," said Whyland quickly, recognising the faces. "If the idea
could only be applied!"

"It can be," said Abner severely. "It must be."

"Yes, it is a very complicated question," the other repeated. "I have
read your stories," he went on immediately. "Two or three of them
impressed me very much. I hope we shall become better acquainted."

"Thank you," said Abner stiffly. Whyland meant to be cordial, but Abner
found him patronizing. He could not endure to be patronized by anybody,
least of all by a person of mental calibre inferior to his own. He
resented too the other's advantage in age (Whyland was ten or twelve
years his senior), and his advantage in experience (for Whyland had lived
in the city all his life, as Abner could not but feel).

"I should be glad if you could lunch with me at the club," said Whyland
in the friendliest fashion possible. "I am on my way there now."

"Club"--fatal word; it chilled Abner in a second. He knew about clubs!
Clubs were the places where the profligate children of Privilege drank
improper drinks and told improper stories and kept improper hours. Abner,
who was perfectly pure in word, thought and deed and always in bed
betimes, shrank from a club as from a lazaret.

"Thank you," he responded bleakly; "but I am very busy."

"Another time, then," said Whyland, with unimpaired kindliness. "And we
may be able to come to some agreement, after all," he added, in reference
to the tax-levy.

"We are not likely to agree," said Abner gloomily.

Whyland went on, just a trifle dashed. Abner presently came to further
knowledge of him--his wealth, position, influence, activity--and hardened
his heart against him the more. He commented openly on the selfishness
and greed of the Money Power in pungent phrases that did not all fall
short of Whyland's ear. And when, later on, Leverett Whyland became less
the "good citizen" and more the "plutocrat"--a course perhaps inevitable
under certain circumstances--he would sometimes smile over those
unsuccessful advances and would ask himself to what extent the
discouraging unfaith of our Abner might be responsible for his choice and
his fall.



III

Though Mrs. Palmer Pence kept looking forward, off and on, to the
pleasure of making Abner's acquaintance, it was a full six months before
the happy day finally came round. But when she read _The Rod of the
Oppressor_ that seemed to settle it; her salon would be incomplete
without its author, and she must take steps to find him.

Abner's second book, in spirit and substance, was a good deal like his
first: the man who has succeeded follows up his success, naturally, with
something of the same sort. The new book was a novel, however,--the first
of the long series that Abner was to put forth with the prodigal ease and
carelessness of Nature herself; and it was as gloomy, strenuous and
positive as its predecessor.

Abner, by this time, had enlarged his circle. Through the reformers he
had become acquainted with a few journalists, and journalists had led on
to versifiers and novelists, and these to a small clique of artists and
musicians. Abner was now beginning to find his best account in a sort of
decorous Bohemia and to feel that such, after all, was the atmosphere he
had been really destined to breathe. The morals of his new associates
were as correct as even he could have insisted upon, and their manners
were kindly and not too ornate. They indulged in a number of little
practices caught, he supposed, from "society," but after all their modes
were pleasantly trustful and informal and presently quite ceased to irk
and to intimidate him. Many members of his new circle were massed in one
large building whose owner had attempted to name it the Warren Block; but
the artists and the rest simply called it the Warren--sometimes the
Burrow or the Rabbit-Hutch--and referred to themselves collectively as
the Bunnies.

Abner found it hard to countenance such facetiousness in a world so full
of pain; yet after all these dear people did much to cushion his
discomfort, and before long hardly a Saturday afternoon came round
without his dropping into one studio or another for a chat and a cup of
tea. To tell the truth, Abner could hardly "chat" as yet, but he was
beginning to learn, and he was becoming more reconciled as well to all
the paraphernalia involved in the brewing of the draught. He was boarding
rather roughly with a landlady who, like himself, was from "down state"
and who had never cultivated fastidiousness in table-linen or in
tableware, and he sniffed at the fanciful cups and spoons and pink
candle-shades that helped to insure the attendance of the "desirable
people," as the Burrow phrased it, and at the manifold methods of
tea-making that were designed to turn the desirable people into
profitable patrons. That is, he sniffed at the samovar and the lemons and
so on; but when the rum came along he looked away sternly and in silence.

Well, the desirable people came in numbers--studios were the fad that
year--and as soon as Mrs. Palmer Pence understood that Abner was to be
met with somewhere in the Burrow she hastened to enroll herself among
them.

Eudoxia Pence was a robust and vigorous woman in her prime--and by
"prime" I mean about thirty-six. She was handsome and rich and
intelligent and ambitious, and she was hesitating between a career as a
Society Queen and a self-devotion to the Better Things: perhaps she was
hoping to combine both. With her she brought her niece, Miss Clytie
Summers, who had been in society but a month, yet who was enterprising
enough to have joined already a class in sociological science, composed
of girls that were quite the ones to know, and to have undertaken two or
three little excursions into the slums. Clytie hardly felt sure just yet
whether what she most wanted was to gain a Social Triumph or to lend a
Helping Hand. It was Abner's lot to help influence her decision.



IV

The Bunnies could hardly believe their eyes when, one day, Mrs. Palmer
Pence came rolling into the Burrow. She was well enough known indeed at
the "rival shop"--by which the Bunnies meant a neighbouring edifice
loftily denominated the Temple of Art, a vast structure full of theatres
and recital-halls and studios and assembly-rooms and dramatic schools;
but this was the first time she had favoured the humbler building, at
least on the formal, official Saturday afternoon. Long had they looked
for her coming, and now at last the most desirable of all the desirable
people was here.

"Ah-h-h!" breathed Little O'Grady, who made reliefs in plastina.

It was for Mrs. Palmer Pence that the samovar steamed to-day in the dimly
lighted studio of Stephen Giles, for her that the candles fluttered
within their pink shades, for her that the white peppermints lay in
orderly little rows upon the silver tray, for her that young Medora
Giles, lately back to her brother from Paris, wore her freshest gown and
drew tea with her prettiest smile. Mrs. Pence was building a new house
and there was more than an even chance that Stephen Giles might decorate
it. He held a middle ground between the "artist-architects" on the one
hand and the painters on the other, and with this advantageous footing he
was gradually drawing a strong cordon round "society" and was looking
forward to a day not very distant when he might leave the Burrow for the
Temple of Art itself.

Mrs. Pence sat liberally cushioned in her old carved pew and amiably
sipped her tea beneath a jewelled censer and admired the dark beauty of
the slender and graceful Medora. Presently she became so taken by the
girl that (despite her own superabundant bulk) she must needs cross over
and sit beside her and pat her hand at intervals. In certain extreme
cases Eudoxia was willing to waive the matter of comparison with other
women; but to find herself seated beside a man of lesser bulk than
herself seriously inconvenienced her, while to realize herself standing
beside a man of lesser stature embarrassed her most cruelly. As she was
fond of mixed society, her liberal figure was on the move most of the
time.

She was too enchanted with Medora Giles to be able to keep away from her,
but the approach of Adrian Bond--he was a great studio dawdler--presently
put her to rout. For Adrian was much too small. He was spare, he was
meagre; he was sapless, like his books; and the part in his smoothly
plastered black hair scarcely reached to her eyebrows. She felt herself
swelling, distending, filling her place to repletion, to suffocation, and
rose to flee. She was for seeking refuge in the brown beard of Stephen
Giles, which was at least on a level with her own chin, when suddenly she
perceived, in a dark corner of the place, a tower of strength more
promising still--a man even taller, broader, bulkier than herself, a
grand figure that might serve to reduce her to more desirable
proportions.

"Who is he?" she asked Giles, as she seized him by the elbow. "Take me
over there at once."

Giles laughed. "Why, that's Joyce," he said. "He's got so that he looks
in on us now and then."

"Joyce? What Joyce?"

"Why, Joyce. The one, the only,--as we believe."

"Abner Joyce? _This Weary World? The Rod of the Oppressor_?"

"Exactly. Let me bring him over and present him."

"Whichever you like; arrange it between Mohammed and the Mountain just as
you please." She looked over her shoulder; little Bond was following.
"Waive all ceremony," she begged. "I will go to him."

Giles trundled her over toward the dusky canopy under which Abner stood
chafing, conscious at once of his own powers and of his own social
inexpertness. In particular had he looked out with bitterness upon the
airy circulations of Adrian Bond--Adrian who smirked here and nodded
there and chaffed a bit now and then with the blonde Clytie and openly
philandered over the tea-urn with the brunette Medora. "That snip! That
water-fly! That whipper-snapper! That----"

Abner turned with a start. A worldly person, clad voluminously in furs,
was extending a hand that sparkled with many rings and was composing a
pair of smiling lips to say the pleasant thing. This attention was
startlingly, embarrassingly sudden, but it was welcome and it was
appropriate. Abner was little able to realize the quality of aggressive
homage that resided in Mrs. Pence's resolute and unconventional advance,
but it was natural enough that this showy woman should wish to manifest
her appreciation of a gifted and rising author. He took her hand with a
graceless gravity.

Mrs. Pence, upon a nearer view, found Abner all she had hoped. Confronted
by his stalwart limbs and expansive shoulders, she was no longer a
behemoth,--she felt almost like a sylph. She looked up frankly, and with
a sense of growing comfort, into his broad face where a good strong
growth of chestnut beard was bursting through his ruddy cheeks and
swirling abundantly beneath his nose. She looked up higher, to his wide
forehead, where a big shock of confident hair rolled and tumbled about
with careless affluence. And with no great shyness she appraised his
hands and his feet--those strong forceful hands that had dominated the
lurching, self-willed plough, those sturdy feet that had resolutely
tramped the miles of humpy furrow the ploughshare had turned up blackly
to sun and air. She shrank. She dwindled. Her slender girlhood--that
remote, incredible time--was on her once more.

"I shall never feel large again," she said.

How right she was! Nobody ever felt large for long when Abner Joyce
happened to be about.



V

Abner regarded Mrs. Pence and her magnificence with a sombre intensity,
far from ready to approve. He knew far more about her than she could know
about him--thanks to the activities of a shamefully discriminating (or
undiscriminating) press--and he was by no means prepared to give her his
countenance. Face to face with her opulence and splendour he set the
figure of his own mother--that sweet, patient, plaintive little presence,
now docilely habituated, at the closing in of a long pinched life, to
unremitting daily toil still unrewarded by ease and comfort or by any
hope or promise or prospect of it. There was his father too--that good
gray elder who had done so much faithful work, yet had so little to show
for it, who had fished all day and had caught next to nothing, who had
given four years out of his young life to the fight for freedom only to
see the reward so shamefully fall elsewhere.... Abner evoked here a
fanciful figure of Palmer Pence himself, whom he knew in a general way to
be high up in some monstrous Trust. He saw a prosperous, domineering man
who with a single turn of the hand had swept together a hundred little
enterprises and at the same time had swept out a thousand of the lesser
fry into the wide spaces of empty ruin, and who had insolently settled
down beside his new machine to catch the rain of coins minted for him
from the wrongs of an injured and insulted people....

Abner accepted in awkward silence Mrs. Pence's liberal and fluent praise
of _The Rod of the Oppressor_,--aside from his deep-seated indignation he
had not yet mastered any of those serviceable phrases by means of which
such a volley may be returned; but he found words when she presently set
foot in the roomy field of the betterment of local conditions. What she
had in mind, it appeared, was a training-school--it might be called the
Pence Institute if it went through--and she was ready to listen to any
one who was likely to encourage her with hints or advice.

"So much energy, so much talent going to waste, so many young people
tumbling up anyhow and presently tumbling over--all for lack of thorough
and systematic training," she said, across her own broad bosom.

"I know of but one training that is needed," said Abner massively: "the
training of the sense of social justice--such training of the public
conscience as will insist upon seeing that each and every freeman gets an
even chance."

"An even chance?" repeated Eudoxia, rather dashed. "What I think of
offering is an even start. Doesn't it come to much the same thing?"

But Abner would none of it. Possessed of the fatalistic belief in the
efficacy of mere legislation such as dominates the rural townships of the
West, he grasped his companion firmly by the arm, set his sturdy legs in
rapid motion, walked her from assembly hall to assembly hall through this
State, that and the other, and finally fetched up with her under the dome
of the national Capitol. Senators and representatives co-operated here,
there and everywhere, the chosen spokesmen of the sovereign people; Abner
seemed almost to have enrolled himself among them. Confronted with this
august company, whose work it was to set things right, Eudoxia Pence felt
smaller than ever. What were her imponderable emanations of goodwill and
good intention when compared with the robust masculinity that was
marching in firm phalanxes over solid ground toward the mastery of the
great Problem? She drooped visibly. Little O'Grady, studying her pose and
expression from afar, wrung his hands. "That fellow will drive her away.
Ten to one we shall never see her profile here again!" Yes, Eudoxia was
feeling, with a sudden faintness, that the Better Things might after all
be beyond her reach. She looked about for herself without finding
herself: she had dwindled away to nothingness.



VI

"Do you take her money--_such_ money?" Abner asked of Giles with
severity. Eudoxia had returned to Medora and the samovar.

"_Such_ money?" returned Giles. "Is it different from other money? What
do you mean?"

"Isn't her husband the head of some trust or other?"

"Why, yes, I believe so: the Feather-bed Trust, or the Air-and-Sunlight
Trust--something of that sort; I've never looked into it closely."

"Yet you accept what it offers you."

"And give a good return for it. Yes, she had paid me already for my
sketches--a prompt and business-like way of doing things that I should be
glad to encounter oftener."

Abner shook his head sadly. "I thought we might come to be real friends."

"And I hope so yet. Anyway, it takes a little money to keep the tea-pot
boiling."

Abner drifted back to the shelter of his canopy and darkly accused
himself for his acceptance of such hospitality. He ought to go, to go at
once, and never to come back. But before he found out how to go, Clytie
Summers came along and hemmed him in.

Clytie was not at all afraid of big men; she had already found them
easier to manage than little ones. Indeed she had pretty nearly come to
the conclusion that a lively young girl with a trim figure and a bright,
confident manner and a fetching mop of sunlit hair and a pair of wide,
forthputting, blue eyes was predestined to have her own way with about
everybody alike. But Clytie had never met an Abner Joyce.

And as soon as Clytie entered upon the particulars of her last slumming
trip through the river wards she began to discover the difference. She
chanced to mention incidentally certain low-grade places of amusement.

"What!" cried Abner; "you go to theatres--and _such_ theatres?"

"Surely I do!" cried Clytie in turn, no less disconcerted than Abner
himself. "Surely I go to theatres; don't you?"

"Never," replied Abner firmly. "I have other uses for my money." His
rules of conduct marshalled themselves in a stiff row before him; forlorn
Flatfield came into view. Neither his principles nor his practice of
making monthly remittances to the farm permitted such excesses.

"Why, it doesn't _cost_ anything," rejoined Clytie. "There's no admission
charge. All you have to do is to buy a drink now and then."

"Buy a drink?"

"Beer--that will do. You can stay as long as you want to on a couple of
glasses. Lots of our girls didn't take but one."

"Lots of----?"

"Yes, the whole class went. We found the place most interesting--and the
audience. The men sit about with their hats on, you know, in a big hall
full of round tables, drinking and smoking----"

"And you mixed up in such a----?"

"Well, no; not exactly. We had a box--as I suppose you would call it;
three of them. Of course that _did_ cost a little something. And then Mr.
Whyland bought a few cigars----"

"Mr. Whyland----?"

"Yes, he was with us; he thought there ought to be at least one gentleman
along. He couldn't smoke the cigars, but one of the girls happened to
have some cigarettes----"

"Cigarettes?"

"Yes, and we found _their_ smoke much more endurable. That was the worst
about the place--the smoke; unless it was the performance----"

"Oh!" said Abner, with a groan of disgust.

"Well, it wasn't as bad as _that!_" returned Clytie. "It was only dull
and stale and stupid; the same old sort of knockabouts and serio-comics
you can see everywhere down town, only not a quarter so good--just cheap
imitations. And all those poor fellows sat moping over their beer-mugs
waiting, waiting, waiting for something new and entertaining to happen. I
never felt so sorry for anybody in my life. We girls about made up our
minds that we would get together a little fund and see if we couldn't do
some missionary work in that neighbourhood--hire some real good
artists"--Abner winced at this hideous perversion of the word--"hire some
real good artists to go over there and let those poor creatures see what
a first-class show was like; and Mr. Whyland promised to contribute----"

"Stop!" said Abner.

Clytie paused abruptly, astonished by his tone and by the expression on
his face. The flush of innocent enthusiasm and high resolve left her
cheek, her pretty little lips parted in amaze, and her wide blue eyes
opened wider than ever. What a singular man! What a way of accepting her
expression of interest in her kind, of receiving her plan for helping the
other half to lead a happier life! Adrian Bond, a dozen, a hundred other
men would have known how to give her credit for her kindly intentions
toward the less fortunate, would have found a ready way to praise her, to
compliment her....

Abner Joyce had a great respect for woman in general, but he entertained
an utter detestation of anything like gallantry; in his chaste anxiety he
leaned the other way. He was brusque; he often rode roughshod over
feminine sensibilities. He was very slightly influenced by considerations
of sex. He viewed everybody asexually, as a generalized human being. He
dealt with women just as he dealt with men, and he treated young women
just as he treated older ones. He treated Clytie just as he treated
Eudoxia Pence, just as he would have treated Whyland himself--but with a
little added severity, called forth by her peculiar presence and her
specific offence. He brought her to book just as she deserved to be
brought to book--a girl who went to low theatres and wore frizzled yellow
hair and made eyes at strangers and took her share in the heartless
amusements of plutocrats.

"Why, what is it?" asked Clytie. "Don't you think we ought to try to
understand modern social conditions and do what we can to improve them?
If you would only go through some of those streets in the river wards and
into some of the houses--oh, dear me, dear me!"

But Abner would none of this. "Do you think your river wards, as you call
them, are any worse than our barn-yard in the early days of March? Do you
imagine your cheap vawdyville theatres are any more tiresome than our
Main Street through the winter months?"

No, Abner's thoughts had been focused too long on the wrongs of the rural
regions to be able to transfer themselves to the sufferings and
injustices of the town. He saw the city collectively as the oppressor of
the country, and Leverett Whyland, by reason of Clytie's innocent
prattle, became the city incarnate in a single figure.

"I know your Mr. Whyland," he said. "I've met him; I know all about him.
He lives on his rents. His property came to him by inheritance, and half
its value to-day is due to the general rise brought about by the
exertions of others. He is indebted for food, clothing and shelter to the
unearned increment."

"Lives on his rents? Is there anything wrong in that? So do I, too--when
they can be collected. And if you talk about the unearned increment, let
me tell you there is such a thing as the unearned decrement."

"Nonsense. That's merely a backward swirl in a rushing stream."

"Not at all!" cried Clytie, now in the full heat of controversy. "If you
were used to a big growing city, with all its sudden shifts and changes,
you would understand. Even the new neighbourhoods get spoiled before they
are half put together--builders treat one another so unfairly; while, as
for the old ones--why, my poor dear father is coming to have row after
row that he can't find tenants for at all, unless he were to let them
to--to objectionable characters."

Clytie threw this out with all boldness. The matter was purely economic,
sociological; they were talking quite as man to man. Abner brought every
woman to this point sooner or later.

As for the troubles of landlords, he had no sympathy with them. And to
him the most objectionable of all "objectionable characters" was the man
who had a strong box stuffed with farm mortgages--town-dwellers, the
great bulk of them. "Oh, the cities, the cities!" he groaned. Then, more
cheerfully: "But never mind: they are passing."

"Passing? I like that! Do you know that eighteen and two-thirds per cent
of the population of the United States lives in towns of one hundred
thousand inhabitants and above, and that the number is increasing at the
rate of----"

"They are disintegrating," pursued Abner stolidly. "By their own
bulk--like a big snowball. And by their own badness. People are rolling
back to the country--the country they came from. Improved transportation
will do it." The troubles of the town were ephemeral--he waved them
aside. But his face was set in a frown--doubtless at the thought of the
perdurable afflictions of the country.

"Don't worry over these passing difficulties that arise from a mere
temporary congestion of population. They will take care of themselves.
Meanwhile, don't sport with them; don't encourage your young friends to
make them a vehicle of their own selfish pleasures; don't----"

Clytie caught her breath. So she was a mere frivolous, inconsequential
butterfly, after all. Why try longer to lend the Helping Hand--why not
cut things short and be satisfied with the Social Triumph and let it go
at that? "I was meaning to ask you to dine with me some evening next week
at a settlement I know, but now...."

"I never 'dine,'" said Abner.



VII

"I should be so glad to have you call." Mrs. Pence was peering about
among the lanterns and tapestries and the stirring throng with the idea
of picking up Clytie and taking leave. "My niece is staying with me just
now, and I'm sure she would be glad to see you again too."

Abner looked about to help her find her charge. Clytie had gone over to
the tea-table, where she was snapping vindictively at the half of a
ginger-wafer somebody else had left and was gesticulating in the face of
Medora Giles.

"I never met such a man in my life!" she was declaring. "I'll never speak
to him again as long as I live! He's a bear; he's a brute!"

Little O'Grady, bringing forward another sliced lemon, shook in his
shoes. "He'll have everybody scared away before long!" the poor fellow
thought.

Medora smiled on Clytie. "Oh, not so bad as that, I hope," she said
serenely. "Stephen, now, is beginning to have quite a liking for him. So
earnest; so well-intentioned...."

"And you yourself?" asked Clytie.

"I haven't met him yet. I'm only on probation. He has looked me
over--from afar, but has his doubts. I may get the benefit of them, or I
may not."

"What doubts?"

"Why, I'm a renegade, a European. I'm effete, contaminate, taboo."

"Has he said so?"

"Said so? Do I need to have things 'said'?"

"Well, if you really are all this, you'll find it out soon enough."

"He's a touchstone, then?"

"Yes. And I'm a nonentity, lightly concerning myself about light
nothings. He won't mince matters."

"Don't worry about me," said Medora confidently. "I shall know how to
handle him."

Mrs. Pence kept on peering. Dusk was upon the place, and the few dim
lights were more ineffectual than ever. "There she is," said Abner, with
a bob of the head.

"Good-bye, then," said Eudoxia, grasping his hand effusively, as she took
her first step toward Clytie. "Now, you _will_ come and see us, won't
you?"

"Thank you; but----"

Abner paused for the evocation of an instantaneous vision of the
household thus thrown open to him. Such opportunities for falsity,
artificiality, downright humbuggery, for plutocratic upholstery and
indecorous statues and light-minded paintings, for cynical and insolent
servants, for the deployment of vast gains got by methods that at best
were questionable! Could he accept such hospitality as this?

"Thank you. I might come, possibly, if I can find the time. But I warn
you I am very busy."

"Make time," said Eudoxia good-humouredly, and passed along.

Abner made a good deal of time for the Burrow, but it was long before he
brought himself to make any for Eudoxia Pence. He came to see a great
deal of the Bunnies; in a month or two he quite had the run of the place.
There were friendly fellows who heaved big lumps of clay upon huge
nail-studded scantlings, and nice little girls who designed book-plates,
and more mature ones who painted miniatures, and many earnest, earnest
persons of both sexes who were hurrying, hurrying ahead on their wet
canvases so that the next exhibition might not be incomplete by reason of
lacking a "Smith," a "Jones," a "Robinson." Abner gave each and every one
of these pleasant people his company and imparted to them his views on
the great principles that underlie all the arts in common.

"So that's what you call it--a marquise," Abner observed on a certain
occasion to one of the miniature painters. "This creature with a fluffy
white wig and a low-necked dress is a marquise, is she? Do you like that
sort of thing?"

"Why, yes,--rather," said the artist.

"Well,_I_ don't," declared Abner, returning the trifle to the girl's
hands.

"I'll paint my next sitter as a milkmaid--if she'll let me."

"_As_ a milkmaid? No; paint the milkmaid herself. Deal with the verities.
Like them before you paint them. Paint them _because_ you like them."

"I don't know whether I should like milkmaids or not. I've never seen
one."

"They don't exist," chimed in Adrian Bond, who was dawdling in the
background. "The milkmaids are all men. And as for the dairy-farms
themselves----!" He sank back among his cushions. "I visited one in the
suburbs last month--the same time when I was going round among the
markets. I have been of half a mind, lately," he said, more directly to
Abner, "to do a large, serious thing based on local actualities; _The
City's Maw_--something like that. My things so far, I know (none better)
_are_ slight, flimsy, exotic, factitious. The first-hand study of
actuality, thought I----But no, no, no! It was a place fit only for a
reporter in search of a--of a--I don't know what. I shall never drink
coffee again; while as for milk punch----"

"And what is the artist," asked Abner, "but the reporter sublimated? Why
must the artist go afield to dabble in far-fetched artificialities that
have nothing to do with his own proper time and place? Our people go
abroad for study, instead of staying at home and guarding their native
quality. They return affected, lackadaisical, self-conscious--they bring
the hothouse with them. Why, I have seen such a simple matter as the
pouring of a cup of tea turned into----"

"You can't mean Medora Giles," said the miniaturist quickly, pausing
amidst the laces of her bodice. "Don't make any mistake about Medora.
When she goes in for all that sort of thing, she's merely 'creating
atmosphere,' as we say,--she's simply after the 'envelopment,' in fact."

"She is just getting into tone," Bond re-enforced, "with the
candle-shades and the peppermints."

"Medora," declared the painter, "is as sensible and capable a girl as I
know. Why, the very dress she wore that afternoon----You noticed it?"

"I--I----" began Abner.

"No, you didn't--of course you didn't. Well, she made every stitch of it
with her own hands."

"And those tea-cakes, that afternoon," supplemented Bond. "She made every
stitch of _them_ with her own hands. She told me so herself, when I
stayed afterward, to help wash things up."

"I may have done her an injustice," Abner acknowledged. "Perhaps I might
like to know her, after all."

"You might be proud to," said Bond.

"And the favour would be the other way round," declared the painter
stoutly.

Abner passed over any such possibility as this. "How long was she
abroad?" he asked Bond.

"Let's see. She studied music in Leipsic two years; she plays the violin
like an angel--up to a certain point. Then she was in Paris for another
year. She paints a little--not enough to hurt."

"Leipsic? Two years?" pondered Abner. It seemed more staid, less vicious,
after all, than if the whole time had been spent in Paris. The violin;
painting. Both required technique; each art demanded long, close
application. "Well, I dare say she is excusable." But here, he thought,
was just where the other arts were at a disadvantage compared with
literature: you might stay at home wherever you were, if a writer, and
get your own technique.

"And you have done it," said Bond. "I admire some of your things so much.
Your instinct for realities, your sturdy central grasp--"

"What man has done, man may do," rejoined Abner. "Yet what is technique,
after all? There remains, as ever, the problem, the great Social Problem,
to be solved."

"You think so?" queried Bond.

"Think that there is a social problem?"

"Think that it can be solved. I have my own idea there. It is a secret. I
am willing to tell it to one person, but not to more,--I couldn't answer
for the consequences. If Miss Wilbur will just stop her ears----"

The miniaturist laughed and laid her palms against her cheeks.

"You are sure you can't hear?" asked Bond, with his eye on her spreading
fingers. "Well, then"--to Abner--"there _is_ the great Human Problem, but
it is not to be solved, nor was it designed that it should be. The world
is only a big coral for us to cut our teeth upon, a proving-ground, a
hotbed from which we shall presently be transplanted according to our
several deserts. No power can solve the puzzle save the power that cut it
up into pieces to start with. Try as we may, the blanket will always be
just a little too small for the bedstead. Meanwhile, the thing for us to
do is to go right along figuring, figuring, figuring on our little
slates,--but rather for the sake of keeping busy than from any hope of
reaching the 'answer' set down in the Great Book above."

"But----" began Abner; his orthodox sensibilities were somewhat offended.
Miss Wilbur, who had heard every word, laughed outright.

"I beg," Bond hurried on, "that you won't communicate this to a living
soul. I am the only one who suspects the real truth. If it came to be
generally known all human motives would be lacking, all human activities
would be paralyzed--the whole world would come to a standstill. Mum's the
word. For if the problem is insoluble and meant to be, just as sure is it
that we were not intended to suspect the truth."

Abner gasped--dredging the air for a word. "Of course," Bond went ahead,
less fantastically, "I know I ought to shut my eyes to all this and start
in to accomplish something more vital, more indigenous--less of the
marquise and more of the milkmaid, in fact----"

"Write about the things you know and like," said Abner curtly.

His tone acknowledged his inability to keep pace with such whimsicalities
or to sympathize with them.

"If to know and to like were one with me, as they appear to be with you!
A boyhood in the country--what a grand beginning! But the things I know
are the things I don't like, and the things I like are not always the
things I know--oftener the things I feel." Bond was speaking with a
greater sincerity than he usually permitted himself. The right touch just
then might have determined his future: he was quite as willing to become
a Veritist as to remain a mere Dilettante.

Abner tossed his head with a suppressed snort; he felt but little
inclined to give encouragement to this manikin, this tidier-up after
studio teas, this futile spinner of sophistications. No, the curse of a
city boyhood was upon the fellow. Why look for anything great or vital
from one born and bred in the vitiated air of the town?

"Oh, well," he said, half-contemptuously, and not half trying to hide his
contempt, "you are doing very well as it is. Some of your work is not
without traces of style; and I suppose style is what you are after. But
meat for _me_!"

Bond lapsed back into his cushions, feeling a little hurt and very feeble
and unimportant. Clearly the big thing, the sincere thing, the
significant thing was beyond his reach. _The City's Maw_ must remain
unwritten.



VIII

Abner tramped down the corridor and walked in on Giles. He found the
decorator busy over two or three large sketches for panels.

"For another Trust man?" he asked.

"No," replied Giles; "these are for a blameless old gentleman that has
passed a life of honest toil in the wholesale hardware business. Don't
you think he's entitled to a few flowers by this time?"

"What kind of flowers are they?"

"Passion-flowers and camellias."

"Humph! Do they grow round here?"

"Hardly. My old gentleman hasn't given himself a vacation for twenty-five
years, and he wants to get as far away from 'here' as possible."

Abner gave another "Humph!" Wigs and brocades; passion-flowers and
camellias. All this in a town that had just seen the completion of the
eighteenth chapter of _Regeneration_. Well, regeneration was coming none
too soon.

"What's the matter with Bond?" he asked suddenly.

"I do' know. Is anything?"

"I've just been talking with him, and he seemed sort of skittish and
dissatisfied and paradoxical."

"He's often like that. We never notice."

"He seemed to shilly-shally considerable too. Has he got any convictions,
any principles?"

"I can't say I've ever thought much about that. He never mentions such
things himself, but I suppose he must have them about him somewhere. He
generally behaves himself and treats other people kindly. Everybody
trusts him and seems to believe in him. I presume he's got _something_
inside that holds him up--moral framework, so to speak."

Abner shook his head. If the framework was there it ought to show
through. Every articulation should tell; every rib should count.

"If a man has got principles and beliefs, why not come out flat-footedly
with them _like_ a man?"

"I do' know. Dare say Bond doesn't want to wear his heart on his sleeve.
Hates to live in the show-window, you understand."

"He was fussing most about writing some new thing or other in a new way.
I seem to have kind of started him up."

"He has been talking like that for quite a little while. He's tenderly
interested--that's the real reason for it. He wants more
reputation--something to lay at the dear one's feet, you know. And he
wants bigger returns--though he _has_ got something in the way of an
independent income, I believe."

"Who is she?"

"That little Miss Summers."

"He may have her," said Abner quickly. "She may 'dine' _him_ at her
settlement." Then, more slowly: "Why, they hardly spoke to each other,
that day--except once or twice to joke. They barely noticed each other."

"What should they have done? Sit side by side, holding hands?"

"Oh, the city, the city!" murmured Abner, overcome by the artificiality
of urban society and the mockery in Giles's tone.

"You should have seen them in the country last summer."

"Them! In the country!"

"Why, yes; why not? We had them both out on the farm."

"Farm? Whose?"

"My father's. We try to do a little livening up for the old people every
July and August. They got acquainted there; they took to it like ducks to
water. That's where Bond got his idea for his cow masterpiece,--he may
have spoken to you about it."

"Humph!" said Abner. Why heed such insignificant poachings as these on
his own preserves?

"We're going out home week after next for the holidays," continued Giles.
"Better go with us."

"So you're a farmer's boy?" pondered Abner. He looked again at the
camellias, then at Giles's loose Parisian tie, and lastly at his
finger-nails,--all too exquisite by half.

"Certainly. Brought up on burdock and smart-weed. That's why I'm so fond
of this,"--with a wave toward one of his panels.

"Well, what do you say? Will you go? We should like first-rate to have
you."

Abner considered. The invitation was as hearty and informal as he could
have wished, and it would take him within thirty miles of Flatfield
itself.

"Is your sister going along?"

"Surely. She will run the whole thing."

"Well," said Abner slowly, "I don't know but that I might find it
interesting." This, Giles understood, was his rustic manner of accepting.



IX

Abner spent Christmas at the Giles farm, as Stephen had understood him to
promise; and Medora, as her brother had engaged, "went along" too, and
"ran the whole thing" from start to finish. Abner, with a secret interest
compounded half of attraction, half of repulsion, promised himself a
careful study of this "new type"--a type so bizarre, so artificial, and
in all probability so thoroughly reprehensible.

Medora made up the rest of the party to suit herself. She had heard of
Adrian Bond's struggles toward the indigenous, the simplified, and she
was willing enough to give him a chance to see the cows in their winter
quarters. Clytie Summers had begged very prettily for her glimpse too of
the country at this time of year. "It's rather soon, I know, for that
spring barn-yard; but I should so enjoy the ennui of some village Main
Street in the early winter."

"Come along, then," said Medora. "We'll do part of our Christmas shopping
there."

Giles accepted these two new recruits gladly. "Good thing for both of
them," he declared to Joyce. "They'll make more progress on our farm in a
week than they could in six months of studio teas."

This remark admitted of but one interpretation.

"Why!" said Abner; "do you want her to marry _him_?"--him, a fellow so
slight, frivolous, invertebrate!

"Oh, he's a very decent little chap," returned Giles. "He'll be kind to
her--he'll see she's taken good care of."

"But do you want him to marry _her_?"--her, so bold, so improper, so
prone to seek entertainment in the woes of others!

"Oh, well, she's a very fair little chick," replied Giles patiently.
"She'll get past her notions pretty soon and be just as good a wife as
anybody could ask."

One of those quiescent, featureless Decembers was on the land--a November
prolonged. The brown country-side, swept and garnished, was still
awaiting the touch of winter's hand. The air was crisp yet passive, and
abundant sunshine flooded alike the heights and hollows of the rolling
uplands that spread through various shades of subdued umber and
meditative blue toward the confines of a wavering, indeterminate horizon.
The Giles homestead stood high on a bluff; and above the last of the
islands that cluttered the river beneath it the spires of the village
appeared, a mile or two down-stream.

"Now for the barn-yard!" cried Clytie, after the first roundabout view
from the front of the bluff. "Adrian mustn't lose any time with his
cows."

Giles led the way to a trim inclosure.

"Why, it's as dry as a bone!" she declared.

"Would you want us water-logged the whole year through?" asked Abner
pungently.

"And as for ennui," she pursued, "I'm sure it isn't going to be found
here--no more in winter than in summer. However"--with a wave of the hand
toward the spires--"there is always the town."

No, the parents of Giles had taken strong measures to keep boredom at
bay. They had their books and magazines; they had a pair of good trotters
and a capacious carryall, with other like aids to locomotion in reserve;
they had a telephone; they had a pianola, with a change of rolls once a
month; they had neighbours of their own sort and were indomitable in
keeping up neighbourly relations.

"I think you'll be able to stand it for a week," said Medora serenely.

"We've done it once before," said Bond.

"Don't be anxious about _us_!" added Clytie.

Medora Giles took Abner in her own special care. She knew pretty nearly
what he thought of her, and she was inclined to amuse herself--though at
the same time making no considerable concession--by placing herself
before him in a more favourable light. In her dress, her manner, her
bearing there was a certain half-alien delicacy, finesse, aloofness. She
would not lay this altogether aside, even at home, even in the informal
country; but she would provide a homely medium, suited to Abner's rustic
vision, through which her exotic airs and graces might be more tolerantly
perceived.

The illness of one of the servants came just here to assist her. She
descended upon the kitchen, taking full charge and carrying Abner with
her. She initiated him at the chopping-block, she conferred the second
degree at the pump-handle, and by the time he was beating up eggs in a
big yellow bowl beside the kitchen stove his eyes had come to be focused
on her in quite a different fashion. Surely no one could be more deft,
light-handed, practical. Was this the same young woman who had sat in the
midst of that absurd outfit and had juggled rather affectedly and
self-consciously with tea-urn and sugar-tongs and had palavered in empty
nothings with a troop of overdressed and overmannered feather-heads? She
was still graceful, still fluent, still endowed with that baffling little
air of distinction; but she knew where things were--down to the last
strainer or nutmeg-grater--and she knew how to use them. She was
completely at home. And so--by this time--was he.

To deepen the impression, Medora asked Abner to help her lay the table.
There were no studio gimcracks, mercifully, to put into place; but the
tableware was as far removed, on the other hand, from the ugly, heavy,
time-scarred things at Flatfield and from the careless crudities of his
own boarding-house. Abner had had a tolerance, even a liking, for his
landlady's indifference toward finicky table-furnishings; but now there
came a sudden vision of her dining-room, and the spots on the
table-cloth, the nicks in the crockery, the shabbiness of the lambrequin
drooping from the mantel-piece, and the slovenliness of the sole
handmaiden had never been so vivid.

"Shall I be able to go back there?" he asked himself.

Finally, to seal the matter completely, Medora led Abner to the place of
honour and bade him eat the meal she had prepared. Abner ate and was
hers. Even a good boarding-house, he now felt, was a mistake; the best,
but a makeshift.

During the day the telephone had made common property of the news of
Abner's arrival, and the next morning, an hour or so after breakfast, the
front yard resounded with the loud cry of, "What ho, neighbours!" and
Leverett Whyland was revealed in a trig cart drawn by a handsome cob.

"Why, what's that man doing here?" Abner asked Giles, as they stood by
the living-room window.

"He has a place three or four miles down the river," replied Giles,
casting about for his hat. Clytie, meanwhile, had drubbed a glad welcome
upon the adjoining window and then rushed out bareheaded to give
greeting.

"He always comes out here with his family for Christmas," said Stephen.

"His family? Is he married? Has he a wife and children?"

"Yes."

"Yet he goes slam-banging around with a lot of young girls into all sorts
of doubtful places?"

"Oh, I've heard something about that," said Giles. "Well, you wouldn't
have them in charge of a bachelor, would you?"

"What's he farming for?" asked Abner, left behind with Medora.

"Sentiment," she replied. "He was born down there, and has never wanted
to let the old place go. Do you think any the worse of him for that?"

Whyland had come to fetch the men and to show them his model farm. They
spent the forenoon in going over this expensive place. Bond gave vent to
all the "oh's" and "ah's" that indicate the perfect visitor. Abner took
their host's various amateurish doings in glum silence. It was all very
well to indulge in these costly contraptions as a pastime, but if the man
had to get his actual living from the soil where would he be? Almost
anybody could stand on two legs. How many on one?

"Do you make it pay?" Abner asked bluntly.

"Pay? I'm a by-word all over the county. Half the town lives on my lack
of 'gumption.'"

"H'm," said Abner darkly. He was as far as ever from hitting it off with
this smiling, dapper product of artificial city conditions.

"I came across some of your Readjusters the other day," observed Whyland,
at the door of his hen-house--a prodigal place with a dozen wired-in
"runs" for a dozen different varieties of poultry: "Leghorns, Plymouth
Rocks, Jerseys, Angoras, Hambletonians and what not," as Bond
irresponsibly remarked. "They say they haven't been seeing much of you
lately."

Abner frowned. Whyland, he felt, was trying to put him at a disadvantage.
But, in truth, it could not be denied that he had practically left one
circle for another,--was showing himself much more disposed to favour the
skylights of the studios than the footlights of the rostrum.

"I am still for the cause," he said. "But it can be helped from one side
as well as from another. My next book----"

"I didn't dispute your idea; only its application. I should be glad if
you _could_ make it go. Anything would be better than the present
horrible mess. We have 'equality,' and to spare, in the Declaration and
the Constitution, but whether or not we shall ever get it in our
taxing----"

"I am glad to hear you speaking a word for the country people----" began
Abner.

"The country people?" interrupted Whyland quickly, with a stare. Never
more than when among his cattle and poultry was he moved to draw
contrasts between the security of his possessions in the country and the
insecurity of his possessions in town. "What I am thinking of is the city
tax-payer. Urban democracy, working on a large scale, has declared itself
finally, and what we have is the organization of the careless, the
ignorant, the envious, brought about by the criminal and the
semi-criminal, for the spoliation of the well-to-do."

Abner began to be ruffled by these cross-references to the city--they
were out of place in the uncontaminated country. "I believe in the
people," he declared, with his thoughts on the rustic portion of the
population.

"So do I--within a certain range, and up to a certain point. But I do not
believe in the populace," declared Whyland, with his thoughts on the
urban portion.

"All the difference between potatoes and potato-parings," said Bond,
catching at a passing feather.

"Soon it will be simply dog eat dog," said Whyland. "No course will be
left, even for the best-disposed of us, but to fight the devil with fire.
From the assessor and all his works----"

"Good Lord deliver us," intoned Bond, who fully shared Whyland's ideas.

Abner frowned. His religious sensibilities were affronted by this
response.

"And from all his followers," added Whyland. "They threaten me in my own
office--it comes to that. Well, what shall a man do? Shall he fight or
shall he submit? Shall I go into court or shall I compromise with them?"

"It comes to one thing in the end," said Bond, "if you value your peace
of mind. But even then you can put the best face on it."

Whyland sighed. "You mean that there is some choice between my bribing
them and their blackmailing me? Well, I expect I may slip down several
pegs this coming year--morally."

Abner drew away. He was absolutely without any intimacy with the
intricacies of civic finances. He merely saw a man--his host--who seemed
cynically to be avowing his own corruption and shame,--or at least his
willingness to lean in that direction.

"Reform," he announced grandly, "will come only from the disinterested
efforts of those who bring to the task pure motives and unimpeachable
practices."

Whyland sighed again. He thought of his realty interests in town, as they
lay exposed to spoliation, to confiscation. "I am afraid I shall not be a
reformer," he said, in discouragement.

Abner shook a condemnatory head in full corroboration. And Whyland, who
may have been looking for a prop to wavering principles, shook his own
head too.



X

"Don't work so hard at it," said Medora, laying her violin on top of the
pianola. "You shake the house. A minute more and you'll have that lamp
toppling over. And you'll tire yourself out."

Abner wiped his damp brow and felt of his wilted collar. He never put
less than his whole self into anything he attempted. "Tire myself? I'm
strong enough, I guess."

"Well, use your strength to better advantage. Let me show you."

Medora slipped into his place, reset the roll, pulled a stop or two, and
trod out a dozen ringing measures with no particular effort. "Like that."

"Very well," said Abner, resuming his seat docilely. The rest wondered;
he seldom welcomed suggestions or accepted correction.

"Now let's try it once more," said Medora.

An evening devoted to literature was ending with a bit of music. Abner
and Bond had both read unpublished manuscripts with the fierce joy that
authors feel on such occasions, and the others had listened with patience
if not with pleasure. Abner gave two or three of the newest chapters of
_Regeneration_, and Bond read a few pages to show what progress an alien
romanticist was making in homely fields nearer at hand. He had hoped for
Abner's encouragement and approval in this new venture of his, but he got
neither.

