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Title: Infatuation
Author: Osbourne, Lloyd
Language: English
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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 "Infatuation" ***

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                             *INFATUATION*


                                   BY

                             LLOYD OSBOURNE

                               AUTHOR OF
                 The Motomaniacs, The Adventurer, Etc.



                         With Illustrations by
                             KARL ANDERSON



                              INDIANAPOLIS
                       THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY
                               PUBLISHERS



                             COPYRIGHT 1909
                       THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY

                                 MARCH



                                PRESS OF
                            BRAUNWORTH & CO.
                        BOOKBINDERS AND PRINTERS
                            BROOKLYN, N. Y.



                             *INFATUATION*


                              *CHAPTER I*


Phyllis Ladd lost her mother at twelve; and this bereavement, especially
terrible to an only child, brought with it two consequences that had a
far-reaching effect on her character. An ardent, high-strung nature,
acquainted so early with a poignant sorrow, gets an outlook on the world
that is so just and true as to constitute a misfortune in itself.  A
child ought not to think; ought not to suffer; ought not to understand.
Individuality, sympathy, sensibility awaken--qualities that go to make a
charming human being--but which have to be paid for in the incessant
balance of our complex existence.  Phyllis’ school-fellows were no
longer the same to her; she felt herself a person apart; though she
played as gaily as any of them, and chattered her head off, and tripped
blithely along Chestnut Avenue entwined in the arms of her companions,
she was aware, down in her secret heart, that she was "different."

At twelve, then, her path diverged from the commonplace, in which, as we
all have to admit, however reluctantly, the chances for a happy life are
best.

The second consequence of her mother’s death was to bring her into
contact with a scarcely known individual--her father.  This grave,
handsome man, who sat behind a newspaper at breakfast, and who was not
seen again till dinner time; who drove away every morning behind a
liveried coachman and a pair of shining bays to a region called "the
office"; whose smile and voice were always a shy delight to her--this
demigod, admired, unknown, from whom there emanated a delicious sense of
security and strength, now suddenly drew her to his heart, and became
her world, her all.

Robert T. R. Ladd was the president of the K. B. and O. Railway.  Rich
himself, and the son of a rich man, his interests in Carthage were
varied and many, engaging his activities far beyond the great road that
was associated with his name.  Carthage was an old-fashioned city; and
the boys who had grown up together and succeeded their fathers were
clannish to a degree little known in the newer parts of this country.
Joe, who was prominent in electricity and gas, might want to consolidate
a number of scattered plants, and to that end would seek the assistance
of Tom and Harry and Bob.  George, perhaps, in forecasting the growth of
Carthage a little too generously, was in temporary straits with his
land-scheme--well, he would ask Tom and Bob to tide him over, making a
company of himself, and taking them in.  Frank and his brother, in
converting their private bank into the Fifth National--induced as much
as anything by the vanity of seeing their own names on their own
greenbacks--would feel the need of a strong local man on the new
directorate.  Would Bob oblige them?  "Why, with pleasure, though if
somebody else would do as well--"  "Oh, we must have _you_, old fellow."

Such was Carthage--at least the Carthage of Chestnut Avenue, of the long
lines of stately and beautiful mansions on what was called the West
Side, the Carthage that supported the Symphony Orchestra, owned the
parterre boxes at the opera, dined, drove, danced, and did business
together--as compact and jealous a little aristocracy as any in Hungary
or Silesia.  Of course there was another Carthage--several other
Carthages--one a teeming riverside quarter where English was an unknown
tongue, a place black with factory chimneys, full of noise and refuse,
dirt and ugliness, where forty thousand nondescript foreigners pigged
together, and contributed forty thousand pairs of very grimy and
unwilling hands to the material advancement of the city and state.
There was a business Carthage, with banks and sky-scrapers, and vast
webs of wires that darkened the sky.  There was a pleasure Carthage that
awoke only at night, blazing out with a myriad lights, and a myriad
enticements.  There was a middle-class residence Carthage; a
second-class residence Carthage; an immense, poor, semi-disreputable,
altogether dreary Carthage that was popularly alluded to as "South of
the slot," the name dating from the time of the first cable-car line,
now long since discarded.

But to return to Phyllis Ladd.

In losing her mother, it might be said she had discovered her father.
At first perhaps it was pity, loneliness, almost terror that caused Mr.
Ladd to take this little creature in his arms, and hold her as he might
a shield.  He had idolized his wife; he hardly knew how to go on living
without her; one day, in his office, as his old friend Latham was
leaving him, he had pulled open a drawer, and taken a loaded revolver
from it.  "Latham," he said, with a very slight tremor in his voice,
"would you mind putting this damned thing in your pocket--I--I--find it
tempts me."