"The way to write about cows in a pasture," commented Abner, "is just to
write about them--in a simple, straightforward style without any slant
toward history or mythology, and without any cross-references to remote
scenes of foreign travel. For instance, you speak of a Ranz----"

"Ranz des Vaches," said Medora: "a sort of thing the Alpine
what's-his-name sings."

"It's for atmosphere," said Bond, on the defensive.

"Let the pasture furnish its own atmosphere. And you had something about
a certain breed of cattle near Rome--Rome, was it?"

"Roman Campagna. Travel reminiscences."

"Travel is a mistake," declared Abner.

"So it is," broke in Clytie. "Squat on your own door-step, as Emerson
says."

"Does he?--I think not," interposed Giles the elder. "What he does say
is----"

"We all know," interrupted Stephen, "and ignore the counsel."

Abner did not know, but he would not stoop to ask. "And there was a
quotation from one of those old authors,--Theocritus?"

"Theocritus, yes. Historical perspective."

"Leave the past alone. Live in the present. The past,--bury it, forget
it."

"So hard. Heir of the ages, you know. Good deal harder to forget than
never to have learned at all. _That's_ easy," jibed Bond, with a touch of
temper.

"Oh, now!" cried Medora, fearful that another temper might respond.

"If you must bring in those old Greeks," Abner proceeded, "take their
method and let the rest drop. All they knew, as I understand it, they
learned from men and things close round them and from the nature in whose
midst they lived. They didn't quote; they didn't range the world; they
didn't go for sanction outside of themselves and their own environment."

"The Greeks didn't know so much," interjected Clytie.

"Oh, didn't they, though!" cried Adrian, sending a glance of thanks to
counteract his contradiction. "They _finished_ things. The temple wasn't
complete till they had swept all the marble chips off the back stoop, and
had kind of curry-combed down the front yard, and had----"

"'Sh,'sh!" said Medora. Abner looked about, more puzzled than offended.
"Let's have some music, before our breasts get too savage," said the
girl, starting up.

Bond followed with the rest. "I'll stick to my regular field," he said to
Clytie, as he thrust his crumpled-up manuscript into his pocket.
"Griffins, gorgons, hydras, chimeras dire,--but no more cows. I was never
meant for a veritist."

"Samson is pulling down the temple," observed Clytie. "Crash goes the
first pillar. Who will be next?"

"He'll be caught in the wreck," said Bond, in a shattered voice. "Just
watch and see."



XI

Medora, long before Abner had learned to work the pedals of the pianola
and to wrench any expression from its stops, had banished most of her
"rolls" from sight. "Siegfried's Funeral March" was unintelligible to
him; the tawdry, meretricious Italian overtures filled him with disgust.
In the end the two confined themselves to patriotic airs and old-time
domestic ditties. Medora accompanied on her second-best violin (which was
kept at the farm) and Abner enjoyed a heart-warming sense of doing his
full share in "Tenting Tonight" or "Lily Dale." The girl's parents had
advanced far beyond this stage, but willingly relapsed into it now and
then for Auld Lang Syne.

The final roll wound up with a quick snap.

"Well, you haven't told me what you thought of that last chapter," said
Abner, putting the roll back in its box. He made no demand on Medora's
interest to the exclusion of that of the others, however. His general
glance around invited comment from any quarter. He had merely looked at
her first.

"M--no," said Medora.

The girl, a few weeks before, had looked over _The Rod of the Oppressor_.
_The Rod's_ force had made itself felt most largely on economics; but in
its blossoming it had put forth a few secondary sprigs, and one of these
curled over in the direction of domestic life, of marital relation.
Abner's chivalry--a chivalry totally guiltless of gallantry--had gone out
to the suffering wife doomed to a lifelong yoking with a cruel,
coarse-natured husband: must such a yoking _be_ lifelong? he asked
earnestly. Was it not right and just and reasonable that she should fly
(with or without companion)--nor be too particular over the formalities
of her departure? Medora had smiled and shaken her head; but now the
question somehow seemed less remote than before. She paused over this
bird-like irresponsibility and rather wondered that it should have the
power to detain her.

The new chapters of _Regeneration_ had taken up the same matter and had
displayed it in a somewhat different light. Abner had got hold of the
idea of limited partnership and had sought to apply it, in roundabout
fashion, to the matrimonial relation. His treatment, far from suggesting
an academic aloofness, was as concrete as characterization and
conversation could make it; no one would have supposed, at first glance,
that what chiefly moved him was a chaste abstract Platonic regard for the
whole gentler sex. In short, people--such seemed to be his thesis--might
very advantageously separate, and most informally too, as soon as they
discovered they were incompatible.

"M--no," said Medora.

"Wouldn't that be rather upsetting?" asked her mother. Mrs. Giles was an
easy-going old soul, from whom art, as personified by her own children,
got slight consideration, and to whom literature, as embodied in a
stranger, was little less than a joke. "Wouldn't it result in a good deal
of a mix-up? What would have happened to you youngsters if your father
and I had all at once taken it into our heads to----"

"Mother!" said Medora.

"Oh, well," began Mrs. Giles, with the idea of making a gradual descent
after her sudden aerial flight. "But, then," she resumed, "you must see
that----"

"Mother!" said Medora again. Abner, eager to defend his thesis, looked
round in surprise.

"I agree with Mrs. Giles completely," spoke up Clytie, with much
promptitude. "When I get married I want to get married for good. Most of
the people I know are married in that way, and I believe it's the most
satisfactory way in the long run----"

"But----" began Abner polemically.

Clytie shook her head. "No, it won't do. You've offered us the ballot,
and we don't want it. And you've offered us--this, and we don't want that
either. Consider it declined."

Abner stared at Clytie's brazen little face and disliked her more than
ever.

"But don't _you_ think----" began Abner, turning to Bond.

Bond shook his head slowly and made no comment.

Abner looked round at Medora. She was ranging the music-roll boxes in an
orderly row. Nobody could have been more intent upon her work.

"Well, it stands, all the same," said Abner defiantly.



XII

The clear, placid weather had been waiting several days for Sunday to
come and possess it, and now Sunday was here. The young people stood
bareheaded on the porch and looked down toward the village.

"Do I hear the church bells?" asked Abner. He was a punctilious observer
of Sabbath ordinances and always reached a state of subdued inner bustle
shortly after the finish of the Sunday breakfast.

"We sometimes make them out," replied Stephen Giles, "when the wind
happens to blow right."

"We are all going down this morning, I suppose?" observed Abner,
confidently taking the initiative.

"I expect so," replied Giles.

"Count me out," said Clytie.

"You do not go to church?" asked Abner.

"Not often."

"You have no religion?"

"Yes, I have," replied Clytie, with much pomp: "the religion of
humanity."

"You run and get your things on," said Medora. "You'll find as much
humanity at the First Church as you will anywhere else."

The party set out in two vehicles. Old Mr. Giles drove one and the "hired
man" the other. Clytie, despite her best endeavours to go in company with
Bond, found herself associated with Abner, and a spirit of unchristian
perversity took complete possession of her.

She cast her eye about, viewing the prosperous country-side, the
well-kept farms, the modest comfort symbolized in her host's equipage
itself.

"You're a great sufferer, Mr. Giles," she said suddenly; "aren't you?"

The old gentleman let the lines fall slackly on the fat backs of his
sleek horses. "How? What's that?"

"I say you're a great sufferer. You're a downtrodden slave."

"Why, am I? How do you make that out?"

"Well, if you don't know without having it explained to you! The world is
against you--it's making a doormat of you."

Medora looked askant. What was the child up to now?

"Poor father," she said. "If he hasn't found it out yet, don't tell him."

"No wonder he hasn't found it out," returned Clytie, making a sudden
veer. "Is he suffering for lack of fresh air and pure water? And does he
have to pay an extra price for sunlight? And must he herd in a filthy
slum full of awful plumbing and crowded by more awful neighbours? Does he
have to put up with municipal neglect and corruption, and worry along on
make-believe milk and doctored bread and adulterated medicines, and
endure long hours in unsanitary places under a tyrannical foreman and in
constant dread of fines----?"

Abner was beginning to shift uneasily upon his seat. "Clytie, please!"
said Medora, laying her hand upon the other's.

"Well, they're realities!" declared Clytie stoutly.

"They're not _my_ realities," growled Abner, without turning round.

"Can we pick and choose our realities?" asked Clytie sharply. "Well, if
you are at liberty to pick yours, I am at liberty to pick mine. Yes, sir,
I'll go to that settlement right after New-Year's, and I'll have a class
in basket-making and hammock-weaving before I'm a month older."

"It will take more than basket-making to set the world right," said
Abner.

"Basket-making is enough to teach boys the use of their hands and to keep
them off the street at night," sputtered Clytie.

"Clytie, please!" said Medora once more.

Clytie fell into silence and nursed her wrath through a long service and
through a hearty rustic sermon from the text, "Peace on earth, goodwill
toward men." Abner, in exacerbated mood, watched her narrowly throughout,
that he might tax her, if possible, with a humorous attitude toward the
preacher or a quizzical treatment of his flock. He had not yet pardoned
her "ways" along Main Street, on the occasion of one or two shopping
excursions. She had not hesitated to banter the admiring young clerks
that held their places behind those shop-fronts of galvanized iron in
simulation of red brick and of cut limestone, and she had been
startlingly free in her accosting of several time-honoured worthies
encountered on the dislocated plank walks outside. "Now," said Abner, "if
she sniggers at that old deacon's whiskers or says a single facetious
word about the best bonnets of any of these worthy women round about
us----" But Clytie, outwardly, was propriety itself. Inwardly she was
revolving burning plans to show Abner Joyce that none of his despising,
disparaging, discouraging words could have the least power to move her
from her purpose; and on the way back to the farm she declared
herself--to Bond, in whose company, this time, she had contrived to
be;--they sat on the back seat together.

"That's what I'll do," she stated, with great positiveness. "I'll go
right over there as soon as I get back to town. I don't care if the
streets _are_ dirty, and the street-cars dirtier; and if I have to look
after my own room, why, I will. I'll take along my biggest trunk and my
full-length mirror and the very pick of my new clothes----You know they
like to have us dress; it interests them,--they take it as a great
compliment----"

"And all for Abner Joyce!" said Bond. "Another pillar of the temple
tottering, eh? and trying to brace itself against the modern Samson."

"Not one bit! Not one speck!" cried Clytie. "Only----"

"Well, there are others," said Bond. "I'm prostrate already, as you know.
And Whyland, only a few mornings back, got a good jar that will help
finish him, I'm thinking."

"Did he? And there's Aunt Eudoxia too. If you could have seen how
discouraged she was after she came home from that first meeting with him,
when he took the wind out of her training-school----"

"But he isn't going to jar _you_? He isn't going to cause _you_ to
totter?"

"Not a jar! Not a tot! You'll see whether----"

"Your object, then, is to show how much stronger you are than I am?"

Clytie suddenly paused in her impetuous rush. "Adrian," she breathed,
with plaintive contrition, "I wish you wouldn't say such things--no, nor
even think them."

Her fierce alertness fled. She leaned a little toward him, droopingly, a
poor, feeble, timid child in need of some strong man to shield her from
the rough world.

The other carriage reached home first. Medora alighted gaily on the
horse-block. Abner helped her down with an earnest endeavour not to seem
too attentive.

"Come," she said; "let's see how those pies have turned out--Cordelia is
so absent-minded."

And Abner followed gladly.



XIII

Christmas-Day came with a slight flurry of snow. There was also a slight
flurry in society: the Whylands drove over to the farmhouse for dinner.

Medora had suggested their presence to her mother, and Clytie had
supported the suggestion: "the more the merrier," she declared. Whyland
himself had jumped at the opportunity eagerly, and his wife, who had met
Medora a number of times at the studio and in Paris and liked her,
acquiesced after the due interposition of a few objections.

"About the children----" she began.

"They can take dinner with Murdock and his wife for once in their lives."

"I don't know whether I can be said to have called regularly on Mrs.
Giles----"

"Is Christmas-day a time for such sophistications? And do you think that
plain, simple people, like the Gileses----"

Mrs. Whyland allowed herself to be persuaded--as she had designed from
the start.

She had no great fancy for a solitary Christmas dinner, such as her
husband's rural tastes had so often condemned her to; besides, this new
arrangement would give her an opportunity to take a look at Miss Clytie
Summers, of whom she had heard things.

Medora received Edith Whyland with some empressement; she regarded her
guest as the model of all that the young urban matron should be. Mrs.
Whyland was rather languid, rather elegant, rather punctilious, rather
evangelical, and Abner Joyce, before he realized what was happening to
him, was launched upon a conversation with a woman who, as Clytie Summers
intimated at the first opportunity, was really high in good society.

"One of the swells, I suppose you mean," said Abner.

"I mean nothing of the kind. Swell society is one thing and good society
is another. If you don't quite manage to get good society, you do the
next best thing and take swell society. _I'm_ swell," said Clyde humbly.
"But I'm going to be something better, pretty soon," she added hopefully.

Abner had his little talk with Edith Whyland, all unteased by
consideration of the imperceptible nuances and infinitesimal gradations
that characterize the social fabric. He thought her rather quiet and
inexpressive; but he felt her to be a good woman, and was inclined to
like her. She dwelt at some length on Dr. McElroy's Christmas sermon, and
it presently transpired that, whether in town or country, she made it a
point to attend services. Abner, who for some dim reason of his own had
expected little from the wife of Leverett Whyland, put down as mere
calumnies the reports that made her "fashionable." Through the dinner he
talked to her confidently, almost confidentially; with half the bulk of
Eudoxia Pence she made twice the impression; and by the time the feast
had reached the raisins and hickory-nuts his tongue, working
independently of his will, was promising to call upon her in town.

This outcome was highly gratifying to Medora--it was just the one, in
fact, that she had hoped to bring about. City and country, oil and water
were mixing, and she herself was acting as the third element that made
the emulsion possible. From her place down the other side of the table
she kept her eyes and ears open for all that was going on. She saw with
joy that Abner was almost chatting. He had given over for the present the
ponderous consideration of knotty abstractions; he totally forgot the
unearned increment; and what he was offering to quiet and self-repressed
Edith Whyland was being accepted--thanks to the training and temperament
of his hearer--for "small talk." Yes, Abner had broken a large bill and
was dealing out the change. He knew it; he was a little ashamed of it;
yet at the same time he looked about with a kind of shy triumph to see
whether any one were commenting upon his address.

To tell the truth, Abner felt his success to such a degree that presently
he began to presume upon it. He had heard about the children, left behind
for a lonely dinner with the farm superintendent, and he began to scent
cruelty and injustice in their progenitors. The wrongs of the child--they
too had their share in keeping our generous Abner in his perennial state
of indignation. He became didactic, judicial, hortatory; Edith Whyland
almost questioned her right to be a mother. But she understood the spirit
that prompted this intense young man's admonitions and exhortations; his
feelings did him credit. She made a brief and quiet defence of herself,
and thought no worse of Abner for his championship, however mistaken, of
distressed childhood. He understood and pardoned her; she understood and
pardoned him. And the more she thought things over, the more--despite his
heckling of her--she liked him.

"He's a fine, serious fellow, my dear," she said to Medora, "and I'm glad
to have met him."

Medora flushed, wondering why Edith Whyland should have spoken just--just
like that. And Edith, noting Medora's flush, considerately let the matter
drop.

Mrs. Whyland also looked over Clytie Summers, and found no serious harm
in her. "She is rather underbred--or 'modern,' I suppose I should call
it, and she's more or less in a state of ferment; but I dare say she will
come out all right in the end. However, my Evelyn shall never be taken
through the slums: I think Leverett will be willing to draw the line
there." And, "Remember!" she said to Abner, as she drove away.

Medora was delighted. She saw two steps into the future. Abner should
call on Mrs. Whyland. And he should read from his own works at Mrs.
Whyland's house. Why not? He read with much justness and expression; he
was thoroughly accustomed to facing an audience. Indeed he had lately
spoken of meditating a public tour, in order to familiarize the country
with _This Weary World_ and _The Rod of the Oppressor_ and the newer work
still unfinished. Well, then: the reading-tour, like one or two other
things, should begin at home.

While these generous plans pulsed through the girl's heart and brain
Abner, all unaware of the future now beginning to overshadow him, was out
in the stable considering the case of a lame horse and inveighing against
the general irksomeness of rural conditions. He threw back his abundant
hair as he rose from the study of a dubious hoof,--a Samson unconscious
of the shining shears that threatened him.



XIV

Abner, on his return to town, found its unpleasant precincts more crowded
than ever with matters of doubtful expediency and propriety. Not that he
felt the strain of any temptation; he knew that he was fully capable of
keeping himself unspotted from the world--the world of urban society--if
only people would leave him alone. Two dangers stood out before all
others: his impending call upon Mrs. Whyland and the approaching annual
fancy-dress ball of the Art Students' League. He had rashly committed
himself to the one, and his officious friends of the studios were rapidly
pushing him upon the other. He must indeed present himself beneath the
roof of a man whom he could not regard as a "good citizen," and must thus
seem to approve his host's improper composition, now imminent, with the
powers that be; but he should bestir himself to withstand the pressure
exerted by Giles, by Medora herself, by Bond, by mischievous Clytie
Summers, by the whole idle horde of studio loungers to force him into
such an atmosphere of frivolity, license and dissipation as could not but
inwrap one of those wild student "dances."

"We should so like to have you present," said Medora. "It will be rather
bright and lively, and you would be sure to meet any number of pleasant
people. You would enjoy it, I know."

Abner shook his head. Fancy him, a serious man, with a reputation to
nourish and to safeguard, caught up in any such fandango as that!

"I have never attended a dancing-party yet," he said. "I couldn't waltz
if my life depended on it. And I wouldn't, either."

"You needn't," said Medora. "But you would be interested in the grand
march. It's always very pictorial, and the girls are arranging to have it
more so than ever this year."

Abner shook his head again. "I have never had any fancy togs on. I--I
_couldn't_ wear anything like that."

"You needn't. A great many of the gentlemen go in simple evening dress."

Abner shook his head a third time. "I thought you understood my
principles on that point. Dress is a badge, an index. I could not openly
brand myself as having surrendered to the--to the----"

Medora sighed. "You are making a great many difficulties," she said. "But
you will call on Mrs. Whyland?"

"I have promised, and I shall do so," he said, with all the good grace of
a despairing bear caught in a trap.

"I think she suggested some--some afternoon?"

"Yes."

"You will go at about half-past four or five, possibly?"

"Yes."

Abner suddenly saw himself as he was six months before: little likelihood
then of his devoting an afternoon--fruitful working hours of a crowded
day--to the demands of mere social observances. Which of his Readjusters
would have had the time or the inclination to do as he had bound himself
to do? But now he was "running" less with reformers than with artists,
and these ill-regulated spendthrift folk were prone to break up the day
and send its fragments broadcast as they would, without forethought,
scruple, compunction.

One day before long, then, Abner buttoned his handsome double-breasted
frock-coat across his capacious chest and put on a neat white lawn tie
and sallied forth to call on Edith Whyland. The day was sunny--almost
deceptively so--and Abner, who knew the good points in his own figure and
was glad to dispense with a heavy overcoat whenever possible, limited his
panoply to a soft felt hat and a pair of good stout gloves. The wind came
down the lake and sent the waves in small splashes over the gray sea-wall
and teased the bare elms along the wide, winding roadway, and tousled
Abner's abundant chestnut moustache and reddened his ruddy cheeks and
nipped his vigorous nose--all as a reminder that January was here and
ought not to be disregarded. But Abner was thinking less of
meteorological conditions than of Mrs. Whyland's butler. He knew he could
be brusquely haughty toward this menial, but could he be easy and
indifferent? Yet was it right to seem coolly callous toward another human
creature? But, on the other hand, might not a cheery, informal
friendliness, he wondered, as his hand sought the bell-push, be
misconstrued, be ridiculed, be resented, be taken advantage of....

The door was opened by a subdued young woman who wore a white cap and
presented a small silver tray. Abner, who dispensed with calling cards on
principle and who would have blushed to read his own name in script on a
piece of white cardboard, asked in a stern voice if Mrs. Whyland was at
home. The maid dropped the tray into the folds of her black dress; she
seemed habituated enough to the sudden appearance of the cardless. She
looked up respectfully, admiringly--she had opened the door for a good
many gentlemen, but seldom for so magnificent and masterful a creature as
Abner--and said yes. But alas for the credit of her mistress and of her
mistress' household: here was a lordly person who had arrived with the
open expectation of meeting a "man" who should "announce" him!

Abner had come full of subject-matter; he knew just what he was going to
say. And during the interval before Mrs. Whyland's appearance he should
briefly run over his principal points. But he found Mrs. Whyland already
on the ground. Nor was she alone. Two or three other ladies were chatting
with her on minor topics, and before all of these had gone others arrived
to take their places. Not a moment did he spend with her alone; briefly,
it was her "day."

These ladies referred occasionally to matters musical and
artistic--somebody had given a recital, somebody else was soon to exhibit
certain pictures--but they had little to say about books and they made no
recognition of Abner as an author. "More of this artificial social
repression," he thought. "Why should they be afraid of 'boring' me, as
they word it? They bore Bond--they are always buzzing Giles; I think I
could endure a word or two." His eye roamed over the rich but subdued
furnishings of the room. "No wonder that all spontaneity should be
smothered here!" And when literary topics were finally broached he
experienced less of comfort than of indignation. A sweet little woman
moaned that she had attempted an authors' reading, but that her authors
could not command a proper degree of attention from her guests. Her eyes
flashed indignantly as she called to mind the ways of the people she had
presumptuously ventured to entertain. "They were swells," she murmured
bitterly. "Yes, swells;--it's a harsh word, but not undeserved. I never
tried having so many people of that particular sort before, and they
simply overrode me. They banded against me; being quite in the majority,
they could keep one another in countenance. My poor authors were offended
at the open way in which they were ignored. Poor dear Edward scarcely
knew what to do with such a----"

The plaintive little creature lapsed into silence; great must have been
her provocation thus to speak of her own guests. Abner's eyes blazed; his
blood boiled with indignation. Such treatment constituted an affront to
all art, to his own art--literature, to himself.

"I have heard of cases of that sort before," he blurted out. "Mr. Giles
told me of one only yesterday. The victim in this case was a young
gentlewoman"--Abner's lips caressed this taking word--"a young
gentlewoman from the South. She had come to one of those
houses"--everybody, with the help of Abner's tone, saw the insolent front
of the place--"to tell some dialect stories and to sing a few little
songs. The mob--it was nothing less--could hardly be reduced to order.
All those people had seen one another the day before, and they were all
going to see one another the day to follow, yet talk they would and must
and did. Engagements, marriages, acceptances, excuses, compliments,
tittle-tattle, personalities--a rolling flood of chatter and gossip. Mrs.
Pence took her people for what they were, apparently, and kept up with
the best of them herself. Now and then her husband would do a little
feeble something to quiet the tempest, and then the poor girl, half
crying with mortification, would attempt to resume her task. With her
last word the flood would instantly rise and obliterate her once
more----"

Abner's voice vibrated with a hot anger over this indignity put upon a
fellow "artist." His view of literature was sacramental, sacerdotal. All
should reverence the altar; none should insult the humblest neophyte.
Mrs. Whyland indulgently overlooked his reckless use of names and liked
him none the less; and the little lady who had suffered on a similar
occasion, though in a different role, gave him a glance of thanks.

"I know the type," said Mrs. Whyland. "It is commoner than it should be;
others of us besides are much too thoughtless. You had too many at a
time, my dear," she went on quietly. "A few scattered grains of gunpowder
do no great harm, but a large number of them massed together will blow
anything to ruin. Our motto should be, 'Few but fit,' eh? Or ought I to
say, 'Fit though few'?"

Abner stayed on, and finally the last of the ladies rose to go. Abner was
just about to throw open the stable door, preparatory to giving his
hobbies an airing, when a latch-key was heard operating in the front door
of the house itself. Then came a man's quick step, a tussle with a heavy
winter overcoat, and Whyland himself appeared on the threshold.

He came in, tingling, exhilarated, cordial. His cordiality overflowed at
once; he asked Abner to remain to dinner.

Abner had not looked for this; a mere call was as far as he had meant to
go. He parried, he evaded, he shuffled toward the door.

"But where's your overcoat?" asked Whyland, looking about.

"I didn't wear one."

"On such a day as this!" exclaimed Edith.

"I am strong," said Abner.

"You'll find our winter stronger," said Whyland. "You are not out there
in the country a hundred miles back from the lake. You must stay, of
course."

Still Abner moved toward the door. _Could_ any city man be as friendly as
Whyland seemed? "It will be colder later on," he submitted.

"Our welcome will never be warmer." Whyland looked toward his wife--their
rustic appeared to be exacting the observance of all the forms.

"You will stay, of course," said Edith Whyland; "I have hardly had a word
with you. And when you do go, it must be in a cab."

Abner succumbed. He was snared, as he felt. Other rooms, still more
handsomely, more lavishly appointed, seemed to yawn for him. And then
came crystal and silver and porcelain and exquisite napery and the rare
smack of new and nameless dishes to help bind him hard and fast. Abner
was in a tremor; his first compromise with Mammon was at hand.



XV

Abner accepted his environment; after all, he might force the
conversation to soar far above the mere materialities. His hobbies began
to poke forth their noses, to whinny, to neigh; but some force stronger
or more dexterous than himself seemed to be guiding the talk, and the
name of Medora Giles began to mingle with the click of silver on china
and to weave itself into the progress of the service.

"A very sweet girl," declared Edith Whyland. "Nothing pleased me more
than her nice domestic ways at the farm. I had got the impression in
Paris that, though she was quite the pride of their little coterie, she
was not exactly looked upon as practical,--not considered particularly
efficient, in a word."

Abner's thoughts instantly reverted to the farm-house kitchen. What were
the paid services of menials, however deft and practised, compared with
the intimate, personal exertions, the--the--yes, the ministrations of a
woman like Medora Giles?

"She was probably just waiting for the chance," said Whyland heartily.
"You don't often find talent and real practicality combined in one girl
as they are in Miss Giles. Even little Clytie Summers----"

"We must not disparage little Clytie," said his wife gravely.

"Oh, Clytie!" returned Whyland, giving his head a careless, sidelong
jerk. "Still, she's good fun." He laughed. "That child is always breaking
out in some new place. The next place will probably be the students'
ball. You'll be there to see?" he inquired of Abner.

"No wine, thank you," said Abner to the maid, placing his broad hand on
the foot of a glass already turned down. "At the ball? I hardly think so.
I never----"

"You might find it amusing," said Mrs. Whyland. "A good many of your
friends will be there--ourselves among them."

"Yes," said Whyland, turning his eyes away from the uncontaminated glass,
"my wife is a patroness, or whatever they call it. We go to help receive
and to look on during the march and to see the dancing started."

"I should like to have a hand in helping Medora contrive a costume that
would do her justice," said Mrs. Whyland. "She is really quite a beauty,
and she has a great deal of distinction. Nothing could be better than her
profile and those exquisite black eyebrows." Then, mindful of the
presence of the children, she proceeded by means of graceful periphrase
and carefully studied generalizations to a presentation of Medora's
mental and spiritual attributes. She said many things, in the tone of
kindly, half-veiled patronage; after all she was talking to a country man
about a country maid. She even praised Abner himself by indirection--as
one strand in the general rustic theme. The children, who caught every
word and put this and that together with marvellous celerity and
precision, were vastly impressed by the attributes of the invisible
paragon. They looked at Abner's bigness with their own big eyes--though
ignored by him, his interest being, despite his former championship of
them, less in children than in "the child"--and envied him her
acquaintance; and they began to ask that very evening how soon the
admirable Medora might swim into their ken.

The first result from Abner's dinner with the Whylands was that Medora,
thus formulated by the sympathetic and appreciative Edith, now became
definitely crystallized in his mind; the second was that he changed his
boarding-house. Mere crudity for its own sake no longer charmed. The
curtains and bedspreads at the farm had served as the earliest prompters
to this step, and the furnishings of the Whyland interior now decided him
to take it. Mrs. Cole's stained and spotted lambrequin became more
offensive than ever, and the industrious hands of Maggie, which did much
more than merely to pass things at table, were now less easy to endure.

"I know I'm a fastidious, ungrateful wretch," he said to himself, as he
saw his trunk started off to a better neighbourhood and prepared to
follow it. "They've been very kind to me, and little Maggie would do
almost anything for me"--little Maggie, whom he treated as a mere asexual
biped and hectored in the most lordly way, and who yet entertained for
him a puzzled, secret admiration;--"but I can't stand it any longer,
that's all."

A few days later Bond called at Abner's old address and was referred by a
grieved landlady to his new one. "I don't make out Mr. Joyce," said poor,
hurt Mrs. Cole.

Bond went down the steps whistling, "They're after me, they're after me!"
in a thoughtful undertone.



XVI

"Are you going to dress very much?" grimaced Giles, with a precious
little intonation that caused Bond to laugh outright.

Abner, who was lounging under the Turkish canopy, pricked up his ears to
catch the reply. Medora tossed aside one of her brother's sketches and
turned her eyes on Abner.

"I don't know what _to_ do," replied Bond. "We have had such a glut of
Romeos and Mephistos and cowboys. It has occurred to me that I might go
as a rough sketch--a _bozzetto_--of a gentleman."

"How would you get yourself up for that?" asked Giles.

"Just as you have often seen me. I should wear that old dress-suit with
the shiny seams and the frayed facings, and a shirt-front seen more
recently by the world than by the laundry, and a pair of shoes already
quite familiar with tweeds and cheviots, and a little black bow--this
last as a sort of sign that I am not fully in society, or if I am, only
briefly at long, uncertain intervals. And a black Derby hat--or possibly
a brown one."

Medora smiled, well pleased. This easy, jocular treatment of a serious
and formal subject was just what she wanted. It would help show the
listening Abner that the wearing of the social uniform was nothing very
formidable after all, and did not necessarily doom one's moral and
spiritual fibre to utter blight and ruin.

Abner set his lips. He might indeed go to their wretched "fandango" in
the end--they had all been urging him, Stephen, Medora, everybody--but
never as a cheap imitation of a swell so long as his own good, neat,
well-made, every-day wardrobe existed as it was. He had turned down the
wine-glass at Whyland's, and he would turn down the dress-coat here.

Medora, unconscious that her precious little seed had fallen, after all,
on stony ground, turned toward Abner with a smile--an intent, observing
one. "Did Mrs. Whyland speak to you about her 'evening'?"

"Her evening? What evening?"

"There, I knew she wouldn't dare. You frightened her almost to death."

"What do you mean?"

"Why, she had been thinking of having a few friends come in some night
next week for a little reading and some music. But you were so violent in
your comments on the behaviour of society that she didn't dare touch upon
her plan. She was meaning to ask you to read two or three things from
your _Weary World_, but----"

"Why----" began Abner.

"Read," put in Bond. "I'm going to."

"Why," began Abner once more, "I had no notion of offending her. But
everything I said was the truth."

"She wasn't offended," said Giles, with a smile; "only 'skeered.' You
must have been pretty tart."

"I can't help it. It makes me so hot to have such things happening----"

"I know," said Giles. "We're all made hot, now and then, in one way or
another."

"You _will_ read, won't you?" asked Medora, in accents of subdued
pleading.

"Well, not _next_ week," replied Abner, in the tone of one who held
postponement to be as good as escape. "That tour of mine is coming off,
after all. They have arranged a number of dates for me, and I shall go
eastward for several readings and possibly a few lectures."

"How far eastward?" asked Medora eagerly. "As far as New York?"

"Maybe so," said Abner guardedly.

"How long shall you be gone?" she asked with great intentness.

"A fortnight or more," purred Abner complacently, under this show of
interest. "I guess I can open the eyes of those Easterners to a thing or
two."

Medora dropped her glance thoughtfully to the floor. An exchange of
instruction seemed impending, and she could only hope that the East might
prove a more considerate tutor to Abner than Abner threatened to be to
the East.



XVII

The two long winding lines of gaily attired young people joined forces
and the procession came marching down the hall by fours, by eights, by
sixteens, and Abner sat against the wall next to Edith Whyland and
watched the shifting spectacle with a sort of fearful joy. Eudoxia Pence,
seated against the opposite wall, glanced across at him, when occasion
once offered, and nodded and smiled, as if to say, "Isn't it lovely!
Isn't it fascinating!" and Abner, in sudden alarm, recomposed his
tell-tale face and frowningly responded with a grave bow.

Abner wore his double-breasted frock-coat and his white lawn tie; and
Edith Whyland, who had come in a plain dark reception costume to stand in
a row near the door with the wives of the professors at the Art Academy,
now sat with him and brought him as far into drawing as might be with the
abounding masculine figures in evening dress. Many of these appeared in
the march itself, along with the sailors, the Indian chiefs and the young
blades out of Perugino. Giles passed by as a Florentine noble of the late
Quattrocento, in a black silk robe that muffled his slight indifference
to a function familiar from many repetitions. Little O'Grady wore his
plaster-flecked blue blouse over his shabby brown suit and hardily
announced himself as Phidias. Medora walked with a languid grace as a
Druid priestess, and Miss Wilbur, the miniaturist, showed forth as Madame
Le Brun, without whose presence no fancy-dress ball could be regarded as
complete.

High above the marching host rose dozens of the tall conical head-dresses
of mediaeval France with their dependent veils. A great Parisian painter
had just been exhibiting some mural decorations in the galleries of the
Academy, and half the girls, from the life class down, wore
candle-extinguishers on their heads and trailed full robes of startlingly
figured chintz--a material that was expected to effect to the charitable
eye and the friendly imagination the richness of brocade. Many of the
younger men too had succumbed to the same influence and appeared in long
skin-tight hose and bobby little doublets edged with fur.

"How can they? How can they?" wondered Abner.

The music abruptly changed its tempo and the march broke up into a waltz.
Through the swirling dancers a single figure, clad in violet and green,
zigzagged across to Eudoxia Pence and bowed over her for a word or two.
Eudoxia moved her lips and spread out her plump hands deprecatingly and
shook her head with a smile.

"I should hope she _wouldn't_," thought Abner;--"not with a little squirt
like that."

The figure immediately zigzagged back, with the same effect of eager,
inquiring haste. It paused before Abner and Mrs. Whyland and suddenly
sidled up. Abner recognised Adrian Bond.

"Clytie?" said Bond. "Has anybody seen or heard anything of Clytie
Summers?"

"Well, well," said Mrs. Whyland, looking him over; "you are enrolled
among the Boutet de Monvel boys too, are you?"

Bond ran his eye down his slim legs with fatuous complacency and fingered
the fur fringe of his doublet and pushed his steep flat-topped cap over
to a different angle. Abner looked at him with contemptuous amazement and
would not even speak.

"Her aunt hasn't heard a word from her for a week," said Bond. "That
settlement has claimed her, body and soul. All she does is to write home
for more clothes. I expect she has completely forgotten all about our
little affair to-night. I thought of course she was going to march with
me, but----"

And he darted away to resume his quest.

"She will come," said Mrs. Whyland. "And her cap will be higher and her
veil longer and the pattern of her brocade bigger and more startling than
anybody else can show."

Little O'Grady moved past with a Maid of Astolat, who wore white
cloth-of-gold and carried a big lily above each ear and dropped a long
full-flowered stalk over her partner's shoulder. Medora drifted by in
company with a Mexican vaquero. Her white garments fluttered famously
against the other's costume of yellow and black. She had let down her
abundant dark hair and then carelessly caught it up again and woven into
it a garland of mistletoe. She smiled on Abner with a plaintive, weary
lifting of her eyebrows; she appeared to be "creating atmosphere" again,
just as on the afternoon when he had first seen her pouring tea. She
seemed a long way off. The occasion itself removed her one stage from
him, and her costume another, and her bearing a third. Was this the same
girl who had so dexterously snatched open the stove door in that
farm-house kitchen and had been so active, as revealed by glimpses from
the corridor, in beating up pillows and in casting sheets and coverlets
to the morning air?

The waltz suddenly ended and the Mexican renounced Medora only a few
steps beyond Abner. She came along and took a vacant chair next to Edith
Whyland.

"Are you enjoying it?" she asked Abner.

"It is very instructive; it is most typical," he replied.

The orchestra presently began again, but Medora remained in her place.

"Aren't you dancing this time?" asked Mrs. Whyland.

"Yes," replied Medora deliberately; "I'm dancing with Mr. Joyce."

She handed Edith her card. Abner looked across to her with a startled,
puzzled expression.

"So you are," said Mrs. Whyland. "J-o-y-c-e," she read, and handed the
card back.

"I don't care for the redowa, anyway," Medora explained; "and I didn't
want to dance with the man that was moving along in my direction to ask
me. It was the only vacant line. What could I do? I looked about and saw
you"--to Abner--"standing by the door----"

"I suppose I was tall enough to see," said Abner, feeling very huge and
uncomfortable.

"A tower of strength, a city of refuge," suggested Mrs. Whyland.

"Precisely," said Medora. "So I snatched a pencil out of Adrian Bond's
hand--he had just put himself down four times----"

"What impudence!" thought Abner savagely.

"--and scribbled this,"--dropping her eye on the card. "I hope you don't
mind my having taken your name?" she concluded.

A sudden gust of gallantry swept over Abner. "Let me have the card," he
said. "I have given my autograph a good many times"--looking at the faint
pencilling--"but I don't recognise this." He drew out a lead-pencil and
rewrote the name big and black above the other. "There," he said,--"a
souvenir of the occasion." He handed the card back with the authentic
autograph of a distinguished author. His name there wiped out not merely
one scribble but all, even to the impertinent four traced by
insignificant Bond. A man who could pen such a signature need have no
regret for not being a carpet-knight besides.

Medora took back her card, highly gratified; her cavalier had made a long
stride ahead. Abner himself rejoiced at his dexterity in asserting the
man--almost the man of gallantry, at that--under the shield of the
writer. Mrs. Whyland kindly refrained from entering upon an analysis to
determine just what percentage of egotism was to be detected in Abner's
act, and felt emboldened by such unlooked-for graciousness and by the
sustaining presence of Medora to ask a favour for herself--that "evening"
was still in her mind.

"You _will_ read, won't you?" pleaded Medora.

"After my return from the East," acquiesced Abner.

The two women looked at each other, well pleased.



XVIII

Presently Leverett Whyland came along. The cares of the urban
property-owner and of the gentleman farmer were alike cast aside; Abner
had never known him to appear so natty, so buoyant, so juvenile. Another
man accompanied him, a man older, larger, heavier, graver, with a
close-clipped gray beard. This newcomer bowed to Mrs. Whyland with a
repression that indicated but a distant acquaintance; and just as Medora
was whisked away by a new partner--it was Bond, claiming the first of his
four--Whyland introduced him to Abner: "Mr. Joyce, Mr. M'm----" Abner,
occupied by Bond's appropriation of Medora, lost the name.

"And where is Clytie?" asked Whyland, looking about. "Has anybody seen or
heard anything of little Clytie Summers?"

"No doubt she will appear presently," said his wife drily.

"And meanwhile----?" he suggested, motioning toward the floor.

"It might not look amiss," replied his wife, rising. They joined the
dancers.

Abner was left alone with his new acquaintance, who, arriving at an
instant apprehension of our young man's bulk, seriousness and essential
alienation from the spirit of the affair, seized him as a spent and
bewildered swimmer in strange waters lays hold upon some massive beam
that happens to be drifting past. Abner clung in turn, glad to recognise
a kindred spirit in the midst of this gaudy, frivolous throng. The two
quickly found the common ground of serious interests. The circling,
swinging dancers retired into the background; their place was quietly
taken by the Balance of Trade, by the Condition of the Country, by
Aggregations of Capital, by Land and Labour; and presently Abner was
leading forth, all saddled and bridled, the Readjusted Tax.

"This is something like," he thought.

The other made observations and comments in a slow, grave, subdued tone.
"Who is he?" wondered Abner. "What can he be connected with? Anyway, he's
a fine, solid fellow--the kind Whyland might come to be with a little
trying."

Stephen Giles passed by, guiding the billowy undulations of Eudoxia
Pence. Eudoxia had a buoyancy that more than counteracted her bulk, and
she wafted about, a substantial vision in lemon-coloured silk, for all to
see. She looked at Abner's companion over Giles's shoulder.

"Enjoying yourself, dear?" she asked. Then she nodded to Abner and
floated away.

Abner, instantly chilled, looked sidewise at his companion with a dawning
censoriousness in his eyes. He had probably been talking, for a good ten
minutes and in full view of the entire hall, to that arch-magnate of the
trusts, Palmer Pence. He began to cast about for means to break up this
calamitous situation. He welcomed the return of Leverett Whyland with his
wife.

"Well, Pence," said Whyland, "how has the Amalgamated Association of
Non-Dancers been doing?"

"Pence," Whyland had said. Yes, this was the Trust man, after all.

"First-rate," returned the other briefly, rising to go. "That's a fine,
serious young fellow," he added, for Whyland's ear alone. "There's stuff
in him."

"Been getting on with him, eh?" said Whyland ruefully. "Well, you're in
luck."

Abner glowered gloomily across the thinning floor. Another dance had just
ended and Whyland had skimmed away once again. Abner, forgetful of the
presence of Edith Whyland, made indignant moan to himself over the
perverse fate that had led him on toward friendliness with a man whose
principles and whose public influence he could not approve.

There was a sudden stir about the distant doorway. Abner heard the
clapping of hands and a few hearty, jubilant yaps frankly emitted by
young barytone voices. "What now?" he wondered, with a sidelong glance at
Edith Whyland.

Mrs. Whyland, herself half-risen, was looking toward the door, like
everybody else. "Finally!" she said, with a pleased smile, and sank back
into her place.

A tall, stalwart figure came through the crowd amidst a storm of
hand-clapping and of cheers. The maids of mediaeval France fluttered
their long veils, and their young male contemporaries waved their velvet
caps.

It was a gentleman of sixty with a bunch of white whiskers on either jaw
and a pair of flashing steel-gray eyes. He nodded brusquely here and
there and looked about with a tight, fierce smile. "Hurrah! hurrah!"
cried all the students, from the life class down to the cubes and cones.

"Who is he?" asked Abner.

"Why, that's Dr. Gowdy," replied his companion. "The ball would hardly
_be_ a ball without him here. He has led the grand march more than
once----"

"A man of his age and dignity!" mumbled Abner.

"--but he is late to-night, for some reason. He is one of the Academy
trustees," she added.

"Perhaps his patients kept him." Abner's tone implied that professional
duties would set much more gracefully on such a figure than social
diversions.

"His patients?"

"Yes. You said he was a doctor."

"But not a doctor of medicine. A doctor of theology."

"A minister?--a minister of the gospel?"

"He is, indeed. And I----"

"And you?"

"I am one of his parishioners. I sit under him every Sunday."

Abner was dumb. This professing Christian, this pattern of
evangelicalism, could witness such things without pronouncing a single
word of protest. "Is he going to dance?" he asked finally.

"I think not. He is coming over here presently to sit with me, just as
you have been doing. You shall meet him."

Abner was dazed. Palmer Pence, doubtless, was here under protest; but
this man, his superior in age, credit and renown, had apparently come of
his own free will. He sat there staring at the smiling progress of the
Rev. William S. Gowdy through the throng of jubilant students. He felt
stunned, dislocated. It was all too much.