Yes, his little daughter was a shield; he held her slim body between
himself and despair; he told her this again and again, as he sat with
bowed head and suffusing eyes in the shadow of an irrevocable happiness.
And she in whom there stirred, mysteriously, dimly, the tenderness of
the sublime love that had called her into being--she, even while she
mingled her tears with his, felt within herself the welling of an
exquisite joy.  To love, to solace, to protect, here again instincts
were prematurely awakened; here again her little feet departed from the
commonplace to carry her far afield.

In time, as weeks and months rolled on, the blow, so unendurable at
first, so crushing and terrible, softened, as such things will, and a
busy world again engrossed a busy man.  But the intimacy between father
and daughter remained, and continued unimpaired.  Indeed, it grew even
closer, for now laughter came into it, and gay bubbling little
confidences, and a delightful hour before bedtime, full of eagerness and
zest.  Mr. Ladd, cigar in mouth, and his keen handsome face as
deferential as any courtier’s, listened to the interminable doings of
Satty and Nelly and Jessie, with an enjoyment that never seemed to tire.

He, too, had his budget of the day, which, often begun whimsically, not
seldom ended in a serious exposition of his difficulties and problems.
It amused him to state such complexities in simple language; to bring
them down, by some homely metaphor, to the comprehension of this
adorable little coquette, who tried with so many childish arts to dazzle
and ensnare him.  Even at thirteen she was learning the value of drawing
out a man about himself; she was quite willing to understand the
Interstate Commerce Law, and become pink and indignant over a new
classification of "Coal at the pit’s mouth"--if it meant her father
would hold her a little tighter, and give her one of those sudden
glances of approval.

Such intercourse with a shrewd, strong, brilliant mind--to a child
naturally precocious and adaptive--could not fail to have far-reaching
consequences on her development.  She caught something of her father’s
independence; of his lofty and yet indulgent outlook on a universe made
up so largely of fools and knaves; learned the greatest and rarest of
all imaginative processes--to put oneself in the other fellow’s shoes.
When Joe Howard turned traitor at the state legislature, and sold out
the K. B. and O. on the new mileage bill, her wrath at his duplicity
rose to fever.  "Well, there’s his side to it," said Mr. Ladd, with
unexpected serenity.  "He hasn’t a cent; he’s mortgaged up to the ears;
and has a sick daughter dying of consumption.  He’s a well-meaning man,
and I suppose would be honest if he could.  But if I were in his place,
and your life was at stake, and the doctor ordered you to some
ten-dollar-a-minute place in Colorado or somewhere, I guess I’d sell out
the K. B. and O. too!"

And for that he got a hug that nearly choked him.

"Money and love, my lamb," he said to her once, "those are the wheels
the old wagon runs on.  Miss Simpkins will fluff you up with a whole lot
of fancy fixings--but I tell you, it boils right down to that."

"Papa," she asked him on another occasion, with round wondering eyes,
"if it’s all like that, why are you honorable and noble and splendid?"

"I don’t know," he answered, smiling.  "I guess it’s pride more than
anything else.  Theoretically the man with the fewest scruples gets
farthest in the race; but thank the Lord, most of us are handicapped
with some good qualities that stick to us like poor relations."

"But Miss Simpkins says that anybody who is bad gets punished for it
sooner or later.  She says that was why her brother-in-law’s house
burned down; because he was so uncharitable."

"It may be so with the people Miss Simpkins is acquainted with," said
Mr. Ladd, "but it doesn’t hold in the railroad business, nor anywhere
else that I have seen, and I can’t help thinking she’s a trifle more
hopeful than the traffic can bear!"

This philosophy, so picturesquely expressed, so genial, so amiably
cynical, was not perhaps the best training for an unusually
impressionable mind. Miss Simpkins learned to dread Phyllis’ preface:
"But Papa says--"  What Papa said was often a bombshell that blew shams
to pieces; tore down the pretty pink scenery of conventional illusions;
and drove cobble-stones through the gauze that separated Miss Simpkins
and her kind from the real world beyond.  It was a harsh process, and
bad for gauze.

At first, not knowing how else to maintain a fairly large establishment,
Mr. Ladd had sought the services of a "managing housekeeper."  But the
trouble with her--or rather with them, for he had a succession--was that
the "managing" was considerably overdone.  They were discharged, the one
after the other, without having "managed" to achieve their one consuming
ambition, which was to capture the rich widower, and lead him to the
altar. After a while, growing weary of being hunted, and altogether at
his wits’ end, he invited his unmarried sister, Henrietta Ladd, to take
the foot of his table, and a place at his hearth.