"Well, well," he heard Mrs. Whyland say. He looked about at her and then
out upon the clearing floor.

"Well, well," said Mrs. Whyland once again. The wide, empty space before
them was lending itself to a second grand entree, by a party of one.
Clytie Summers had finally arrived.



XIX

Clytie came on with the brisk and confident walk that she had cultivated
along the pavements of the shopping district, and she was dressed
precisely as if about to enter upon one of her frequent excursions in
that quarter on some crisp, late-autumn afternoon. She wore a very trig
and jaunty tailor-made suit and a stunning little garnet-velvet toque.
She tripped ahead in a solid but elegant pair of walking-shoes and was
drawing on a tan glove with mannish stitchings over the back. The Boutet
de Monvel girls, the contemporaries of Jeanne d'Arc, were immediately
obliterated; Clytie became the most conspicuous figure in the whole big
place.

She advanced tapping her heels, smoothing her gloves, and looking every
shirt-front full in the face. Her forehead gathered in a soft little
frown; he whom she sought was not in sight. She got a glimpse of Mrs.
Pence and Medora Giles seated side by side in a far corner, and of Little
O'Grady hovering near, with a covetous eye upon her aunt's profile; and
she took the remaining space in a quick little walk that was almost a
run.

"Adrian Bond?" she asked. "Tell me; has anybody seen or heard anything of
Adrian Bond?"

"Well, Clytie child!" exclaimed her aunt, looking her over; "what's all
this?"

Clytie passed her hand down the side of her thick fawn-coloured skirt and
readjusted her toque. "These things were in that box you sent me day
before yesterday."

"That box from London?"

"That box from London. I thought they were never coming. I wrote; I
cabled; I implored friends to go to Regent Street every single day till
they should be done. And here they are, finally--a month late; but I'm
wearing them, all the same."

"Well, they're worth waiting for," said Medora. "I suppose they are just
about the last word."

"Just about," replied Clytie complacently. "Meanwhile, where is Adrian
Bond?"

"Here he comes now," said Medora.

Clytie turned. She beheld the mediaeval greens and violets. "Why,
Adrian," she protested; "you told me you were coming disguised as a
gentleman."

"I thought better of it," said Bond.

"But," she proceeded, "I--I----" She spun round on one heel. "This is all
for you. I thought that if you were coming disguised as a gentleman, it
would be nice for me to come disguised as a lady. No use," she said
regretfully. "Everybody knew me in a minute," she added.

Bond laughed. "I thought you weren't coming at all."

"But you got my note?"

"Not a word."

"Why, I wrote you how we were having a ball of our own, and how I
couldn't come to this one till I had started off that one."

"What kind of a ball?" asked Mrs. Pence.

"One given by our Telephone Girls. I led the grand march with a lovely
young bartender. I struck him all in a heap--can you wonder?--and he told
me just what he thought of me. There wasn't much time to lead up to it.
He was very direct; he took a short cut. Oh, I love the _people_! Why are
the men in our set so shy----!"

"What did he say?" asked Bond sharply.

"Oh, never mind! It was one of those cannon-ball compliments that leave
you stunned and breathless, but willing to be stunned again. What do you
think of my togs?" she asked, generally.

"Look at this jacket while it's a novelty," she went on without waiting
for any response. "The girls were all tremendously taken by it; I noticed
a dozen of them trying to see how it was made.--Oh, how do?" she said
airily to Abner, who came up just then. Having perceived Medora in her
remote corner, he had finally summoned enough resolution to make his
first movement of the evening: leaving Edith Whyland in the company of
Dr. Gowdy, he had succeeded in crossing the intervening leagues alone and
unaided.

Abner frowned to find this pert little piece cutting in ahead of him in
such a fashion. "How do you do?" he responded stiffly.

"They'll all be making ones like it," Clytie rattled on. "By next Sunday
every street from Poplar Alley to Flat-iron Park will swarm with them,
and not a milliner's window along the length of Green-gage Road but will
have three or four of these toques on display. Yes, sir; I'm a power in
the Ward already, let me tell you."

Bond placed his small hand on Abner's broad shoulder. "Isn't she a
winner?" he murmured ecstatically. "If Medora, now, could only have done
something as spirited and unconventional----"

"I have no fault to find with Miss Giles," retorted Abner in a stern
undertone. "To me she is perfectly satisfactory. She will always do the
right thing in the right way, and always be a lady."

Bond withdrew his hand. "Oh, come, I say," he began protestingly.

Abner ignored this. "How about the basket-weaving?" he asked Clytie.

"Well," Clytie responded hardily, "I found plenty teaching that already.
I have chosen for my department instruction in tact, taste, dress and
manners. Such instruction is badly needed, in more quarters than one."

Medora flushed. "Clytie Summers," she said, the first moment that the two
were alone, "if ever you speak to Mr. Joyce like that again you need
never come to our studio nor count me any longer among your
acquaintances."

"Why, dear me----" began Clytie, with an affectation of puzzled
innocence.

"I mean it," said Medora, with an angry tear starting in her eye. "Mr.
Joyce is too much of a man to be treated so by a child like you."



XX

Abner lingered on. He had meant to leave early, but it was as easy to
stay as to go; besides, he felt the stirring of a curiosity to see what
the closing hour of such an occasion might be like. Everything, thus far,
had been most seemly, most decorous, full of a pleasant informality and a
friendly, trustful goodwill; but the crucial point, he had read, always
came about supper-time, after which the rout turned into an orgy.

Dr. Gowdy came across and launched himself upon Abner, just as he had
done before, when Mrs. Whyland had first made them acquainted. He frankly
admired the strength and the stature of the only man in the room who was
taller and more robust than himself, as well as the intent sobriety of
his glance and the laconic gravity of his speech.

"An admirable young fellow!" he had exclaimed to Edith Whyland, upon
Abner's leaving them to cross over to Medora.

"Oh yes, yes!" she had returned with conviction.

"So serious."

"Oh yes,"--with less emphasis. She knew Abner was serious because he was
puzzled.

"So grave."

"Yes,"--faintly. She knew Abner was grave because he was shocked.

"A painter?"

"A--an artist."

"He has personality. He will make a name for himself, I am sure."

The good Doctor, now alone with Abner, gave him a chance to celebrate
himself, to make known what there was in him. But Abner remained
inexpressive; and the Doctor, who himself was very ready of tongue and
who, like all fluent people, was much impressed by reserve, presently
went away with a higher opinion of Abner than ever.

Medora came up, extending her card. "I have secured another dance for
you," she said. "Mr. Bond was kind enough to give it up. He will know
what to do with the time. On this occasion, if you please, we might walk
it out instead of sitting it out. At least we might walk to the
supper-room."

Abner rose. He had never before offered his arm to a lady and was not
sure that he had offered it now, yet Medora's fingers rested upon his
coat-sleeve. For a few moments he felt himself, half proudly, half
uncomfortably, a part of the spectacle, and then they entered the room
where the spare refreshments were dispensed.

Medora found a place, and Abner, doing as he saw the other men do, went
forward to traffic across a long table with a coloured waiter. He brought
back to Medora what he saw the other men bringing--a spoonful of
ice-cream with a thin slice of cake, and a cup of coffee of limited size.
Truly the material for an orgy seemed rather scanty.

"I am glad you promised to read," said Medora. "It is a favour that Mrs.
Whyland will appreciate very much."

Abner bowed. Surely it was a favour, and appreciation was no more than
his due.

"I only wish you could have seen your way to being as nice to poor Mrs.
Pence. I overheard her--didn't I?--asking you once more to call. Weren't
you rather non-committal? Were you, strictly speaking, quite civil?"

"I was as civil as those silly, chattering people round her would let me
be--that niece of hers and the rest. I'm sure I was careful to ask after
her Training School."

"Oh, _that's_ what made her look so dazed!"

"Why should it?" asked Abner, his spoon checked in mid-air.

"She could hardly have expected such an inquiry from _you_. Haven't I
heard that you threw her down on this training-school idea, and threw her
down pretty hard too, the very first time you met her? She wanted help,
sympathy, encouragement, suggestions, and instead of that you gave her
the--the marble heart, as they say. You made her feel so feeble and
flimsy----"

"Did I?" asked Abner gropingly. Eudoxia loomed before him in all her
largeness.

"You did. She was disposed to be a noble, useful worker, but now it seems
as if she might drop to the level of a mere social leader. Do, please,
treat Mrs. Whyland more considerately. She means to arrange quite a nice
little programme, and it will be no disadvantage to you to take part in
it. Mr. Bond will read one or two of his travel-sketches, and I may do a
little something myself--a bit in the way of music, perhaps."

"H'm," said Abner. "Travel-sketches?" He ignored the promise of music.

"With folk-songs on the violin."

"I shall hope to offer something better worth while than
travel-sketches," said Abner. "His things will hardly harmonize with
mine, I'm afraid; but possibly they will serve as a sort of contrast."

"His things will be slight, of course, but the songs will help him out.
Very simple arrangements; people don't care much for anything serious or
heavy."

"I shall not show myself a mere frivolous entertainer--a simple filler-in
of the leisure moments of the wealthy," said Abner.

Medora banished the violin--and herself. "What do you think of reading?"
she asked.

"One or two pieces from my first book, I expect,--_Jim McKay's Defeat_
and _Less Than the Beasts_, with possibly one of the later chapters in
_Regeneration_."

"M--m," said Medora.

"You don't like _Regeneration_, I'm afraid; but there's going to be some
good stuff in it, let me tell you. People will open their eyes and begin
to think. This question of marriage----"

"You will read that part, then?"

"Why not? It's a vital question. It concerns everybody, at all times."

"Yes, it always has--for thousands of years."

"I don't know that I care for the thousands of years. I care for this
year and next year."

"And a great deal of good thought has been put into it already."

"But not the best. The whole subject needs ventilating, shaking up."

"You would attack the fundamentals, then?"

"Why not? I'm a radical. I've always called myself such. I go to the
root, without fear, without favour."

"Still, the present arrangement, resulting from the collective wisdom and
experience of the race ..." said Medora, crumbling her last bit of cake.

"You make me think of Bond and his 'historical perspective.'"

"I meant to. It isn't enough to know at just what point in the road we
are; we must know what steps we have taken, what course we have
traversed, to reach it."

"I never look behind. The hopes and possibilities of the immediate future
are the things that interest _me_. I shall read several chapters of
_Regeneration_--not merely one--on my tour."

"On your tour, yes. But for Mrs. Whyland substitute something else. There
was a story you wrote at the farm--the one about the girl and her
step-mother--"

"H'm, yes," said Abner, with less enthusiasm than he usually showed for
his own work. "_In Winter Weather_? H'm."

This was a short tale, of a somewhat grisly character, which Abner had
composed during the holiday season. Bond had taxed him with using this
work as a buffer to stave off other work of a practical nature such as
was abundantly offered by Giles and his father about the farm; and, to
tell the truth, Abner had limited his physical exertions to half-hour
periods that most other men would have charged to the account of mere
exercise.

"I _might_ read that, I suppose," he said.

"And if there is any wild wind in it--why, I should be on hand with my
violin, you know. I might be in white, as I am now, with snow-flakes in
my hair;--they would show, I think, if this mistletoe does----"

"Not that it represents my best and most characteristic work," he went
on, "or that it bears upon any of the great problems of the day...."

Medora dashed her spoon against her saucer. Was there no power equal to
teaching this masterful, self-centred creature that a woman was a woman
and not a cold abstraction composed merely of the generalized attributes
of the race, male and female alike? She had been his guide to-night, when
she might have left him to his own helpless flounderings: might he not
try now to show some slight shade of interest in her as an individual, at
least,--as a distinct personality?

"Shall we be moving?" she suggested. "It should not have taken so long to
eat so little."



XXI

"Well, good luck on your trip," said Giles, accompanying Abner to the
door of the studio.

"And let us hear from you once in a while," added Medora.

"Surely," said Abner. "Look for a clipping, now and then, to show you
what they are saying of me."

"And for what you have to say of them we must wait until your return?"
said Medora.

"Not necessarily," rejoined Abner. "I might"--with the emission of an
obscure, self-conscious sound between a chortle and a gasp, instantly
suppressed--"I might write."

"Do, by all means," said Stephen.

"We shall follow your course with the greatest interest," added Medora.

Almost forthwith began the receipt of newspapers--indifferently printed
sheets from minor cities scattered across Indiana and Ohio. The first two
or three of them came addressed to Giles, but all the subsequent ones
were sent direct to Medora. These publications invariably praised Abner's
presence--for he always towered magnificently on the lecture-platform,
and his delivery--for he read resoundingly with a great deal of clearness
and precision. But they frequently deplored the sombreness of his
subject-matter, and as the tour came to extend farther east, these
objections began to assume a jocular and satirical cast, until the
seaboard itself was reached, when newspapers ceased altogether and
letters began to take their place. These were addressed, with complete
absence of subterfuge, to Medora, and they displayed an increasing
tendency toward the drawing of comparisons between the East and the West,
with the difference more and more in favour of the latter. Abner felt
with growing keenness the formality and insincerity of an old society,
its cynical note, its materialistic ideals, the intrenched injustice
resulting from accumulated and inherited wealth, the conventions that
hampered initiative and froze goodwill. "I shall be glad to get back West
again," he wrote.

Medora smiled over these observations. "What would the poor dear fellow
think of London or Paris, then, I wonder?" she said.

"I am glad to see that you will come back to us better satisfied with
us," she wrote,--"if only by comparison. Meanwhile, remember that whether
other audiences may be agreeable or the reverse, there is one audience
waiting for you here with which you ought to feel at home and--by this
time--in sympathy."

And indeed Abner faced Mrs. Whyland's little circle, when the time
finally came round, with much less sense of irksomeness and repugnance
than he had expected. Some twenty or thirty people assembled in the
Whyland drawing-room on one mid-March evening, and he soon perceived,
with a great relief, that they meant to respect both him and their
hostess.

"There is every indication that they intend to behave," said Bond in a
reassuring whisper. "Everything will go charmingly."

People arrived slowly and it was after nine before the slightest evidence
that anything like a programme had been arranged came into view. Abner,
by reason of this delay, would have had serious doubts of any real
interest in his art if a number of ladies had not plied him in the
interval with various little compliments and attentions. He found things
to say in reply; he also engaged in converse with a number of gentlemen,
who possibly had slight regard for literature but who could not help
respecting his size and sincerity. He loomed up impressively in his
frock-coat and steel-gray scarf, and nobody, as in the satiric East, was
heard to comment on his lack of conformity with the customs of "society."

"Tkh!" said Whyland. "You have come again without your overcoat, they
tell me."

The lake wind was fiercely hectoring the bare elm-trees before the house,
and the electric globes registered their tortures on the wide reach of
the curving roadway.

Abner tossed his head carelessly, in proud boast of his own robustness.
"What's three blocks?" he asked.

"Come into the dining-room and have something," said his host.

Abner shrank back. "You know I never take wine."

"Wine!" cried Whyland. "You want something different from wine. You want
a good hot whisky----"

"No," said Abner. "No."

The male guests were mostly professional men and representatives of great
corporate interests. They talked together in low undertones about
familiar concerns during their half-hour or so of grace.

"I see you have begun stringing your wires," said one of them to Whyland.
"We are meeting with them all over town."

"Yes, yes," replied Whyland, with the sprightly ingenuousness of a boy.
"Whoever looks for a fair return on his money nowadays must keep a little
in advance of legislation."

"Just what Pence was saying only yesterday."

"I snatched that great truth from my slight association with the Tax
Commission," burbled Whyland. "Almost everything marked, spotted:
property, real and personal; lands, lots, improvements; bonds, stocks,
mortgages----"

"Everything, in short, but franchises?"

"Franchises, yes. Nothing left but to turn one's attention to the public
utilities----"

"And to hope that legislation may lag as far behind and as long behind as
possible."

"Precisely," said Whyland. "Meanwhile, we string our wires----"

"Pence up one pole and you up the next--"

Whyland shrugged his shoulders and laughed. "And may it be long before
they call us down!"

Abner listened to all this in silence, shaking his head sadly and
conscious of a deep and growing depression. Here was Whyland, a clever,
likeable fellow--and his host too--disintegrating before his very eyes.

Whyland looked askant at Abner. "Yes, yes, I know," he almost seemed to
be saying. "But who can tell if a helping hand, extended at the critical
moment, might not have...."



XXII

"Is that her? Is that her?" asked the children, the nursery door ajar.

"Yes, that is 'her,'" said their mother, as Medora, muffled in white and
with her violin-case under her arm, slipped along through the hall.

"How soon is she going to play? And won't you please let us hear just one
piece, mamma?"

"You may lean over the banister. But if you let anybody catch you at
it----"

"How soon is she going to begin?"

"Not for some time yet."

"Oh-h! Then won't you bring her in so that----"

"'Sh! 'sh! And shut the door."

But the door opened again and the banister was called upon to shield, if
it could, three little figures in white night-dresses as soon as Medora
began to "illustrate" Adrian Bond. The children upstairs were delighted,
and the grown-up children downstairs scarcely less so--for Medora knew
the infirmities of the polite world and never tired its habitues by her
suites and sonatas. She took her cue from Bond's crisp, brief sketches of
amusing travel-types, and gave them a folk-song from the Bavarian
highlands and one or two quaint bits that she had picked up in Brittany.
Abner, who knew her abilities, was vastly disconcerted to find her thus
minimizing herself; as for his own part of the performance, emphasis
should not fail. No, these rich, comfortable, prosperous people should
drink the cup to the dregs--the cup of mire, of slackness, of drudgery,
of dull hopelessness that he alone could mix. To tell the truth, his
auditors tasted of the cup with much docility and appeared to enjoy its
novel flavour. They listened closely and applauded civilly--and waited
for more of Bond and Medora.

Abner was piqued. The situation did not justify itself. There was no
reason why Medora Giles should lend her talents to promote the success of
Adrian Bond--Bond with his thin hair plastered so pitifully over his poor
little skull and his insignificant face awry with a conventional society
smirk. Yet how, pray, could she contribute to his own? What was there in
any work of his for her to take hold upon? He himself could not claim
charm for it, nor an alluring atmosphere, nor a soft poetical
perspective, nor participation in the consecrated traditions so dear,
apparently, to the sophisticated folk around him. Medora, in fact, had
shaken herself loose from the farmyard, and if he were to follow her must
he not do the same?

He meant to follow her--he had come to feel sure of that. He was not
certain what it would lead to, he was not certain what he wanted it to
lead to; but if he had not fully realized her to be most rare and
desirable there were many round about him now to help open his eyes.
Hers, after all, was the triumph; everybody was applauding her grace, her
tact, her beauty, her dress, discreetly classical, her distinction; while
she herself parried compliments with smiling good-humour in the very
accents of society itself.

And he was to follow her with _Less Than the Beasts_. The farm-yard
claimed him for its own once more. He must go in up to his knees, up to
his middle, up to his chin. But as he progressed he forgot his
surroundings, his auditory; all he felt was the fate of his poor heroine,
the pitiful farm-drudge, sunk in hopeless wrong and misery. He read in
his very best manner, with abundant feeling and full conviction, and for
a moment his hearers felt with him. Then came a last elegiac paragraph,
and here Abner's voice grew husky, his throat filled, he coughed, and as
he laid aside his last sheet and turned to rise a quick pain darted
through his chest; he coughed again and involuntarily raised his hand
against his breast, and the acute and sudden pang was signalled clearly
in his face.

Whyland advanced quickly. "_Now_," he said, in a low tone, "you must let
me have _my_ way--if it isn't too late. Come." He led Abner toward the
dining-room.

"It is nothing," said Abner, on his return.

"It is something, I am sure," said Edith Whyland, with great solicitude.

"It is something serious, I feel certain," said Medora, pale as her
dress.

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Abner. "I shall know just what to do as soon as I
get home----" He clutched at his breast again.

"You will not go home to-night," said Whyland.

Abner did not go home that night, nor the next, nor the next. He was put
to bed in an upper chamber and remained there. Outside was the gray
welter of the lake. Its white-capped waves knocked viciously against the
trembling sea-wall, and their spray, flying across the drenched bed of
the Drive, stung on the window-panes as if to say, in every drop, "It is
we, we who have brought you to this!"

Medora sent her brother next morning to make inquiries, and at noon she
came herself.

"The nurse will be here in an hour or two," said Edith Whyland.

"I will stay till she arrives," said Medora.

For a fortnight Abner lay muffled in that big, luxurious bed and did as
he was told.

"Men!" said Medora. "They don't know anything; they have no idea of
looking after themselves. And the bigger they are, the more helpless."

Abner had his good days and his bad, and suffered the gentle tyranny of
two or three solicitous women, and trusted that his sudden illness was
making due public stir.

The Readjusters, who had lately been asking after him, first heard of his
plight from the press. The same newspapers that brought them further
details of the adventures of the new Pence-Whyland Franchise in the
Common Council informed them that Abner Joyce--Abner, the one time foe of
privilege--lay ill in Leverett Whyland's own house.

"He is no longer one of us," pronounced the Readjusters. "We disown him;
we cast him off."



XXIII

On one of the earliest days in April, Abner, gaunt and tottering, went
home to Flatfield. Leverett Whyland's own carriage took him to the
station and Medora Giles's own hands arranged his cushions and coverlets.

"Spring is spring everywhere," said Whyland; "but it's just a little
worse right here than anywhere else. If you're going to pick up now,
home's the place to do it."

"It's only three hours," said Abner. "I can stand that."

He shook Whyland's hand gratefully at parting and held Medora's with a
firm pressure as long as he dared and longer than he realized. It was a
pressure that seemed to recognise her at last as an individual woman, and
what his hand did not say his face said and said clearly. And as soon as
he was a man again his tongue should say something too, and say it more
clearly still.

Medora's image travelled along with him on the dingy window-pane and
intercepted all the well-beloved phenomena of earliest-awakening spring.
One slide followed another, like the pictures of a magic lantern. Now she
was pouring tea, now she was baking bread; sometimes she was playing the
violin, sometimes--and oftenest--she was measuring medicines or on guard
against draughts. In any event the sum total was a matchless assemblage
of grace, charm, talent, sympathy, efficiency. "I am not worthy of her,"
he said humbly. "But I must have her," he added, with resolution. He was
not the author of this ruthless masculine paradox.

After another month of rest and of home nursing Abner undertook a second
tour (in Iowa and Wisconsin, this time) to make sure of his
re-established health and to build up again his shattered finances,--for
sickness, even in the lap of luxury, is expensive.

He had refused as considerately as he could an offer from Whyland himself
to do literary work. The Pence-Whyland syndicate had lately secured
control of one of the daily newspapers, and Whyland had suggested
semi-weekly articles at Abner's own figure. But Abner could not quite
bring himself to print in a sheet that was the open and avowed champion
of privilege and corruption.

"You think you won't, then?" asked Whyland, at the door of the Pullman.

"I don't believe I can," replied Abner mournfully.

"Oh, yes, you can too," returned Whyland. "In a week or two more you'll
be as strong as ever."

"I--I think I'd rather not," said Abner, tendering an apologetic hand.

He wrote to Medora endless plaints about the discomforts of country
hotels; and she, remembering how he had once luxuriated in these very
crudities--he had called them authentic, characteristic, and other long
words ending in _tic_--smiled broadly. It seemed as if that fortnight in
the Whyland house had finally done for him.

"He will become quite like the rest of us in time," she said;--"and in no
great time, either!"

In the early days of June Abner spoke. Medora listened and considered.

"I am like Clytie Summers----" she began slowly.

"You are not a bit like her!" interrupted Abner, with all haste.

"In one respect," Medora finished: "when I get married I want to get
married for good. As Clytie says, it is the most satisfactory way in the
long run, and the long run is what I have in mind."

Abner flushed. "I can promise you that, I think."

"You must."

"I do."

"We will dismiss the new theory."

"If you demand it."

The idea of limited matrimonial partnership therefore passed away. Then
there loomed up the question of an engagement-ring.

"You agree with me, I hope," said Abner, "that all these symbolical
follies might very well be done away with?"

"No," said Medora firmly; "folly--sheer, utter folly--claims me for a
month at least. And as for symbols, they are the very bread of the race,
and I am as much of the human tribe as anybody else is."

A few days later Medora was wearing her engagement-ring.

This step accomplished, Abner felt himself free to scale down to a
minimum the customary attentions of a courtship.

Medora protested. "You are no more than a man, and I am no less than a
woman. You must give all that a man is expected to give and I must have
all that a woman is accustomed to receive."

The engagement lasted through the summer, and Medora was married at the
farm in October. Abner's parents came the thirty miles across country to
their son's wedding. His father disclosed a singularly buoyant and
expansive nature; he lived in the blessings the day brought forth, and
considered not too deeply--as the poet once counselled--the questions
that had kept his son in the fume and heat of unquenchable discussion.
Mrs. Joyce was quiet, demure, rock-rooted in her self-respecting
gravity--a sweet, sympathetic, winning little woman. She advanced at once
into the bustle of the household, and it was plain that nature had
endowed her with a fondness for work for work's very sake, and that she
was proud of her own activity and thoroughness. Abner, everybody saw, was
immensely wrapped up in her. "A man who makes such a good son," said
Giles to his wife, "will make a good husband."

"I expect him to," said Medora, overhearing. "And I intend to put on the
last few finishing touches myself."



XXIV

One after another several carriages dismissed their occupants with slams
that carried far and wide on the crisp air of the early December evening,
and a variety of muffled figures toiled up the broad granite steps and
disappeared in the maw of the cavernous round-arched entrance-porch. At
both front and flank of the house a score of curtained windows permitted
the escape of hints of hospitable intentions; and in point of fact Mr.
and Mrs. Palmer Pence were giving a dinner for Mr. and Mrs. Adrian Bond.

Adrian and Clytie were but lately back from their wedding-trip. Adrian,
after several years of unproductive traffic in exotic literature, had
finally made a hit; he had been able not only to lay a telling piece of
work at the dear one's feet, but also--by a slight discounting of future
certainties--to put a good deal of money in his purse. He had at last
found a way to turn his "European atmosphere" and his "historical
perspective" to profitable account,--to write something that thousands
were willing to read and to pay for. Thirty thousand was the number thus
far; and that number, reached within six weeks, meant a hundred thousand
before the "run" should be over. His method involved simply a familiar
offhand treatment of royalty, backed up by an excess of beauty, bravery,
sword-play, costume, and irresponsible and impossible incident. "The only
wonder is," he said, "that I shouldn't have taken up with this before.
Anybody can do it; almost everybody else has done it."

Clytie was delighted by this sudden showy stroke of fortune, and readily
allowed Adrian's long string of hints and intimations--they had come
rolling in thick and fast through the advancing summer--to solidify into
a concrete proposal.

"With this and my little investments," he said fondly, "we might rub
along very decently."

"I hope so," said Clytie.

"Let's try."

"Let's."

The Whylands were also of those who climbed the granite steps. Mrs.
Whyland had required a little urging, as on some previous occasions.

"I hope you won't make difficulties," her husband had said. "Mrs. Pence
is a nice enough woman, as women go; and since my new relations with her
husband...."

"Well, if you think it necessary," she returned resignedly. At need she
might find the means to avoid anything like a real intimacy; and, after
all, there would be a certain satisfaction in finally seeing, with her
own eyes, Clytie Summers as somebody's actual wife.

Last to arrive were the Joyces. Medora wore the wedding-gown that had
astonished the country neighbours for ten miles around, and Abner was in
the customary evening dress.

"A bachelor and a genius," Medora had declared, "may enjoy some latitude,
but a married man must consider his wife."

Abner had dutifully considered. He who considers is like him who
hesitates--lost.

"There will be wine," said Medora. "Drink it. There may be toasts. Be
ready to respond."

Abner could think on his feet--speech would not fail. And his fortnight
with the Whylands had reconciled him to more things than wine.

"Let me be proud of you," said Medora.

Abner shook to his centre. Had he married a Delilah and a Beatrice in
one?

"And don't let's talk any more about our book than they talk of theirs,"
she counselled to end with.

_Regeneration_ had appeared within a week of _My Lady's Honour_ and was
doing well enough among a certain class of hardy readers who did not
shrink from problems. Some of the less grateful passages had been
censored by Medora's own hand and the unfriendlier of the critics thus
partially disarmed in advance. But _Regeneration_ was no longer a burning
matter; Medora's thoughts were on the great, new, different thing that
Abner was now shaping. He had finally come to an apprehension of the
city. In certain of its aspects it was as interestingly crass and crude
as the country, and the deep roar of its wrongs and sufferings was
becoming audible enough to his ears to exact some share of his attention.
In _The Fumes of the Foundry_ he was to show a bold advance into a new
field. This book would depict the modern city in the making: the
strenuous strugglings of traditionless millions; the rising of new
powers, the intrusion of new factors; the hardy scorn of precedent, the
decisive trampling upon conventions; the fight under new conditions for
new objects and purposes, the plunging forward over a novel road toward
some no less novel goal; the general clash of ill-defined,
half-formulated forces. All this study would explain much that was
obscure and justify much that appeared reprehensible. Such a book would
find place and reason for Pences and for Whylands. Indulgence would come
with understanding, and reconciliation to repellent ideals and to the men
that embodied them might not unnaturally follow.

Full of his own new idea, Abner felt a greater contempt than ever for
Bond's late departure and for the facile success that had attended it.

"I know how you look upon me," said Bond cheerfully. "Yet who, more than
you yourself, is responsible for my come-down?"

"I?"

"You. When the psychological moment was on me and I needed most of all
your encouragement, you dashed me with cold water instead. Now see where
I am!"

Abner presently disclosed himself as one of the major ornaments of the
feast. He talked, with no lack of ease and dexterity, to three or four
ladies he had never seen before in his life, and even showed his ability
for give-and-take with their husbands, on the basis of mutual tolerance
and consideration. The quiet dignity that was his natural though latent
gift from one parent he had learned how to maintain with less of jealous
and aggressive self-consciousness; and a kind of congenital geniality,
his heritage from the other, had now made its belated appearance and
begun to show forth its tardy glow. Everybody found Abner interesting;
one or two even found him charming. Those who had never liked him before
began to like him now; those who had liked him before now liked him more
than ever. Medora looked across at him; her eyes shone with pleasure and
pride.

Clytie sat between Pence and Whyland. Whyland's face had already begun to
take on the peculiar hard-finish that follows upon success--success
reached in a certain way. "How about the Settlement?" he asked.

Clytie shrugged her shoulders. "I have other interests now. Besides, I
felt that my efforts on behalf of the Poor were more or less
misunderstood and unappreciated." She glanced down the table toward
Abner.

Whyland glanced in the same direction and shrugged his shoulders too. "I
understand. I might have turned out to be an idealist myself if a certain
hand had not pushed me down when it should have raised me up!"

"Ah!" sighed Clytie, who still saw the old Abner bigger than the new, "I
am sure that both Adrian and I might have continued to be among the
Earnest Ones, but for that ruthless creature!"

Abner sat on one side of Eudoxia Pence--Eudoxia gorgeous, affluent,
worldly. Never had she disclosed herself at a further remove from all
that was earnest, thoughtful, philanthropic, altruistic.

"No," she said, shaking her head with a pleasant pretence of melancholy,
"I was presumptuous. I did not realize how little my poor hands could do
toward untangling the tangled web of life." Eudoxia, talking to a
literary man, was faithfully striving to take the literary tone. She had
waited for a year now, but the tone was here and time had not impaired
its quality. "There was a period when I felt the strongest impulse toward
the Higher Things; but now--now my husband's growing success needs my
attending step. I must walk beside him and try to find my satisfactions
in the simple duties of a wife." She dropped her head in the proud
humility of welcome defeat.

Yes, Abner had brought down, one after another, all the pillars of the
temple. But he had dealt out his own fate along with the fate of the
rest: crushed yet complacent, he lay among the ruins. The glamour of
success and of association with the successful was dazzling him. The pomp
and luxury of plutocracy inwrapped him, and he had a sudden sweet
shuddering vision of himself dining with still others of the wealthy just
because they _were_ wealthy, and prominent, and successful. Yes, Abner
had made his compromise with the world. He had conformed. He had reached
an understanding with the children of Mammon. He--a great, original
genius--had become just like other people. His downfall was complete.

       *       *       *       *       *

LITTLE O'GRADY _vs._ THE GRINDSTONE

       *       *       *       *       *

LITTLE O'GRADY _vs._ THE GRINDSTONE



I

Mrs. Palmer Pence was a stock-holder in any number of banks--twenty
shares here, fifty there, a hundred elsewhere; but she was a stock-holder
and nothing more, while what she most desired was to be a director: to
act on the board of one at least of these grandiose institutions would
have given her a great deal of comfort. She was clever, she was forceful,
she was ambitious,--but she was a woman; and however keen her desire, her
fellow stockholders seemed bound by the ancient prejudice that barred
woman from such a position of power and honour and left the whole
flagrant monopoly with man.

"Such discrimination is miserably unjust," she would remonstrate.

Amongst her other holdings, Mrs. Pence had forty-five shares in the
Grindstone National. This was her favourite bank. Her accounts with the
great retail houses along Broad Street were always settled by checks on
the Grindstone, as well as her obligations to the insatiable cormorants
that trafficked in "robes and manteaux" farther up town. The bank was
close to the shopping centre, and the paying-teller of the Grindstone was
never happier than on those occasions when Eudoxia Pence would roll in
voluminous and majestic and ask him to break a hundred-dollar bill.

This had last happened during the press of the Christmas shopping. As
Eudoxia turned away from the window of the complaisant teller, a door
opened for a moment in a near-by partition and gave her a glimpse of
eight or ten elderly men seated round a long solid table whose top bore a
litter of papers--among them, many big sheets of light brown. She saw
what was going on,--a directors' meeting. Her unappeased longing rose and
stirred once more within her, and a shadow crossed her broad handsome
face--the face that Little O'Grady had resolutely pursued all over the
hall the evening she had deigned to show it at the Art Students' dance,
with his long fingers curved and straining as if ready to dig themselves
instantly into the clay itself.

"I don't care so much about the other banks," she sighed; "but if I could
only be one of the board here!"

The door closed immediately, but not before she had caught the essential
mass and outline of the situation. This august though limited gathering
was submitting to an harangue--it seemed nothing less--from a little
fellow who stood before the fireplace and wagged a big head covered with
frizzled sandy hair, and gave them glances of humorous determination from
his narrow gray-green eyes, and waved a pair of long supple hands in
their protesting faces. Yes, the faces were protesting all. "Who are you,
to claim our attention in this summary fashion?" asked one. "What do you
mean by thrusting yourself upon us quite unbidden?" asked another. "Why
do you come here to complicate a question that is much too complicated
for us already?" demanded a third.

Yes, the door closed immediately, yet Eudoxia Pence had a clairvoyant
sense of what was going on behind that rather plebeian partition of black
walnut and frosted glass. She knew how they must all be hesitating,
fumbling, floundering--snared by a problem wholly new and unfamiliar, and
readily falling victims to intimidation from the humblest source. The
entire situation was as clear as sunlight in the gesture with which
Jeremiah McNulty, blinking his ancient eyes, had laid down that sheet of
yellow-brown paper and had scratched his gray old chin.

"They need _me_," said Eudoxia Pence. "Indeed, they might be glad to have
me. I feel certain that, if left to themselves, they will end by doing
something awful."

She was perfectly confident that she could be of service in the bank's
affairs. Had she not always been successful with her own? So it pleased
her to think--and indeed nothing had developed in connection with her
private finances to bring her under the shadow of self-doubt. The elderly
hand of her husband, which was deep in vaster concerns, seldom interfered
in hers, and never obtrusively. Now and then he dropped for a moment his
own interests--he was engaged in forming the trustful into trusts and in
massing such combinations into combinations greater still--to steady or
to direct his wife's; but in general Eudoxia was left to regard herself
as the guiding force of her own fortunes, and to believe herself capable
of almost anything in the field of general finance.

The Grindstone National Bank, after ten years of prosperity in rather
shabby rented quarters, had determined to present a better face to the
world by putting up a building of its own. The day was really past when
an institution of such calibre could fittingly occupy a mere room or two
in a big "block" given over to miscellaneous business purposes. It was
little to the advantage of the Grindstone that it shared its entrance-way
with a steamship company and a fire-insurance concern, and was roofed
over by a dubious herd of lightweight loan brokers, and undermined by
boot-blacking parlours, and barnacled with peanut and banana stands. Such
a situation called loudly for betterment.

"It's time to leave all that sort of thing behind," decreed Andrew P.
Hill, waggling his short chin beard decisively and shutting his handsome
porcelain teeth with a snap. "What we want is to make a show and
advertise our business."

Hill was president of the Grindstone and its largest stock-holder. Mr.
McNulty listened to his words, and so did Mr. Rosenberg, and so did Mr.
Gibbons and Mr. Holbrook and the rest of the directors; and they had all
finally agreed--all save Mr. Rosenberg--that the time was come for the
Grindstone to put up its own building and to occupy that building
entirely and exclusively. Mr. Rosenberg imaged a few suites for tenants,
but he was voted down.

They had found a moderately old young man who knew his Paris and his
Vienna and who could "render" elevations and perspectives with the best.
This clever person gathered together Andrew P. Hill and Simon Rosenberg
and Jeremiah McNulty and all the others of the hesitating little band and
with infinite tact "shood" them gently, step by step, despite multiplied
protests and backdrawings, up the rugged slopes of doubt toward the
summit where stood and shone his own resplendent Ideal. Each of the flock
took the trip as his particular training and temperament dictated. Andrew
was a bit dazed, but none the less exhilarated; Jeremiah shook his head,
yet kept his feet in motion; Simon grumbled that the whole business spelt
little less than ruination. But Roscoe Orlando Gibbons, who had been
about the world not a little and who drew sanction for the young
architect's doings from more quarters of the Continent than one,
instantly rose to the occasion and landed on the topmost pinnacle of the
shining temple at a single swoop. Here he stood tiptoe and beckoned. This
confident pose, this encouraging gesture, had its effect; the others
toiled and scrambled up, each after his own fashion, but they all got
there. Even old Oliver Dowd, who had once been a member of the state
legislature and had won the title of watch-dog of the treasury by
opposing expenditures of any kind for any purpose whatever, finally fell
into line. His name was the last to go down, but down it went after due
delay; and presently the new building began to rise, only a street or two
distant from the old.

The new Grindstone, of all the Temples of Finance within the town, was to
be the most impressive, the most imposing, the most unmitigatedly
monumental. The bold young architect had loftily renounced all economies
of space, time, material, and had imagined a grandiose facade with a long
colonnade of polished blue-granite pillars, a pompous attic story above,
and a wide flight of marble steps below. The inside was to be quite as
overbearingly classical as the outside. There was to be a sort of arched
and columned court under a vast prismatic skylight; lunettes, spandrels,
friezes and the like were to abound; and the opportunities for interior
decoration were to be lavish, limitless.

Now these lunettes and spandrels were the things that were making all the
trouble. The building itself was moving on well enough: the walls were
all up; and half the columns--despite the groans of Simon Rosenberg--were
in place. Here no hitch worth speaking of had occurred: merely a running
short of material at the quarry, the bankruptcy of the first contractor,
and a standstill of a month or two when all the bricklayers on the job
had declined to work or to allow anybody else to work. Such trifles as
these could be foreseen and allowed for; but not one of the Grindstone's
devoted little band had ever grappled with a general decorative scheme
for the embellishment of a great edifice raised to the greater glory of
Six-per-cent, or had attempted to adjust the rival claims of a horde of
painters, sculptors, modellers, and mosaickers all eager for a chance to
distinguish themselves and to cut down the surplus and the undivided
profits. No wonder that Jeremiah McNulty scratched his chin, and that
Simon Rosenberg puckered up his yellow old face, and that Roscoe Orlando
Gibbons ran his fingers through his florid side-whiskers as he tried to
find some sanction and guidance in Berlin or in Rome, and that Andrew P.
Hill frowned blackly upon all the rest for being as undecided as he was
himself.

"This is awful!" he moaned. "We may have to calcimine the whole place in
pale pink and let it go at that!"

The door opened and a deferential clerk announced the waiting presence of
one of the Morrell Twins. Andrew, giving a sigh of relief, swept the
drawings quickly aside and rose. Here, at last, his feet were back once
more on solid ground.



II

While Richard Morrell charmed the ears of the Grindstone's directors with
his tuneful periods, and dazzled their eyes by the slow waving to and fro
of certain elegantly engraved certificates of stock, and made his
determined chin and his big round shoulders say to the assembled body
that there was no chance of his going away before he had carried his
point, Eudoxia Pence was taking tea at the Temple of Art. The early
twilight of mid-December had descended. "It's too late for any more
shopping," said Eudoxia, "and I'm too tired." Though she was still on the
right side of forty by a year or two, this advantage of youth was
counterbalanced by the great effort of pushing her abundant bulk through
the throng of Christmas strugglers that crowded shop and sidewalk alike.
"Only to sit down for half an hour in some quiet place!" she panted. "I
believe I'll just drop up and see Daffingdon for a bit. That will give me
a chance at the same time to keep half an eye on Virgilia," she added
soberly. "A hundred to one she'll be there; and if anybody's to blame
_for_ her being there, I'm that body."

The Temple of Art, after rooting itself in drama and oratory, after
throwing out a sturdy limb of chaste traffic in bibelots here and
instruments of music there and books and engravings elsewhere, and after
putting forth much foliage in the shape of string-scraping and
key-teasing and anguished vocalizing and determined paper-reading and
indomitable lecture-hearing, blossomed forth at last in a number of
skylights, and under one of these lofty covers Daffingdon Dill carried on
his professional activities. Eudoxia sank down upon his big settle
covered with Spanish leather, and took her tea and her biscuits, and
declined the pink peppermints, and looked around to discover, by the dim
help of the Japanese lantern and the battered old brass lamp from
Damascus, just who might be present. Several people were scattered about
in various dusky corners, and Virgilia Jeffreys was no doubt among them.
"I don't know just how all this is going to end," sighed Eudoxia
dubiously. "I presume I'm as responsible as anybody else," she added, in
a reflective, judicial tone. "More so," she tacked on. "Altogether so,"
she added further, as she took a first sip.

Daffingdon Dill was a newcomer, but he had taken hold of things in a
pretty confident, competent fashion and had made more of an impression in
one year than many of his confreres had made in five or ten. To begin
with, he had unhesitatingly quartered himself in the most desirable
building the town could boast. Many of his colleagues, no less clever
(save in this one respect), still lingered in the old Rabbit-Hutch, a
building which had been good enough in its day but which belonged, like
the building that Andrew P. Hill was preparing to leave, to a day now
past. Fearful of the higher rents that more modern quarters exacted, they
went on paying their monthly stipend to old Ezekiel Warren, with such
regularity as circumstances would admit, and made no effort to escape the
affectionate banter that grouped them under the common name of the
Bunnies.

Dill kept his studio up to the general level of the Temple, and himself
up to the general level of the studio. There was little trace of Bohemia
about either. Society found his workroom a veritable _salon de
reception_. He himself never permitted the painter to eclipse the
gentleman. People who came late in the afternoon found his tall, slender
figure inclosed in a coat of precisely the right length, shape, cut.
People who came earlier found him in guise more professional but no less
elegant. He took a great deal of pains with his handsome hands, which
many visitors pressed with cautious, admiring respect, as something a
little too good to be true, as something a little too fine for this
workaday world, and with his well-grown beard, which hugged his cheeks
closely to make a telling manifestation upon his chin, after the manner
of Van Dyck. This beard cried, almost clamoured, for picturesque
accessories, and when Daffingdon went to a costume ball he generally wore
a ruff and carried a rapier. All these things had their effect, and when
people said, "How much?" and Daffingdon with unblinking serenity said,
"So much," they quailed sometimes, but they never tried to beat him down.