She was a thin, plain, elderly woman, with a very low voice and a
deceptive appearance of meekness.  The casual guest at Mr. Ladd’s board
might have taken her for a silent saint, who, unwillingly sojourning in
this vale of tears, was waiting with ladylike impatience for a heavenly
crown.  In some ways this description would have fitted Aunt Henrietta
well enough, though it took no account of a perverse and interfering
nature that was more than trying to live with.  The silent saint
attempted to rule her brother and her niece with a rod of iron, and so
far succeeded that her two years "tenure of the gubernatorial chair" (as
Mr. Ladd bitterly called it), was fraught with quarrels and unhappiness.
Her tyranny, like all tyrannies, ended in a revolution.  Mr. Ladd
brought his "unmarried misery"--also his own phrase--to a sharp
conclusion, and Henrietta departed with a large check and a still larger
ill-will.

"Phyllis," he said, "I guess we’ll just have to rustle along by our poor
little selves.  The people who take charge of us seem to take charge too
hard. They mean well, but why should they stamp on us?--Yes, let’s try
it ourselves."

And Phyllis, not quite fifteen years old, became the acknowledged
mistress of the big house.

In her demure head she knew that to fail would be to incur a danger that
was almost too terrible to contemplate.  Her father might be persuaded
into marrying again, and the thought of such a catastrophe sobered and
restrained her.  She was on her mettle, and was determined to succeed.
She had her check-book, her desk, her receipted bills.  She had her
morning interviews with the cook; sent curtains to the cleaners; rang up
various tradespeople on the telephone; gently criticized Mary’s
window-cleaning, and George’s nails, and busied herself with these, and
innumerable other little cares, while Miss Simpkins waited in the study,
restlessly drumming her long, lean fingers on a French grammar.

Of course, she did several foolish, impulsive things, but no more than
some little bride might have done in the first novelty of controlling a
large household.  She gave a tramp one of her father’s best suits of
clothes; she was prevailed upon by the servants to buy many things that
neither they nor anybody else could possibly need--including an
electrically driven knife-cleaner, and a cook’s table, so compact and
ingenious, that it would have been priceless on an airship, though in
her own spacious kitchen it was decidedly out of place; and it took her
several months to discover that James was apparently feeding five
elephants instead of five horses.

But she was quick to learn better; and with the innate capacity she
inherited from her father, she soon had everything running on oiled
wheels.  And all this, if you please, at fifteen, with quite a bit of
stocking between her dress and her trimly-shod feet.

It was seldom that her father ever ventured into the realm of criticism;
but once or twice, in his smiling, easy-going way, he gently pulled her
up.

"I don’t know much about these things," he remarked once, "but don’t
there seem to be a lot of new dresses in this family?"

"One can’t go naked, Papa."

"Admitting that, my dear, which with people of our position would
certainly give rise to comment--couldn’t we compromise on--well--going
_half_-naked, and perhaps show a more Spartan spirit, besides, in regard
to our hats?"

Phyllis’ eyes filled with tears; and flushing with shame, she pressed
her hot cheek against the back of the chair she was sitting in, and felt
herself the most miserable, disgraced, unworthy little creature in the
whole world.

Mr. Ladd’s voice deepened, as it always did when he was moved.

"My darling," he said, "don’t feel badly about it, because it is only a
trifle.  But it is not kind to your companions to dress better than they
do, and I am sure you do not wish them to feel envious or resentful.  I
just ask you to bear it in mind, that’s all, and be somewhat on your
guard."

"I will, Papa."

"Now come and kiss your daddy, and tell him you’re not cross with him
for being such an old fuss-cat."

"Y-y-ou are n-not an old fu-u-uss-cat, but the dearest, darlingest,
bestest--"


"Do you think it’s right to bite a railroad president’s ear?"

"Yes, if you love him!"

"Or muss up the only hair he has, which isn’t very much?"

"Yes, if it helps you to think."

"What’s that--_thinking_?"

"Yes, Papa."

"It worries me, dearest, to have you doing anything as serious as that."

"Papa, it is serious.  Listen!"

"I’m listening,"

"I’ve a wonderful idea--I’m going to give a party!"

"Splendid--hope you’ll ask me!"