"Why, after all, you know," they would say to one another, as
they reconsidered his effective presence and his expensive
surroundings,--"why, after all, it isn't as if----" Then they would think
of the Rabbit-Hutch and acknowledge that here was a great advance. The
poor Bunnies would have blinked--and often had, you may be sure.

Daffingdon was a bachelor, and he was old enough or young enough for
anything, being just thirty; and his sister Judith, who was some years
his senior, sat behind his tea-urn on most occasions and made it possible
for the young things of society to flutter in as freely as they willed.
The young things came to little in themselves, but some of them had
vainglorious mothers and ambitious, pomp-loving fathers, and who could
tell in what richly promising crevice their light-minded chatter might
lodge and sprout? So Daffingdon and his sister encouraged them to come,
and the young things came gladly, willing enough to meet with a break in
the social round that was already becoming monotonous; and among the
others came Preciosa McNulty,--dear little Preciosa, pretty,
warm-hearted, self-willed----But we will wait a bit for _her_, if you
please.

Daffingdon had spent many years abroad and still kept _au courant_ with
European art matters in general; he knew what they were doing in Munich
no less than in Paris, and letters with foreign postmarks were always
dropping in on him to tempt his mind to little excursions backward across
the sea. He kept himself more or less in touch too with the kindred arts,
and readily passed in certain circles for a man of the most pronouncedly
intellectual and cultivated type.

Thus, at least, Virgilia Jeffreys saw him. Virgilia herself was
intellectual to excess and cultivated beyond the utmost bounds of reason;
indeed, her people were beginning to wonder where in the world they were
to find a husband for her. Not that Virgilia intimidated the men, but
that the men disappointed Virgilia. They stayed where they always had
stayed--close to the ground, whereas Virgilia, with each successive
season, soared higher through the blue empyrean of general culture. She
had not stopped with a mere going to college, nor even with a good deal
of post-graduate work to supplement this, nor even with an extended range
of travel to supplement that; she was still reading, writing, studying,
debating as hard as ever, and paying dues to this improving institution
and making copious observations at the other. She too had her foreign
correspondents and knew just what was going on at Florence and what
people were up to in Leipsic and Dresden. She possessed, so she
considered, a wide outlook and the greatest possible breadth of
interests, and she knew she was a dozen times too good for any man she
had ever met.

There were scores of other girls like her--girls who were forging ahead
while the men were standing still: a phenomenon with all the fine
threatenings of a general calamity. Where should these girls go to find
husbands? Virgilia herself had been very curt with a young real-estate
dealer, who was that and nothing more; and she had been even more summary
with a stock-broker's clerk who, flashing upon her all of a sudden, had
pointed an unwavering forefinger toward a roseate, coruscating future,
but who had finished his schooling at seventeen and had had neither time
nor inclination since to make good his deficiencies. The first had just
installed his bride in a house of significant breadth and pomposity, and
the other, having detached himself from the parent office, was now
executing a comet-like flight that set the entire town astare and agape.

"Well, that's nothing to me," said Virgilia disdainfully. "I couldn't
have lived with either of them a month. I'm only twenty-six and I don't
feel at all alarmed."

Then somebody or other had piloted her aunt Eudoxia toward the Temple of
Art, and Eudoxia, after about so much of dawdling and of sipping and of
nibbling and of gentle patronage and of dilettante comment and criticism
through this studio and that, had opened up a like privilege to her
niece. Together they had dawdled and sipped and suggested up one corridor
and down another, and in due course they arrived at the studio of
Daffingdon Dill, and presently they were as good as enrolled among the
habitues of the place.

Eudoxia peered about among the tapestries and the sombre old furniture.
"Yes, there she is over in the corner with Preciosa McNulty." Then she
looked back toward Dill and sighed lightly. "I wonder how this thing is
coming out? I wonder how I want it to come out? And I wonder how much
responsibility I must really bear for the way it _does_ come out?"



III

She handed back her cup to Dill. "What are those two girls giggling
about?" she asked him.

Dill snatched a moment from his cares as host. Little had he expected to
hear Virgilia Jeffreys taxed with giggling.

Yet giggling she was,--with some emphasis and spirit too. She seemed to
have slipped back from sedate and dignified young womanhood to mere
flippant girlishness and not to have gained appreciably by the
transition. Preciosa McNulty, still a girl and giving no immediate
promise of developing into anything more, shared with her the
over-cushioned disorder of the Persian canopy and giggled too.

Preciosa could laugh and chatter easily, volubly, spontaneously--all
this, as yet, was the natural utterance of her being. But Virgilia was
keeping pace with her, was even surpassing her. Yet she showed evidences
of effort, of self-consciousness, of serious intention; now and then the
_arriere pensee_ disclosed its puckered front.

This, and nothing but this, could excuse Virgilia to-day. For she was too
old to giggle, far too learned, much too sober-minded. Dill himself felt
this, and shook his head in reply to Eudoxia Pence's question, as he
stepped away for a moment to accompany a pair of gracious amateurs to the
door.

A little figure that was passing rapidly along the corridor stopped on
seeing the door ajar and waved a long supple hand and wagged a frizzly
flaxen poll and gave a humorous wink out of his gray-green eyes and
called unabashedly, before he resumed his skurrying flight:

"I've got 'em on the run, Daff; I've got 'em on the run!"

"Oh, that little O'Grady!" sighed Dill genteelly; "he is impossible; he
will end with disgracing us. What can the fellow be up to now?" he
wondered, closing the door, and preparing to return to his study of
Virgilia Jeffreys.

"Your poor grandfather!--can't I fancy him!" Virgilia was saying to
Preciosa. She gave a light dab at the other's muff with her long slender
hand. "Dear, puzzled old soul!"--and she crinkled up her narrow green
eyes.

"Can't you?" Preciosa laughed back. "'I don't know anything about such
things,' grandpa insisted. 'Go and see Mr. Hill, young man, or Mr.
Gibbons.' But the young man kept unrolling sheet after sheet. 'Grandpa,'
I said, 'we shall miss the whole of the first act.' Then the young man
_had_ to go. He didn't want to, but he had to."

"The 'young man'!" laughed Virgilia, dandling a cushion. "Didn't he have
any name?"

"Some queer one: Ig--Ig----I don't remember."

"Nor any address?"

"Some far-away street you never heard of."

"How ridiculous!" chirped Virgilia, throwing back her head. "Do let them
give you another cup of tea or some more of those biscuits. Ask for what
you want. Don't be backward, even if you are a newcomer."

"Dear me," said Preciosa; "don't tell me I'm bashful."

"Did his sketches amount to anything?" asked Virgilia, herself reaching
for the biscuits.

"Well, there were plenty _of_ them. By a quarter to eight they had
covered all the tables and chairs and about two-thirds of the floor.
There was every evidence of that young man's being after us--a regular
siege. I have no doubt he was waiting outside all through dinner; he rang
the bell the very minute poor unsuspecting grandpa turned up the gas in
the front parlour. But that's nothing to the one just before him."

"What did _he_ do?" asked Virgilia, with all her fine blonde intentness.

Preciosa threw back her mop of chestnut hair. "Followed grandpa all the
way home and would hardly let him have his dinner. He had it this time,
however. And then, as I say, he turned up the gas; and then----"

"And then the shower began?" suggested Virgilia, putting her delicate
eyebrows through their paces.

"The downpour. I never knew anybody to talk faster, or give out more
ideas, or wave his hands harder,--like this." Preciosa cast her muff away
completely and abandoned her plump little fingers to unbridled pantomime.
"The room was peopled--isn't that the way they say it, peopled?--in no
time; a regular reception. There were ladies in Greek draperies seated on
big cogged wheels with factory chimneys rising behind, and strong young
fellows in leather aprons leaning against anvils and forges, and there
were----"

"I know, I know," declared Virgilia, ducking her head into her cushion,
with the effect of suppressing a shriek of laughter. "And more 'ladies'
reading from scrolls to children standing at their knee. And all sorts of
folks blowing trumpets and bestowing garlands; Commerce, Industry, Art,
Manufacturing, Education, and the rest of them. Dear child! how good of
you to call all these things 'ideas'! No wonder such novelties puzzled
your poor dear grandfather!"

She clutched Preciosa's chubby little hand with her long white fingers,
as if to squeeze from it an answering shriek.

But Preciosa contained herself. "And there was a lady engineer," she went
on, after a short pause, "in a light blue himation--is that what they
call it, himation?--and she was fluttering it out of the cab-window----"

"The Railway!" declared Virgilia, trying to laugh tears into her eyes.

"And one drawing showed a lot of Cupids nesting on top of a telegraph
pole----"

"What did Jeremiah McNulty think of that?"

"--with their little pink heels dangling down just as cute----"

"In a bank!" cried Virgilia, in a perfect transport of merriment.
Preciosa, with whom a growing admiration for these abundant decorative
details seemed to be overlaying her sense of fun, stopped in her account
and then complaisantly gave forth the laugh that Virgilia seemed to
expect.

"Oh, these young men!" exclaimed Virgilia, with a gasp and a gurgle to
indicate that the limit was nearly reached; "these young men whom you
never heard of, whose names you can't pronounce, and who live you don't
know where! They will be too much for your poor grandfather. Let him
escape them while he can. He is too old and too busy for such annoyances.
Let him find some other young man whose name is known and whose studio is
in a civilized part of the town and who has done some rather good work
for some rather nice people." Virgilia crinkled up her eyes in a little
spasm of confidential merriment and then opened them on her
surroundings--the rich sobriety of the furniture; the casual picturesque
groupings of "nice people"; the shining tea-urn flanked by the candles in
their fluted paper shades; the heavy gilded frames inclosing copies made
by Dill in the galleries of Madrid and St. Petersburg; other canvases set
against the base-boards face back so as at once to pique and to balk
curiosity with regard to the host's own work; the graceful dignity of
Dill himself, upon whom Virgilia's eyes rested last yet longest.

"I might mention Mr. Dill to grandpa," said Preciosa, with returning
seriousness. This, her first intrusion into the strange, rich world of
art, had rather impressed her, after all; such novel hospitality really
required some acknowledgment.

"Do," said Virgilia, now in quite a gale. "Don't drink his tea for
nothing! And if it's 'ideas' that are wanted," she went on, as she
grasped Preciosa lightly by both shoulders and gave her a humorous shake,
"this is the shop!"

Preciosa paused for a moment's consideration. She was not sure that
Virgilia knew her well enough to shake her, nor had she supposed that
Virgilia was giddy enough to shake anybody. Neither was she sure that
what she most wanted was to ridicule the facile and voluminous sketches
spread out so widely and so rapidly by that young man with the burning
eyes and the quick, nervous hands and the big shock of wavy black hair.
Still, it was as easy to laugh as not to laugh; besides, which of the two
might better set the tone, and authoritatively? Virgilia, surely; by
reason of her age--she was some six or eight years the senior, by reason
of her stature--she was several inches the taller, and by reason of her
standing as an habituee--surely she must know how to behave in a studio.
So Preciosa tossed her pretty little head, and laughed, as she felt
herself expected to.

"The shop, yes," she acquiesced gaily. "And if I come again----"

"If?" repeated Virgilia, raising her eyebrows archly.

"And when I come again," amended Preciosa, rising, "I might bring grandpa
with me. I'm sure all this would be new to him."

"Do, by all means," cried Virgilia. "And don't be too long doing it. _We_
won't keep him from his food and drink; _we_ won't worry his poor tired
brain, if we can help it; _we_ won't give him ladies seated beneath
factory chimneys; _we_ won't----You are going? Goodbye, dear. So glad to
have met you here. Aunt and I drop in quite frequently, and you should
learn to do so too."

She gave Preciosa a parting smile, then composed her features to a look
of grave intentness and turned about to impose this look upon Daffingdon
Dill wherever found.

Her eyes found him on the opposite side of the room, in company with her
aunt. Both of them were studying her with some seriousness and some
surprise. Virgilia, having already resumed her customary facial
expression, now took on her usual self-contained manner as well and
crossed over to them.



IV

"Well, well, Virgilia," said her aunt, as the door closed on Preciosa,
"you see more in that girl than I do."

"I see her grandfather," whispered Virgilia, with the obscure brevity of
an oracle. She drew down her brows and looked at the wondering Dill,--or
rather, through him, past him.

"Oh," replied her aunt softly. It was impossible that she should
misunderstand; McNulty and Hill and the rest of them had just been in her
own thoughts, on her own tongue. "I _shall_ be responsible, after all,"
she said within herself. Then she gave Virgilia a slight frown of
disapproval: it was not precisely a maidenly part that her niece had
chosen to play; neither did it show the degree of deference due to an
elder, a chaperon and--if you came right at it--to a stock-holder. "If
this thing must be engineered," thought Eudoxia, "I think I should prefer
to engineer it myself." Heaven pardon her, though, for ever having
brought Virgilia Jeffreys to Daffingdon Dill's studio!

She herself had come there full of Jeremiah McNulty and Andrew P. Hill
and Roscoe Orlando Gibbons. "It's a big undertaking," she had told Dill.
"They're struggling with it now, poor things. They need expert advice. If
I were only one of the board of directors!"

Dill came up to the mark gingerly. "The air has been full of it for the
last fortnight," he said, struggling between eagerness and professional
dignity. "I know a number of fellows who have thought of going in for
it."

"I suppose _you_ haven't thought of going in?"

Dill drew himself up. "How can I?" He suggested the young physician who
will starve but who will not infringe the Code by any practice that
savours in the least of advertising, of soliciting. However, he was a
thousand miles farther away from starvation than was Ignace Prochnow, for
example; much better could he afford to await the arrival of an embassy.

Eudoxia Pence fumbled her boa. "Does Virgilia really want him? Does he
want Virgilia? Do I want them to have each other? Shall I exert myself in
his behalf?" Such were the questions she submitted to her own
consideration as her eyes roved over the chatting, sipping throng. "Can
he do for her all that a girl in her position would expect? Could such a
fastidious, exacting young woman hope to find anybody she would like
better--or as well?" Eudoxia had three or four swift successive visions
of herself in a variety of circumstances and pleading or discouraging a
variety of causes. Now, for example, she was saying to Virgilia, "Yes,
he's a very nice fellow, I know; but he has only his wits and his brush,
while you must always live as you always have lived--a rich girl to whom
nothing has been denied." Again, she saw herself bent over the desk of
Andrew P. Hill, with her forty-five shares clutched in her resolute hand,
and saying, "I demand to be heard; I demand to have a voice in this
momentous matter; I demand a fair and even chance for my
nephew-in-law-to-be." Once more, she was wringing her hands and asking
Virgilia in tones of piteous protest, "Why, oh why, didn't you take
Richard Morrell when you could have got him?--a fine, promising, pushing
fellow, with his million or more already, and barely thirty-five, just
the right age for you!" Yet again, she was saying to that poor little
vulgarian, Preciosa McNulty, "If Virgilia will, she will, and there's an
end of it; therefore should you, dear child, promise me to use your
influence with that loutish old peasant of a grandfather, you shall have
the beatitude of actually pouring tea at one of my Thursday afternoons,
and I'll even invite your mother to my next large reception----"

Eudoxia paused, struck suddenly by the earnest scrutiny of both
Daffingdon and Virgilia. She saw that she had tied her boa into a double
knot, and surmised that she had been doing the same with her features
too.



V

By this time every "art circle" in the city knew from its centre to its
circumference that the Grindstone National Bank was moving toward the
elaborate decoration of its new building and that the board of directors
was thinking of devoting some twenty thousand dollars or more to this
purpose. The Temple of Art took on its reception smile; the Rabbit-Hutch
began a nervous rummaging for ideas among cobwebs and dusty portfolios
and forgotten canvases; decorators of drawing-rooms and libraries put on
their thinking-caps and stood up their little lightning-rods; and one or
two of the professors at the Art Academy began to overhaul their
mythology and to sketch out broad but hazy schemes for a succession of
thumping big masterpieces, and to wonder whether the directors would call
on them or whether they should be summoned to meet the directors.

"Gee!" said Little O'Grady (whose _forte_ was reliefs in plastina), as he
hopped around Dill's studio on one leg; "but ain't it a godsend for us!"

Little O'Grady was celebrated for keeping the most untidy and
harum-scarum quarters throughout the entire Rabbit-Hutch, and for being
wholly beyond the reach of reproof or the range of intimidation. The
stately sobriety of Dill's studio had no deterring effect upon him.
Nothing could impress him; nobody could repress him. He said just what he
thought to anybody and everybody, and acted just as he felt wherever he
happened to be. Just now he felt like dancing a jig--and did so.

"But, dear me, where do _you_ come in?" asked Dill, moving his easel a
bit farther out of Little O'Grady's range.

"Where do I come in? Everywhere. I come in on the capitals of the columns
round that court, which will all be modelled after special designs of me
own----"

"I hadn't heard about them. I should suppose such things would follow
established patterns."

"So does the architect. But I shall convince him yet that he's mistaken."
O'Grady gave a pirouette in recognition of his own powers of persuasion.

"And I come in on the mantel-piece in the president's private parlour,"
he continued. "It will be a low relief in bronze: 'The Genius of the West
Lighting the Way to Further Progress,' or else, 'Commerce and Finance
Uniting to Do Something or Other'--don't know what just yet, but shall
hit on some notion or other in due time----"

"You've seen the plans, then? You've been striking up an acquaintance
with the architect himself?" Dill frowned repugnance upon such a bit of
indelicacy, such an indifference to professional etiquette.

"Well, perhaps I have. Why not? But if there's a president--I s'pose
there is?"

"I suppose so."

"Then there'll sure be a parlour. And where there's a parlour there's a
fireplace--see? A large official cavern with never any fire in it. And I
come in on the drinking-fountains at each side of the main entrance:
bronze dolphins twisted upside down and spouting water into marble
basins."

"They're included too, are they?"

"Well, I suggested them. Don't those old coupon-clippers ever get
thirsty? Sure they do. Well, can't I wet their whistles for them? I guess
yes--and I told 'em so."

"Them? Whom?"

"The directors."

"You've seen them?"

"I attended a meeting of the board, as I suppose I might as well tell
you," said Little O'Grady grandly.

"You did, eh?" returned Dill, balanced between reprobation of Little
O'Grady's push and admiration for his nerve.

"Yep. I spoke a good word for myself. And one for the others--Gowan and
Giles and you and Stalinski and----"

"Um," said Dill, none too well pleased. The last thing he desired was
co-operation from the Rabbit-Hutch and association with the band of
erratic, happy-go-lucky Bohemians that peopled it. "You're laying out a
good deal of work for yourself," he remarked coldly, dismissing the
Bunnies.

"Work? That's what I'm here for," declared O'Grady brightly. "And if I
slip up on any of these little notions, why I'll just take a hand in the
painting itself--didn't I help on a panorama once? Sure thing. There was
a time when I could kind o' swing a brush, and I guess I could do it yet.
Let's see: 'The Goddess of Finance,' in robes of saffron and purple,
'Declaring a Quarterly Dividend.' Gold background. Stock-holders summoned
by the Genius of Thrift blowing fit to kill on a silver trumpet. Scene
takes place in an autumnal grove of oranges and pomegranates--trees
loaded down with golden eagles and half-eagles. Marble pavement strewn
with fallen coupons. Couldn't I do a fairy-scene like that? I should
say!" Little O'Grady threw out his leg again with sudden vehemence and
toppled over among Dill's heaped-up cushions.

Dill laughed. "How are the other fellows over your way feeling about it?"

"Same as me--hopeful. We may have to sleep on excelsior for a while yet,
but we shall soon stop eating it. And the first thing we do with the coin
will be to give old Warren heart-disease by going down in a body and
paying up all our back rent. I'm figuring on pulling out about two
thousand for my share. Then if I want pie I can have it, without stopping
to feel in my pocket first."

Little O'Grady babbled along as he delineated the mental state of the
other Bunnies. They all felt the situation in the air--they all felt it
in their bones. They all wanted a hand in things--a finger in the pie.
There was Festus Gowan, who did little beyond landscapes, but who thought
he could make some headway with faces and draperies if pushed to it.
There was Mordreth, who did little but portraits--and "deaders" at
that--but who fancied he might come out reasonably strong on landscape
and on architectural accessories if somebody would only give him a
chance. There was Felix Stalinski, who had lately left "spot-knocking"
for general designing and who thought that if a man was able to turn out
a good, effective poster he might consider himself equal to almost
anything. And there was Stephen Giles, who had recently been decorating
reception halls and dining-rooms for the high and mighty and who saw no
reason why he shouldn't take a higher flight still and adorn the palaces
where the money was made instead of those where it was spent. "No use in
my talking to you about _him_, though," broke off Little O'Grady. "He
ain't one of us any more. He's one of you, now."

"I hope you fellows don't feel that way----" began Dill.

"He's a renegade," declared Little O'Grady. "But never mind; we like him
all the same. Some day he may be glad to leave the Temple and come back
to us again at the Warren. That'll be all right. We'll welcome him; we'll
share our last mouthful of excelsior with him." Little O'Grady gave
another joyful kick into the air. "Well, his room didn't stay empty long;
Gowan moved down right away, and a new man took Gowan's room only day
before yesterday--so old Ezekiel won't lose more'n about fourteen
dollars' rent, after all. Chap's got his name out already: Ignace
Pr--Pr----Well, anyway, it begins with a P. He makes rattling strong
coffee, by the smell, and tinkles now and then on the thing-a-ma-jig.
They say he's terrible smart--full of the real old stuff."

"Has Gowan been thinking up anything in particular?"

"Well, he's thinking he sees that money piled up in the bank vaults. We
all do. And we want to get at it. Say, great thing to be working for a
bank, eh? No flighty, shilly-shallying, notional women, but a lot of
steady, sober business-men who'll make a good straight contract and keep
it. No saying, 'Well, my daughter doesn't altogether fancy this,' or, 'I
will take your sketches home to my husband and we will think about
them,'--and then never telling us _what_ they think. Sure pay, too. And
prompt, as well. Quarter down, let us say, on submitting the general
scheme of decoration; another quarter as soon as we begin actual
work----Yes, sir, I almost feel as if I saw my way to meat once a day
right through the week!"



VI

"Then I don't see but that he is about the man for us," said Roscoe
Orlando Gibbons;--"at least he seems to provide a point for us to start
from."

Jeremiah McNulty rescued some loose memoranda from the absent-minded
pokings of his caller's plump forefinger and scratched his chin.

"You were pretty favourably impressed, weren't you?" asked Roscoe
Orlando, leaning forward across the corner of the other's desk. "_I_ was.
I thought he had something in him, and something behind him. Seemed to me
like a very dependable chap--for one in that line. These artists, you
know,--erratic, notional, irresponsible. You never feel sure how you have
them; you can't treat with them as you can with a downright, sensible,
methodical business-man. I assure you I've heard the most astonishing
tales about them. There's Whistley, for example--sort of sharp, perverse
spoiled child, I should say. And the time my own brother-in-law had over
the portrait painted by that man from Sweden! We've got to make up our
minds to be patient with them, to humour them. But Dill, now----" Roscoe
Orlando Gibbons ran his fingers through his graying whiskers and waited
for Jeremiah's belated observation.

Jeremiah took his time in making it. He had accompanied his granddaughter
to Daffingdon Dill's studio, but he was in no haste to formulate his
impressions. His eyes were still blinking at the duskiness of the place,
his nose was still sniffing the curious odour of burning pastilles, his
ears were still full of the low-voiced chatter of a swarm of idle
fashionables, and his feet (that humpy tiger-rug once passed) still had a
lingering sense of the shining slipperiness of the brown polished floor.
That floor!--poor Jeremiah had stood upon it as helpless as a cripple on
a wide glare of ice, at a cruelly embarrassing disadvantage and wholly at
the mercy of that original and anomalous person in the brown Van Dyck
beard. Vainly had he cast about for something to lay hold of. None of the
people there had he ever seen before; none of the topics bandied about so
lightly and carelessly had he ever heard broached before. The sole prop
upon which he had tried to repose his sinking spirit had looked indeed
like an oak, but had turned out to be merely a broken reed. "That's the
only man here," he had muttered, on looking across toward a stalwart,
broad-shouldered figure standing half in the shadow of some frayed and
discoloured drapery. "He's sort o' like one of those 'swells,' in that
slick new coat and all, but I'll risk him." However, this robust young
man had shown himself as prompt as any in his use of the teasing jargon
of the place; he assumed on Jeremiah's part some interest and some
knowledge and dogmatized as readily and energetically on the general
concerns of culture as any of the others. Jeremiah, prostrate, soon moved
away.

"Who is he--that tall young fellow over by that curtain?" he could not
refrain from asking his granddaughter. How, he was thinking to
himself,--how could such a big, vigorous young man betray such a range of
trivial interests?

"Why, grandpa," Preciosa had returned reproachfully, "that's Mr.
Joyce--Abner Joyce, the great writer. You've heard of him, surely?"

"H'm," said Jeremiah. He hadn't.

"And that lovely creature in the long, bottle-green coat," Preciosa went
on, "is his wife. Isn't it stylish, though?--they're just back from
London. Aren't they a splendid couple? And isn't she just the ideal type
of the young matron----?"

Jeremiah touched bottom. It was all of a piece--everything was growing
worse and worse. "Young matron," indeed!--where had his grandchild picked
up that precious phrase? She was growing all too worldly-wise for his
simple old mind. His abashed eyes turned away from her and began to blink
at the twinkling candles on the tea-table; it stood there like an altar
raised for the celebration of some strange, fearsome ritual--an incident
in the dubious life toward which a heartless and ambitious
daughter-in-law was pushing his poor little Preciosa. He almost felt like
grasping her by the arm and bolting with her from the place.

But most uncertain of all these uncertainties had been the young painter
himself. He could not be brought down to business. He dodged; he slipped
away; he procrastinated. He wouldn't show his work; he wouldn't talk in
figures; he wouldn't come within a mile of a contract. Instead, he slid
about, asking people if they wouldn't have another biscuit, dropping a
word to a lady here and there about Pater or Morelli (who were probably
somewhere over there in the dark), confabulating determinedly with people
who were pointed out as authors (more of them!), urging other people, who
were musical, in the direction of the piano....

Some of these considerations Jeremiah haltingly placed before Roscoe
Orlando.

"Oh, well," returned Roscoe, twiddling his fingers vaguely in the air,
"you can't expect anything different on an 'afternoon.' There are
occasions when a man must let down, must expand, must cultivate society a
little. It was very much like that the first time I went there myself."

Roscoe Orlando's "first time" had been but a week before. Preciosa
McNulty had communicated her novel impressions to his daughters, who, in
turn, had commented on Preciosa's naivete in their father's hearing; then
Roscoe Orlando, who had never hurt himself by overwork and who was
developing a growing willingness to leave his maps and his plats and his
subdivisions a little earlier in the afternoon, had determined to step
round and patronize the new man.

"That we should never have met before!" said Roscoe Orlando to
Daffingdon; "I can hardly credit it. Certainly it is no great thing in my
own favour, for I really claim to know what is going on and to keep in
touch with the better things. In my own defence I must say that I am an
annual member of the Art Academy and that people who have etchings to
sell invariably send me a copy of the catalogue. Your atelier is
charming--most charming."

Roscoe Orlando was fat, florid and forty-eight, and as he began to expand
he promised to take up a good deal of room. But Dill did not grudge the
space when he learned that Roscoe Orlando was one of the directors of the
Grindstone. Roscoe Orlando declared this with a broad, benevolent smile,
accompanied by a confidential little gesture to indicate that a golden
shower might soon descend and that it was by no means out of his power to
help determine the favoured quarter.

"But this is no time to talk about that," declared Roscoe Orlando,
casting an eye over the other visitors present. "I may drift in again
before long and look at some of your things more seriously and have a
little chat with you about our project."

Roscoe Orlando had somehow failed to drift in again, but he was now
having the little chat--or trying to have it--with Jeremiah McNulty.

He looked across at the old man once more. "Yes, I rather think, after
all, that if we were to try to arrange things with Dill we shouldn't be
going much amiss."

Jeremiah scratched his chin slowly, and worked the tip of a square-toed
boot against his waste-paper basket. "I dunno. It's a good deal of an
undertaking," he declared.

"Surely," assented Roscoe Orlando. "Do we want it to be anything less?
Don't we want to do something--a big thing, too--that will be a credit to
ourselves and a real adornment to our city?"

Jeremiah puckered up his mouth and slowly blinked his little red eyes.
"I've had one or two of those young painter fellows after me lately," he
said in ruminative tone, as he picked at the green baize of his desk-top.
He spoke with a slight querulousness, as if these wily and hardy
adventurers had wilfully hit upon him as the weak spot in the defences,
as the vulnerable point of the Grindstone. In particular he saw a pair of
burning black eyes, a pair of eager, sinewy hands strewing drawings over
the pink and gold brocades of his front parlour suite, and a shock of
dark hair that swished about over a high square forehead as the work of
hurried exposition raged along against a pitiless ticking of the
marble-and-gilt clock and Preciosa's hasty adjustment of the green velvet
toque.

"Haven't I had them after _me_!" cried Roscoe Orlando, jealous of his
standing as an enlightened and sympathetic amateur. "But we ought to
deal--really, we ought to--with painters of standing and responsibility,
and no others. We must keep in mind such things as position, reputation,
clientele. My partner, for example, once contracted--or tried to--for a
large landscape of his stock-farm out beyond Glenwood Park; and the
artist, sir----Well, you wouldn't believe the trouble we had before we
got through. Our lawyer himself said that never in the whole course of
his professional career had he----"

Jeremiah blinked and puckered a little more, and sighed as he
abstractedly prodded among his pigeonholes. That slippery floor typified
it all,--that dim room full of dusky corners! Ah, if he could only get
that slim young man with the long coat and the pointed beard out on the
black-and-white chequered pavement of the Grindstone, fair and square in
the honest light of day! In such a situation a downright, straightforward
old contractor could do himself something like justice. It would be
playing a return match on his own ground.

"I dunno," said Jeremiah. "I'd 'most as soon not have anything to do with
such matters and with that sort of people----"

He saw Dill as a dog might view a lizard, or a goat a swan; after all,
there was no common ground for them--no way of coming together.

"But if it's got to be done," he concluded, "perhaps he would do as well
to start with as anybody else."

"I think so," said Roscoe Orlando. "I'll speak about it in a day or so to
Hill."



VII

Preciosa McNulty, after all, lost nothing of _The Princess Pattie_ except
half of the overture--a loss that, as operettas go, might indeed be
counted a gain; but the succeeding activities of the prima donna, the
ponderous basso and the brace of "comedians" were subject to a series of
very sensible impediments and interruptions. Several times--and often at
the most inopportune of moments--a swarthy, earnest young man walked
across the stage, throwing out big sheets of brown paper right and left
and looking at her and her alone. He wore one unvarying expression--a
mingling of reproach and of admiration. His eyes said across the
footlights: "You are a heartless, cruel little creature, but that green
velvet hat looks amazingly well on your chestnut hair--so amazingly well
that I almost forgive you. Yet an hour lost by you from the theatre is
nothing, while an hour gained by me here in your home almost makes the
difference between life and death." Yes, there the young man was, fifty
feet away from her, yet she could plainly see the blood pulsing through
his veined hands and could almost hear the ideas ticking in his brain.
How they had ticked, to be sure, and clicked and clanked and jarred and
rattled and rumbled--a perfect factory, a perfect foundry of ideas!
Preciosa, who had never had a dozen ideas in her life, and had seldom
encountered a human brain running full force and full time, was a good
deal impressed. "I shouldn't wonder but what he _was_ a pretty smart
fellow, after all. It was rather sudden, the way I brought him up. Yes,
I'm afraid I'm a real cruel girl," said Preciosa complacently, and
reverted to the deplorable antics of the "comedians."

Within a day or two Preciosa began to notice the railway trains. Whenever
she was detained at a "grade crossing" she caught herself looking at the
locomotive to find a lady in a blue himation. Then the telegraph poles
began to trouble her; she got into the habit of glancing aloft for nests
of Cupids, and once or twice she thought she saw them. Then her father's
letter-heads began to affect her. They sometimes lay carelessly about the
house, and whenever she saw the tall chimney of his sash-and-blind
factory looming above the blank date-line she always looked for a female
in Greek drapery seated on a cogged wheel at the base of it.

"This won't do," she told herself. "Dear me, I don't even know his name.
Why, for heaven's sake, didn't I pay better attention?"

Not knowing his name did not prevent her from thinking about him, nor
even from talking about him. When Virgilia Jeffreys started her up, she
went on because she couldn't stop and because she didn't want to, anyway.
She would not deny herself _that_ small comfort.

Preciosa was the pride and the hope of the McNultys--especially of her
mother. This ambitious lady had lived long in obscurity--a prosperous,
well-fed obscurity, but an obscurity all the same--and now she was tired
of it and was rebelling against it and was meaning to emerge from it.
Every inch of her tall, meagre figure was straining with the wish to
attract attention; every feature of her thin, eager, big-eyed face showed
forth the tense desire to shine. She realized that Preciosa was the only
one of them who could raise the family to a higher level and bring it
within range of the glamouring illumination of "society." The child's
grandfather doted on her, true, but had never been quite able to leave
behind him the lusty young peasant of the bogs. He had a regrettable
taste in foot-gear, a teasingly uncertain fashion of lapsing back into
his shirtsleeves at table, and a slight brogue that had stood a good deal
of smothering without ever reaching the point of actually giving up the
ghost. The girl's father lived and thought in terms of blinds and frames
and panellings; he could never bring himself into sympathy with his
wife's social yearnings or even realize the verity of their existence.
Their boy was too young; besides, what can be done with a boy, anyway? As
for herself, she had begun too late; she was a little too stiff, too
diffident; society slightly intimidated her; she felt sure she could
never hope to associate in easy, intimate fashion--even should the most
abundant opportunity present--with the ladies whose names were so often
printed in the papers. She might serve as a chaperon, a supernumerary,
perhaps, but as a leading figure, no.

There remained only Preciosa. But Preciosa would suffice. So the child
was bundled out at the earliest moment. She was made to fence at the
Young Ladies' Athletic League, where the Gibbons girls went, and rather
enjoyed it. She was made to study and discuss at the Philomathian Club,
of which Virgilia Jeffreys was a shining light, and enjoyed it not at
all. Then she began to go to musicales and dramatic matinees at the
Temple of Art, finding a wide range of novel diversion at these little
functions and making some acquaintances worth while. "And as soon as
spring is fairly here," said her indefatigable mother, "she shall join a
good golf club; and then things will really have begun to move."

But things had begun to move already. The fairest, topmost blossom on the
family tree had set itself to swaying in the gentle breezes of sentiment,
regardless of the dotings of the gnarled old root, of the indifference of
the sturdy trunk, of the solicitous rustlings of the foliage. The blossom
began to peer over and to look down, as if conscious of the honest,
earthy odour of the dear lowly soil itself--though not, perhaps, the soil
of the links. Preciosa was preparing to revert.

"No," she said again, "I don't even know his name."



VIII

When Ignace Prochnow found himself able to move into the Rabbit-Hutch, he
congratulated himself on having made a marked advance in fortune.

"Oh, Lord!" thought Little O'Grady, upon Prochnow's venturing this
disclosure, which he made in all sincerity and simplicity and with a
complete absence of false shame; "how must he have lived before!"

The Rabbit-Hutch, the Warren, the Burrow--it went by all of these
names--was a hapless property that was trying to pay taxes on itself
between the ebbing of one tide of prosperity and the hoped-for flood of
another. Centres were shifting, values were see-sawing, and old Ezekiel
Warren was waiting for the nature of the neighbourhood to declare itself
with something like distinctness. Meanwhile,--as regarded its upper
floors, at least,--broken panes of glass were seldom mended, sagging
doors seldom rehung, smoky ceilings seldom whitewashed, and the corridors
rarely swept, save when the tenants formed themselves into a
street-cleaning brigade, as Little O'Grady called it, and co-operated to
make an immense but futile dust and stir.

"You're in a palace, sure," declared Little O'Grady, on the occasion of
his first call upon the newcomer. This took place the third day of
Prochnow's tenancy--he had scarcely got his poor belongings into shape
and had barely affixed his name to the door. But Little O'Grady cared
nothing for conventions; he was ready to overstep any boundary, to break
through any barrier. "How did it occur to you to come among us?" he
asked, sitting down on the bed. "What made you want to be a Bunny?"

"I found I must be where I could reach people, and where I could give
them a chance to reach me."

Prochnow spoke with a slight accent--slight, but quaint and pungent. To
have come among the Anglo-Saxons three or four years sooner would have
been an advantage; to have deferred coming three or four years longer, a
calamity.

"Yep, they 'reach' us good and hard," said O'Grady; "processions of
millionairesses and peeresses marching through the halls with gold crowns
on their heads and bags of double-eagles in both hands--nit. We _did_
have a real swell, though--once. She called when Giles was here--it
convulsed the premises. We all lost our sleep and appetite and thought of
nothing else for a month. It was Mrs. Pence--expect you haven't heard of
her. Money to burn--husband head of some tremendous trust or other--house
as big as a hotel--handsomest profile in six states. 'Stevy,' says I to
Giles, 'Stevy, for the love of heaven, introjooce me. Take a quart of me
heart's blood, but only give me a chance to do her lovely head.' He
wouldn't. She came when he had one of those good big rooms lower
down--very fair, nothing like these of ours up here. He did wonders about
fixing it up, too. But now we've lost him; he's gone, and taken my best
chance with him." Little O'Grady rocked to and fro in melancholy mood and
the cot creaked and swayed in unison.

"Show me something," he said suddenly, jerking himself back to his own
bright humour. "I've smelt your coffee and I've heard your mandolin, and
now I want to see your pictures."

"I've just sold one or two of my best ones," said Prochnow. "That's why I
was able to come here."

"Sold a picture!" cried Little O'Grady, with staring eyes. "Sold
a----Have you spent the money?"

"Most of it."

"Well, let it pass. Only we generally look for a supper after the sale of
a picture. We had one six months ago. We're getting hungry again. But let
that pass too. Show me something."

Prochnow looked at Little O'Grady, openly and unaffectedly appraising
him. Little O'Grady jovially blinked his gray-green eyes and tossed his
fluffy, sandy hair. "Don't make any mistake about me; I can appreciate a
good thing. What's that big roll of brown paper behind the washstand?"

Prochnow reached for it. "Just a scheme for decoration I got up two or
three years ago. It didn't quite--how do you say?--come off."

"Such things seldom do," said the other. "That's the trouble. Let's
look."

"It isn't much," said Prochnow, undoing the roll. "It isn't quite what I
would do now. It's the sort of thing I show to ordinary people."

"It will do to begin on. H'm, I see; just a lot of ladies playing at
Commerce and Education and Industry and so on. Still, those cherubs up in
the air are well done." He glanced over behind the wood-box. "Bust open
that portfolio."

Prochnow looked at his visitor again--longer, more studiously.

"Oh, come now," said Little O'Grady, "you'll have me red-headed in a
minute. I'm no chump; I know a good thing when I see it."

Prochnow opened the portfolio and handed out several sketches one after
another. "These are more recent," he said;--"all within the last few
months."

Little O'Grady snatched them, devoured them, immediately took fire.
Prochnow caught the flame and burned and blazed in return. "Whew! this is
warm stuff!" cried Little O'Grady, who had not an envious bone in his
body; "and you--you're a wonder!" Little O'Grady made a last sudden grab.
"Oh, this, this!" He dropped the sheet and threw up both hands. Then,
being still seated on the cot, he threw up both feet. Then he placed his
feet upon the floor and rose on them and gave Ignace Prochnow a set
oratorical appreciation of his qualities as a thinker and a draughtsman,
and then, swept away by a sudden impulse to spread the news of this
magnificent new "find" right under their own roof, he rushed downstairs
to communicate his discovery to Festus Gowan.

"Will return in half an hour," said the card on Gowan's door; so Little
O'Grady sped back upstairs and burst in on Mordreth.

Mordreth was sitting composedly before a half-finished portrait of an
elderly man of rustic mien. About him were disposed a number of helps and
accessories: a pair of old-fashioned gold spectacles, an envelope
containing a lock of gray hair, two or three faded photographs, and a
steel engraving extracted from the _Early Settlers of Illinois_. With
these aids he was hoping to hit the taste and satisfy the memory of
certain surviving grandchildren.

Little O'Grady ignored the presence of any third person and let himself
out. "He's a genius, Mark; he's full of the real stuff. He can draw to
beat the band, and he's got ideas to burn--throws them out as a volcano
does hot stones. And I expect he can paint too, from what little I
saw--says he's just sold off all his best things. Yes, sir, he's an
out-and-out genius and we've got to treat him right; we must let him in
on this bank scheme of ours--that's all there is about it!"



IX

"Well, it comes to this, then," said Virgilia. "We must give them
something definite--a fully outlined--_projet_; and we must give it to
them as soon as possible." She cleared away the ruck of evening papers
from the library table, sent her younger sister off with arithmetic and
geography to the dining-room, extracted a few sheets of monogrammed paper
from the silver stationery-rack close by, and turned on two or three more
lights in the electrolier overhead. "Now, then. We'll choke off that
foolish notion of theirs; we'll smother it before it has a chance to
mature."

She put a pen into Daffingdon's hand, with the open expectation of
immediate results. She herself always thought better with a pen in her
hand and a writing-pad under it; no doubt a painter would respond to the
same stimulus.

Daffingdon bit at the end of the penholder and made a dog-ear on the
topmost of the steel-gray sheets.

"Come," said Virgilia. "Whatever follies may have begun to churn in their
poor weak noddles, we will _not_ draw upon the early pages of the local
annals, we will not attempt to reconstruct the odious architecture of the
primitive prairie town. Come; there are twelve large lunettes, you say?"

"Yes."

"Well, now, just how shall we handle them?"

"I had thought of a general colour-scheme in umber and sienna; though
Giles's idea of shading the six on the left into purple and olive and the
six on the right into----"

"Dear me! Can we hope to impress Andrew P. Hill with any such idea as
that? No; we must have our theme, our subject--our series of subjects."

"I don't want to be simply pictorial," said Daffingdon reluctantly; "and
surely you can't expect me to let my work run into mere literature."

"They're business-men," returned Virgilia. "For our own credit--for our
own salvation, indeed--we must be clear-cut and definite. Even if we are
artists we mustn't give those hard-headed old fellows any chance to
accuse us of wabbling, of shilly-shallying. We must try to be as
business-like as they are. So let's get in our work--and get it in
first."

Daffingdon's eyes roamed the rugs, the hangings, the furniture. "'The
Genius of the City,'" he murmured vaguely, "'Encouraging--Encouraging'--"

"Yes, yes," spoke Virgilia, doing a little encouraging herself.

"Or, 'The--The Westward Star of Empire Illuminating the'----" proceeded
Daffingdon mistily, raising his eyes toward the electrolier.

"Yes, yes," responded Virgilia quickly, by way of further encouragement.