"And I’m going to invite Satty Morrison, and Julia Grant, and Hetty Van
Buren, and Maisie Smith, and the two Patterson girls, and perhaps Alicia
Stewart--and we are going to have ice-cream, and lady’s-fingers, and
chocolate-cake, and Christmas crackers, if I can buy them this time of
year--and, Papa, it’s going to be a _hat_-party."

"Oh, a hat-party, goodness me, what’s that?"

"To give away all the silly, extravagant hats I’ve bought--though I’ll
have to get two new ones to make them go round--but you won’t mind that,
will you?"

"No, indeed--not for a hat-party."

And next day the invitations were out.

This scandalous way of bringing up an only daughter caused many people
to shake their heads.

"It’ll end in a peck of trouble for Mr. Ladd some day," said the old
cats, with which Carthage was as liberally stocked as any other great
and flourishing American city.  "Mark my words, my dear, no good can
come of bringing up a girl like a wild Indian, and he’ll have nobody to
blame but himself if she goes headlong to the bad."



                              *CHAPTER II*


At twenty, Phyllis Ladd was one of the prettiest girls in Carthage.  A
little above medium height, slim, dark, and glowing like a rose, she
moved with that charming consciousness of beauty that is in itself
almost a distinction.  The French and Spanish in her mother’s southern
blood showed itself in her slender feet and hands, in her grace, her
voice, her gentle, gracious, and engaging manners.  One could not long
talk to her without realizing that behind those sparkling eyes there was
a fine and highly-sensitive nature, whimsical, original and intrepid;
and to know her well was to perceive that she was one of those women who
would love with rare intensity; and whose future, for good or evil, for
happiness or disaster, was irretrievably dependent on the heart.

In a dim sort of way she had the consciousness of this herself; her
flirtations went no further than to dance with the same partner three or
four times in the course of the same evening; and Carthage, which gave
its young people a great deal of innocent liberty--and which its young
people took with the greediness of children--in time got to consider
her, in spite of deceptive appearances, as being cold, proud, and
"exclusive."  Certainly her exclusiveness drew the line at being kissed
by boisterous young men, and though their company pleased and amused
her, she refused to single out one of them for any special favor.

"They are all such idiots, Papa," she said plaintively.  "Aren’t there
any real men anywhere--real men that a girl _could_ love?"

"I’m sure I don’t know," returned Mr. Ladd. "I haven’t come across one
I’d trust a yellow dog to, let alone my daughter.  But, frankly, I’m
prejudiced on the young-man question--anybody would be who has to run a
railroad with them!"

"Papa," she cried, throwing her arms around his neck, and her mood
changing to one of her gayest phantasies, "let’s go away together, you
and I, and see if we can’t find him.  The Quest of the Golden Young Man!
There must be one somewhere, and we’ll look for him in every hidy-hole
in the world--in street-cars and banks, and ice-cream places, and
cellars, and factories, and mountains, and ships--just you and me, with
a little steamer-trunk--and we’ll run across him in the unlikeliest
spot--and he may be a bandit in a cave, or a wild, roystering cow-boy
shooting up one of those awful little western towns--but we’ll know
right off that he’s our Golden Young Man--and we’ll take him, and put
him in a crate, and bring him home in the baggage-car, and poke him with
a long sharp stick till he’s willing to marry me!"


The Quest of the Golden Young Man!  It began sooner than Phyllis could
ever have believed possible, and with a companion she would have been
the last to dream of.  Mr. Ladd had a married sister in Washington, the
wife of a highly-placed treasury official.  Mrs. Sam Fensham was a very
fashionable, energetic, pushing woman, wholly absorbed in the task of
pulling competitors off the social ladder, and planting her own
faultless French shoes on the empty rung.  Brother and sister had about
as much in common as you could spread on a dime; but Robert Ladd had all
the American’s admiration of ability, no matter in what direction it was
exercised; and Sally Fensham dearly loved her fraternal relationship to
the K. B. and O.

This social strategist had volunteered one of her rare visits to
Carthage under the stress of bad financial weather.  Brother Bob, who
regularly brightened her Christmas with a check in four figures, had
some peculiarities of purse and heart that Mrs. Fensham was well
acquainted with.  You might dash him off a letter, slashed with
underlining, and piteous in the extremity of its _cri de coeur_, and get
nothing in reply but two pages of humorous typewriting, wanting to know
why two people, without children, could not manage to scrape along in
Washington on sixteen thousand dollars a year?