"Or--or--'The Triumphal March of Progress through Our'----" Daffingdon
confusedly dipped the wrong end of the penholder into the big sprawling
inkstand.

Virgilia's teeth began to feel for her lips, and her eyebrows to draw
themselves down in an impatient little frown of disappointment. Not
through "Our Midst," she hoped. What was the matter with her idol? What
had he done with all his fund of information? What had become of his
ideas, his imagination? She felt that if she were to approach a bit
closer to his pedestal and sound him with her knuckles he would be found
hollow. What a calamity in such a discovery! She put her hand behind her
back and kept her distance.

"'The Genius of the City,'" she mused; "'The Star of Empire.' Those might
do for single subjects but not for a general scheme. 'The March of
Progress '--that might be better as a broad working basis, although----"
She saw the "lady" seated on the cogged wheel beneath the factory chimney
and stopped.

"'The Prairie-Schooner'--'The Bridging of the Mississippi'--'The Last of
the Buffaloes'--' The Corner-Stones of New Capitols'----" pursued
Daffingdon brokenly.

"Would you care very much for that sort of thing?" asked Virgilia.

"No."

"Nor I. Come, let me tell you; I have it: 'The History of Banking in all
Ages'! There, what do you think of that?" she asked, rising with an air
of triumph.

Dill hesitated. "I don't believe I know so very much about the history of
banking."

"Don't you? But _I_ do--enough and more than enough for the present
purpose. Come, tell me, isn't that a promising idea? What a series it
would make!--so picturesque, so varied, so magnificent!"

Daffingdon looked up at his Egeria; her visible inspiration almost cowed
him. "Isn't that a pretty large theme?" he questioned. "Wouldn't it
require a good deal of thought and study----?"

"Thought? Study? Surely it would. But _I_ think and study all the time!
Let me see; where shall we begin? With the Jews and Lombards in England,
Think what you have!--contrast, costumes, situations, everything. Then
take the 'Lombards' in Italy itself; the founding of the earliest banks
in Venice, Lucca, Genoa, Florence; the glamour of it, the spectacularity
of it, the dealings with popes and with foreign kings! And there were the
Fuggers at Augsburg who trafficked with emperors: houses with those
step-ladder gables, and people with puffed elbows and slashed sleeves and
feathers of all colours in those wide hats. And then the way that kings
and emperors treated the bankers: Edward the Second refusing to repay his
Florentine loans and bringing the whole city to ruin; Charles the First
sallying out to the Mint and boldly appropriating every penny stored
there--plain, barefaced robbery. Then, later, the armies of Revolutionary
France pillaging banks everywhere--grenadiers, musketeers and cuirassiers
in full activity. Among others, the Bank of Amsterdam--the one that
loaned all those millions of florins to the East India Company. And that
brings in, you see, turbans, temples, jewels, palm-trees, and what not
besides----"

"So much trouble," breathed Daffingdon; "so much effort; such an expense
for costumes."

"And if you want to enlarge the scheme," pursued Virgilia, waiving all
considerations of trouble, effort and expense, "so as to include coining,
money-changing and all that, why, think what you have then! The brokers
at Corinth, the _mensarii_ in the Roman Forum. And think of the ducats
designed by Da Vinci and by Cellini! And all the Byzantine coins in
Gibbon--the student's edition is full of them! Why, there are even the
Assyrian tablets--you must have heard about the discovery of the records
of that old Babylonian bank. Think of the costumes, the architecture, the
square curled beards, the flat winged lions, and all. Why, dear me, I see
the whole series of lunettes as good as arranged for, and work laid out
for a dozen of you, or more!" cried Virgilia, as she pounced upon a sheet
of paper and snatched the pen from Dill.

"A dozen?" he murmured. "A hundred!"

"Nonsense!" she returned. "Four or five of you could manage it very
handily. You, and Giles, and----"

"The Academy would expect recognition," said Dill. "One of the professors
for a third. And somebody or other from the Warren, I suppose, for a
fourth."

"Three subjects apiece, then," said Virgilia. "Go in and win!--By the
way, did I mention Phidion of Argos? He was one of the primitive coiners.
And then there was Athelstane, who regulated minting among the early
Saxons...."



X

Dill passed out into the cool starry night to recover his breath and to
regain his composure. It was as if he had struggled through a whirlpool
or had wrenched himself away from the downpour of a cataract. Virgilia's
interest, her enthusiasm, her co-operation had reared itself above him
and toppled over on him just like a high, ponderous wall; the bricks
bruised him, the dust of scattered mortar filled his lungs and his eyes.
"Such a mind!" he thought; "such readiness; such a fund of information!"
Never before had anybody offered so panting, so militant a participation
in his doings. He doubted too whether Virgilia could ever have felt so
extreme an interest in the doings of any other man whomsoever. Certainly
it was a fair surmise that Richard Morrell, during the formative period
of the Pin-and-Needle Combine, had never so succeeded in enlisting her
sympathy and support,--otherwise she would not have turned him off in the
summary fashion that had kept society smiling and gossiping for a
fortnight.

As Daffingdon walked thoughtfully down the quiet street a deep sense of
gratitude stirred within him--he felt himself prompted to the most
chivalrous of acknowledgments. He saw himself taking her hand--with such
deliberation as to preclude any shock of surprise, and looking into her
eyes as ardently and earnestly as good taste would permit; and heard
himself saying, in a voice as tremulous with passion as the voice of a
well-bred gentleman could be allowed to become, such things as should
make quite unmistakable his appreciation of her qualities both as an
amateur and a woman. Certainly if this great undertaking went through he
should be able to say all that was in him and to maintain it to the last
word. She had turned a deaf ear to others, but there was reason to think
she might listen to him.

Then all at once the magnitude of the scheme rose before him; such a vast
expenditure of time on books of plates in libraries--and weeks and months
to be devoted to sketches, to compositions, to colour-schemes of this
sort and that; such a tremendous outlay for models, for costumes, for
multifarious accessories! But as Daffingdon gradually pulled himself
together, a comforting little sense of flattery came to soothe his
bruises and to clear his eyes. Yes, she believed in him. This brilliant
and learned young woman had impetuously placed her boundless stores of
erudition at his disposal; she had loaded the work of twenty men on his
shoulders and was confidently expecting him to carry off the whole vast
undertaking with jaunty ease. He must not fail. Fortunately, she was
willing to admit the co-operation of a few of his brother artists.

Dill laid her plan--their plan--before two or three of his own guild,
experimentally. They gaped at it as a plainsman would gape at the
Himalayas. Nor was it, as has been said, the smallest of mouthfuls to
himself. However, the distinguished assistance of a young woman of
fashion, means and cultivation was not a matter to hide under a bushel;
besides, some firm, concrete scheme must be put promptly before the Nine
Old Men of the Bank before they should have glued their desires
undetachably upon some crude, preposterous plan of their own.

"It would cost like smoke," said Giles, "but it's an idea."

"Let's try it on," said the Academy professor. "It would show us as on
deck and would help us to take their measure. Who knows but it might be
the means of staving off a series of medallion portraits of the board
themselves!"

"An idea, yes," reiterated Giles. "But it lays out a terrible lot of work
for us. Such a job would be enormous."

"Tackle it," said Abner Joyce. He claimed as a matter of course the right
to be present at such conferences. Joyce himself had the strength and the
pluck to tackle anything.

"Well, _let's_ try it on," assented Giles. "We've got to cut in first,
that's sure--if we can. Come, let's put out our feelers."

This was more or less in harmony with Virgilia's parting advice. "Show
them to themselves in historical perspective," she had suggested to Dill
in bidding him good-night at the front door,--"the last link in one long,
glittering chain. Flatter them; associate them with the Romans and
Venetians--bring in the Assyrians if need be. Tell them how the Bardi and
the Peruzzi ruled the roost in old Florence. Work in Sir Thomas Gresham
and the Royal Exchange--ruffs, rapiers, farthingales, Drake, Shakespeare
and the whole 'spacious' time of Elizabeth. Make them a part of the
poetry of it--make them a part of the picturesqueness of it. That will
bring Mr. Gibbons around easily enough, and ought to budge two or three
of the others."

Daffingdon took his great scheme to the bank, but it failed to charm.
Andrew P. Hill poked at Daffingdon's neatly drawn-up memorandum with a
callous finger and blighted it with an indifferent look out of a
lack-lustre eye. The _mensarii_ of Rome and the trapezites of Athens
seemed a long way off. The picturesque beginnings of the Bank of Genoa
left him cold. The raid of the Stuart king on the Tower mint appeared to
have very little to do with the case. And Jeremiah McNulty, who happened
to be about the premises, showed himself but slightly disposed to fan
Hill's feeble interest to a flame.

"This is not just what we want," said Hill. "It is not at all what any of
us had in mind. It is very little in accord, I must say, with the ideas I
gave you last week. I don't think it will do. Still, if you want to get
up some drawings to show about how it would come out, and bring them
around in a week or so...."

Daffingdon groaned inwardly; after all, they were wedded to their own
notion. He explained to them the unfairness of their proposal--detailing
the cost of models, the matter of draperies, the time required for study,
the labours and difficulties of composition. To do experimentally what
they were asking him to do would be to execute half the entire work on a
mere chance.

"Well, we won't buy a pig in a poke," said old Jeremiah sturdily. He was
now on the familiar chequered pavement of black and white and felt a good
deal at home. "We've got to see what we're going to pay for. That's
business."

"Never mind," said Andrew. "After all, we want something nearer to our
own time and closer to our own town. We want to show ourselves loyal to
the place where we've made our money. We want to put on record the humble
beginnings of this great metropolis. The early days of our own city are
plenty good enough for us."

"That's right," said Jeremiah. He saw himself a lusty young fellow of
twenty-five, the proud new head of a contractor's shop, with his own
lumber pile, a dozen lengths of sewer pipe, a mortar bed, a wheelbarrow
or two and a horse and cart. No need of going farther back than that.
Those early days were glorious and fully worthy to be immortalized.

"We want to make our new building talked about," said Hill. "We want
every daily paper in town, and throughout the whole country, to be full
of it. We want to make it an object of interest to every man, woman and
child in our own community. When the little boys and girls come down
Saturday morning to deposit their pennies--for we shall open a savings
department that will welcome the humblest--we want them to learn from our
walls the story of the struggles and the triumphs of their fathers' early
days----"

"That's right," said Jeremiah again. "If you had lived here as long as I
have, young man, you would understand that there's no need of going
outside our own bor-r-ders for anything we may require."

"Yes, a great deal of history has been transacted on this site," said
Hill,--"more than enough to meet the requirements of our present purpose.
I have here"--he opened a drawer in one side of his desk and drew out a
paper--"I have here a list of subjects that I think would do. Mr. McNulty
and I drew it up together. Take it and look it over; it might be an----"

A shadow darkened the door. It was another interruption from the Morrell
Twins. This time it was not Richard Morrell, but Robin, his brother. His
pocket bulged with what seemed to be papers of importance, and his face
signalled to Andrew P. Hill to clear the deck of lesser matters.

"--it might be an advantage to you," Andrew concluded. "This about
represents our ideas; see what you can do with it."

Andrew passed the paper over to Jeremiah, and Jeremiah passed it on to
Daffingdon with an expression of unalterable firmness and decision. "You
_must_ do something with this, if you are going to do anything for us at
all," his air said. "It's this or nothing. It is our own idea; we're
proud of it, and we insist upon it. Go."



XI


The Morrell Twins were among the newer powers. They had rolled up a
surprisingly big fortune--if it _was_ a fortune--in a surprisingly short
time, and were looked up to as very perfect gentle knights by all the
ambitious young fry of the "street." They were the head and front of the
Pin-and-Needle Combine. They did not deal with the Grindstone only; they
had made their business the business of half the banks of the town,--for
how could these institutions be expected to stand out when all the
investors and speculators of the street were pressing forward eager to
add to their collections a few good specimens of the admirably engraved
and printed certificates of the Combine, and more than willing to pay any
price that anybody might ask? Some of the banks--the more fortunate among
them--were attending to this business during business hours; others of
them worked on it overtime, and one or two were beginning to work on it
all night as well as all day. They worried. The Twins were not worrying
nearly so much,--they knew they must be seen through.

The Twins had been grinding pins and needles for a year or two with
striking acumen and dexterity. Sometimes Richard would turn the handle
and Robin would hold the poor dull pins to the stone; and then again they
would change places. Whichever arrangement happened to be in force,
people said the work had never been done more neatly, more precisely. And
now the Twins had enlarged their field and had begun to grind noses. They
were showing themselves past masters in the art. They had all the
legislation of nose-grinding at their fingers' ends; the lack of
legislation, too, as well as the probabilities of legislation yet to
come. They knew just how fast the wheel might be turned in this State,
and just how close the nose might be held in that, and just how loud the
victim must cry out before the Rescue Band might be moved to issue from
some Committee Room to stop the treatment. They knew where nose-grinding
was prohibited altogether, and they knew where enactments against it had
thus far completely failed. They knew where the penalty was likely to be
enforced, and they knew where it might be evaded. "Learn familiarly the
whole body of legislative enactment, state by state, and then keep a
little in advance of it,"--such was their simple rule.

No man is to be denied the right to profit by his own discovery, and so,
though the glory of the Twins was envied, their right to luxuriate in it
was seldom questioned. They were seen in all sorts of prominent and
expensive places--at the opera, at the horse-show, on the golf links, and
were very much envied and admired,--envied by other young men that were
trying to do as they had done, but not succeeding; admired by multitudes
of young women who felt pretty sure that to "have things," and to have
them with great abundance and promptness and conspicuousness, was all
that made life worth living. In this environment Richard Morrell could
hardly fail to be fairly well satisfied with himself. To ask and to
receive would come to the same thing. And so he spoke to Virgilia one
crisp October morning, between the fifth and sixth holes in Smoky Hollow,
and awaited in all confidence her reply. But Virgilia quickly made it
plain that he would not do--not for her, at least. She was by no means
one of the kind to be impressed by tally-ho coaches, however loudly and
discordantly the grooms might trumpet, nor to be brought round by
country-club dinners, however deafening the chatter or however
preponderant the phalanx of long-necked bottles. So his raw, red face
turned a shade redder still; and as he sat, later, on the club veranda,
hectoring the waiter and scowling into his empty glass, he growled to
himself in a thick undertone:

"What's the matter with the girl, anyway? If she doesn't want me, who
does she want?"

Virgilia wanted, in a general way, an intimate and equal companionship, a
trafficking in the things that interested her--the higher things, she
sometimes called them to herself. She wanted a gentleman; she wanted
cultivation, refinement--even to its last debilitating excess. What she
wanted least of all was a "provider," a steward, an agent, a business
machine. "We must _live_," she would say, looking forward toward her
matrimonial ideal; "we mustn't let our whole life run out in a mere
stupid endeavour to accumulate the means of living, and then find
ourselves only beginning when at the finish:"--an idea held substantially
by so different a young person as Preciosa McNulty, who was preparing to
set aside her mother's careful ambitions and to take a step forward on
her own account. Only, Preciosa was looking less for cultivation and
gentility than for "temperament." Less the dry specialist, however
successful in the accumulation of this world's goods, than the resonant
adventurer that would bring her full chance at all the manifold haps and
mishaps of life as it runs.

"Nothing more tedious than a set programme," declared Preciosa. "If my
whole future were to be arranged for me to-morrow, I should want to die
the day after. A whole play"--Preciosa was a most persevering little
theatre-goer--"carried through with one stage-setting--how tiresome that
would be!"



XII

"Come, now," said Little O'Grady; "help the lame duck over the stile. Be
a good Gowan--give the poor fellow the use of your studio. Mordreth's
isn't enough better to be worth asking for, and Stalinski is working from
the model. Come,--as a personal favour to me. It was I let you in on the
bank scheme and gave you a chance to make big money; and now you must
just let Ignace have the use of your place for a few hours--he can't
paint the girl's picture in that little hole upstairs."

"Much you let me in!" retorted Gowan with a grin. "Tell me who is in,
anyway, and how far, and for how much, and I'll give you half I get."

"Haven't I seen them?" returned Little O'Grady. "Didn't I address the
whole board? Didn't I go for them with the architect himself to help me?
Haven't I got the mantel-piece in the president's parlour? And now if
Ignace can only get a chance to paint the fav'rite grandchild of one of
the----Yes, sir; I talked to them as a business-man to business-men, and
it went. They're square; they're solid; they'll treat us right. Never you
fear. In a year from now you'll be wearing diamonds and saying: 'O'Grady,
you're the wan that hung them on me.' _Now_ will you give Ignace your
room?"

"Why, he's no portrait painter, is he?"

"She thinks he is. And it's what the girls think of us that makes us what
we are. As for me, I believe he can do anything. Come, give the poor lad
a show."

"What could he do in an hour or two?"

"He could get acquainted with her," said Little O'Grady.

Preciosa, thanks to O'Grady's chatterings through the Temple of Art--he
blew in and out with great freedom and was as much at home there as in
the humbler establishment--had come to some knowledge of Ignace Prochnow.
She learned his name--in itself an immense advance, and the location of
his studio; and she arranged with the Gibbons girls, who, by reason of
their fencing, were developing great self-reliance and a high capacity
for initiative, to search him out in his private haunts.

"Set the day," chirped Little O'Grady, "and we'll be ready for you."

Preciosa set the day; Little O'Grady traced Prochnow's name in elaborate
letterings and clapped this new placard over Gowan's own; and all waited
intent to see just what of interest would develop in the countenance of
the daughter of the McNultys, and just what Ignace Prochnow would be able
to make of it.

Preciosa wore her green velvet toque, and let her chestnut hair stray and
ramble whithersoever it would, and sat in Gowan's best high-backed
mahogany chair with the brass rosettes, and tried to view with kindly
indulgence his flimsy knick-knacks and shabby hangings (they came nowhere
near Dill's) on account of her interest in their supposed proprietor. Nor
did she find in her painter any of Dill's soft suavity. Prochnow was
direct and downright almost to brusqueness, seeming to see no need of
such graduated preliminaries as even O'Grady found place and reason for.
He admired her, and admired her extremely, as she perceived at once; but
he offered none of the appropriate deferences that she had received on
occasion from obscure young men of less than modest fortune. He was
intent, he was earnest, he was even a bit peremptory; but she felt
perfectly certain that he was not treating her as a subject and a subject
merely. His black eyes looked at her with a sort of sharp severity across
the leg of the easel, and his rasping crayon promptly scratched down his
impressions upon the promising blank of his canvas. Preciosa was slightly
puzzled, but on the whole pleased. She knew she was worth looking at, and
felt herself fit to stand the keenest scrutiny. She leaned back easily in
her chair. Let time attend to the rest.

"Doesn't she _compose_!" said Little O'Grady in a poignant whisper to
Elizabeth Gibbons, as he thrust out his arms akimbo and squinted
learnedly at Preciosa through his fingers. "And hasn't the lad got
_line_!" he presently added in a rapturous undertone, as the black and
white tracing began to take shape. Prochnow was drawing with immense
freedom, decision, confidence; every stroke told, and told the first
time. "He knows how! He knows _how_!" moaned Little O'Grady, locking his
hands and forearms in a strange twist and rocking to and fro with
emotion. "He's got the wrist!--the _wrist_!" he exclaimed further,
liberating his hands and fanning the air with long pendulous fingers.
"There, he's caught her already!" he cried, leaning forward,--"inside of
five minutes. Not a line more, Ignace; not a line more!"

Prochnow turned on him with a grim tight smile--a smile that slightly
dilated the nostrils of his good firm nose and shifted in ever so small a
degree the smutch of black beneath that was slowly advancing to the
status of a moustache. It was an acknowledgment from one who _could_ to
one who _knew_. "_Ah, si jeunesse_...!" ejaculates the poet; but here
_jeunesse_, by a doubling of forces, both _pouvait_ and _savait_.

Then Prochnow turned the canvas itself round toward Preciosa. "Does
Mademoiselle recognise herself?"

"It's you, Preciosa, to the life," said the daughter of Roscoe Orlando
Gibbons.

"Oh, Ig!" cried Little O'Grady, much moved, "you're the king-pin sure.
People _shall_ know you; people _must_ know you!" He faced about toward
Preciosa. "Ah, my fair young thing, he's got you dead. Why, Daff himself
couldn't have reached this in an hour!"

Preciosa was like most of the rest of us--inclined to take good
workmanship for granted; where there was nothing to criticise there was
nothing to take hold of. But the words and actions of Little O'Grady--he
was now hopping about on one leg, holding the other in his hand--made the
matter perfectly certain. Her painter had done a notable thing, and done
it easily, promptly, without revisions, without fumblings. His own face
and attitude expressed his consciousness of this. "Nobody could have done
it better," she read in his eyes; "and you, you blooming young creature,
have been the inspiration." He had called her "Mademoiselle" too; could
anything be more charming? Nothing save his accent itself,--a trick of
the tongue, an intonation ever so slightly alien that addressed her ear
just as some perfume's rich but smothered pungency might address the
nose. Yes, the first stage in her apotheosis was an undoubted success.
All that was needed now was her translation from black and white to
colour. Well, the chariot was ready to take her up still higher.

"I have found you very easily, Mademoiselle,"--Preciosa felt a sugary
little shudder at this repetition of the word,--"I have found you very
easily," said Prochnow, casting about for his palette and brushes; "and
now I may just as easily lose you."

"Oh no," said Elizabeth Gibbons, with great earnestness.

"Never fear," said Little O'Grady confidently. "Though the likeness
generally gets submerged at first, it comes to the surface again in the
end."

"Don't risk it," continued Elizabeth Gibbons.

"What has been done once," said Prochnow, motioning with a brush-handle
toward the charcoal sketch, "can be done once more."

Prochnow handled his brushes with the same firmness and confidence that
he had shown in handling his crayon. The "resemblance" soon sank beneath
the waves, as prophesied, but Little O'Grady continued to ride on the
topmost crest with unabated enthusiasm. "Whee! hasn't he got the nerve!
hasn't he got the stroke! Doesn't he just more than slather it on!" he
cried. "Catch the shadows in that green velvet! R-r-rip!--and the high
light on that tan jacket!" he proceeded in a smothered shout, as he
nudged Elizabeth Gibbons in the side. Elizabeth had never been nudged
before, and moved farther down the settle, after giving him a _look_.
Little O'Grady, who never knew when he was squelched--he never, as a
fact, had been squelched by anybody whomsoever--moved along after her.
"Oh, my! Can't he _paint_! Can't he more than lay it _on_! Did you get
that last one, now?"

Buoyed up by such support as this, Prochnow forged ahead with quadrupled
_brio_, and Preciosa felt the chariot rising heavenward cloud by cloud.
Little O'Grady continued to lead the performance, prompting Preciosa to
look her prettiest and Prochnow to do his best. "Ah, my sweet child," he
declared, "you've fallen into good hands. You're trying to get away,
true: you've nearly lost those bright eyes, and I wouldn't want to swear
to your ears or your chin, just yet; but your blessed old-gold hair is
there all right, and it's put on to stay. The rest of you will be coming
back tomorrow, or next day, or the day after. And then you'll be all on
deck, jew'l. You'll see; you'll hear; you'll speak, by heaven! Won't she,
Lizzie?"

Miss Gibbons gave Little O'Grady another _look_. Preciosa paused in her
heavenward ascent, and seemed to be wondering with a questioning little
glance just how far along, after all, she had got. When she finally left
her high-backed chair--"That's as far as we will go to-day," Prochnow had
said--she felt herself very close to earth again: the cherished
"resemblance" had vanished altogether. But Prochnow seemed satisfied with
the result, and Little O'Grady was rapturously fluent over the brushwork.
"Ignace is a wunder-kind," he declared to the doubting girl. "I never saw
such swing, such certainty. He'll fish you back, and he'll have you to
the life in less than a week. Or I'll eat my hat."

There was a knock at the door. O'Grady rushed to open it. "Go right
away," Miss Gibbons thought she heard him say, in a tense undertone.

The face of Kitty Gowan showed in the doorway, puzzled, protesting.
Medora Joyce was behind, her hands full of parcels.

"Go away?" repeated Mrs. Gowan. "What does this mean? Let me in at once."

"Depart!" hissed Little O'Grady. "This is not Mr. Prochnow's day. Come
to-morrow."

"Step aside, O'Grady," said Kitty Gowan spunkily. "Let me pass." An
afternoon of shopping had tired her and shortened her temper.

"Well, as a visitor, possibly," said O'Grady condescendingly. "Ignace, do
you feel disposed to----" He glanced back and forth between Prochnow and
the petitioners.

Prochnow took down the canvas and set its face against the wall.

Kitty Gowan strode in holding her head high. "How do?" she said
carelessly, by way of general salute. "Sit there, Medora," she directed
Mrs. Joyce, indicating a chair.

"Sit here, Medora," said O'Grady firmly, placing another. "Prochnow,
Preciosa dear, allow me to present----" and so on. "And you sit here," he
said to Kitty Gowan, placing a third chair. "You're a visitor, remember,"
he whispered to her fiercely; "so behave like one. Stay where you're put
and don't own the earth. We have loaned the shop for the day.
Understand?"

Preciosa passed lightly over Kitty Gowan, whom she found brusque in her
manners and plain in her looks; but she fixed her best attention on
Medora, with whom she was as much charmed as at the first. Idealist and
heroine-worshipper, she was always ready to prostrate herself before a
young married woman of Medora's gracious and fashionable cast.

O'Grady lingered over Medora's chair. "We've had a wonderful session," he
said, laying his hand affectionately on her shoulder. "You ought to have
come a bit sooner, my dear."

Preciosa shivered. It was like the profanation of an idol.

Medora unconcernedly pushed away his hand. Preciosa envied such serenity
and self-poise.

"Why, how's this?" asked O'Grady, studying his hand curiously, as some
detached thing, some superfluity rejected and returned. "Ain't we
friends? Ain't we old pals? You can't mean to stand me off with your
London clothes and your London manners? Don't say you're trying to do
that, Dodie!"

Preciosa shuddered. Medora laughed carelessly--oh, how could she! Kitty
Gowan jumped up and boxed O'Grady's ear with one of Medora's long, flat
parcels. "Get away, you saucy child!" she said.

O'Grady grimaced and nursed his ear. "It serves you right!" said
Elizabeth Gibbons tartly.

Preciosa was placated; the great retribution had fallen. She banished the
wish that she herself might have had the daring to be a third avenging
fury, and fell to studying the folds of Medora's bottle-green cloak. She
wondered if she herself were not as pretty as Mrs. Joyce--oh, in an
entirely different way!--and if she were glad or sorry that Medora and
her companion had come a little late for seeing the picture. Would it be
a success--this portrait? Was it all that Mr. Prochnow's lively little
friend seemed to think?

Prochnow, putting away his palette and brushes, grandly overlooked the
late irruption of trivialities. He glanced across to Preciosa, and she
felt that he was thanking her for having held herself quite aloof from
them.

Preciosa went away not completely reassured, yet on the whole pretty well
pleased. She felt that she had been taken hold of by a strong, decided
hand. She had made an excursion into a new land where feeble compliments
were dispensed with and where meek-eyed ingratiation seemed not to exist.
Yes, he was a forcible, clever fellow. That Virgilia Jeffreys should have
tried to make her think anything else, and that she should have permitted
Virgilia to make the attempt! She should see Virgilia soon, somewhere,
and should regain the lost ground; she should not allow herself to be
walked over a second time. She should probably say something very
cutting, too--if she could but find the right words. Suppose she were
younger than Virgilia and less expert? Was that any reason why she should
be played with, be cajoled into making fun of a----Yes, Ignace Prochnow
was a fine clever fellow; good-looking too, in a way; and masterful,
beyond a doubt. Had she been kind enough to him to cancel her cruelty at
their first meeting? She was afraid not. Should she have been kinder but
for the abundance of company and the absorbing nature of the work?
Probably so. Should she be kinder next time? That would depend on
him;--yes, if he became a little less professional and a little more
personal. Would he become so? She hoped he might. And if he didn't? Then
he might be encouraged to. How? Preciosa opened her purse for her fare
and postponed an answer.

At that same moment, Prochnow, banished along with the canvas to his own
room by the return of Gowan, sat staring at the portrait as it stood
propped against his trunk. Little O'Grady, if he had been present,
instead of being occupied on the other side of the partition in sweeping
up the dried plaster that littered his floor, would have decided that the
personal interest was in fair proportion to the professional, and would
have rated Prochnow no higher as an artist than as a man.



XIII

Virgilia, after dismissing Daffingdon with the detailed memoranda of her
great decorative scheme, went through the vain forms of going upstairs
and getting to bed. But sleep was out of the question. Her brain still
kept at work, elaborating the ideas already proposed and adding still
others to the plan. Why hadn't she laid more stress on the Medici? How
had she contrived to overlook John Law and the South Sea Bubble, with all
its attendant wigs, hooped petticoats and shoe-buckles? Then the
Pine-Tree Shilling jumped to her eyes, and Virginia's use of tobacco as a
currency;--possibly the entire scheme might be arranged on a purely
American basis, in case sympathy for her wider outlook were to fail.

Virgilia ate her breakfast soberly enough; she checked all tendency
toward expansiveness with her own people, who were sadly earth-bound and
utilitarian. But immediately after breakfast she put on her things and
stepped round the corner to have a confab with her aunt. She found
Eudoxia upstairs, clad in a voluminous dressing-gown and struggling with
her over-plump arms against the rebelliousness of her all but
inaccessible back hair. Virgilia was very vivid and sprightly in her
report on the evening's conference, and Eudoxia, studying her with some
closeness, was barely able to apply the check when she found herself
asking:

"Has he--has he----?"

Virgilia dropped her eyes. No, he hadn't.

But the acceptance of these magnificent proposals might easily make
another proposal possible, and again Eudoxia Pence asked herself:

"Do I want it, or don't I? Certainly only the bank's acceptance of Daff's
scheme will make possible Virgilia's acceptance of Daff himself."

That evening Dill called again on Virgilia, bringing the Hill-McNulty
plan.

"So _this_ is the sort of thing they want?" she cried. "They insist on
it, after all, do they?" She cast her eye over the paper and hardly knew
whether to laugh or to weep. "'The First Fire-Engine House,'" she read.
'"Old Fort Kinzie'; 'The Grape-Vine Ferry'; 'The Early Water-Works'--oh,
this is terrible!" she exclaimed.

"Read on," said Dill plaintively.

"'The Wigwam'----"

"What in heaven's name is that?"

"A place where they used to hold conventions, I believe. 'The Succotash
Tavern'----"

"What does that mean?"

"I've heard it spoken of, I think," said Virgilia faintly. "It was built
of cottonwood logs and stood at the fork in the river. 'The Hard-Shell
Baptist Church,'----" she read on.

"Do you know anything about that?"

"I think I've seen it in old photographs. It stood on one side of
Court-House Square."

"Did it have a steeple?" asked Dill droopingly.

"I believe it did--quite a tall one."

"Of course it did!" he groaned. "And so it goes. One building hugs the
ground and the next cleaves the sky. Yet they've all got to be used for
the decorative filling of a lot of spaces precisely alike."

"What does Giles think of this?" asked Virgilia.

"He's crazy."

"And Adams, at the Academy?"

"He's gone out to buy a rope."

"And Little O'Grady?"

"He fell over in a dead faint. He's lying in it yet. But before he lost
consciousness he made one suggestion----"

"What was it?"

Dill paused. "Have you ever heard of a painter named Proch--Prochnow?" he
presently asked, with some disrelish. "A newcomer, I believe."

"I don't think I have."

"He has lately taken a studio in the Warren. O'Grady has seen his work
and speaks well of it."

"What particular kind of work?"

"Decorative. Portraits too, I understand. He has been doing one of that
little Miss McNulty."

Virgilia frowned. "What!" she was thinking to herself, "have I been taken
in by that viper, that traitress?--by a child who looked like an innocent
flower and is turning out to be the serpent under it? Prochnow!--the hard
name that nobody could pronounce! It's easy enough: Prochnow; Prochnow.
She could have pronounced it fast enough if she had wanted to! And now
she has gone over to the other side and taken O'Grady with her--and her
grandfather too!" Then, aloud:

"Well?"

"O'Grady says he's full of--ideas----"

"And what has O'Grady got to do with it?" asked Virgilia tartly. "Has
anybody asked his help? Why is he mixing up in the matter, anyway? And if
he wants to suggest, let him stop suggesting painters and suggest a few
sculptors. I haven't heard of his doing anything like that!"

Dill sighed wearily. "You can't keep O'Grady out if he wants to get in.
But I must say I hadn't expected to be loaded down with any more of the
Warren people. Gowan is more a drag than a help, and O'Grady is doing all
he can to bring us under a cloud. The directors can't understand such
freedom, such language, such shabbiness, such Bohemianism. Take it all
around, they are making it a heavier load than I can carry through."

"And now they want to add another of their miserable crowd to it. Well,
there will be no room for Prochnows and their ideas," declared Virgilia,
wounded in her tenderest point. "_We_ will attend to the ideas. Let us
take Hill's absurd notion, if we must, and rush in and wrench victory
from defeat. Let us take his cabins and taverns and towers and steeples
and use them in the background----"

"That would be the only way."

"--and then put in people--Hill and McNulty can't be insisting upon mere
'views.' Fill up your foregrounds with traders and hunters and Indians
and 'early settlers' and 'prairie-schooners'----"

"Giles has gone out to bring them round to something like that."

"They really won't have the Bank of Genoa? They won't listen to Phidion
of Argos?"

"I couldn't bring them within hailing distance of him."

"Where is Roscoe Orlando Gibbons in such an hour as this?"

"I haven't been able to find him."

"_I_ shall find him. Aunt Eudoxia is a large stock-holder in that
wretched bank, and he's the only man of taste and refinement on the
board. If we have lost Jeremiah, that's all the more reason why we should
have Roscoe Orlando. I shall get her and go to his office at once. He
can't refuse support to our plan; he won't let this barbarous notion of
Hill's make any headway."

Dill looked at Virgilia with mounting appreciation. Where was her equal
for resource, for elasticity, for devotion, for erudition? She was at
home in Grote and Sismondi, and she was just as much at home in the early
local annals of the town itself. She knew about the Parthenon and
Giotto's Tower, and she knew about the Succotash Tavern and the
Hard-Shell Baptist Meeting-House too. With matchless promptitude and
resiliency she began the broad sketching out of an entirely new scheme--a
thoroughly local one. Was there not Pere Marquette and the Sieur Joliet
and La Salle and Governor D'Artaguette? Was there not the Fort Kinzie
Massacre and the Last War-Dance of the Pottawatomies? Was there not the
prairie mail-coach and the arrival of the first vessel in the harbour?
Were there not traders and treaties and Indian commissioners? "There!"
she cried, "you and Stephen Giles just sharpen your teeth on such matters
as those! We have almost got the Nine Old Ogres on the run, and we
mustn't slow up on them for a single minute!"

Dill stared at her with dazzled eyes. Such vim, such spirit, such
knowledge, such loyalty!--and all for him, all in his service! He felt
confusedly that he was upon the verge of taking her hand and saying in
broken trembling tones that she was his guiding star, his ruling spirit,
his steadfast hope--what lesser expressions could fitly voice his
gratitude, his admiration, his devotion? Then he caught himself: things
were still in the air. His fortune was yet to be made, and who could say
but that its making might yet be marred? Let him once come to an
understanding with those trying old fellows, let him but have a
hard-and-fast agreement with them in downright black and white, and
then--who could tell what might be said and done?



XIV

Dill and his coadjutors had two or three more conferences, and a second
detailed scheme was sent over to the bank. History in general was
decisively thrust aside,--the only history worth recording was the
history the Nine themselves had helped to make. "We will go to the
libraries for 'ana,'" said Gowan; "they will help us with the earlier
years of the last century."

"And to the Historical Association for more," said Giles. "Old Oliver
Dowd is an ex-secretary of it, and him at least we can capture beyond a
doubt."

"Hurray!" cried Little O'Grady, who had insisted on being present. That
very afternoon he threw his "First Coinage of Venetian Sequins" back into
the clay-box and started in on a relief of "The Earliest Issue of
Wild-Cat Currency."

"We've got a good thing this time," said Adams. "It's homogeneous; it's
picturesque; it's local. It gives all they want and a great deal more. I
think we can tussle with it successfully and not be ashamed of the
outcome."

"As business-men they ought to appreciate the completeness of our new
scheme," said Giles, "and our promptness in furnishing it."

"They will," said Joyce. "This beats the other idea all hollow. Go in and
win."

Each one of them spoke in terms of unwonted confidence. Little O'Grady
himself was in such a state of irrepressible buoyancy that he left the
earth and fairly sailed among the clouds. All this reacted on Dill. For
the first time he felt the great commission fully within his grasp and
the net profits as safely to be counted upon. He began to warm to his
subjects. To him, who had learned a good deal in regard to shipping and
the handling of water from lounging about the ports of Marseilles and
Leghorn, had fallen the arrival of the first vessel: he would reconstruct
the primitive lighthouse that Mr. Hill had set his heart on, and would
eke out the angular emptiness of the subject by a varied group of
expectant pioneers big in the foreground. He had also taken the Baptist
church, of whose Bible-class Andrew P. Hill had been a member. He would
suppress the spire, and would show the pillared front on some Sunday
morning in midsummer, with an abundance of wide petticoats and deep
bonnets of the period of 1845, or thereabouts, displayed upon its front
steps. And finally, as he was fairly strong on figures in action, he had
intrepidly undertaken the Pottawatomie war-dance; and as soon as the
conference in Giles's studio broke up, he took the express-train out to
the Memorial Museum to see what the ethnological department there could
do for him in the way of moccasins, tomahawks and war-bonnets.

He made his way through several halls filled with tall glass cases,
skirting the Polynesians, bearing away from the Eskimos and finally
reaching the North Americans. Their room was empty, save for a slender
girl in brown who was making notes on a collection of war-bonnets in a
morocco memorandum-book. It was Virgilia.

"Why, what are you doing out here?" he asked.

"Turning the odd moments to account. Collecting data for you on the
aborigines,--I am sure we can put them to use. I ran out to hear the
lecture on Earthquakes in Japan--you know I have a chance to go there
with the Knotts in April--and I thought I might incidentally pick up a
few notions for the War-Dance."

So authentic and thoroughgoing a piece of loyalty as this affected Dill
tremendously; the hint of an Oriental exodus scarcely less so. Never
should she go to Japan with the Knotts; she should go with him. His share
in the work at the Grindstone would make this the easiest as well as the
most delightful of possibilities. Now was the time; no matter about
waiting for the contract. He felt the flood rising within him. Here at
last was the moment for taking her hand (she had put the memorandum-book
back into her pocket), and for looking earnestly into her eyes with all
the ardour perfect good taste would permit, and for saying in a voice
tremulous with well-bred passion the words that would make her his loyal
coadjutor through life. These different things he now said and did with a
flawless technique (Virgilia recalled how sadly the young real-estate
dealer had boggled), and a row of gaudy Buddhistic idols that looked in
through the wide door leading to the Chinese section stood witnesses to
her unaffected surrender. The pair passed back through the Aztecs and the
South Sea Islanders in a maze of happy murmurs and whisperings, and when
next Eudoxia Pence asked her niece:

"Has he--has he----?"

Virgilia, as she again dropped her eyes, was able to reply, this time:

"He has."

Daffingdon and Virgilia passed out through the great row of Ionic columns
and down the wide flight of steps into the bare, brown wind-swept
landscapes of the park.

"And about Japan?" asked Dill. "You can wait a year longer for that,
can't you? We shall find the earthquakes just the same."

Virgilia laughed happily. "Of course I can. What will such a year count
for as a mere delay?--a year so short, so full, so busy, so happy, so
successful! By _next_ February we shall be famous, we shall be rich, the
whole country will be ringing with our pictures----"

Dill found it easy to fall in with her mood. He foresaw the immediate
acceptance of a scheme so complete and so well-considered; the early
signing of a binding contract; the receipt, without undue delay, of his
honorarium--a business-like tribute from a methodical and trustworthy
body of business-men; growing fame, increasing prosperity----After all,
why dwell on Japan? The world was beautiful everywhere, even in the bare,
flat rawness of the suburbs.



XV

A few days later, and his bold step seemed justified. The directors were
an elusive body, and even when got together they found it hard to act
with anything like unanimity and despatch; but one afternoon Stephen
Giles encountered Mr. Holbrook in the office of one of the hotels and was
told that the plan was receiving favourable consideration and was not
unlikely to be accepted. As Mr. Holbrook was the most passive member of
the directorate, drifting quietly along with the general current, it
seemed safe to accept him as representing the feeling of that body.

Giles carried the good news to Adams, at the Academy. Adams hurried home
with it to his wife and little Frankie.

A few days more, and it laboriously transpired that old Jeremiah McNulty
was readjusting himself to the plan as modified and elaborated by Dill
and his associates. Old Jeremiah was particularly taken by the idea of
the First Ferry--suggesting only that the scene be slightly enlarged, so
as to take in the site of his early "yard."

"At last we're gathering them in!" declared Adams to his wife. They began
to figure up their share of the spoils and to study how they would lay
this immense sum out.

First of all they would bring a smile to the wan face of a patient
landlord by paying the back rent in full. As for the rest, Frankie must
have a pair of new shoes; and a thousand dollars at least must be placed
on deposit in some good savings bank.

"For we have never been able to put anything by, and now at last comes
this chance to provide for the rainy day." They looked at each other in
mutual content and admiration--this was prudence, this was thrift.

Next, word came to Dill that the attorney for the bank was actually
engaged in drawing up the contract. "We may even be able to sign it
to-morrow," he said to Virgilia. "We shall have Japan in good season, and
much more in between. Tell me; are we not selfish in keeping our
happiness to ourselves? Shall you not----"

"I am ready to let the whole world know, dear Daff," she responded. "And
oh, to think that I have had my part in bringing your great good fortune
about!"

At the very moment when Daffingdon and Virgilia were taking notes on the
aborigines and planning for Japan, Preciosa McNulty was strolling with
Ignace Prochnow through the galleries of the Art Academy. The portrait
was now finished. The submerged "resemblance" had risen once more to the
surface, as Little O'Grady had foretold, and the canvas had been borne
home in triumph to Preciosa's fond, admiring family.

"Who did it?" asked her grandfather, boundlessly pleased.

"That young man," replied Preciosa.

"What young man?"

"The one who came here that night and threw those big sheets of paper all
over the furniture."

"It's you to the life, my child," he said.

"Grandpa," proceeded Preciosa, "I want him to come here again and throw
some more sheets over the furniture. He's awfully smart, and he's just
bursting with ideas."

Her grandfather scratched his chin. There were so many smart young men
bursting with ideas--the wrong sort of ideas. "Let him go to Mr. Hill."

"They're better than those others were."

Still the old man shook his head. "Let him go to Mr. Hill," he repeated.

"With a letter or something from you?"

"Let him go and talk for himself."

"No. You just sit down and write it now." Then, to herself: "There! I
think Virgilia Jeffreys will find she can't wind me round her finger
quite as easily as she thought she could!"

Preciosa gave Prochnow his letter in front of the Parthenon pediment
(where the current of visitors was thinnest), and counselled him to
advance on the Grindstone. He was as quick and clever as any of them, she
declared, and was entitled to take his share.

Prochnow tossed his head. "I don't know that I care for a 'share,'" he
said.

"Do you want to do it all?" asked Preciosa, awe-struck.

"All or none," replied Prochnow loftily. "I am not one to co-operate. I
could do the whole as easily as a part."