But Brother Bob, face to face, was a very different person.  If you sat
on the arm of his chair, and talked of pa and ma and the old days, and
perhaps cried a little, not altogether insincerely, over faces and
things long since vanished--if, indeed, under the spell of that grave,
kindly brother, you somehow shed your cares into an infinite tenderness,
and forgot everything save that you loved him best of any one on
earth--if--but it always happened--you did not need to give another
thought, to what, after all, was the real object of your visit.

In a day or two, Brother Bob would say; "Sally, just how many dollars
would make you feel eighteen again, and as though you were waiting for
Elmer Boyd to take you out sleighing?"

You could answer thirty-seven hundred, and get it as readily as a
postage stamp; and with it a look of such honest affection, such a
glisten in those fine eyes, that your words of thanks stammered a little
on your tongue.

Well, here was Aunt Sally again--arm-chair--pa and ma--the old
days--check--and in her restless, scheming eyes the birth of a vague
idea that grew ever more and more alluring,--nothing else than to take
this very pretty niece of hers back to Washington, and enhance the
Fensham position by a splendid marriage.  She had a vision of balls and
dinner-parties, all paid for by her millionaire brother; a showy French
limousine; unlimited boxes at the theater and opera; and a powerful
nephew-to-be, with a name to hoist the portcullis of many a proud social
stronghold, and allow the wife of a highly-placed treasury official to
squeeze in.  The Motts, the Glendennings, the Pastors, the Van
Schaicks--the Port Arthurs of Washington society--Sarah Fensham would
assail all of them, holding before her one of their cherished sons, and
defying them to shoot.  A fascinating prospect indeed, and one not
beyond realization, considering the girl’s beauty, and her father’s
money.

On the subject being broached to Brother Bob, it was met with a
hostility only comparable to a Polar bear being robbed of its cub.  The
whole marriage-market business nauseated him, he declared; his daughter
should never be set up on the counter to be priced and pawed over; not
only would her natural refinement revolt at it, but he inconsistently
and with much warmth announced that Carthage was full of splendid young
men, the sons of his old associates, amongst whom Phyllis should find
her husband when the time came, and a fellow worth fifty of those
Washington dudes and dough-heads.

"It’s all very well for you to talk," said Sally coldly, "but I should
say it was more for Phyllis to decide than for you."

"She wouldn’t hear of such a thing," protested Mr. Ladd heatedly.  "She
is a quiet, home-loving girl, and wouldn’t put herself in a show-window
for anything on earth."

"My house is not a show-window; and what is there immodest or wrong in
her meeting the nicest men in America?"

"Besides, she wouldn’t care to leave me."

Angry as she was, there was something in this remark that suddenly
touched Sally Fensham.  She was hard and aggressive, but her heart was
not altogether withered, and under extraordinary circumstances could
even be moved.

"My poor Bob," she said, holding the lapels of his coat, and looking up
at him; "do you not know that Phyllis may meet a man to-day at dinner,
and to-morrow at tea, and the day after drive with him for an hour in
the Park--and then what’s father or mother or anything in the world if
she loves him?  Bob, dear, just get it out of your head that you are
going to keep Phyllis.  When the right man comes you will no more count
to her than--than that chair!--Oh, yes, of course, every girl loves her
father in a way--but you have only been keeping her heart warm--and once
it’s set on fire--good-by!  And, Bob, dear, listen, is it not common
sense to let her see the right kind of young men; to sift them and weigh
them a bit? Is it a marriage-market to admit none but those who are
presentable and well-bred and come of nice people?  Is that a
show-window?  No, it’s giving a girl a chance to choose--the chance I
wish to Heaven I’d had.  We simply try to get the nicest man there is,
and you are more apt to get a prize from a hundred than from six!"

"That applies just as much to Carthage as to Washington."

"Bob, you don’t know what you’ve been risking. Your whole way of living
is utterly crazy.  Why, anybody--_anybody_ could come here, and make
love to her, and carry her off under your nose--some awful commercial
traveler or cheap pianist with frowzy hair--Oh, Bob, girls are such
fools--such crazy, crazy fools!"

"Phyllis isn’t."

"Was I?"

"No, I don’t think you were."

"But didn’t I marry Sam Fensham?"

"I don’t see that that--"

Sally laughed; and it was not a pleasant laugh to hear in its
self-revelation.  Sam was notoriously more successful as a treasury
official than as a husband.

"Bob, she has to go to Washington with me, and you must put your hand in
your pocket, and do things handsomely."

"Against her will?"

Again Sally laughed, more harshly and cynically than before.

"Just you ask her," she said.


That night Mr. Ladd did so, and saw with a sinking heart the
electrifying effect it had on her.