They strolled on through one spacious hall after another; none seemed too
roomy for the manoeuvres of this young genius. The largest studio in the
Burrow, Gowan's own, cramped him--most of all on the days when Mrs. Gowan
came down, set forth the tea-pot, lit up her candles and gave her moving
little imitation of the handsomer functions that took place through the
upper tiers of the Temple of Art. Prochnow had scant patience with the
mild hospitalities that accompanied, obbligato-like, art's onward course;
he could not accommodate himself, he could not fit in. There were days
when the streets and the parks themselves seemed none too spacious, and
Preciosa, who was beginning to accompany him abroad, soon got the widest
notion of his limitless expansiveness. He saw things with an eye that was
new, informed, penetrating, and he spread comments acute, critical,
pungent, with the freest possible tongue. He showed her the tawdry,
restless vulgarity of the architecture along the most splendid of her
favourite thoroughfares, and the ludicrousness of much of the sculpture
that cumbered the public parks; and with the mercilessness of youth for
mediocrity in his seniors, the _arrives,_ he would run through the
canvases of current exhibitions, displaying an abrupt arrogance, a bald,
raw, cursory cruelty that only the Uebermensch of art would have ventured
to employ.

"And what do you think of our front parlour furniture?" asked Preciosa;
"and of all that fancy woodwork on our cupola?"

Prochnow placed his hand over his mouth and turned away. It seemed as if
these things were too awful for characterization, yet he would spare them
for her sake. Let him laugh, though, if he wished; and she would laugh
with him.

Thus her world daily became smaller, more insignificant, less to be
regarded, while Ignace himself grew bigger, more preponderant. How could
she refuse confidence in one who had such boundless confidence in
himself?

In the course of these strolls he told her something about his own early
life. He had been born, she made out, somewhere between the Danube and
the Oder; he spoke familiarly of the frontier of Silesia. He had studied
in Munich and Vienna, and some of his things--sumptuous, highly-charged,
over-luscious--showed clearly enough the influence of Makart and the
lawless vicinity of gipsy Hungary. He had crossed to America with his
family five years before; they were still in New Jersey. "They came
half-way," he declared; "and I have come all the way--an adventurer in a
new land."

Preciosa tried to realize the newness, which she had always taken for
granted, and the remoteness, which had never made itself particularly
plain to her consciousness; all this that she might reach some
appreciation of his venturesomeness,--a gallant, spirited quality not
misplaced in one so youthful, so self-confident, so fitted for success
and mastery.

"Well, you're ready for one adventure, anyway," declared Preciosa,
motioning toward the letter still held in Prochnow's brown, veined hand.
She saw herself helping him into the saddle and passing him up his lance.

"So I am," he acquiesced. He brought his eyes back from the large, pale,
formidable Amazonian figures before him to the warm-hearted,
warm-coloured little creature by his side. Her wealth of chestnut hair
was glowing in its most artful disorder; and there was limitless
enticement in the turn of her long curling eyelashes, just on a level
with his moustache-to-be. Her slim little body was subordinated to her
head and to her spreading hat in precisely the degree imposed by modern
taste and recognised by the canons of modern art; nothing less grandiose,
pallid, remote was to be imagined. Her dress, full of rich, daring
colours and latter-day complications of design, completed the spell;
those very large white women in crinkled draperies might remain where
they were, when such a one as this was here, as close to him as his own
self, as contemporaneous as the last stroke of the clock, as rich and
brilliant in colouring as any of the canvases of his master's master, as
necessary as bread and wine. He must put to its best use the weapon she
had placed in his hand, when there was so much--all the world, in
fact--to gain.

"Do your best," said Preciosa, mindful of the portfolios that Little
O'Grady had lugged downstairs and had opened in Festus Gowan's studio.
"Leave them all behind," she added, feeling as keenly as ever the smart
of her feeble complaisance toward Virgilia Jeffreys.

"Can I fail with such encouragement?" asked Prochnow, in an intonation
unwontedly tender, as he tried to look under those long curling lashes.

Preciosa flushed--a thing those great, over-admired marble women would
have tried in vain to do. Yes, she was no closer to him than she was
necessary to him. He began to look forward to the time when he might take
her by the hand, restraining such modest impulse as she was now showing
to move on to the next room, and reproduce that blush by telling her all
she was to him and must be ever. Only the wills, the whims, the
prejudices of a few unenlightened old men stood in his way; these he must
bend, dissipate, brush aside. He felt himself equal to the task.



XVI

Eudoxia Pence, after receiving the news of Virgilia's engagement, felt
more easy in her mind; she knew, now, just what ground she stood on and
saw just what she had to do. She realized that she had rather liked
Daffingdon Dill all along and had secretly been hoping that he and
Virgilia would hit it off. What she must see to was that Daffingdon got
the commission from the Grindstone, or his proper share in it: those nine
old men must accept his ideas and his sketches if this marriage were to
become a fact. Virgilia, who always ran with wealthy people, often gave
the impression of possessing greater means than she really commanded;
this was doubly serious when it came to her taking up with a man who was
altogether dependent on his wits, his skill and his invention, and
subject to the passing whims of a fickle public taste. She went down to
the library, to discuss the affair with her husband.

"It isn't as if Palmyra had been left with abundant means and only one
daughter," she submitted. "It's different when Virgilia is one of four.
And her brother is too taken up with his own wife and children to be
of----Are you listening, Palmer?"

"Eh? What's that?" asked her husband, lifting his elderly face from a
mass of papers that lay in the bright circle made by the library lamp. He
was generally deep in his own concerns, and they were large ones. He
seldom gave more than scant attention to such domestic details as
developed from relations through marriage.

Eudoxia sighed and forbore to tax him further. And when, next morning,
Virgilia came round to report the fate of the second decorative scheme
she sighed again.

For the new plan had not been successful, after all; it had failed
ignominiously at the eleventh hour. A great deal of effort had been
expended in the private office of this director and that, and a futile
attempt made to bring four or five of them together at the office of the
bank itself, that the matter might be clenched and the contract signed.
But the directors were elusive, and cost a great deal of time; and when
found, evasive, and cost a great deal of patience. But it was the delay
that had worked the ruin. It gave opportunity for tangles and hitches,
for the reconsideration of points already settled, for the insinuation of
doubts as to this, that and the other. Andrew P. Hill developed a sulky
dislike for all the laboured superfluities that now encumbered the chaste
simplicity of his original conception, and Roscoe Orlando Gibbons began
to question (though, to tell the truth, he was just about to bring
forward a candidate of his own) whether the artists thus far considered
were sufficiently skilled to carry out the work. As a matter of fact, the
only striking and convincing demonstration of ability witnessed thus far
was that reported by his daughter from the studio of Festus Gowan.

No, that overwrought presentation of early local history was not quite
what they wanted. The contract remained unsigned, and presently it slid
off into the waste-paper basket under Andrew P. Hill's desk.

The whole circle boiled at this outrage. Joyce, who was highly articulate
and who possessed a tremendous capacity for indignation, would have made
himself a mouth-piece to voice the protests of his infuriate friends; but
Little O'Grady wrenched the task from him.

O'Grady could not contain himself--nor did he try to. "This is
business-dealing with business-men, is it?" he cried to Dill. "This is
what comes of treating with solid citizens of means and method, is it?
Where is my hat? I'll go round to that bank and just tell them what
I----"

"O'Grady!" protested Dill. "Behave! or you'll have the fat in the fire
for good and all."

"No, Daff," insisted Little O'Grady. "I got you into this, and now----"

"I don't understand it so," said Dill coldly.

"Oh yes, I did. And now I'll see you through. Where is my hat?"

While Daffingdon was trying to hold O'Grady in check, Virgilia was making
moan to her aunt.

She sat down on Eudoxia's bed with a desperate flounce. "They don't want
it! What, in heaven's name, do they want?" she asked angrily. "I think it
is time for you, aunt, to make yourself felt. You are as much interested
in the bank as any of them, and as much entitled to speak. Go down there
as a stock-holder and find out what they are trying to do."

"I will if you wish," said her aunt. "In the meantime, why don't you go
round and talk to Mr. Gibbons? He's an agreeable enough man, and the only
one of the lot that knows anything about such things. Learn from him, if
you can, what the trouble is."

Virgilia found Roscoe Orlando Gibbons in the midst of his plats and
charts--he was pushing a new subdivision to the northward; but he
gallantly dropped his work at the entrance of a lady.

Virgilia asked for his support; she appealed to him both as a man of
business who should be willing to carry on things in a business way, and
as a cultivated amateur whose influence should not fail in supporting a
fine scheme contrived by reputable artists.

"Ah--um, yes," replied Roscoe Orlando vaguely. "The town is developing a
number of strong talents--really, we are pushing ahead wonderfully.
I--ah, in fact, I may say," he went on, with some little grandiloquence,
"that I have just been the means of bringing such a talent to light
myself--an absolute discovery, and one of no little importance."

"Indeed?" said Virgilia coldly.

"Yes; a young Pole--a young Bohemian--a young I-don't-know-what." Roscoe
Orlando waved his fingers with a vague, easy carelessness. "His name is
Prochnow. Very, very gifted. I found him living out on the West
Side--incredible distance--impossible neighbourhood--starving in the
midst of masterpieces," pursued Roscoe Orlando complacently. "I bought a
few."

"Prochnow!" thought Virgilia angrily; "that fellow who painted Preciosa
McNulty's portrait!" He had doubtless won over old Jeremiah by that
stroke, and now he was running off with Roscoe Orlando Gibbons. It was
little less than a landslide; she and her aunt must stop it.

"One of his pictures is in my own drawing-room," said Gibbons. "The other
I have presented to our club. Such colour!" he cried, rolling his eyes.
"Such composition!" he added, running his fat fingers through his
whiskers. "A talent of the first order; more--an out-and-out genius!" he
concluded.

Yes, it was Roscoe Orlando who had purchased Prochnow's pictures and thus
enabled him to take quarters in the Burrow. They were large unwieldy
things, painted in the latter days of his Viennese apprenticeship, and
they had cost him cruelly for freight and storage; but he had always
clung to the belief that he could sell them sometime, to somebody: at
least, they would serve to show what he could do. Or rather, what he had
once done and been satisfied to do. He should hardly care to do such
things now; he was not ashamed of them--he had merely left them a little
behind.

"Oh, Ig, Ig, Ig!" Little O'Grady had cried upon learning of all this,
"why won't you be fair and above-board? Why will you be so secretive, so
self-sufficient? Why didn't you tell me it was Roscoe Orlando Gibbons who
had bought those pictures?"

"Why, what difference does it make?" asked the other, in wonder.

"It makes all the difference in the world--to anybody who knows this town
and its people. Has nobody ever told you that Roscoe Orlando Gibbons was
one of the directors of the Grindstone?"

"No."

"Well, he is, and you've got him on your side. Did you say he had given
one of 'em to some club?"

"Yes. Why?"

"What club?"

"The----. Is there such a club as the Michigan?"

"Yes. And old Oliver Dowd is the president of it. Now you can get _him_
too."

"Him?"

"Yes; he's another of the directors. Oh, Ignace, you poor lost lamb, why
haven't you told your Terence all these things before?"

As a fact, Roscoe Orlando's gift to the club (it had not cost him any
great sum) had been accepted with empressement and given a good place in
the general lounge. The younger members welcomed it gladly. It presented
an odalisque, very small in the waist and with a wealth of tawny hair
black in the shadows; the foreground was a matter of fountain basins and
barbaric rugs; infants with prominent foreheads waved palm-branches in
the corners; and one or two muscular bronzed slaves loomed up in the dim
background. Dill, who had some acquaintance among the members of the club
and was now and then asked in to lunch, was promptly brought up to look
at it. To him it had a public, official aspect, not amiss in that
place--surely the lady offered herself most admirably to the general male
gaze. The thing was done knowingly, and with a certain _brio_, he
acknowledged; but it seemed rather exotic and already slightly out of
date. He saw Roscoe Orlando Gibbons openly gloating over its floridity,
and bringing up other members, old and young, to gloat with him; but he
thought it more than doubtful whether its dripping lusciousness would
prove grateful to the dry mind and sapless person of Oliver Dowd. And he
was glad to notice that Abner Joyce, who had lately joined (in the hope
that the club's well-known interest in public affairs would offer him
some opportunity to work for civic and national betterment), turned away
from Gibbons's ill-judged offering with disdain and disgust.

"The fellow has training and facility," said Daffingdon; "but a great
monumental scheme conceived in such a spirit as that----No, we have
nothing to fear from him."

But there was much to fear from the complacency of Roscoe Orlando
Gibbons. Could he, as he asked Virgilia with a maddening, self-satisfied
smile, withdraw his support from a talent that he had introduced into his
own house and indorsed in the eyes of the commercial and professional
public? Virgilia saw that what she had to contend against was vanity, and
she went away in very low spirits. If Prochnow had but come to Roscoe
Orlando's notice through the ordinary channels! If his patron were not
glowing, palpitating, expanding with the conscious joy of discovery! But
crude ore brought to light by our own pick and shovel is more precious to
us than refined gold that enters into circulation through the assayer and
the mint.

"Ugh!" said Virgilia to her aunt; "you should have heard him. He
simply--_blatted_. It was disgusting. And now, what are we going to do?"



XVII

"We must get at the girl herself," declared Eudoxia,--"that is, if it
isn't too late, if she isn't utterly infatuated with him."

"I don't think I've heard as much as _that_ said," replied Virgilia. She
knew of but one young woman who might justly go to such a length. "What
shall you do first? Shall you ask her to pour tea?"

"No need, yet, of going as far as that. Can't you get together a little
party and give her a sort of lunch out at the Whip and Spur? Then one of
us, I suppose, might call on her mother--if she's got one."

"Whatever you suggest," said Virgilia, with a suppressed sob. "You may
think I'm a perpetual fount of ideas, but I'm not." The Grindstone's
rejection of her second scheme had hurt her cruelly. She put her
handkerchief to her eyes--as if she had become, instead, a fount of
tears.

And as such she next appeared to Dill. "I felt so sure, dear Daff, that
we could put it through," she mourned. "And now--and now----"

Daffingdon drew her discouraged head down against his shoulder, in his
most noble and manful mode. "Let the lions take us, if they will," he
seemed to say, casting his eyes around the arena.

Little O'Grady came over, bearing a martyr's palm. The universal sadness
was reflected in his face. Little Frankie Adams was to go along wearing
his old shoes, and Kitty Gowan, who had been figuring on a belated winter
suit, had tearfully thrown a handful of samples in the fire and put the
fond notion aside.

Little O'Grady wiped a sympathetic eye. "Oh, Daff, I'm so sorry for you;
just at the time, too, when----" He dared not proceed, awed by Dill's
protesting pathos. "Come, now," he ventured presently, "why shouldn't we
let Ignace in on this? He's so inventive; he's so full of ideas----"

Daffingdon recalled the sensuous Oriental masterpiece at the club and saw
no reason why the possessor of such a particular talent could be expected
to succeed in a bank. He shook his head; no member of another sect--no
heretical Viennese--should share his martyrdom with him. This left
Prochnow free to rush upon the lions on his own account. Little O'Grady,
returning to the Rabbit-Hutch, found his neighbour's loins fully girded
for the task--the fine frenzy of inspiration had already turned the place
upside down.

"That's right, Ignace!" he called from the threshold; "sail in. What is
the plan this time?" he asked, tiptoeing along over the scattered sheets
that littered the floor.

Prochnow ran his nervous fingers through his wild black forelock, and
cast on Little O'Grady a piercing, inspirational glance from a pair of
glittering eyes.

"The two great modern forces," he pronounced, "are Science and Democracy.
I shall show how each has contributed to the progress of society. Science
shall have the six lunettes on the right and Democracy the six on the
left."

"H'm," said Little O'Grady; "an allegory?"

"Precisely. No better basis for a grand monumental work."

"Well, Ignace," declared Little O'Grady, "you'll put it through if
anybody can!"

He hurried back to his own room, shrugged himself into his
plaster-flecked blouse of robin's-egg blue, threw "The First Issue of
Wild-Cat Currency" (a group of frontier financiers in chokers and high
beaver hats) back into the clay-box, and began at once on a bold relief
of "Science and Democracy Opening the Way for the Car of Progress."

"Science," he explained to Prochnow, next day, "will be clearing the air
of the bats of ignorance, and Democracy will be clearing the ground of
the imps of aristocracy--or maybe they'll be demons. And between the two,
right in the middle, of course, the Car of Progress will advance in very
low relief. I haven't quite got it all where it will pull together yet,
and I can see the foreshortening of the horses will be something
terrible; but I'm pretty sure I shall find some way out within a week or
so. Let me tell you one thing, though, about your own job, Ignace. Your
allegory will go down easier if----Say, you wouldn't take Hill's hints,
would you?"

"No," said Prochnow, with the loftiest contempt.

"It will go down easier, I say, if you'll just work in some portraits of
our Nine Worthies. Ghirlandajo did that racket, for instance; so did
Holbein. So did plenty of others. Wouldn't Andrew P. Hill's chin-beard
come in great on Fortitude? And if you've got any gratitude in your
composition, Roscoe Orlando ought to go in as Prosperity. Give him two
cornucopias, instead of one, to balance those side-whiskers----"

"Hush!" called Prochnow reprovingly. He never jested about his patrons
and he never made facetious observations about art.

"Well, don't get mad," said Little O'Grady, slightly abashed. "I'm doing
just that thing with Simon Rosenberg; he's going to be my archdemon of
aristocracy."

Prochnow remained smilelessly severe; and Little O'Grady, after one or
two more feeble efforts to save his "face," slunk away--vastly impressed,
as he never failed to be when he met the rare person that could put him
down.

"What makes Ignace so grouchy to-day, I wonder?" he muttered, as he
returned to the Car of Progress.

Prochnow soon forgot this interruption and jumped back into his work with
redoubled vigour. He took a serious view of himself, of his art, of
things in general; above all, he took a serious view of his immediate
future and of the place that Preciosa McNulty might come to have in it.
Little O'Grady, an easygoing bachelor, everybody's friend, and too much
the champion of the whole gentler sex to set any one of its members apart
from all the rest, might indulge in such jestings about his own life and
his own work as he saw fit. But for himself, a man of the warmest and
highest ambitions, yet with the most restricted means for realizing them,
play by the roadside was quite out of the question.



XVIII

While Ignace Prochnow was busy in adjusting science, democracy and
progress to the requirements of finance, Preciosa, in whose behalf this
great work had been undertaken, was lunching with Virgilia Jeffreys at
the Whip and Spur. A mild, snowless season and dry firm roads had induced
the managers of this club to try the experiment of reopening for the
remainder of the winter: surely enough devotees of out-of-door activity,
desirous of filling in the weeks that intervened between now and spring,
must exist to make the step worth while.

At first Preciosa had had her doubts. But Virgilia had known how to
execute a cordial grasp with her cold slim hand and how to put a warm
friendly look into those cool narrow eyes. After all, Preciosa was not
one to hold a grudge; besides, she could think of none of those cutting
things she had once wished to say.

Virgilia had asked Elizabeth Gibbons, from whom she had heard the
particulars about the portrait, and whom she hoped to bring round even if
she had not succeeded with the girl's father. She had asked Dill too, and
his sister Judith, both of whom were to show themselves very gracious and
winning with the granddaughter of Jeremiah McNulty and the supporter of a
rival painter. And she had added two or three other young men, who might
be expected to appreciate this chance of making a fresh, youthful
addition to their own limited and tiresome circle. There was a crackling
fire in the big dining-room chimney-place; and three or four other little
parties, scattered about, helped to remove some of the empty chill from
the great, bare, shining place so full of disused chairs and tables.

Preciosa, who somehow found it impossible to take the thing simply, was
decked out to considerable effect; most of the other young women struck
her as rather underdressed, and she wondered that they could seem so very
much at home. She felt they viewed her, as they passed, first with a
slight curiosity (giving questioning glances that referred the matter to
their sweet, whimsical Virgilia), and then with a slighting indifference.
Clearly, in their eyes, she was here for just this once; she would not
occur again, and they need not bother Virgilia by asking reasons.
Preciosa began to feel very cold and lonely.

But Virgilia had no idea of permitting any such effect as this. She had
been very gracious all the way out, and now she stared her inquiring
friends into the background and worked with redoubled vigour to restore
Preciosa's circulation. The fire helped; so did the good cheer--including
some excellent bouillon; and so did the rattling remarks of the two or
three young men, who were not at all overcome by Preciosa and who treated
her with an ingenuously condescending informality that she took for the
friendliest goodwill.

But most of all was the dear child affected by the confidential hints and
whisperings of Virgilia, as they came to her in the wardrobe, or before
the great fireplace, or across the corner of the table itself, or up in
the bay-window, overlooking the gray lake, where they cosily took their
coffee. This delightful function, Virgilia as much as intimated, might be
but the beginning of many; this, if little Preciosa rightly understood,
was only the withdrawal of the first of the filmy, silvery curtains that
intervened between her and the full splendour of society. Virgilia
murmured of the present opening of the golf season--it would come early
this year; and she did not stop with proposing Preciosa for the
Knockabout (which was good enough for a certain sort of people), but even
suggested the possibility of her little friend's reception within her own
club, the Fairview itself. She had charming acquaintances too, it
delicately transpired, who had taken an opera-box for the season, but who
were kept away from it by a sudden death in the family; and she,
Virgilia, had the use of the tickets as freely as another. Certain dear
friends of hers, she added, were expecting to give a cotillon next
month--and why should they call her friend if she were not at liberty to
ask cards for a friend or two of her own? And it was an easy probability,
she intimated further, that Mamma McNulty might receive the honour of a
call from one lady or another of the Pence connection and even be invited
to assist at her aunt's charity bazar for the benefit of the
Well-Connected Poor....

Yes, the veils lifted one by one, and the shining heavenly host of
society drew nearer and nearer. And finally, as in the Lohengrin
Vorspiel, the surcharged moment came when the violins, though pushed to
their utmost, could go no further, and the clashing cymbals took up the
bursting tale. The last clouds rolled away, the Ultimate Effulgence was
revealed, and Preciosa McNulty was vouchsafed a vision of herself as the
central figure in a blinding apocalypse: she was pouring tea at one of
Mrs. Palmer Pence's authentic Thursday afternoons, with the curtains
drawn, the candles glimmering, the right girls lending their aid, the
street outside blocked with shimmering carriages, and the great ones of
the earth saying to an alien, inexperienced little nonentity, "No lemon,
thank you," or, "Another lump of sugar, please,"--a palpitating child who
felt that now it but rested with her to readjust her halo and clap her
wings and soar onward and upward with the departing host toward the realm
of glory.

Preciosa was in a glow. She forgot the nippy ride out through the bare,
bleak suburbs, and the weltering waste of the raw gray lake just below,
and the cold glare from the dozens of disused table-tops, and the cool
stares of people who wondered why she was here. Let them but wait a
little, and they might soon meet her elsewhere.

Then Virgilia took Preciosa up into the bay-window on the landing and set
her to sipping her coffee and delicately indicated to her the price she
was to pay. She spoke of Mr. Dill's recognised primacy among the city's
painters, and of the exertions by which he had won his place. She
reminded Preciosa that he, as a fact, had been the first to take up and
study the great problem proposed by the Grindstone, and that both
professional courtesy and plain, everyday honesty forbade his summary
supplanting by another. Preciosa listened with lowered eyes,--eyes that
once or twice slid down the stairs and rested upon the prepossessing
young gentleman for whom this plea was made. She felt that she was
trapped; Virgilia Jeffreys had set a snare for her once more. She was
conscious of the sidelong glance out of Virgilia's narrow green eyes, and
of Virgilia's sharp nose and vibrating nostrils and fine intent eyebrows;
they were all at work upon her to subdue her to Virgilia's will. She felt
very feeble, very defenceless, greatly embarrassed, thoroughly
uncomfortable. She thought suddenly of Medora Joyce, with her long
bottle-green cloak and her friendly face. Why were not more of the "nice"
people powers in the social world? Why must the gates be kept by the
selfish, the insincere, the calculating? Medora, she felt sure, would
have lent a hand without asking one to give up, in return, one's own
thumb and forefinger....

There was a sudden stir outside--the sound of crunching wheels and
grinding machinery and escaping steam. The two girls looked down from the
bay. A bulky figure got out of an automobile, gave a command or two in a
peremptory tone, entered the house and made his wants known to the
steward.

"H'm," said Virgilia; "one of the Morrells."

The newcomer picked up all the men available and invited them to assist
in his libations. Robin Morrell, the second of the Twins, had passed an
active forenoon in the popularization of those unequalled certificates,
and now he was more than willing to spend money freely in the eyes of the
right people. Everybody he had approached earlier had met his views as to
the value of those documents (they were at two-hundred-and-thirty, or
some such incredible figure)--including a bank president or so, who had
accepted them as collateral on this basis; and all whom he invited, or
summoned, now (refusal seemed impossible), must needs show a like
unanimity in sharing his pleasures. He was big and red, and took up a
great deal of room. By contrast, Daffingdon Dill looked more of a
gentleman than ever.

"He's like his brother--just!" said Virgilia to herself. "Imagine!" she
added elliptically.

While Morrell collected the men and impressed his very urgent and
particular demands upon the intimidated steward, Virgilia, leaving
Preciosa, bestowed a few moments' exertions upon Elizabeth Gibbons.
Virgilia gently but decidedly held the girl's father up to reprobation.
Elizabeth professed herself utterly shocked by this disclosure of her
parent's divagations and conveyed the impression that he should be
brought back into the right path and should turn from Prochnow and all
his works.

"What sort of a thing did he make of it?" asked Virgilia, thinking of the
portrait.

"Why, really, do you know, it came out very well."

"What kind of a person is he?"

"Clever enough, I should say; but not by any means what you would call a
gentleman."

"Um," murmured Virgilia darkly. How could anybody be interested in a
painter that was not a gentleman? This was more than she could
understand. "Don't let it go any further, dear," she counselled gently.

"Certainly not," said Elizabeth promptly, and put the matter out of her
mind for once and for all.

After Morrell had imposed himself upon the men he turned his attention to
the women. Virgilia had always impressed him as a trifle meagre and
acidulous, and Elizabeth Gibbons had never impressed him at all; but he
instantly caught at the flamboyant and high-charged beauty of little
Preciosa McNulty. However, she was too chill and lonely once more to be
greatly affected by the blusterous gallantries of this prosperous swain.
She was very subdued in her acceptance of his heavy attentions;--"more so
than I should--well, than I should have expected," as he himself
observed. Really, she was too young for so much poise, too
"temperamental," by every indication of her physiognomy, for such
complete self-control.

"I say, she has a very good tone, do you know," he took occasion to
remark to Dill. And he spoke as a man whose authority in such delicate
matters was beyond dispute. There is only one way to impress the pusher,
and that way Preciosa had unconsciously taken. The more she repulsed him
the more worthy he thought her. "I must see her again, somewhere," he
decided.

"Millions," whispered Virgilia to Preciosa, behind Robin Morrell's broad
back. "Quite one of _us_. And you can see for yourself how immensely he
is taken with you."

Yes, here was something more glorious even than the Thursday tea.

On the way home Preciosa was quiet and thoughtful. Her mother, devoured
by a hungry curiosity and a sharp solicitude, plied her with questions.
Whom had she met? What had they said and done? How had they dressed and
acted? For the love of heaven, names, descriptions, particulars!

Preciosa looked back at her mother and held an unbroken silence.



XIX

Prochnow spent the whole day working for Preciosa, oblivious of
Virgilia's snares or of the debut of Robin Morrell. He heaved history,
tradition, legend, mythology into the furnace, worked the bellows with
indefatigable hand, blew his brains to a white heat and kept them there,
and dropped down at dusk with his project complete. He had outlined two
or three of his cartoons as well, and had even dashed out, on a small
scale, the colour-scheme of the one that made the most immediate appeal.

Little O'Grady, who had had all the trouble he anticipated with the
chariot of Progress--and a good deal more--came in for a cup of
Prochnow's potent, bewitching coffee.

"Ignace!" he cried, wiping his clay-encrusted hands on the blue blouse,
"you beat us all! You'll run away ahead of any one of us! Only, you'll
kill yourself doing it!"

"My first great chance," replied Prochnow. "I mustn't let it slip by."

Within a few days this third scheme was brought into intelligible shape
and sent off in pursuit of the scattered sons of finance. "It's a dead
go!" cried Little O'Grady; "this time we get 'em sure!" His confidence
was the light from the blazing furnace, just as Prochnow's intensity was
its heat. When each believed so fully in himself and in the other how
could the thought of failure intrude?

"Ignace," said Little O'Grady, "this time they'll treat us right. You
must take a better room than you have here. You must move downstairs,
where people can find you, and where you will be able to let them in when
they do. Ladies, now--how could you possibly receive them in such
quarters as these?"

Prochnow easily allowed himself to be persuaded. He was already beginning
to see about how the cat jumped and to understand how much depended upon
the gentle patronage of the luminaries of society. There was one little
star, surely, whose light he should be glad to focus on himself once
more--nor be indebted to another's kindness for the privilege. He had
indeed ventured to call on Preciosa once or twice at her own home--in
particular there was the evening on which, defying niggardly Fortune, he
had invited her to the theatre, her passion; but Euphrosyne McNulty had
not seemed fully able to understand him. She appeared to view him as a
sort of unclassifiable young artisan and to find slight justification for
his presence. She had other ideas for her daughter.

"Come, make a stagger," said Little O'Grady encouragingly. "Take that
other big room down there next to Gowan's. I'll cough up a few for you,
and I'll let you have all the traps of mine you need. Take the Aztec jars
and both the priceless Navajos that I have clung to through all my days
of misery and privation."

Prochnow made the move. Preciosa was among his first callers. His studio
came to little compared with Dill's, and to little more compared with
Gowan's; but the jars and the blankets did their part, the mandolin and
the coffee-pot theirs; the portfolios were broken open to decorate the
walls, and,----

"You'll do," said Little O'Grady.

Preciosa's back missed the tall mahogany chair with the brass rosettes.
"We've loaned it to Gowan," explained Little O'Grady; "we're helping him
out on a portrait."

Preciosa's feet missed the thick-piled Persian rug. "It was getting full
of moths and dust," said Little O'Grady. "We've given it to some poor
chaps upstairs for a coverlet."

"Are they very destitute?" asked Preciosa tenderly.

"Turrible," replied Little O'Grady. "There's one sufferer up there who's
just about cleaned out--nothing left but his bed and one chair. He's
eating his mattress. It'll last a week longer."

Preciosa leaned back luxuriously on the wood-box, which was covered by
one of the blankets, and tapped her delicate little foot on the other,
spread over the floor. How fortunate that Ignace was spared all these
privations!

Prochnow himself could not feel that he was poor. _She_ was here; his
drawings were with the bank; his Odalisque was at the club; and his Fall
of Madame Lucifer, in a bright new frame, adorned the chaste walls of
Roscoe Orlando Gibbons. The future was bright with promise. He dared to
speak now. He would. He did.

As soon as Little O'Grady had the grace to make a move toward departure,
Prochnow hastened it on. O'Grady went upstairs to banish one or two more
obstacles from the way of the Car of Progress, and Prochnow took Preciosa
over to the Academy to see the Winter Exhibition.

Preciosa, as has already been said, was not a girl of many ideas; yet a
single one, detached, isolated, and presented to her with some ardour and
directness, was easily within her grasp. The idea was now presented, and
Preciosa forgot all about the pictures. For surely he who offered it was
a most complete and admirable mechanism; the pulse of his heart, the beat
of his brain, the flash of his eye, the tremor of his masterful
hands--all these now worked in fullest harmony and told her here was a
man. Preciosa, never inclined to make too much of worldly considerations,
now set them aside altogether. Any idea of mere lucre slipped from her
mind, and if she thought at all of a mother's strained social ambitions
for a favourite child, it was but to feel with a wilful joy that she was
extricating herself from the selfish grasp of Virgilia Jeffreys. Her own
humble and obscure origin stirred within her,--her, the granddaughter of
peasants who had trotted their bogs,--and she gave no heed to her lover's
gentility or lack of it, in her unconscious tendency, even her active
willingness, to "revert."

Prochnow felt the utmost confidence in his own powers, in his future, in
the great scheme now under the scrutiny of the Grindstone. He glanced
round the walls of the gallery, and here and there a canvas due to one
hand or another that had co-operated in the rival scheme came to his
view. He made silent, acidulous comments on certain manifestations of
mediocrity placed there by men so much better quartered, better known,
better circumstanced than himself. "Never mind," he said; "next year _I_
shall be here, and then the difference will be seen by everybody." Well
might the director welcome work from one who had distanced all others in
a fair race and who unaided had brought to a triumphal issue the greatest
piece of monumental decoration the town had ever known. And this little
thing close by his side, panting, palpitating, flushing divinely, had
helped him to conquer his success.

"It will be your triumph, too!" he told her.

"Mine?" she asked, in self-depreciation. "Why, I have not made you a
single suggestion." Too truly she was no Virgilia Jeffreys.

"You have had a hand in every drawing," he insisted warmly. "You have
moved the crayon over every sheet. The whole work is full of you--it is
You yourself."

Preciosa accepted this full, round declaration with easy passivity; she
was not clever, only happy. If he thought thus, and felt thus--why, that
was enough. He was a strong young man--let him have his way. It all fell
in with his "handling" of the whole situation. Little enough had he
depended upon soft seduction, upon gallantry, upon flattery; still less
had he tried to wheedle, to propitiate. He had grasped her with an
intent, smileless severity, and he was not to be opposed. His words, like
his works, were full of sweep and decision, and empty of all light
humours, and they lifted her up and carried her away.

"Yes," she said, "it will be my triumph too." And she seemed to have said
the words he wished to hear.



XX

A week or two went by. The paladins of finance found it as hard as ever
to get together. Nothing moved ahead save the new building itself. Even
the Car of Progress stood stock-still in the roadway, while Little
O'Grady gnawed his nails. Only the contractors and their men had any
advance to show. They had put on the roof and had begun to plaster the
interior. The vagaries and uncertainties of a few struggling, befogged
old gentlemen had no terrors for them--_their_ contracts had been signed
hard and fast months before, and their receipts of money had kept close
and exact step with the progress of the work itself. "I wish I was a
bricklayer--or even a hod-carrier!" said Little O'Grady, throwing a
despairing eye upon the Car, stuck fast in the mire.

Prochnow was still confident. He saw a bride, a home, a year of
satisfying and profitable activity; he even saw more than one new ring on
Preciosa's dear, overloaded little fingers. Yes, he had fully justified
his summary snatching of this child of luxury from that front parlour
full of contorted chairs with gilded arms and with backs of pink brocade.
He even heard Euphrosyne McNulty say to him in a voice tremulous with
generous feeling: "Dear Ignace, you are all I hoped to find you--and
more. You have made little Preciosa's mother completely content."

At last the Grindstone made a revolution. Andrew P. Hill, weary of
waiting for the help of his associates, none of whom save Roscoe Orlando
Gibbons could be brought to the scratch, took hold of the handle and
struck out a few sparks.

Together Hill and Gibbons considered "Science and Democracy." Prochnow
had devised a scheme that was properly severe and monumental; though the
intellectual cherubs and the muscular blacks were present in modified
form, all odalisques and such had been suppressed. Still, the general
tone was too luscious for Andrew, who, even in his young days, had been a
pattern of sapless rectitude; and on the other hand, it was not luscious
enough for Roscoe Orlando, who, in _his_ young days, had been quite the
reverse. Andrew had no affinity for fluttering garments and sensuously
waving palm-fronds--little did they consort with the angular severity of
"business." Roscoe Orlando, on the other hand, had an intense affinity
for such things as the Fall of Madame Lucifer, and was hoping for
something more of the same sort. Madame was falling in red tights and
Parisian slippers, with black bat-wings inserted between her straight,
slim legs and her outstretched arms, while Lucifer himself, a much
smaller figure, fell some distance behind her; and her staring eyes and
open mouth and streaming hair were a sight to see--even upside down. As
Roscoe Orlando turned over Prochnow's sketches with a discontented hand
he asked querulously where was the _chic_, the snap that he had hoped to
see. No, no; the boy had done his best work already; he was on the down
grade--that was plain.

"And then, all this allegory," objected Andrew. "It's too blind; it's too
complicated. People can't stop to figure it out. Besides, I'm not so sure
that every bit of it is perfectly proper."

So the Grindstone made another revolution and took off the tip of poor
Prochnow's nose. He came into Little O'Grady's dirty and disorderly
place, and O'Grady, even before he could scramble forward through his
ruck of dusty casts and beplastered scantlings, saw that the blow had
fallen.

He gave one look at Prochnow's face, drawn, haggard, black with
disappointment and anger, and began to work himself out of his blouse.
"Where is my hat?" he muttered wildly.

"Where are you going?" asked Prochnow. His voice was hoarse. O'Grady
looked at him a second time, to make sure who was speaking.

"I got you into this, Ignace; and now I----"

"You did not," said Prochnow. His pride of intellect, still unhumbled,
forbade his acknowledgment of any such claim.

"Oh, yes, I did, Ignace; and now I must get you out of it."

"Are you going to see those men?"

"I am."

"Don't. There is still some hope left," said Prochnow thickly, "and you
would only make matters worse. A great deal of unsuspected talent has
been developed, it appears, by these experiments, as I have heard them
called," he went on chokingly, with blazing eyes, in a gallant attempt at
cold irony; "and much more may be waiting still. Enough, in fact, to
justify a _concours_--how do you say?--a competition." He clenched his
fists against his rigid thighs and turned his face away.

"A competition? They say that now?" Little O'Grady threw off his blouse
and jumped on it with both feet. "Where _is_ my hat?" he cried, running
his fingers through his long, fluffy hair and toppling over a disregarded
cast or two.

Prochnow caught him by the arm. "You must not go," he said.

But Little O'Grady was obsessed by a vision of the Grindstone
directors--the whole Nine--assembled round the council-board in that
shabby, out-of-date parlour. It had been hard to get them together for
Dill and Giles and Prochnow and Adams, but there they sat now, waiting
for him. A new figure entered the vision, the little Terence O'Grady they
were expecting: the spokesman for honour, for fair play; the champion of
the poor girls whose tenderest hopes had been blighted; the whip of
scorpions that was to lash the ignorance, the ineptitude and the careless
cruelty that had brought so many hearts and talents to fury and despair.

"Get out of my way!" cried Little O'Grady. He pushed Prochnow aside,
clapped on his hat and rushed from the room.

He tumbled down five flights of stairs. At the bottom he met Gowan.

"A competition!" cried O'Grady, with raging scorn.

"I know," returned Gowan. "But there's something later. They have formed
a committee, under the lead of an 'expert'--somebody that _I_ never
heard, of--to pass the Winter Exhibition in review. They want to see
which of us do the best work and to determine whether any of us at all
can do good enough for their wants."

"Ow!" shrieked O'Grady.

"Furthermore, old Rosenberg has proposed to cut down the appropriation
for decorations from twenty-five thousand to four. If they're bad, after
all, so much less will the loss be."

"Ow!" shrieked O'Grady again, as he tried to bolt past.

"Where are you going?" asked Gowan.

"To the Bank! To the Bank!" It was as if Revolutionary Paris were
yelling, "_A la lanterne! a la lanterne!_"

Again O'Grady saw the Nine in conference. Again he heard their voices.
"There's nobody here," said Holbrook, making, to do him justice, his
first and only suggestion; "send East." "There's nobody here," said
Gibbons,--oh, how Little O'Grady hated him now!--"send abroad." "No,"
came the voice of Hill, "we need not go outside of our own city. Surely
we can find within the corporate limits somebody or other to do our
bidding;" and Jeremiah McNulty agreed with him. "Why spend four thousand
dollars?" asked Simon Rosenberg; "why spend one? Calcimine and have done,
and save the money;" and Oliver Dowd took the same view. All these
enormities rang clearly in Little O'Grady's ears and put wings to his
heels.

"Get out of my way, Gowan!" he cried, and ran full speed down the street.



XXI

"Yes, they're all in there," said the watchman who stood, decorated with
a police star, in front of the partition of black walnut and frosted
glass. "But you can't see them now; they're busy."

"I can't, eh?" said Little O'Grady. "We'll find out if I can't!" He
dodged the watchman, wrenched open the flimsy door and threw himself upon
the board.

Yes, they were all there, including the two or three that Little O'Grady
had not seen the time before--that first time of all. And the Morrell
Twins were there too, one of them remorseful and the other defiant. And
Andrew P. Hill, who presided, was in a blue funk--O'Grady could see his
chin-beard waggle and could almost hear his teeth chatter; for it was
Andrew who had amassed all that Pin-and-Needle collateral, accepting it
at the street's own mad valuation. Pin-and-Needle, pushed too far, blown
too big, was now shaky at the knees, and Andrew and all the Nine were
trembling sympathetically from top to toe. The Grindstone might survive
in a single serviceable mass, or it might fly to pieces, dispersed in a
thousand useless fragments.

Little O'Grady looked round upon the other faces; they were all like
Andrew's. Remorse, shame, contrition sat upon them. Ah, these men knew
they had not given fair treatment to him and to Ignace and to Dill and to
Preciosa and all the rest. "Just see how they're looking at me!" he said
to himself. "Never mind; I won't let up on them. I'll rub it in; I'll
drive it home."

What drawn faces! What anxious eyes! What sharp noses!--who had been
grinding them? Answer: the Morrell Twins. Not for nothing their long
practice in sharpening pins and needles! It had come into play here.
Richard had turned the crank and Robin had held down each official
proboscis, and the board had winced. Then Richard and Robin had changed
places, and the board had groaned. Now Richard and Robin were changing
back, and soon the board might scream. "I'll take a hand too," said
O'Grady.

He began at once; he gave the discomfited directors no chance to
forestall him. He taxed them roundly with their delays, their
double-dealings, their invertebrate wabblings. They had blown hot and
cold. They had played fast and loose. He and his friends had worked, had
thought, had studied, had invented, had torn their very brains from their
heads; and what had they to show for it? Nothing; nothing at all. On the
contrary----

"Get out of here," said Andrew P. Hill sternly. "This is a business
meeting."

"Business meeting!" cried Little O'Grady scornfully. "What do any of you
know about business, I'd like to ask? Nobody who wanted to do business by
business methods would come here to do it, I'm thinking! No, sir; he'd go
to _our_ shop, where we do as we say we will, and do it up sharp and
ship-shape, no matter how unreasonable the demands of the
shilly-shallying old grannies we have to deal with. Business! You don't
bluff me!"

"Take care, young man," said Hill, "or----"

"Or nothing!" cried Little O'Grady undaunted. "And now, for a finisher,
you offer us a competition. You wind us, and then ask us to run against a
fresh batch that haven't even left the stable! After we've pulled our
brains out of our heads strand by strand, you'd have us stuff them back
and pull them out all over again, would you? Nobody but a man with
cotton-batting _for_ brains could ask a thing like that!"

"Brains!" said Dowd contemptuously. He had always looked upon himself as
a lofty intellectual force. In his view there was no great play for
intellect outside of finance and law.

Little O'Grady pounced upon this insolence at once. "There's not one of
you here, I'll venture, that has had an idea in the last twenty years.
You just sit beside your little old machine and turn the crank--why, the
crank almost turns itself. We, on the other hand, live on our ideas. We
keep alive on our own brains and hearts and blood and emotions----"

"Emotions!" said Dowd, carelessly crumpling up a paper and throwing it
into the waste-basket. He himself had not had an emotion--foolish,
superfluous things--in his life. Little O'Grady looked at his nose. It
was the sharpest of the lot.

"Get out of here, young man," said Simon Rosenberg. "This is no place for
you."

O'Grady passed over Rosenberg's nose in contempt.

"We turn in scheme after scheme," he pursued;--"schemes to be welcomed
and appreciated anywhere--but here. And what is your own? All you can
think of is a mongrel heap of cabins and spires and chimneys and shacks
that would set a tombstone to grinning. What chance is there for art in
such a hotch-potch as that? What could a self-respecting----"

Up rose Andrew P. Hill. He expressed all his nervous dread, his vexation,
his irritability by one tremendous whack of his fist on the table.

"To hell with art!" he said. "What I wanted to do was to advertise my
business."

Dead silence. Nobody had ever heard Andrew P. Hill swear before; nobody
had supposed that he could. But the unlooked-for, the impossible had
happened.

To Little O'Grady this profanity was no more than the profanity of
anybody else. It did not stop him.

"To advertise your business?" he mocked. "Then why didn't you say so
before? It ain't too late to do so yet, is it? I'll do it for you myself.
I'll advertise you and your business and your building fit to make you
dizzy. I'll make you celebrated. I'll make you talked about. You won't
have to pay twenty-five thousand dollars for it, either. Nor four. Nor
one. Just give me a week's time and a scaffolding--I worked on a panorama
once--and I'll see that you're advertised. I'll do it with my eyes
bandaged and with one hand--either one--tied behind me. I'll see to it
that you get the Merry Laugh. I'll see that you get the Broad Grin. I'll
see that you get the Unrestrained Cachinnation. I'll get you into the
guide-books and the art journals--nit! Why, you poor creatures"--Little
O'Grady's liberal glance took in the entire assembly--"who do you think
bestow the sort of celebrity you have presumed to hope for? _Your_ kind?
Not on your life. The cheap twaddlers of cheap daily stuff for cheap
people? Never imagine it. Who, then? The few, wherever they may be, who
_know_. Good work by good men; and then a single word from the right
source, however distant, starts the ball rolling and the stream running.
The city feels proud of your taste and liberality, travelling strangers
turn aside to see the fruit of it, and you get praise and celebrity
indeed. But nothing of that kind will ever happen to you, whether you
think yourselves art patrons or not;"--here O'Grady dealt a deadly look
at Roscoe Orlando Gibbons. "Do what you like; people will snicker and
guffaw and hold their sides and pant for somebody to fan them and bring
them to. As for me, I utterly scorn and loathe the whole pack of you. I
curse you; I rue the day when first I----"

Little O'Grady thrust out his angry hands to rend his garment, but found
that he had left it behind. Balked here, he was about to let them loose
on his hair, when the Morrell Twins, at a sign from Andrew P. Hill, now
speechless with anger, sprang up and seized Little O'Grady by both
shoulders and hustled him out of the room. Robin Morrell gave him a cuff
on the ear to boot--a cuff that was to cost him dearer than any other
action of his life. Little O'Grady paused on the other side of the
partition to curse the board again, but the watchman hustled him out into
the street. He paused on the curbstone to curse the bank, but a policeman
told him to move along. On his way back to the Warren, Little O'Grady
went a block out of his road to curse the new building, now almost ready
for occupancy. He lifted up his arm against it and anathematized it, and
a passing patrol-wagon almost paused, as if wondering whether he were not
best picked up.

"Don't bother about me," said Little O'Grady to the patrol-wagon. "I'm
all right." He looked again at the long row of columns: they were still
standing. "There yet?" he said. "Well, you'll be down before long, if I'm
any guesser."



XXII

The columns were still standing a week later; and the Pin-and-Needle
Combine, too, still managed to hang together. But every moment was
precious, and Roscoe Orlando Gibbons lost no time in giving a dinner for
Preciosa McNulty.

Robin Morrell's first impression of Preciosa had lost nothing of its
intensity--on the contrary. He had taken every possible occasion for
seeing more of her. He had invaded a stage-box at the theatre where she
happened to be sitting; he had made an invitation to call upon her at
home impossible to withhold, and he had called. Elizabeth Gibbons, who
was hand and glove with Preciosa (except that, like everybody else, she
knew nothing of her engagement), speculated aloud on the probable outcome
of all this, and her father himself, overhearing, had laid these
considerations before old Jeremiah. Briefly, Preciosa must marry Robin,
and Roscoe Orlando himself would help to the extent of bringing them
together once more by means of a dinner.

Jeremiah blinked solemnly at Roscoe Orlando's florid side-whiskers and
wide sensuous mouth. Both the affairs of the heart and the functions of
society life were far removed from the range of Jeremiah's interests and
sympathies.

"Save Morrell, and you save the bank," urged Roscoe Orlando.

Jeremiah blinked again. He was fully able to do this, if he chose. He was
immensely well off. He drew rentals from every quarter of the city. Those
gilded Louis Quinze chairs and sofas in his front parlour were, as
everybody knew, stuffed with bonds and mortgages, and coupons and
interest-notes were always bursting out and having to be crammed back in
place again. Yes, Jeremiah was the richest member of the board; but he
was also one of the smallest among the stock-holders. He shook his head.
Why risk so much to save so little?

"Then save your grandchild," pursued Roscoe Orlando.

Jeremiah stopped blinking and opened his eyes to a wide stare. "Aha! this
fetches him!" thought Roscoe Orlando.

"Will you have her marry a business-man of means and ability," he went
on, "or will you have her tie up to a poor devil of a painter, with no
friends, no position, no influence, no future?" Roscoe Orlando's brief
period of easy patronage was over; no longer was he the caressing
amateur, but the imperilled stockholder (rather a large one, too), and
Ignace Prochnow need look for no further support from his quarter. Roscoe
told Jeremiah bluntly that his granddaughter was as good as engaged (this
was his own daughter's guess) to that obscure young man from nowhere, and
asked him if he wanted the thing to end in matrimony.

Jeremiah scratched his chin. Roscoe Orlando saw with disappointment that
neither explosion nor panic was to ensue. Yes, Jeremiah remembered
Prochnow; he recalled the bold, brainy young fellow, so full of vigour
and vitality. He himself had reached an age when such things made their
impression, and when he wistfully envied so signally full a repository of
youthful hope, energy, persistence.

Gibbons eyed him narrowly; clearly his argument was failing. "However,"
he went on hurriedly, therefore, "this is no affair for us. Speak to the
child's mother; she will know how to handle it. Meanwhile, my daughters
will arrange for the dinner."

Euphrosyne McNulty jumped at the dinner. As for Preciosa's infatuation
for Prochnow (upon which Jeremiah had touched very lightly), she refused
to consider any such possibility. At most it was but a passing fancy, due
to the painting of that portrait; it would quickly dissipate: least said,
soonest mended. A girl like Preciosa, brought up so carefully, a girl who
had always had everything and who would always need to have everything,
would know how to choose between two such men. As for Robin Morrell,
Euphrosyne had been greatly taken with him. He blew into her arid parlour
the long-awaited whiff from the golden fields of "society." He was big,
loud, self-confident, tremendously and immediately at home (in a
condescending way, though this she hardly grasped),--a man to open up his
own path and trample through the world, Preciosa by his side, and
Preciosa's mother not far behind. So, up to the very hour of the Gibbons
dinner, she sang his praises in Preciosa's ear.

Preciosa was preparing to revert; she sought the soil, but she was
determined it should be the soil of her own choosing. She found Morrell
coarse, dry, hard, sandy, gritty. What she sought was some dank, rich
loam, dark, moist, productive. To be sure, great towering things grew in
the sand--pine-trees, for example, with vast trunks and with broad heads
that spread out far above the humbler growths below; but on the whole she
preferred some lustrous-leaved shrub full of buds that would soon open
into beautiful red flowers. She told her mother that she had no interest
in the Gibbons dinner and did not mean to go.

"But I mean that you shall!" retorted Euphrosyne. "After all that's been
done to get you into society you turn round now, do you, and cut off your
own parents from it? You'll go, make sure of that; and your father and I
will go with you."



XXIII

Daffingdon and Virgilia were bidden to the Gibbons dinner, along with the
rest.

"It's a sop," declared Virgilia; "it's to propitiate us. It's to make
amends--he knows he hasn't treated us fairly. Shall we go?"

"He has treated us no worse than he has treated everybody else," said
Dill, bent upon the preservation of his _amour propre_. "Look at that
young Prochnow--picked up one day and dropped the next."

"They say he's really clever," replied Virgilia. "If we failed, we failed
in good company. Just how good, we might see by going. Mr. Gibbons has
something of his at the house, you remember."

"We haven't failed yet," persisted Daffingdon. "The field is clear--just
as it was to start with. We may be able to bring them round yet. Anyway,
we'll keep up the pretence of good terms. Let's go."

Virgilia and Daffingdon had given over all mention of Japan, and had left
off the shy, desultory house-hunting that had occupied the spare hours of
their engagement. This great question with the bank must be settled
first. Nor was Virgilia sure that Daff was proving to be all she had
fancied him. He had shown less head than he might have shown in planning
the scheme, and less spunk than he should have shown in pushing it. As
she thought things over she felt that all the ideas and all the efforts
had been her own. And now the question of money. Money; it did not come
in, and yet it was the prime need. These considerations filled her mind
as they bowled along in the cab together, and she was not sure but that
their engagement was a mistake. At Roscoe Orlando's carriage-block their
cab was close behind the livery brougham of the Joyces--Abner and his
wife were going everywhere, now; and she looked after Medora half in
envy, as upon a woman whose future, whether small or great, was at least
assured. Nothing consoled her but Daffingdon's seeming determination not
to give up. Yes, there was room for more ideas, for further efforts. But
whose? His or hers?

Elizabeth Gibbons welcomed her father's guests, and Madame Lucifer backed
her up bravely. Dill gave this canvas the closest scrutiny. "It _is_
strong," he said; "it has _chic_ without end." But it had no earthly
bearing on the great problem. Another point in his own favour: he was
here and Prochnow wasn't.

Yes, he was here, and he tried to take advantage of the fact. Before long
he met Gibbons himself in front of the picture--a juncture he had
privately hoped to bring about--and was speaking of its merits and of its
author and of their common participation in the great scheme and of the
prospects and possibilities of the early future. Roscoe Orlando tried to
seem smiling and cordial and encouraging, but clearly his thoughts were
somewhere else. And his eyes. And his ears. They were wherever Preciosa
McNulty and Robin Morrell happened to be sitting or standing together. It
was no longer a question of decorations, nor of the walls that were to
give them place, nor of the colonnade through which the public would pass
to view them. It was a question of the very vaults themselves; of the
capital, the deposits, the surplus, the undivided profits, of his own
five hundred shares; of safety, of credit, of honour--oh, might this
painter but eat his dinner in quiet and let the matter of art go hang!

Eudoxia Pence looked at the new picture too, comparing its spirit and
quality with a number she had recently added to her own gallery. She also
attempted a word with her host about the thwarted pageantry at the
Grindstone, but Roscoe Orlando put off her just as he had put off Dill.

"Very well, sir," said Eudoxia firmly, within herself; "if I can't speak
here, then I will speak elsewhere. If not to you, then to others. Have
eyes and ears if you will for that poor little vulgarian alone; all the
same, I shall know how to make my point."

Preciosa was in full feather and in high colour; she seemed like a
sumptuous pocket-edition of some work bound more richly, perhaps, than it
deserved to be. She was in yellow tulle, and her mother had clapped an
immense bunch of red roses upon the child's corsage and had crowded
innumerable rings upon her plump little fingers. Her chestnut hair fell
in careless affluence round her neck and blew breezily about her temples,
and a bright spot in each cheek gave her even more than her wonted
colour. Robin Morrell, who was, of course, to take her out to dinner,
seized upon her at the very start. It was as if he had wrenched a peach
from the tree and had hastily set his greedy teeth in it--one almost saw
the juices running down his chin. Yet his satisfaction was not without
its drawbacks; the peach seemed a clingstone, after all; and there was a
bitter tang to its skin. Preciosa's eyes blazed as well as her cheeks,
but not, as some thought, from exhilaration or from gratified vanity;
rather from protestant indignation and a full determination not to be
moved. Virgilia, from her place, saw how Euphrosyne McNulty constantly
watched the child on one side and how Roscoe Orlando Gibbons as
constantly watched her on the other; and when Dill asked her, "What does
it mean?" she replied: "Leave it to me; this is nothing that a mere man
can hope to master. I shall know all about it before I quit this house."

Roscoe Orlando put the men through their liqueurs and cigars in short
order--more important concerns were at hand; Joyce, who was now beginning
to feel himself an authority in such matters, almost found in his host's
unceremonious haste good cause for resentment. James W. McNulty, who saw
nothing but the surface, supposed himself here by virtue of his growing
importance in the business world, and was fain to acknowledge the
attention by the recital of a number of appropriate "stories." During the
slight delay thus occasioned, the ladies made shift, as usual, to
entertain one another. Preciosa, relieved temporarily of the pressing
attentions of Morrell, sat with Medora Joyce on the drawing-room sofa,
proud and flattered to have the undivided regards of the most charming
"young matron" present. At the same time, Virgilia, in a shaded corner of
the library, was sounding Elizabeth for a clew. Elizabeth had little,
consciously, to tell; but, like many persons in that position, she told
more than she realized. It was not enough for the purpose, but it
dovetailed in with other information that came from other sources the day
following. When Morrell led Preciosa into the conservatory, at the
earliest possible moment, Virgilia was as keen over their exit as
Euphrosyne McNulty or as Roscoe Orlando himself. She knew what was
impending and she almost knew why.

And when Robin Morrell issued from the conservatory she knew just what
had happened. Nobody could be so dashed, so dumfounded for nothing. Yes,
that incredible child had refused him. Richard had not been good enough
for the one, but surely Robin was good enough for the other.

Preciosa's no had been without qualification or addition. Morrell knew as
little as her own mother that she considered herself fully pledged to
Ignace Prochnow.

Roscoe Orlando came up to Eudoxia. His lips were white.

"A little plan I had set my heart upon," he said, trying to smile
lightly, "has received a slight check. May I not rely on you to help it
through?"

"A little plan I had set _my_ heart upon," she returned significantly,
"has received a slight check. May I not rely on _you_? In other words, I
have my problem, just as you have yours. I must insist that justice be
done to Mr. Dill."

Roscoe Orlando bowed--only too glad to acquiesce in anything.

"One straggler brought back to camp," said Eudoxia. "To-morrow I shall
try to bring back one or two others."



XXIV

Eudoxia Pence immediately got herself into motion. During the watches of
the night she evolved plans for such a function as she thought the
present situation required. Her picture gallery, re-enforced by those six
or eight new masterpieces from Paris, she should throw open to the
general public. She would call the thing an afternoon reception, and
there would be tea. People were to be invited with some regard to form,
but the opportunity would be made rather general--almost anybody might
come who was willing to pay a dollar. This crush would supplement her
bazar, and would be announced as for the benefit of--oh, well, of any one
of the half-dozen charities that looked to her for support. She would
throw open the whole house and tea should flow like water. These doings
must take place within three days, at the outside. Time was precious and
none of her friends would take seriously anything of hers given at so
short a notice. No matter, then, who paid; no matter who poured; no
matter about anything, if only her net took in all the different people
she wanted to catch.

Next morning she rose for a busy day. She had brought back Gibbons, and
now she must bring back Hill. Young Prochnow was off the board, but that
did not put Daffingdon Dill back upon it; nor would he be there till she
should have placed him there. "We _must_ have that commission," said
Virgilia. "You shall, if I've got any influence," replied her aunt.

She had long foreseen that, one day or another, she must seize her
Grindstone stock in her talons, beat her wings about the head of Andrew
P. Hill, raise a threatening beak against his obdurate front, and ask him
what he meant by behaving so.

She drove to the bank. The old office stood empty; a last load of ancient
ledgers and of shabby furniture was just driving away. She ordered her
coupe to go to the new building. Here she found Andrew adjusting himself
to his grandiose environment, and delivered her assault.

What had he and the directors meant by such a game of fast-and-loose? Why
had they treated an artist of Mr. Dill's standing with such
inconsiderateness and injustice? Why had they tried to handle so
important a question by themselves? Why had they not consulted the
stock-holders? Why had they not consulted _her_--a stock-holder since the
foundation of the bank and an amateur of approved standing? And many more
interrogatories no less hard to answer.

Hill listened to her cowed, intimidated; it was one more trouble in a
time of trouble. He presently found his voice--or a part of it--and
explained in low, trembling tones that concerns of much greater
importance had come to the front; that this entire matter of decoration
must be set aside for the present, perhaps for all time; that some
other----

Eudoxia threw an indignant frown upon him and drove off to see his wife.

Almira Hill was at home--in these latter days she was seldom anywhere
else. Socially speaking, she had evaporated years ago; but there was no
reason why she should not precipitate herself and appear once more in
concrete form. Eudoxia had an intuitive sense that Almira would welcome
the chance.

"Receive with us," Eudoxia urged her. What easier way for Almira to see
some of her old friends? She considered. She consented.

Then Eudoxia opened against the bank. "Give me your help for my--nephew,"
she said to end with.

"Mr. Hill has spoken of this to me," replied the old lady slowly; "but he
is so worried, so anxious, about something these days, that I hardly----"

"_We_ are worried; we are anxious, too, my dear Mrs. Hill. Figure the
situation. Imagine the strain upon two young people----"

Almira had not lost all her sentiment, nor all her interest in the
concerns of youth. She promised to give what help she could.

Eudoxia sped on to see Euphrosyne McNulty. She found the household in a
state of suppressed tumult. The servant who opened the door was all at
sea; obscure sounds of sobbing came from somewhere above; and when
Euphrosyne finally washed in she was like the ocean half-subsided after a
storm. She had just learned that Preciosa had refused Robin Morrell.

"Such a caller at such a time!" she had articulated over Eudoxia's card.
It took away half the sweetness of the triumph. She rushed to her
toilet-table, hoping, meanwhile, that Norah had not boggled with the tray
and that her father-in-law had not left his pipe on top of the piano.

Eudoxia was brief. She made no vain passes of regret that Euphrosyne had
not taken her place earlier on her invitation-list. She invited her, now,
with all emphasis, to attend her "art reception," and hoped that she
would allow her dear daughter to help pour tea. A sunburst exploded
before Euphrosyne's unready eyes. She recovered herself and accepted for
both.

Eudoxia drove to the office of the Pin-and-Needle Combine. Like every
other moneyed person in town, she had a finger in that pie. Why shouldn't
she drop in on the cooks?

Robin Morrell was not there; she was received by Richard. Richard had
heard from Gibbons what was in the wind, but knew nothing as yet, of
course, about his brother's rejection.

Eudoxia understood that Richard was hand and glove with Hill. She asked
his influence as a matter of justice to Daffingdon Dill. Richard had been
impatient and resentful to begin with; now he became dogged and surly.
She had come at the wrong time and about the wrong business. Virgilia had
dismissed him with no gentle hand--people had smiled over his
discomfiture for a week. The memory of this still rankled. Why in the
world should he exert himself for Daffingdon Dill?

Let him exert himself for his brother then. But he became more dogged and
surly still. Why should his brother succeed when he himself had failed?
Why should his brother need help anyway? Why must this woman come poking
into a man's most private affairs? Eudoxia surmised, through the medium
of his sullen mood, a house divided against itself. She left Morrell in
anger and drove to her husband's office.

Every man had rebuffed her. Only the women had been complaisant--and even
these she had had to pay. As she sat by her husband's desk, waiting for
his attention, her wrath rose against the Grindstone and Hill, against
the Morrells and their Combine.

"I'll take my Grindstone stock," she declared, "and hawk it up and down
the street at eighty--half what it's worth. Let us see where Andrew Hill
will be _then_!"

Pence turned on her slowly. "I doubt whether you could get eighteen for
it to-day. The street is talking--talking low, but it's talking."

"Why, is anything wrong with the Grindstone?"

"Well, rather. Hill, I judge, has come as close to the edge as a man can
without falling over. I'm glad your holdings are no heavier."

"Ah!" said Eudoxia; "that's why he has choked off Dill! Well," she
resumed with unimpaired energy, "I'll take my Pin-and-Needle and sell it
for next to nothing. I'll give it away. I'll stick it under the cracks of
doors. I'll present it with every pound, or rather every cup of tea. Let
us see, then, how Richard Morrell----"

"Do that," said her husband, "and half the banks in town will fail.
You're not ready for such a crash as that, are you?"

"Why, what's the matter with Pin-and-Needle?" asked Eudoxia.

"It's at death's door. It's gasping. Unless something is injected, unless
somebody galvanizes it----"

"Ah!" cried Eudoxia; "so that's why Orlando Gibbons gave the McNulty
dinner! Oh, things must hold off a few days longer! Make them, Palmer!
That girl must marry him, so that I can save my Grindstone stock and my
Pin-and-Needle investments, and so that Daff can get those pictures to
paint, and so that Virgilia can get him!" Oh, heavens! She had once
aspired to guide the chariot of finance, yet all she had to offer against
this threatening squadron of calamities was an "art reception" with tea!



XXV

"Go? Of course we'll go!" said Little O'Grady spiritedly. "Anybody may go
who's able to pay a dollar and who's got a friend to name him. I hope you
and I can cough up as much as that, Ignace; and then if we have to live
the rest of the week on sawdust, why, we will. Go? I guess yes. If I'm
ever to make the Queen's acquaintance and get her profile, this is no
chance to throw away."

Prochnow was in a deplorable state and needed all the support Little
O'Grady could give him. He had not seen Preciosa for several days. He had
called at the house once or twice--that vast florid pile, which had
always looked lackadaisical rather than cruel; but it had refused to
admit him. Euphrosyne had repulsed him with the utmost contumely; even
old Jeremiah (who may not have meant to be harsh, but who seemed to be
acting under superior orders) told him he must not appear there again.
Nothing came to console him except three or four tear-stained little
scrawls from Preciosa herself. In these she vowed in simple and slightly
varying phrases to be faithful; nobody should come between them, nobody
should make her untrue, nobody should prevent her from keeping her
promise, nobody should take her away from him, and the like.

"What does it mean, Terence?" asked Prochnow, vastly perturbed by these
blind reiterations.

Little O'Grady pondered. "Her folks are against us, that's all," he
replied. "They're trying to marry her to somebody else," he told himself.
"Who can it be?" Then, aloud and cheerfully: "If you can't see her at one
house, why, just see her at another. Come along with you."

They found the town moving on Eudoxia Pence _en masse_, with several
policemen in front to keep order. On the front steps they grazed elbows
with the Joyces and the Gowans; and with these and other members of the
general public they swept on, joining the vast throng of those who were
so eager to press the great lady's Smyrna rugs with their own feet and
fumble her silk hangings with their own fingers and rap her Japanese jars
with their own knuckles and smell her new paintings with their own noses
and see Mrs. Palmer Pence herself with their own eyes. "Gee! ain't it
swell!" whispered Little O'Grady, who could make swans out of geese or
geese out of swans with equal facility.

Prochnow ignored the swells, the jars, the pictures and all the rest; he
sought only Preciosa. Little O'Grady was not in a new field for nothing,
and he looked at everybody. First of all, there was the great Eudoxia
herself, and her profile was as lovely as ever. When, when, when should
he reach the point of modelling it? She stood there with a vain pretence
of receiving,--she was too conventional to dispense with the recognised
forms even on the occasion of a mere popular outpouring. Little O'Grady
went up to her boldly and shook hands; he was outside the general
understanding that made her, in so promiscuous a function, something to
be looked at rather than touched--save by a few intimates. Only let him
bring her within range of his aura, he thought, and her subjugation would
inevitably follow. Then he stepped back and watched her. There was still
a determined cordiality in her smile, but a furtive anxiety marked the
glance she sent now and then into the second or third room beyond, where
a pressing crowd and a subdued glare of candle-light seemed to indicate a
focus of interest hardly second to the picture gallery itself. Little
O'Grady caught this anxious look. "Is she afraid for her bric-a-brac or
her spoons?" he wondered. "No, it's something more than that."

Beside Eudoxia stood Almira Hill,--"a mother in Israel, if ever there was
one," O'Grady commented. "And what's the matter with _her_? Shy? Awkward?
No, she's too old and experienced for that. There, she's looking in the
same direction. Something's up. What is it?"

It was this: Almira's husband had told her that morning how it all
depended upon Preciosa McNulty.

Roscoe Orlando Gibbons came through the crowd, with a great effect of
smiling joviality. But he too glanced over the press of heads toward the
glare of candle-light with a strained intensity not to be concealed.

Roscoe Orlando suddenly turned aside toward an old fellow who sat on a
pink brocade sofa. "See, there's her grandfather," whispered Prochnow.
Old Jeremiah had instinctively taken refuge on the one piece of furniture
that reminded him of home. Here he sat, awkwardly twisting his hands and
blinking every now and then at the great light that shone afar off. "I
could never in the world have got him to anything resembling a dinner,"
declared Eudoxia. "He acts like a stray cat," said Little O'Grady. "But
he needn't,--there seem to be plenty of the same sort here, after all."
Yes, at a second glance old Jeremiah appeared to be less the victim of
society than of circumstances; and when Roscoe Orlando Gibbons bowed over
him and whispered and they both looked toward the illumination while
Eudoxia Pence looked at them, Little O'Grady was surer than ever that
something was in the air.

He felt Prochnow suddenly slipping behind him. "Her mother!" the young
fellow explained. Yes, it was Euphrosyne in full fig and in very active
circulation. She rustled, she swooped, she darted, she was as if on
springs. "Well, she feels her oats," commented Little O'Grady. He looked
at her again. No, what moved her was not vainglory, not a restless sense
of triumph. She was keyed up to the most racking pitch of anxious
expectation. She looked whither Eudoxia and Roscoe Orlando and all the
others had looked, but with an intensified expression, and Little O'Grady
almost felt as if challenged to solve some obscure yet widely ramified
enigma.

He turned round as if in search of help. In a doorway near-by he saw
another familiar face. "Why, there's Daff!" he cried. "It's Dill, our
hated rival," he explained to Prochnow. "And that girl with him is Miss
Jeffreys, the one he's going to marry."

Prochnow looked at the tall handsome figure in the long frock-coat with
the bunch of violets, and felt abashed by his own short jacket and
indifferent shoes. He noted too the assumption of ease and suavity with
which the other was entertaining a little knot of ladies. It was this
person, then, an out-and-out man of the world, against whom he, uncouth
and unpractised boy, had presumed to pit himself!

Little O'Grady was not able immediately to detach Dill's attention from
his associates. Meanwhile he studied both Dill and Virgilia. The general
effect was brilliant enough, yet----Yes, surely they were too loquacious,
too demonstrative; they were talking against time, they were working
under cover, they were kicking up a dust. And, yes--both Daff and
Virgilia, in the midst of this gay chatter, shot certain furtive,
sidelong glances whither so many had been sent before.

The group in the doorway showed signs of breaking up. "Daff," said Little
O'Grady, "for the Lord's sake, what's on?"

"Ah, O'Grady," said Dill, in a cool, formal manner; "are you here?" Since
that calamitous episode at the bank, he had cared less than ever for
O'Grady: they had been quite right in throwing him out. He had found it
hard to tolerate his forwardness at the beginning of the negotiations,
and to carry the burden of his Bohemian eccentricity through them; and
harder still to pardon the slap-dash sally that had thrown the common fat
into the fire. Now up popped the fellow, knowing him as intimately and
familiarly as ever.

"Oh, Daff," said Little O'Grady earnestly, and all unmindful of any
possible rebuff, "what's out in that room?"

Daffingdon smiled at Virgilia. "Why don't you go and see?" he asked.

"But don't break off the match!" said Virgilia, with a nervous titter.
What state of overtension could have prompted her to a piece of bravado
so rash, so superfluous?

Little O'Grady gave her one look and sped away.

After pushing through two or three roomfuls of tall people, he finally
reached the desired threshold. He felt a hand upon his arm and found
Prochnow beside him. They both saw the same sight together.

It was a table like Dill's--only larger, with candles on it--five times
as many, and flowers--ten times as handsome, and silver and glass and
china--only a hundred times more brilliant, and girls seated about it--a
thousand times more fetching than poor sister Judith. Among them was
Preciosa, with a big feathered hat toppling on her head and the desperate
look of some hunted creature on her face. Yes, they had hung her with
chains and tied her to the stake. "If she is to pour here, after all,"
Eudoxia had said grimly, "let her pay for the privilege." And close to
the girl's elbow sat the chief inquisitor, Robin Morrell, big, bold,
unabashed, persevering, bringing all possible pressure to force her to
recant. People about them--his unconscious familiars--sipped and
chattered, and fluttered up and away, but he remained fixed throughout.
He must have her, he was determined to dominate her; in the end she could
not but yield. There was no other way out for her, and none for him. And
that sole way must be taken at once.

Little O'Grady recognised the red face, the broad shoulders, the thick
neck, the heavy hand; he still felt those fingers in his collar, that
palm against his ear. "A-a-ah!" he emitted in a long sibilant cry of
repressed rage.

"Stay where you are a minute," he said to Prochnow, and slipped away.
Ignace stared now at his rival in love just as before he had stared at
his rival in art,--yet held in check both by the intimidating splendour
of the ceremonial and by his own uncertainty as to the precise
significance of the situation.

O'Grady hurried back to Dill. "Daff, Daff!" he cried with wide eyes and
with a tremulous finger that pointed back toward the tea-table, "is that
the man?"

"What man?"

"The big brute sitting beside her."

"Robin Morrell to a 't,'" said Virgilia. "Or Richard, either."

"Are they trying to make her marry him?" demanded Little O'Grady, his
gray-green eyes staring their widest.

"That is the plan, I believe," returned Dill.

"It won't come off!" cried Little O'Grady, and dashed away.

He pushed and trampled his course back to Prochnow. In the library he
brushed against Medora Joyce.

"Oh, Dodie," he panted, "they're sacrificin' our little Preciosa to that
big brute of a Morrell!"

"I was afraid so," said Medora, with concern. "Stop it."

"I'm going to!" said O'Grady.

As he regained Prochnow's side Preciosa was just rising from the table,
and Elizabeth Gibbons was slipping into her place. Preciosa left the room
by another door, and Morrell walked close beside her.

He looked about the crowded place with an air that was both determined
and desperate. People here, there, everywhere; the rabble swarmed in the
library, the morning-room, the den, chattering, staring, gaping,
wondering. It was disgusting, it was barbarous, it made matters
impossible. Every corner bespoken, every angle occupied. Nothing left
save a nook under the great stairway--a nook shaded by dwarf palms,
however, and not too open to the general eye. He half led, half crowded
Preciosa toward it. He should speak now, a second time, and trust to bear
her down.

He spoke a second time, and a second time Preciosa refused. She had but
one idea,--an idea a bit obscured by Prochnow's absence,--yet she held it
fast.

"You will not marry me, then?"

"No."

"You have a reason?"

"The best."

"What is it?"

"I am engaged to marry some one else."

"Who is he?"

Prochnow appeared in the hall, with Little O'Grady close behind him.
Little O'Grady's mobile face was taxed to the utmost to express all that
was within him, but Preciosa saw sympathy and the promise of instant help
as clearly as Morrell saw detestation and mocking mischievousness.
O'Grady pushed aside a palm-frond and pointed toward Prochnow. "We've
come for you, darlin'," he said.

Preciosa rose; the one idea to which she had clung throughout came
uppermost and crystallized before her eyes. "Who is he?" Morrell had
asked. She raised her arm, pointed to Ignace like a true little heroine
of the drama, and said:

"There he stands!"

She went out to meet them, and the three instinctively began to push
toward the front door. She had her hat--never mind her jacket. Dill saw
them moving away and bit his lip. Roscoe Orlando Gibbons grasped a
door-jamb for support. A smothered scream was heard behind the palms; it
was Euphrosyne McNulty, fainting away, as Preciosa, Prochnow and Little
O'Grady went out through the vestibule and down the front steps together.



XXVI

The Pin-and-Needle Combine fell apart the next day. The Grindstone
National Bank followed it the day after. Richard and Robin had turned the
handle a little too briskly and the Grindstone had flown to pieces. Three
or four other banks followed.

Little O'Grady danced with joy. His curse had told. And the great hulking
bully that had dared to cuff him was flat on his back with the rest. When
O'Grady fully realized what he--_he_--had done his breast heaved proudly.
He ran over to see the fatal placard fastened on one of the Grindstone's
great polished columns, and then tramped on down the avenue of ruin with
the step and mien of a conqueror. All this devastation was due to
him--whatever the foolish newspapers, groping in the dark, might say. He
alone was the Thunderer; he alone wielded the lightning.

There was but one drawback; never should he get Eudoxia Pence's
profile--now.

Eudoxia felt that the McNultys had disgraced her,--"as people of that
sort always will if you give them a chance." Virgilia lingered in the
limbo of engagement; impossible to say, now, when matrimony might ensue.
The question of money was the question still. Dill was no Prochnow, to
carry her off by main force, nor was she a Preciosa to permit it. She
could not conceive of existence beyond the pale of society; the impulsive
action of a pair of social outcasts could scarcely serve as a precedent.
"I must wait," said Virgilia. Unconsciously she compared Daffingdon with
Ignace Prochnow and realized how easy it would be for her to wait quite a
while without discomfort, regret or protest.

Prochnow and Preciosa were married in the midst of the crash. Little
O'Grady and Medora Joyce took the other two seats in their carriage and
saw them through the ceremony. Preciosa knew that her mother would never
forgive her, but she thought it not improbable that her grandfather might
acquiesce. In any event, she would marry the man of her choice.

Little O'Grady patted Preciosa's hand patronizingly as the carriage
rolled along. He, none other, was the good angel of the whole affair.
"What do we care, darlin'," he said, "for the Morrell Combine?--hasn't it
kept us on pins and needles long enough? What do we care for the
Grindstone, either?--hasn't it ground our noses as long and hard as it
could? Down wid 'em both--and let 'em stay down, too! And let anybody
think twice, my children, before he tries to prick the skin or grind the
nose of little Terence O'Grady!"

       *       *       *       *       *

DR. GOWDY AND THE SQUASH

       *       *       *       *       *

DR. GOWDY AND THE SQUASH



I

When Dr. Gowdy finally yielded to the urgings of Print, Push, and Co.--a
new firm whose youthful persistency made refusal impossible--and agreed
to steal from his sermon-writing the number of half-hours needed for
putting together the book they would and must and did have, he certainly
looked for a reward far beyond any recognisable in the liberal check that
had started up his pen. For _Onward and Upward_ was to do some good in
the world: the years might come and go for an indefinite period, yet
throughout their long procession young men--it was for them he was
writing--would rise up here, there, and everywhere and call him blessed.
To scrimp his sermons in such a cause was surely justifiable; more, it
was commendable. "Where it has been dozens it will now be thousands,"
said the good Doctor. "I will guide their feet into the right path, and
the thanks of many earnest strugglers shall be my real recompense."

_Onward and Upward_ was full of the customary things--things that get
said and believed (said from mere habit and believed from mere
inertia),--things that must be said and believed (said by the few and
believed by a fair proportion of the many) if the world is to keep on
hanging together and moving along in the exercise of its usual functions.
In fact, the book had but one novel feature--a chapter on art.

Dr. Gowdy was very strong on art. Raphael and Phidias were always getting
into his pulpit. Truth was beauty, and beauty was truth. He never wearied
of maintaining the uplifting quality resident in the Sunday afternoon
contemplation of works of painting and sculpture, and nothing, to his
mind, was more calculated to ennoble and refine human nature than the
practice of art itself. The Doctor was one of the trustees of the Art
Academy; he went to every exhibition, and dragged as many of his friends
with him as could be induced to listen to his orotund commentaries; and
he had almost reached the point where it was a tacit assumption with him
that the regeneration and salvation of the human race came to little more
than a mere matter of putting paint upon canvas.

These were the notions that coloured the art chapter of _Onward and
Upward_. I hardly know where the good Doctor got them; surely not from
the ordinary run of things in the Paris studios, nor from any familiarity
with the private lives of the painters of the Italian Renaissance, which
show, if anything does, that one may possess a fine and rigorous
conscience as an artist, yet lapse into any irregularity or descend to
any depravity as a man. But Dr. Gowdy ignored all this. Art--the
contemplation of it, the practice of it--worked toward the building up of
character, and promoted all that was noblest in human life.

These views of his were spread far and wide. They competed with the novel
of adventure on the news-stands, and were tossed into your lap on all the
through trains. One copy penetrated to Hayesville, Illinois, and fell
into the hands of Jared Stiles.



II

Jared was an ignorant and rather bumptious young fellow of twenty-four,
who was hoping to make something of himself, and was feeling about for
the means. He had a firm jaw, a canny eye, and vague but determined
ambitions. These sufficed.

Jared lived on a farm. He liked the farm life, but not the farm work--a
fine distinction that caused his fellow-labourers to look upon him as
something of a shirk. He would rove the fields while the rest were
working in them. He thought his own thoughts, such as they were, and when
a book came his way, as now and then happened, he read it.

_Onward and Upward_ was lent to him by the daughter of the county
attorney. She thought it would tone him up and bring his nebulousness
toward solidity--she too being anxious that Jared should make something
of himself, and unwilling to wait indefinitely. Jared took the book and
looked at it. He passed quite lightly over the good Doctor's platitudes
on honesty, perseverance, and the like, having already encountered them
elsewhere; but the platitudes on art arrested his attention. "I shouldn't
wonder but what all this might be so," said Jared to himself; "I don't
know but what I should like to try it"--meaning not that he had any
desire to refine and ennoble himself, but only a strong hankering to "get
his hand in," as the phrase goes.

It was about this time that the Western Art Circuit began to evangelize
Hayesville. The Western Art Circuit had been started up by a handful of
painters and literary men in "the city"; among them, Abner Joyce, notable
veritist; Adrian Bond, aesthete, yet not without praiseworthy leanings
toward the naturalistic; Stephen Giles, decorator of the mansions of the
great, but still not wholly forgetful of his own rustic origins; and one
or two of the professors at the Art Academy. All these too believed that
it was the mission of art to redeem the rural regions. It was their
cardinal tenet that a report on an aspect of nature was a work of art,
and they clung tenaciously to the notion that it would be of inestimable
benefit to the farmers of Illinois to see coloured representations of the
corn-fields of Indiana done by the Indianians themselves. So presently
some thirty or forty canvases that had been pushed along the line through
Bainesville and Miller and Crawford Junction arrived at Hayesville, and
competed in their gilt frames with the canned peaches and the drawn-work
of the county fair.

"There, Jared," said the county attorney's daughter, who was
corresponding secretary of the woman's club that had brought about this
artistic visitation, "you see now what can be done."

Jared saw. He walked the farm, and drew beads on the barn-yard, and
indulged in long "sights" over the featureless prairie landscape. The
wish to do, to be at it, was settling in his finger-tips, where the
stores of electric energy seemed to be growing greater every day.

"I believe I could do something of the kind myself," said Jared. "I like
the country, and I'm handy at light jobs; and if somebody would give me
an idea of how to start in...."

The Hayesville Seminary had just celebrated the opening of its fifth fall
term by adding an "art department"; a dozen young women were busy
painting a variety of objects under the guidance, good as far as it went,
of an eager lady graduate of Dr. Gowdy's Academy.

"Why don't you get Miss Webb to show you?" asked the county attorney's
daughter.

"I can't study with a lot of girls," muttered Jared loutishly.

"Of course not," quickly replied the other. "Make it a private,
individual matter. Get some ideas from her, and then go ahead alone."

Jared picked up a few elementary facts about colours, canvas, and
composition in the art atmosphere of the Seminary, and then set to work
by himself. "Something sizable and simple, to start with," he said.
Autumn was over the land; nothing seemed more sizable, more simple, more
accessible, than the winter squash. "Some of 'em do grapes and peaches,"
he observed, in reminiscence of the display of the Circuit at the fair,
"but round here it's mostly corn and squashes. I guess I'll stick to the
facts--that is, to the verities," he amended, in accord with the art
jargon whose virus had begun to inoculate the town.

He elected the squash. And he never went far beyond it. But the squash
sufficed. It led him on to fame (fame of a certain curious kind) and to
fortune (at least a fortune far beyond any ever reached by his associates
on the farm).



III

Yes, Jared kept to the squash, and made it famous; and in due course the
squash made him famous. He came to be known all over Ringgold County, and
even beyond, as the "squash man." He painted this rotund and noble
product of the truck-farm in varying aspects and with varying
accessories. Sometimes he posed it, gallantly cleft asunder, on the
corner of the bran-bin, with its umber and chrome standing out boldly
against a background of murky bitumen; and sometimes he placed it on the
threshold of the barn door, with a rake or a pitchfork alongside, and
other squashes (none too certain in their perspective) looming up from
the dusky interior.

Jared mastered the squash with all the ease of true genius. He painted
industriously throughout the early winter. He had saved two or three of
his best models from the fall crop, and they served him for several
months. Squashes keep. Their expression alters but slowly. This one fact
alone makes them easier to paint than many other things--the human
countenance, for example. By the end of January Jared was emboldened to
exhibit one of his squashes at a church sociable.

"Well, Jared," said the minister's wife, "you _be_ a genius. I don't know
that I ever see anything more natural." Other ladies were equally
generous in their praise. Jared felt that at last he had found his
life-work. Henceforward it was to be onward and upward indeed.

The men were more reserved; they did not know what to make of him. But
none of them openly called him a fool--a sort of negative praise not
without its value. Nor was this forbearance misplaced--as was seen when,
along in March, Jared's father ended his fifty unprofitable years of farm
routine by dying suddenly and leaving things more or less at loose ends.
Farming was not his forte--perhaps it is nobody's. He had never been able
to make it pay, and he had gone in seeming willingness to shuffle off the
general unsatisfactoriness of it all on to other shoulders.

In the settlement that followed, nobody got the better of Jared. There
were itching fingers among the neighbours, and sharp wits too in the
family itself, but Jared shrewdly held his own. He climbed into the
saddle and stuck there. He cajoled when he could, and browbeat when he
must. "No, he ain't no fool," said Cousin Jehiel, who had come up from
Bainesville, with his eye on a certain harvester and binder. "He may make
the farm pay, even if the old man didn't."

About this time Jared, partly for solace, subscribed to an art journal.
It came once a month, and its revelations astounded him. He took a day
off and went into "the city," and spent eleven dollars to satisfy himself
that such things could really be.

"I declare, Melissa," he reported to the daughter of the county attorney
on his return to Hayesville, "but it was an eye-opener. The way the
people poured into that place!--and just to look at creeks and
corn-fields and sacks of potatoes!"

"Of course," replied the girl. "Why not? Doesn't your paper tell you that
the hope of American art is in the West, and that the best thing we can
do is to paint the familiar things of daily life? That's all the cry just
now, and you want to take advantage of it."

"And there was a sort of book," pursued Jared, "hung up by the door near
the desk where that girl sat and kept track of things. I see people
looking at it, so I looked too. You won't believe me! 'No. 137, two
hundred and fifty dollars. No. 294, six hundred and seventy-five
dollars.' I looked for No. 137, and what do you suppose it was when I
found it? It wasn't more'n two foot by eighteen inches--just a river and
a haystack and a cow or two. No. 294 was some bigger, but there wasn't
nothin' in it except a corn-field--just a plain corn-field, with some
hills 'way off and mebbe a few clouds. And there was a ticket on it, and
it said 'Sold.' What do you think of that?"