Go!  Why, she’d jump out of her shoes to go, and wasn’t daddy the
dearest, darlingest, adorablest person in the world to propose it!  And
Aunt Sally’s kindness--wasn’t it wonderful!  She would meet senators and
ambassadors, and dance in the White House with lovely barons and counts,
and try out her French on a real Frenchman and see if he could
understand it!--A winter in Washington! What could be more exciting,
more delirious!

Mr. Ladd affected to share her delight, and manfully concealed his true
feelings, which were altogether bitter and sad.  But he was a brave old
fellow, and knew how to take his disappointments smilingly.  Besides,
what claim had he to resist the inevitable?  What right?  What
justification? He would have bitten his tongue out before he would have
reproached her, or marred, by the slightest word, her overflowing and
girlish exuberance. It was only as they kissed each other good night
that the pent-up appeal came.

"Don’t forget your old dad in the shuffle," he said.  "It’s--it’s going
to be very hard for him without you, Phyllis."

Her instant contrition was very sweet to him, very comforting and dear.
In fact, he had to struggle pretty desperately to allay the storm of
tenderness he evoked.--No, no, he wanted her to go to Washington.  It
was the right thing to do--the only thing to do.  A girl ought to see
something of the big world before she married and settled down.--Oh,
every girl said that to herself, but you couldn’t get away from the fact
that they were made for men, and men for them, and a father just held
the fort till the Golden Young Man arrived.

How they laughed, with tears in their eyes! How infinitely precious was
the love that bound them together!  Dad was never to be lost in the
shuffle--never, never; and he was to write every day, and she was to
write; and if it were a hundred Washingtons she’d come straight back to
him if he were lonely, for to her there was only one real Golden Young
Man, and that was her darling, darling father.

Yet as Mr. Ladd shut the study door, and returned to his seat beside the
lamp, he knew in spite of himself that he had said good-by.  His
guardianship was over; near, now, was that unknown man, that unknown
rival, for whose pleasure he had lavished twenty years of incessant care
and devotion.  Though Ladd was hardly a believer, the wish came out with
the fervency of a prayer: "Oh, my God, let him be worthy of her!"



                             *CHAPTER III*


She did write every day; sometimes the merest snippets, sometimes long,
graphic letters, full of the new life and the new people. Her début had
been an immense success.  Eddie Phelps, a horrid, tallowy, patronizing
person, but socially a dictator, had put the stamp of his approval on
her, and she had managed to receive it and not burst--which, if Papa
only knew it, was a very remarkable feat.  But, anyway, she had been
hall-marked "sterling," and was enjoying herself furiously.  And the
young men were so different from Carthage, so much more polished and
elegant--and pertinacious.  Washington young men simply didn’t know what
"No" meant, and it was like shoveling snow to get rid of them.  But Aunt
Sarah was a regular White Wings, and the poor, the detrimental, and the
fast--every one, in fact, who wasn’t a first-class _parti_ with
references from his last place--got carted away before he knew what had
struck him.

And Aunt Sally!  "Why, Papa, we didn’t know her at all.  She is as young
as I am, and twice as eager, and dances her stockings through every
other night.  Washington is divided between the people who hate her, and
the people who love her, and they put a tremendous zip into either end
of it. What she really wants is to marry me at the cold end, and
strengthen her position as she calls it; and though I say it, who
shouldn’t, the cold-end young men are coming in fast.  When one proposes
to me, she calls it a scalp, and looks, oh, so pleased!  But if I see
any of them working up to that I try to stop him in time, though it’s
awfully exciting just the same.  That’s why I’ve only three scalps to
report instead of about eight.  Oh, Papa, what fun it is!"

In time her letters began to change, and there were little signs of
disillusionment.  One was almost a tract on worldliness, in which she
talked about Vanity Fair, and dancing on coffins, and the inner hunger
of the soul.  There were also increasing references to J. Whitlock
Pastor, always coupled with "ideals."  J. Whitlock Pastor was quite a
remarkable young man of thirty, with "a beautiful austerity," and "fine
mind."  His people were immensely wealthy, and immensely
fashionable--even in Carthage there was a sacredness about the name of
Pastor--and Phyllis said there was something splendid in his taking up
forestry as a life work, and devoting himself to it, heart and soul,
when he had been born--not with a silver spoon--but with a bird’s-egg
diamond in his mouth.

If there was anything to be said against J. Whitlock Pastor, it was that
he was almost too good to be true.  He wanted to leave the world better
for his having been, and all that--and seemed to have what might be
called an excruciating sense of duty. "A very quiet and rather a sad
man," wrote Phyllis, "whom one might easily mistake for a muff if one
hadn’t seen him on horseback.  He rides superbly, and I never saw a
ring-master in a circus who could come anywhere near him."