"That's all right," said Melissa. "If you want to get money, you've got
to get it out of the people that have got it. And you've got to go where
they are _to_ get it."

"And there was another picture that the book said was 'still
life'--apples and ears of corn and a bunch of celery or such and a summer
squash. Not my kind, but a squash all the same. About a foot square--one
hundred and twenty dollars. What do you think of that?"

"I think the squash has its chance, the same as anything else."

"I asked the girl who it was painted all these things. 'This is the
second annual ex'bition of the Society of Western Artists,' says she."

"There!" cried Melissa. "'Western artists'!"

"'Are they all for sale?' says I.

"'Cert'nly,' says she.

"'Are folks interested?' says I.

"'Look around you,' says she.

"I did look around. People was walking along close to the wall, one after
another, a-smellin' every picture in turn. In the other rooms there was
women standin' on clouds, and there was children with wings on and
nothin' else; but everybody give them things the complete go-by. Yes,
sir, let me tell you, Melissa Crabb, all those folks was once just
country folks like you and me. Those there city people had all come from
the country some time or other, and they was all a-longin' for country
sights and country smells. They're Western people, too, and they want
Western scenes painted for them by Western artists. There's fame
a-waitin' for the man who can do that--and money too. I guess I'm
beginning to see a way to make the old farm pay, after all."



IV

Jared during his visit to the city had not confined his attention to the
display of the Western artists. He had talked with several dealers, and
had visited one or two makers of picture-frames, and had taken note of
the prominence given to "art" in the offices and corridors of the great
hotels.

"I tell _you_," he declared roundly, "paintin' 's got the call
everywhere. You go into one of them bang-up hotels, and what is the first
thing you notice? A painting--scenery; ten or twelve feet long, too--some
of 'em. Well, that's all right; I can paint as big as they want 'em, and
frame 'em too, I guess."

He had formed some ideas of his own about framing. The prices mentioned
by the frame-makers astonished him as much as those entered in the sale
catalogue by the fond artists themselves. "No gilt for me. That's clear."
He thought of a wide flat frame he had seen at the exhibition. "It was
just a piece of plain boarding daubed over with some sort of gilt paint.
It had a fish-net kind o' strung round it, I recollect."

"What was that for?" asked Melissa.

"It was a sea view, with boats and things. Seemed a pretty good notion to
me."

"Why, yes."

"But there was one old codger come along who didn't seem to like it.
Specs and white whiskers standing out. Lot of women with him. 'Well, I
declare,' says he, 'what are we coming to? I can't understand how Mr.
English could have let in such a thing as that!' He was going for the
frame. I stepped over to the girl at the desk----"

"Seems to me you talked a good deal to that girl."

"Well, I did. She was from Ringgold County too, it turned out; hadn't
been in town but six months. She was up to all sorts of dodges,
though--knew the whole show like a book."

"Oh, she did, did she?"

"Well, she wasn't so very young, nor so very good-looking, if that's what
you're after."

"Oh, she wasn't, wasn't she?" said Melissa, somewhat mollified.

"'Who is that funny old feller?' says I to her. He was poking out his
arms every which way and talking like all possessed.

"'Why,' says she, sort o' scared like, 'that's Doctor Gowdy.' You might
have thought I had let drive at the President himself. I see I had put my
foot in it, so I pulled out as fast as I could."

"Gowdy," reflected Melissa; "haven't I heard that name before?"

"It didn't seem altogether new, somehow," acknowledged Jared.

But neither of them immediately associated this name with the authorship
of _Onward and Upward._ They laid no more stress on the title-page of a
book than you, dear reader, lay on the identity of the restaurant cook
that gets up your dinner.

"It seemed all right enough," said Jared, reverting to the frame.

"Why, yes," assented Melissa. "I don't see what could have been more
appropriate."

"Well, you watch me," said Jared, "and I'll get up something equally as
good." For this choice collocation of words he was indebted to a
political editorial in the county weekly.

Next morning he was strolling along the roadway, carefully scrutinizing a
stretch of dilapidated fence.

"What you up to, Jared?" inquired Uncle Nathan Hoskins, who happened to
be driving past. The fresh morning air had a tonic effect upon Uncle
Nathan; he showed himself disposed to be sprightly and facetious.

"Lookin' after my fences," said Jared shortly.

"'Bout time, ain't it?--he, he!" continued Uncle Nathan.

"Just about," assented Jared.

"Might 'a' begun a little sooner, mebbe," proceeded Uncle Nathan, running
his eye over several rods of flat, four-inch stuff, weather-worn and
lichen-stained, that sagged and wobbled along the road-side. "So far gone
ye hardly know where to begin, eh?"

"Where would _you_ begin?"

"Well, that len'th right in front of you has got a little more moss on it
than 'most any of the others."

"All right; I'll begin here," returned Jared. He struggled up through the
tangled growth of smartweed and bittersweet, tore a length of lichened
boarding from the swaying posts, and walked down the road with it.

Here at last was a suitable setting for the Squash.



V

Yes, _the_ Squash, before which all other squashes were to pale. It was
to be his best and biggest work, and worthy of the post he designed it to
take at the next Exhibition of Western Artists. He enlarged its scope so
as to take in a good part of the barn's interior; he boldly added a
shovel--an implement that he had never attempted before; and he put in
not only bins, but barrels--chancing a faulty perspective in the hoops.
All these things formed a repellent background of chill gray-blue, but
they brought out the Squash. It shone. Yes, it shone like a beacon-light
calling the weary and sophisticate town-dwellers back to the peace and
simplicity of country life. And it was inclosed by four neatly mortised
lengths of fencing, lichened and silvered by a half-century, it may be,
of weather taken as it was sent. Furthermore, the abundance of simulated
seeds developed by his bold halving of his model was re-enforced by a few
real seeds pasted upon the lower part of the frame.

"If all that don't fetch 'em," said Jared, "what will?"

But the exhibition jury frowned upon this ingenuous offering. Stephen
Giles pitied it; Daffingdon Dill, an influential member, and a painter
not especially affiliated with the Circuit, derided it cruelly; Abner
Joyce himself, when appealed to as a man and a brother by the
disappointed farmer-artist, bleakly turned away. Not even the proprietors
of the sales-galleries seemed willing to extend a welcome. Jared was
puzzled and indignant. Then he bethought himself of the hotels, with
their canons and jungles and views along the Canadian Pacific.

"Yes, the hotels--there's where I'll try. That's where you get your
public, anyway."

But the hotels were cold. One after another they refused him. Just one
was left, and this was so magnificent that he had never even thought of
carrying his proposal into it.

He did so now--nothing else was left to do. The clerk was even more
magnificent and intimidating than the house, but Jared faced him, and
asked for space in which to show his work.

Jared had one of his minor works under his arm--style of painting and
style of framing being fully representative of his biggest and best.
"It's this kind, only larger," submitted Jared.

The clerk condescended to look, and was interested. He even became
affable. His imposing facade was merely for use in the business, and for
cloaking the dire fact that, but two short years back, he himself had
been a raw country boy from a raw country town. He looked at the picture,
and at Jared--his knuckles, his neck-tie, the scalloped hair on his
forehead. "Could _I_ have been anything like that?" he thought. He
refused consideration to such a calamitous possibility, and became a
little more grandly formal as he went on listening to Jared's business.

"Oh, George!" he presently called across his slab of Mexican onyx; "come
here."

George came. He was a "drummer": nobody could have supposed for an
instant that he was anything else.

"What do you think of this?" The clerk took the picture out of Jared's
hands and twirled it round on one corner of its clumsy frame.

George looked at it studiously. "Why, it ain't so worse," he said. "That
squash is great--big as life and twice as natural."

"What do you think of the frame?" asked the clerk, venturing with no
little fondness to run a ringer over the lichens.

"Made out of fencing, ain't it? Why, I like it first-rate. Maybe I
haven't kicked my bare heels on just such a fence many a time!"

So had the clerk, but refrained from confession.

"Buying it?" asked George.

"No; house-room," responded the clerk, with a motion toward Jared.

"Yours?" asked the drummer.

"Yes, sir; I painted it."

"Frame your idea, too?"

"Yes."

"From the country, I suppose?"

"Yes."

"Well, so are most of the rest of us, I expect. Why, yes, give it
room--why not?" the drummer counselled his friend, and turned on his heel
and walked off.

The clerk clanged his bell. "Just have Tim come here," he directed. "How
much you expecting to get for it?" he asked Jared.

"Well, for _this_ one about a hundred and fifty, I should think."

"Right," commented the clerk. "Put a good price on a thing if you expect
people to look at it. Never mind about Tim," he called, reminded by
Jared's emphasis that the "house-room" was not for this painting, but for
another. "Well, you get your picture round here to-morrow, and I'll have
it put in the writing-room or somewhere." And he turned toward a new
arrival bent over the register.



VI

After the squash had triumphed in the rotunda of the Great Western, the
surrender of the other hotels was but a matter of time. They
reconsidered; Jared was able to place a specimen of his handiwork,
varying in size if not in character, with almost every large house of
public entertainment. He walked daily from caravansary to caravansary,
observing the growth of interest, straining his ear for comments, and
proffering commentaries of his own wherever there seemed a possibility of
acceptance. He dwelt upon his aims and ambitions too, and gave to the ear
that promised sympathy the rustic details of his biography. At first
there was some tendency to quiz him, especially among the commercial
travellers, who seemed to be, of all the patrons of the hotels, the most
numerous and authoritative. But they soon came to a better understanding
of him. Beneath all his talk about being a poor farmer boy and a lover of
nature whose greatest desire was to make others share the joy that nature
gave him, they saw that his eye was as firmly set on "business" as
theirs, and a sort of natural freemasonry kept them from making game of
him. He had chosen a singular means, true, but the end in view was in
substantial accord with their own.

About this time a great synod, or conference, or something of the kind,
flooded the hotels with ministers from town and country alike. One
forenoon the chief clerk of the Pandemonium--these functionaries were all
on familiar terms with Jared by this time, and had begun to class him
with the exhibitors of reclining-chairs and with the inventors of
self-laying railways--called our artist's attention (temporarily
diverted) back to his own work, before which a group of black-clad men
were standing. A stalwart figure in the midst of them, with shining
spectacles and bushy white whiskers, was waving his arms and growing red
in the face as he poured forth a flood of words that, at a moderate
remove, might have passed either for exposition or for expostulation.

"_There's_ a big gun," said the clerk.

Jared followed the other's quick nod.

"Why," said Jared, "it's Doctor--Doctor----"

"Dr. Gowdy," supplied the clerk. "The Rev. William S. Gowdy, D. D.," he
continued, amplifying. "He's the king-pin."

"The Rev. William S. Gow----" repeated Jared. The title-page of _Onward
and Upward_ flashed suddenly before his eyes. The man to whom he owed his
earliest quickening impulse, the man whose book had shone before his
vision like a first light in a great darkness, stood there almost within
reach of his grateful hand. He stepped forward to introduce himself and
to voice his obligations.

But Dr. Gowdy, with what, to a disinterested spectator, would have seemed
a final gesture of utter rejection and condemnation, turned on his heel
and stalked down a long corridor, with his country members (who were
prepared to like the Squash, but now no longer dared) pattering and
shuffling behind.

"Of all the false and mistaken things! Of all the odious daubs!" purled
Dr. Gowdy to his cowed and abashed following. For Dr. Gowdy, town-bred
and town-born, had no sympathy for ill-considered rusticity, and was too
rigorous a purist to give any quarter to such a discordant mingling of
the simulated and the real.

"I've never seen anything worse," he continued, as he swept his party on;
"unless it's that." He pointed to another painting past which they were
moving--a den of lions behind real bars. "That's the final depth," he
said.

The country parsons, left to themselves, would have admired the ingenuity
of this zoological presentation, but Dr. Gowdy's intimidating strictures
froze their appreciation. They pattered and shuffled along all the
faster.

Meanwhile Jared, proud to have awakened the interest of the "Rev. Gowdy"
(as the reading of the Ringgold County _Gazette_ had taught him to
express it), was busy whirling the leaves of the hotel's directory to
learn the good man's address.



VII

Before Jared could catch up with the Doctor a new tidal wave broke upon
the town and slopped through the corridors of the hotels. The provincials
(both clerical and lay) were enticed to the metropolis by a "Trade
Carnival." The Squash met them everywhere. Here, in the midst of the
city's strange and shifting life, was something simple, tangible,
familiar, appealing. Jared had had the happy thought to mount one or two
of his best pieces on easels fitted out with a receptacle for holding a
real squash. "Which is which?" cried the dear people, delightedly. The
country merchants expressed their appreciation to the commercial
travellers, and these factors in modern life, whose business it was to
know what the "public wanted" and to act accordingly, passed on the word
(casually, perhaps) to the heads of the great mercantile houses. In this
way the eminent firm of Meyer, Van Horn, and Co. became conscious of the
Squash.

Now, individually considered, the members of this firm made no great
figure. Nobody knew Meyer from Adam. Nobody knew Van Horn from a hole in
the wall. Who the "Co." might be there was nobody outside of certain
trade circles that had the slightest notion. But collectively these
people were a power. Except the street-railway companies, they were the
greatest influence of the town. They paved the thoroughfares around their
premises to suit themselves; they threw out show-windows and bridged
alleys in complete disregard of the city ordinances; they advertised so
extensively that they dictated the make-up of the newspapers, and almost
their policy. Above all, they were the arbiters of taste, the directors
of popular education. That they sold shoes, hardware, soda-water, and
sofa-pillows to myriads was nothing; that they pulled your teeth, took
your photograph, kept your bank account, was little more. For they
supplied the public with ideas and ideals. They determined the public's
reading by booming this book and barring that; their pianos clanged all
day with the kind of music people ought to like and to buy; and the
display in their fifteen great windows (during the Christmas season
people came from the remotest suburbs expressly to see them) solidified
and confirmed the popular notions on art.

Well, Meyer, Van Horn, and Co. had set their minds on having a
"ten-thousand-dollar painting." It would be a good advertisement.

They sent for Jared.

"Ten thousand dollars!" gasped the young fellow. He saw the heavens
opening. "Why, I could get up a _great_ thing for that!"

"I guess you could!" retorted old Meyer brusquely. "You could do it for
five hundred. That's what you _will_ do it for, if you do it at all." He
treated Jared with no more consideration than he would have given a
peddler vending shoe-strings and suspenders from the curb.

"Why," said Jared, abashed, indignant, "you said ten thou----"

"Let me explain," put in Van Horn, a little less inconsiderately. "We
want a ten-thousand-dollar painting, and we're willing to pay five
hundred dollars for it."

"Who'd come to see a painting billed at five hundred dollars, do you
think?" snarled Meyer. "Nobody. You can see that kind of thing anywhere,
can't you?"

"I s'pose you can," assented Jared, mindful of his first exhibition.

"But ten thousand will fetch 'em."

"Five hundred dollars, then," said Van Horn; "that's what we'll give you.
And it wants to be bigger than anything you've got on show anywhere, and
the frame wants to be twice as wide. I suppose you've got plenty more of
that fence left?"

"Yes," assented Jared.

"Well," said Meyer, "you'll never have a chance to realize any more on it
than you've got right here. And don't economize with your seeds--stick
'em on good and plenty."

"We'll give you a whole window, or a place at the foot of the main stairs
close to the fountain," proceeded Van Horn. "We put it out as a
ten-thousand-dollar production and bill you big as the artist. Everybody
in town will see it, and the advertising you'll get--why, ten thousand
won't begin to express it."

"And we want you to put in a lot of farm stuff," said Meyer junior, whose
taste in window-dressing had often roused the admiration of the entire
town. "Vines and grasses, and a lot of squashes--real ones. I suppose
you've got enough faith in your work to face the comparison?"

"I s'pose I have," said Jared. "I guess I've faced it before this."

"I want some real squashes on the frame too," said the elder Meyer, from
whom the son's fine taste was directly derived. "Ever tried that?"

"In a small way," said Jared.

"Try it now in a large way. Half a squash, like a big rosette, on each
corner of the frame--the half with the handle on it, y'understand." Meyer
saw the squash as a kind of minor pumpkin.

"If I put it in the window," said the son thoughtfully, "I shall want
some saw-horses and bushel baskets and----"

"Take 'em right out of stock," said his fond father.

--"something to make a real country scene, in fact. And possibly a farmer
sitting alongside in jeans. Just the place for the artist himself. It
might be better, though, to put the whole show by the fountain. In that
case I'd have a band, and it would play, 'On the Banks of the Kankakee.'"

"Have you got that song on hand?" asked his father.

"It ain't written yet, but it will be inside of a week; and in a week
more the whole town will be going wild over it, or my name----"

Van Horn cut short the youthful visionary. "Well," he said to Jared, "you
hustle off and get the show together. Check for five hundred on delivery.
And mum's the word," he added, with good-natured vulgarity, "on both
sides."

"Ain't nobody ever said I talked too much," mumbled Jared, reaching for
his hat.



VIII

Soon the Squash dawned on the town--the Last, the Ultimate. Jared had
soothed his ruffled feelings and gone back to his old barn and worked for
a fortnight. The result was in all men's eyes: a "Golden Hubbard"--an
agricultural novelty--backed up by all the pomp and circumstance a
pillaged farm could yield.

"There it stands, Melissa," he said to the girl, who had come out with an
admiring little company to bid Jared's masterpiece godspeed. "And here
_I_ stand--a ten-thousand-dollar artist, and the only one in the
country."

"I'm proud of you, Jared," panted Melissa, with little effort to conceal
the affectionate admiration that filled her.

"And I'm grateful to you. You believed in me--you encouraged me----"

"Yes, I did, Jared," said Melissa shyly. They were alone, behind the
shelter of the barn door.

"And next to Dr. Gowdy--"

"You've seen him? You've thanked him?"

"Not yet. But I'm going to as soon as I get this picture in place. This
here ain't the end, Melissa; it ain't hardly the beginning. There ain't a
picture of mine all over town that won't be worth double next week what
it is this--and people anxious to pay the money, too. Just wait a little,
Melissa; there's a good deal more to follow yet"--an ambiguous utterance
to which the girl gave the meaning that her most vital hope required.

A few days later the city press was teeming with matter pertinent to
young Mr. Meyer's newest display--the paper that refused to teem would
have had to tell him why. Jared stood in the calcium-light of absolute
unshaded publicity. "An American Boy's Triumph." "A New Idea in American
Art." "The Western Angelus"--this last from a serf that submitted,
indeed, yet grimaced in submitting. Under head-lines such as these were
detailed his crude ideas and the scanty incidents of his life. And there
were editorials, too, that contrasted the sturdy and wholesome
truthfulness of his genius with the vain imaginings of so-called
idealists. These accounts rolled back to Ringgold County. "Ten thousand
dollars! ten thousand dollars!" rang through township after township.
"Ten thousand dollars! ten thousand dollars!" murmured the crowds that
blocked the street before the big entrance to Meyer, Van Horn, and Co.'s.
All this homage helped Jared to gloss over the paltriness of their actual
check. By reason of this double hosanna he was a ten-thousand-dollar man
in very truth.

"And _now_," said Jared, "I will go and see Dr. Gowdy."



IX

"Dr. Gowdy is not at home this afternoon," they told Jared in response to
his ring; "he is addressing a public meeting down town."

This would have applied to half the days of every calendar month
throughout the year. When Dr. Gowdy let a day pass without making some
public utterance, he counted that day as good as lost. He spoke at every
opportunity, and was as much at home on the platform as in the pulpit.
Perhaps even more so; there were those who said that he carried the style
of the rostrum and the hustings into the house of prayer. Certainly his
"way" was immensely "popular"--vigorous, nervous, downright, jocular,
familiar. Whether he talked on Armenia, or Indian famines, or
street-railway franchises, or primary-election reform, or the evils of
department stores (he was very strong on this last topic), the
reports--he was invariably reported--were sure to be sprinkled freely
with "laughter" and "applause." To-day Dr. Gowdy was talking on art.

"It's going to be a hot one!" said the students among themselves. And
they packed the assembly-hall of the Academy half an hour before the
Doctor's arrival.

The lecturer who was delivering the Wednesday afternoon course on Modern
French Sculpture had failed to come to time, and Dr. Gowdy, almost on the
spur of the moment, had volunteered to fill the breach. He telephoned
down that he would talk on Recent Developments in Art. This meant the
display of Meyer, Van Horn, and Co.

Dr. Gowdy had seen the abominable exhibition--who, during the past week,
had not?--and had been stirred to wrath. He fumed, he boiled, he bubbled.
But it was not merely this that had roused his blood to fever-heat. No;
Jared Stiles, emboldened by his success in the shopping district, had
applied to Mr. English, the director of the Academy, for a room in which
to make a collective exhibit of the masterpieces at present scattered
through various places of public resort and entertainment. Mr. English
had of course refused, and Dr. Gowdy, of course, had warmly backed him
up. But Mr. Hill, the vice-president, and Mr. Dale, the chairman of the
finance committee, had taken the other side. They had both been country
boys--one from Ogle County, the other from the ague belt of Indiana--and
their hearts warmed to Jared's display over on Broad Street. Their eyes
filled, their breasts heaved, their gullets gulped, their rustic boyhood
was with them poignantly once more. They murmured that English was a
hidebound New-Englander who was incapable of appreciating the expansive
ideals of Western life, and that Gowdy, city-born and city-bred, was
wholly out of sympathy with the sturdy aims and wholesome ambitions of
the farm and prairie. For once Art might well take a back seat and give
honest human feeling a fair show. They hinted, too, that the approaching
annual election might bring a general shake-up; English might find
himself supplanted by some other man more in touch with the local life
and with that of the tributary territory; and Gowdy--well, Gowdy might be
asked to resign, for there were plenty of citizens who would make quite
as good a trustee as he had been.

Some inkling of these sentiments had come to Dr. Gowdy's ears. He scented
the battle afar off. He said "Ha! ha!" to the trumpets. He pranced, he
reared, he caracoled, he went through the whole _manege._ He outdid
himself. The students, his to the last man, simply went mad.

For the past year there had been a feud between Dr. Gowdy and Andrew P.
Hill. Hill, relying on his own taste and judgment, had presented the city
with a symbolical group of statuary, which had been set up in the open
space before the Academy. This group, done by a jobber and accepted by a
crass lot of city officials, was of an awful, an incredible badness, and
the better sentiment of the community had finally crystallized and
insisted upon its removal. Dr. Gowdy and Professor English stood on the
steps of the Academy and watched the departure of the truck that was
carrying away the last section of this ambitious but mistaken monument.

"Well," said English, with a quizzical affectation of plaintive patience,
"we learn by doing."

"And sometimes by undoing," retorted Dr. Gowdy tartly.

Hill heard of this observation, and came to the scratch with
animadversions on Dr. Gowdy's maladroit management of the finances of the
Famine Fund (a matter that cannot be gone into here). This was blow for
blow, and ever since then Dr. Gowdy had panted to open the second round.

Jared Stiles, standing on his own merits or demerits, might have got off
more lightly, but Jared Stiles, as a possible protege of Andrew P. Hill,
was marked for slaughter. This new heresy and all its supporters must be
stamped out--especially the supporters.



X

Dr. Gowdy stamped it out--and the crowd stamped with him. The fiery
denunciations of the Doctor kindled an answering flame in the breasts of
his youthful auditory. In five minutes hands, lungs, and feet were all at
work. The youths before him awakened the hot, headlong youth still within
him, and he launched forth upon a tirade of invective that was wild and
reckless even for him.

"This folly, this falsity, this bumptious vulgarity--shall we not put an
end to it?" cried the Doctor.

"Yes, yes," responded the house.

"No; go on," said a single voice.

The Doctor laughed with the rest, and a wave of delighted applause swept
over the place.

"Shall we not purify the temple of art? Shall we not drive out the
money-changers?"

"Yes, yes," called the audience. For Jared had never drawn from the
antique--he was trying to climb in like a thief and a robber.

"Shall we not?" repeated the Doctor, searching the house for that single
voice.

"Sure," said the voice, and another wave of applause rolled from the
foyer to the rostrum.

"Ten thousand dollars!" shouted the Doctor. "The man who says he paid ten
thousand dollars for that agglomeration of barn-yard truck is one of two
things: if he did pay it, he's a fool; and if he didn't, he's a liar!
Which is he?"

"He's a fool!" cried half the men.

"He's a liar!" cried the other half.

"Oh--h!" shrilled the young women.

The Doctor wiped his streaming brow.

"What kind of a community is this, anyhow?" he resumed, stuffing back his
handkerchief into his pocket. "Here we have this magnificent school
[applause] that for the past fifteen years has been offering the highest
possible grade of art instruction. A corps of thirty earnest and
competent teachers [loud applause and a few cat-calls] are ministering to
the needs of three thousand promising and talented young people, the
flower of our great Northwest----" [Tremendous and long-continued
applause, during which the continuity of the speaker's remarks was lost.]
The Doctor filled in the minutes of tumult by taking several sips of
water.

"Why, you, we, this Academy, should be the leaven, the yeast, to work
upon our great metropolis; not merely the flower, but the self-raising
flour"--a pause for appreciation of the pun--"the self-raising flour
[loud laughter, easily yielded and unnecessarily prolonged] that is to
lift yourselves, and the city with you, from the abyss of no-art, and
from the still deeper abyss of false art. That's where we're groping;
that's where we're floundering. I declare, when I was elbowing my way
through that struggling, gaping crowd [cries of "Oh, Doctor!" and
laughter], I could only ask myself the question that I have just asked
you here: what kind of a community is this, anyhow?"

Up popped a shock of black hair from northern Michigan.

"It's rotten!" Shouts. Cat-calls.

"I should think it was!" vociferated the Doctor.

He went ahead for half an hour longer, crowding on more steam, acquiring
a more perilous momentum, throwing out an ever-widening torrent of
reckless personalities, not forgetting the ill-fated monument of Andrew
P. Hill. ("Applause" and "laughter" were very frequent just here.) He
ended his improvisation without the clearest idea in the world of just
what he had said, and went home well pleased.



XI

When Dr. Gowdy took up the _Daily Task_ next morning--there were sixteen
pages of it--the first thing that met his eye was a picture of
himself--the familiar two-column cut that had not had an airing for more
than three months. "Gowdy Gives Us Up," said the head-line.

"What now?" wondered the good Doctor. "Or rather, which?" For he knew
that every public utterance reported in the daily press of the town was
given one of two twists, the local or the personal. This was apparently
the local. The personal was to follow--and it did.

Yes, the _Daily Task_ had been represented at the Academy, and its young
man, by a marvel of mutilation and misrepresentation, had put together a
column to convey the impression that Dr. Gowdy was a carping Jeremiah,
intent upon inflicting a deadly wound on local pride. "Oh, shucks!" said
the worthy man, and went on with his toast and coffee.

But the other papers, though unrepresented at the Academy, had quickly
detected the possibilities resident in Dr. Gowdy's abounding
personalities, and the evening sheets were full of interviews. What did
Jared Stiles think of the attack on him as a representative Western
artist? What did Meyer, Van Horn, and Co. think of Dr. Gowdy's
characterization of their enterprise and the pointed alternative it
presented? What did Andrew P. Hill, as the representative of local wealth
and culture, think of Dr Gowdy's strictures on the self-made man's
endeavour to adorn the city that had given him success and fortune? What
did the distinguished members of the Western Art Circuit think of such
treatment toward their most promising and conspicuous protege? All these
people had thoughts, and none of them was slow in expressing them.

"I can't understand it, nohow; I swan, I'm completely knocked off my
feet," said Jared to the young man of the _Evening Rounder_, in the
rustic dialect of the vaudeville. "Why, that there man--I've allus looked
on him as my best friend. It was that book of his'n that give me my
start, and now he turns agen me. But he's wrong, and I've got the hull
town to prove it. And if he's wrong, by gum, he'll have to pay for it. He
can't trip up the heels of an honest country boy and not get tripped up
hisself. I don't know yet just what I'll do, but----"

With the _Evening Pattern_ Jared was more academic. "I acknowledge that
this attack comes as a great surprise. I had always regarded the reverend
gentleman as the chief of my friends. His own book for young men [name
not mentioned--Print, Push, and Co. did not advertise in the _Pattern_]
was my earliest inspiration. Such conduct seems as inconsistent as
inconsiderate. The public, I think, will be certain to support me. And if
the words of the address are correctly reported, I shall be found, I
believe, to have good grounds for an action at law. An intelligent jury,
I make no doubt----"

The two Meyers were delighted. This was advertising indeed! Van Horn, a
shade less thick-skinned, stuck at the animadversions made so spiritedly
by the Doctor and so vociferously supported by his audience. They wore
upon him; they seemed almost actionable. He sent for the son of their
credit man, a youth enrolled at the Academy, where he was learning to
design carpets and curtains, and tried to get from him just what the
Doctor had really said. This solicitude reacted upon the Meyers, and
Meyer junior, who gave the interview, intimated that such language was
actionable beyond a doubt. "Our Mr. Levy will attend to this. We have the
endorsement of the general public, and that makes us still less willing
to have anybody challenge our business acumen"--all this was but an
elegant paraphrase of Sidney Meyer's actual remarks, for he had left
school at sixteen and had never looked into a book since--"or our
business integrity."

Abner Joyce, on behalf of the Circuit, gave out a grave interview in a
few guarded words. Though Joyce by no means looked upon Jared as a
protege of his organization, yet his essential sympathy with the country
still held full sway, and he felt it possible to regard young Stiles not
as a mere freak, but as a human creature like ourselves, and struggling
upward, like the rest of us and to the best of his powers, toward the
light. But the town did not want restraint and reason just then, and
Joyce's well-considered words went--much to his mortification--for next
to nothing. Bond, who better apprehended the spirit of the hour, let
himself loose in a vein of pure fantasy,--he ventured on the whimsical,
the sprightly, the paradoxical. The poor fellow sent to interview him
might as well have tried to grasp a bundle of sunbeams or a handful of
quicksilver. His report turned out a frightful bungle; the wretched Bond,
made clumsy, fatuous, pointless, sodden, when he had meant to show
himself as witty and brilliant as possible, was completely crushed. With
Joyce going for next to nothing and Bond for worse than nothing, the Art
Circuit could hardly be said to shine. It paled, it sickened, it drooped
away, and presently it died.

As for Andrew P. Hill, he did not wait for the interviewer; he wrote to
his favourite journal over his own signature. If he himself, straying
outside of his legitimate field (banking and investments), had failed
with "Our City Enlightening the Universe," Dr. Gowdy, astray in the field
of finance, had failed no less egregiously. Yes, his handling of the
Famine Fund had been maladroit and eccentric to the point that permitted
doubts as to his own personal integrity: why, then, should he be casting
doubts upon the veracity, the business honour, of others.

This was a word for Meyer, Van Horn, and Co., who were tenants of Hill's.
Landlord and tenant were just now in the midst of some delicate
negotiations, and Hill hoped that a word of the right kind from him might
help to make adjustment easier. Meyer, Van Horn, and Co. were intending
to arrange a summer garden on their roof. Query: was the roof theirs--was
it included in the lease? Hill felt sure of carrying his
point,--decidedly the roof was an entirely distinct matter from the ten
floors beneath it; but the situation might well stand a little
lubrication if good feeling were to endure. Therefore Meyer, Van Horn,
and Co. had the satisfaction of reading that William S. Gowdy was
altogether too impulsive, erratic and unreliable--happily Hill did not
employ the word "untrustworthy"--for holding a quasi-public position of
some importance. Age was impairing his judgment and setting a term to his
usefulness.

Dr. Gowdy flew into a passion. Threatened with legal proceedings!--he,
the blameless citizen. Accused of dishonesty!--he, the pattern of
integrity. Taunted with failing powers!--he, the inexhaustible reservoir
of vigour, of energy! What, after all this, were the pin-pricks daily,
hourly inflicted by the press, the post, the tongues of indignant
associates, all intent on vindicating the honour of a community he had so
wantonly attacked? What were squibs, caricatures, saucy verses, anonymous
letters, cold looks from former friends, hot taunts from casual
acquaintances? For art had been attacked in the very home and haunt of
art! The town had been knifed under the ribs by one of her own
sons!--made ridiculous in the eyes of the ribald East, and dubious in the
regard of the trusting, tributary West!

Well, what would they have? demanded the Doctor. Should we gain anything
whatever by always throwing bouquets at ourselves? Could we go along
forever living on the flubdub of self-praise?

But a truce to all this!--for Dr. Gowdy was coming to see, to feel, to
consider but one thing--the Squash. Here was the fountain-head of all his
woes. "Perdition take that fellow!" he exclaimed, with his thoughts
fiercely focused on the unseen Jared Stiles.



XII

Yes, the Squash had begun to run, and nothing, apparently, had the power
to stop it. It was putting out leaves here, blossoms there, and tendrils
everywhere. Particularly in the press. Interviews continued. Generals,
judges, merchants, capitalists--the whole trying tribe of "prominent
citizens"--were asked what they thought of such an attack on the fair
fame of the city by one of its own sons. Less prominent citizens sent in
their views unasked. Professors of crayon portraiture wrote to tell the
Doctor he knew nothing of art. Lecturers to classes in civics advised him
that he little realized the citizen's duty to his native town. The
_Noonday Worm_, which had more than once praised the Doctor's public
spirit, now turned on him and called him a renegade. The _Early Morning
Fly_, among other buzzings, buzzed this: "If you don't like our city,
Doctor, there is Another--higher up. Good-bye; we'll see you later!" The
Doctor, who had always felt that he had done as much as any for the
town's well-being within, and more than many for its repute abroad, saw
now that he had been taking much too favourable a view of himself.

Only the staid old _Hourglass_ had a word in his behalf--a sober
editorial on the art conditions actually prevalent. The _Hourglass_ was
in some degree Dr. Gowdy's mouthpiece. It had a yearly contract with him
for the publication of his sermons--they came out every Monday
morning--and Dr. Gowdy handed over the proceeds to the Board of Foreign
Missions. This contract was about to expire, and it was a question
whether it should be renewed. Meyer, Van Horn, and Co. said no. Dr. Gowdy
had a column or two in the _Hourglass_ on one day in the week, but Meyer,
Van Horn, and Co. had a whole page every week-day and a double one on
Sunday. And they paid for it! They disliked the editorial. They
disapproved the sermon. The contract was not renewed, and Dr. Gowdy
raged.

On the heels of this came a bill from Meyer, Van Horn, and Co. for
tin-ware. It had been purchased but a week before, yet the bill bore
these words, stamped in red ink and set askew with a haste that seemed to
denote a sudden gust of spite: "Please remit."

"Henrietta!" called the Doctor to his wife; "how's this? You know I never
trade at any of those abominable department stores! You know what I think
of them: they demoralize trade; they take the bread out of the mouth of
the small dealer; they pay sinfully low wages to the poor girls that they
enslave----"

It was the new cook, it appeared, who had purchased a few pie-pans on her
own initiative.

"Discharge her!" roared the Doctor.

Two or three days later the Squash put forth a new tendril. It had
invaded his home, and now it invaded his pulpit, so to speak. Exacerbated
by persecution, Dr. Gowdy had thrown off all restraint. His one real
weakness, his inability to keep from talking when talking was going on,
grew plainer every hour in exact proportion as his invective, his
vituperation, grew stronger. He rushed into print, like some of the
others, and his expressions were made matter for consideration at the
monthly meeting of the ministers of his own denomination. Briefly, his
brethren themselves (brutishly insensible to the abundant provocation)
censured him for language that was violent and unchristian.

"I'll resign!" said Dr. Gowdy.

"You'll do nothing of the sort," said his wife.

"Of course I sha'n't," he returned.

Then the Squash invaded the Academy. The shake-up came; Professor English
was removed; and Dr. Gowdy was requested to withdraw from the board of
trustees.

"I'll resign this time, anyway!" said he.

"I wish you would," said his wife.

Next day came a letter from "our" Mr. Levy. It as good as asked Dr.
Gowdy's attendance at the store. Dr. Gowdy tore the letter into very
small scraps, thrust them into an envelope, slapped on a stamp with a
furious hand, and sent them back.

Then "our" Mr. Levy called at the house, accompanied by a Mr. Kahn, whose
particular function was left in some vagueness.

Mr. Kahn felt around the edge of the thing. "It can be settled, I am
inclined to think," he said, smoothly.

"So it can," said the Doctor--"by your both going out that door inside of
ten seconds."

But Mr. Kahn remained. "Your libellous utterances----" he began.

"Mine? Those students', you mean. Sue _them_--in a body!"

"We may prefer to sue you."

"Sue away, then! I'll put my standing against that of any department
store in existence! This is a mere impudent speculation, impossible to
carry out in the face of the public opinion of a Christian community----"

"Is it?" asked Mr. Kahn blandly.

This equivoke checked Dr. Gowdy for an instant. "It used to be," he said,
with a fierce smile. The smile vanished and the fierceness remained.
"Go," he said. "I'm stronger than both of you together. There's the door.
Use it!" He towered over them with red face, threatening arm, bristling
white whiskers.

"Drop it," said Mr. Kahn to Mr. Levy, as they went down the Doctor's
front steps; "he's a fighter."



XIII

An hour later the Doctor, looking out of his study window, saw a buggy
drive up and stop at his carriage-block. It contained a rustic-looking
young man, dressed in new and showy garments that had the cachet of the
department store, and a young woman brave in such finery as young women
wear when approaching the most important hour of their lives.
Instinctively the Doctor reached for his prayer-book, an inspired volume
that had a way of opening almost automatically at the marriage service.

But only the young man alighted. He came up the front walk with an
expression of fell determination about his firm-set mouth. The young
woman, holding the reins, frowned at Dr. Gowdy's house-front--in marked
repugnance and indignation.

Jared had come to tell Dr. Gowdy what he thought of him--their first and
only meeting. Dr. Gowdy at a distance had impressed him as an abstract
moral force, but Dr. Gowdy close at hand was a mere man like himself.
Jared pushed aside all deference and spoke his mind.

"You set me up an inch," said Jared hardily, "and then you went to work
to take me down an ell. You've tried to harm me all you could; you've
tried to ruin me. But it couldn't be done. Let me tell you this: I've
sold seventeen hundred dollars' worth of my work here, and the first of
the month I'm going East with a lot more of it. A man with money in his
pocket can get his rights," said Jared truculently.

Dr. Gowdy, to whom Jared too had been an abstraction--an abstraction
compact of bumptious heresy as regarded art and of crass ignorance as
regarded life in general--finally realized him now as a human being,
faulty and ill-regulated, indeed, but not altogether unlikeable, and by
no means lacking in a sort of rude capacity. He experienced, not for the
first time, the alleviating quality resident sometimes in personal
presence, even the presence of an antagonist.

But Jared had no sense of this. "You've made fun of me," he went on;
"you've made me ridiculous in my own home. They're all laughin' at me
down there. All but her"--with an awkward gesture toward Melissa, visible
through the front window. "She's stuck to me right along. She believed in
me from the beginning. It was her gave me that book of yours----"

"That book, that book!" groaned Dr. Gowdy. Alas for the refining and
ennobling influences of art! Threatened and hectored in his own house by
a loutish, daubing plough-boy!

"You've interfered with my success; you've taken money out of my pocket.
Do you want to know what I'm goin' to do? I'm goin' to sue you, that's
what! Her father is our county attorney, and he'll help me see that I get
my rights!"

"Sue me? Do, you poor ignorant young cub!" cried the Doctor. "I've just
had one lawsuit to-day, and what I want more than anything else is
another!"

Jared glowered at him heavily--a look that was not without its effect on
the Doctor. Jared knew nothing of the complexities and delays and
expenses and uncertainties of the law, but he had already taught Dr.
Gowdy that the overbearing power of sheer ignorance was not to be
despised.

"I may be a poor ignorant young cub," he returned, "but, for all that, I
know how to take care of myself. And of another too--that right will be
mine within half an hour." A second slight gesture toward the window. Dr.
Gowdy's accustomed ear recognised the confident tone of the bridegroom.

"Now, see here," said he, with a sudden lurch into what seemed an
unceremonious frankness. "Let me make amends." For there was a positive
note in Jared that responded to the positive strain within himself. Jared
was more likeable than Mr. Kahn, and better worthy of cautious heed as an
antagonist. Why, indeed, should he be further antagonized at all?

"Yes, let me make amends," said the Doctor. "Let me"--here the
prayer-book opened almost of its own accord--"let me--marry you."

Jared's eyes blazed. "Do you think that Melissa Crabb would----"

"Yes, I do," said the Doctor.

"We're going to Mr. Shears, two blocks down the street." said Jared
imperviously.

"You're going to stop here," said the Doctor.

The force of personal relation prevailed--as it almost always does when
given a chance. Jared yielded; Melissa acquiesced. She detached her frown
from the Doctor's house-front, climbed down out of the buggy, accompanied
Jared and the Doctor indoors, and he made them one forthwith.

The Doctor's performance of the marriage ceremony was famous--the town
was full of people who would never let anybody but Dr. Gowdy marry them.
To those who knew, Mr. Shears was nowhere. The Doctor's method was a
wonderful blend of gravity and of intimacy; he made you feel that you
were the one man and woman in the world--the world summed up, indeed, in
a single pair--and that you were going through a ceremony just a shade
more solemn than any other man or woman had ever gone through before. His
voice would be shot through with little tremors that showed his sincerity
and his individual interest--briefly, Jared and Melissa had no cause to
regret Mr. Shears.

The Doctor kissed the bride in hearty, fatherly fashion--Henrietta kissed
her too--and refused the fee Jared offered him.

"No," he said; "I've cost you too much already."

Jared wrung the Doctor's hand, and wondered that any mere man could fill
his heart with such a tremor and such a glow.

"I'm going to see you again before you leave for the East?" asked the
Doctor.

"Well, I have two weeks, at three hundred a week, with the Gayety
Theayter," said Jared. "I put the finishing-touches to a picture every
night in full view of the audience, and frame it with my own hands."

"Good-bye here, then," said the Doctor.



XIV

This was the turning of the tide for Dr. Gowdy. From this time on, things
began to run his way once more. The ministerial body, at its next
meeting, reconsidered its resolution of censure; surely their brother had
been sorely tried. The threatened suit of Meyer, Van Horn, and Co. was
quashed by the Doctor's own dauntless bearing. The _Hourglass_ agreed to
open its columns to him, though but for a short synopsis and without
remuneration--so that he had to go into his own pocket for the Foreign
Missions. And finally, the students at the Academy refused to hear of his
withdrawal as trustee. They met; they protested; they resolved; they
clamoured. "We want our Gowdy back! we want our Gowdy back!"--such was
their cry. Their cry was heard; they got their Gowdy back. When next he
addressed them (it was only on Ephesian Antiquities--a safe subject)
their cry was heard again--heard, possibly, in the interior of the next
State. It was the proudest moment of the Doctor's public life.

Jared Stiles's "Golden Autumn," handled and framed in his usual manner,
and "valued at" ten thousand dollars--none of Jared's larger pieces now
falls below that figure--will soon go trailing, exhibitionwise, through
the halls of the Eastern seaboard. But it is an error to assert that the
name of the painting was suggested by the Rev. William S. Gowdy. No; he
still stubbornly ranges all this work, and indeed all similar work in any
other field of art, under the generic name of the Squash.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE END

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