All this worked up to a telegram that reached Mr. Ladd a few weeks
later: "I accepted him last night, and, Papa, please come on quick and
bless us."

Mr. Ladd hastened to Washington as speedily as his affairs would allow,
which was five days later, and arrived just in time to dress for the
introductory dinner at Mrs. Pastor’s--J. Whitlock’s mother’s.  He tried
to imagine he was delighted, and caught his daughter in his arms with
the enthusiasm of a stage parent.  But Phyllis was so pale, so calm, so
undemonstrative that he hardly knew what to make of her.  He put her
cool indifference down to Washington training, but still it puzzled and
troubled him.  It was so unlike a girl who had met her fate--so unlike
another pair of lovers that had been so much in his head that
day--Genivieve de Levancour, and a certain Bob Ladd. The contrast gave
him a certain sense of foreboding.

In the carriage she was very silent, and nestled against him like a
tired child.  He repeated his congratulations; he strove again to be
delighted; joked, not without effort, about the exalted position of the
Pastors, and what a come-down it was for them to marry such poor white
trash as the Ladds. Then it occurred to him that perhaps this jarred
upon her!  "Forgive me, Phyllis," he said humbly. "I--I hardly know what
I am saying.  I--I guess I’m trying to hide what this recalls to
me--what this means to me."

She pressed his hand, and snuggled it against her cheek, but still
shrouded herself in reserve.

"Papa," she said suddenly, "you’d stick to me through thick and thin,
wouldn’t you?  Whatever I did--however foolish or silly I might be,
you’d always love me, wouldn’t you?"

"By God, yes," he answered, "though why on earth you should ask--"

"Only to make sure," she exclaimed, brightening. "Just to be certain
that my old-dog father hadn’t changed.  Now say bow-wow, just to show
that you haven’t!"

Mr. Ladd, very much mystified, and not at all comfortable in his mind,
obediently bow-wowed. It set Phyllis off in a peal of laughter, and it
was with apparent hilarity that both descended at the Pastor’s front
door.

Whitlock’s mother received them in the drawing-room.  She was a stately,
gray-haired woman, with a subdued voice, and a graciousness that was
almost oppressive.  Her guests had hardly been seated, when J. Whitlock
himself appeared, and excused himself, with faultless and somewhat
unnecessary courtesy, for not having been found awaiting their arrival.
Mr. Ladd saw before him a tall, thin young man, of a polished and
somewhat cold exterior, with a dryness of expression that was positively
parching.  Like one of those priceless enamels of the Orient, one felt
that J. Whitlock Pastor had been roasted and glazed, roasted and glazed,
roasted and glazed until the substance beneath had become but a matter
of conjecture.  The enamel was magnificent--but where was the man? Mr.
Ladd, with a choking sense of disappointment, began to suspect there was
none.

J. Whitlock opened the proceedings much as the czar might have opened a
Duma.  He recited a neat, dry, commonplace little address of welcome,
and sounded a key-note of constraint and formality that was rigorously
maintained throughout the evening.  The address was seconded by the
empress-dowager, and then it was Mr. Ladd’s turn to swear loyalty to the
throne, and burst into cheers.  He did so as well as he could, but it
was a poor, lame attempt; and when, almost in despair, he went up to J.
Whitlock, and impulsively wrung the Imperial hand, the very atmosphere
seemed to shiver at the sacrilege.

A frigid dinner followed in a dining-room of overpowering magnificence.
There was a high-class conversation to match, interrupted from time to
time by a small British army--small in number--but prodigal of inches,
and calves, and chest-measure--who stealthily pounced on plates,
obtruded thumbs, and stopped breathing when they served you.  Mr. Ladd,
smarting with an inexplicable resentment, compounded of jealousy, scorn
and chagrin, writhed in his chair, and tugged at his mustache, and gazed
from his daughter to his prospective son-in-law with melancholy wonder.

Yet Phyllis seemed to be perfectly contented, sitting there so demure,
elegant and self-possessed at the terrible board of the Romanoffs.  Mr.
Ladd could have wished that she had shown a little more assertion, a
little more--well, he hardly knew what but something to offset the
unconscious arrogance of these people, and to show them that a Ladd was
as good as they were, if not a darned sight better! But Phyllis, if
anything, was too much the other way.  There was a humility in her
sweetness, her deference, her touching desire to please.  To her father
she seemed to have accepted too readily, too gratefully, her beggar-maid
position at that kingly table.

But as he watched her some doubts assailed him. He remembered how
singular she had been in the carriage, how over-wrought, and unlike her
usual self.  Her eyes, fixed so constantly on her intended’s, had in
them more pleading than love; more a curious, studying, seeking look, as
though she, too, was trying to penetrate the enamel, and see beneath.
But her voice softened as she spoke to him; she smiled and colored at
his allusions to "us" and "our"; she shyly referred to their projected
honeymoon in the western forests, and spoke rapturously of galloping
through the glades at the head of twenty rangers, all sunburned and
jingling and armed to the teeth.

What was an old fellow to make of it, anyway? One could bring up a girl
from a baby, and still not know her.  Mr. Ladd was very much perplexed.

After dinner, the ladies left the two men at their coffee, and retired.
The British Army set out liqueurs, cigars, a spirit-lighter, and then
noiselessly vanished.  Now that they were alone together, Mr. Ladd hoped
that J. Whitlock would unbend; hoped that the long-deferred process of
making his acquaintance would begin.  He might not be an ideal
son-in-law, but it was horse-sense to make the best of him.  You had to
take the son-in-law God gave you.  Besides, the man that Phyllis loved
was bound to have a fine nature; and if he could unveil it to her, he
surely could unveil it to her father. So, between sips of Benedictine,
and through the haze of a good cigar, Mr. Ladd essayed the task.

He commenced by describing his own early manhood; his courtship of
Phyllis’ mother; his marriage in face of a thousand difficulties.  Again
and again he faltered; it was all so sacred; his eyes were often
moist--but he persevered; he had to win this young man, and how better
than by appealing to the sentiment that unites all true lovers?  The
elderly railroad president could not bear utterly to be left out of
these two young lives.  His daughter was lost to him; at best a husband
leaves little for a father; this stranger had it now in his power to
make that little almost nothing.  Small wonder, then, that Mr. Ladd
struggled for his shred of happiness; put pride on one side; exerted
every faculty he possessed to attract the friendship of Phyllis’ master.
For a husband is a master; a woman is the slave of the man she loves;
forty centuries have changed nothing but the words, and the size and
metal of the ring.

It used to be of iron, and was worn on the neck.

Mr. Ladd’s gaze, that had been fixed in vacancy, of a sudden fell full
on J. Whitlock’s face.  What he saw was an expression so cold, so
delicately supercilious, so patiently polite, that he stopped as
suddenly as though he had been struck by lightning. Was it for this,
then, that he had opened this holy of holies, into which no human being
before had ever looked,--this inmost recess of his soul, now profaned,
it seemed to him, for ever?  For a second his shame transcended even his
disappointment.  He had dishonored the dead, besides dishonoring
himself. He had allowed this tall, thin, bored creature to hear things
too dear, too intimate, to be spoken even to Phyllis.  My God, what an
old fool he had been, what an ass!

"Had we not better join the ladies?" inquired J. Whitlock, after the
pause had lasted long enough to redeem the proposal from any appearance
of rudeness.

"I suppose we had," returned Mr. Ladd, in a tone as dry as his host’s;
and together they both sought the drawing-room.

A long, long hour followed before, in decency, a very flustered,
embittered, and upset middle-aged gentleman could dare to say his
adieux.  From the frescoed ceiling the painted angels must certainly
have wept at the sight beneath; or, if they did not weep, they surely
yawned.  The labored conversation, the make-believe cordiality, the
awful gap when a topic fell to rise no more, certainly made it an
evening that never could be forgotten.  Blessed Briton who said: "Mr.
Ladd’s kerridge!"  Twice blessed Briton who handed them into it, and
uttered the magic word "’Ome!"


"Did you like him, Papa?"

"A delightful young man, Phyllis, perfectly delightful."

"And his mother?"

"Charming, charming!"

"I never saw either one of them unbend as they did to you."

"It was a great compliment.  I appreciate it."

"You don’t think I could have done better?"

"No, indeed.  Not if you love him."

"Papa?"

"Yes, dearest?"

"Papa, I’ve done something awful.  Shut your eyes, and I’ll try to tell
you."

"Phyllis, what do you--?"

"Are they shut--tight--_tight_?"

"Yes, but I don’t--"

"Now, don’t talk, Papa, but listen like a good little railroad
president, and I’ll tell you what I think of J. Whitlock Pastor, and
that is he’s _unbearable_!  No, no, I’m not joking--I mean it, I mean
it!  He’s unbearable, and his mother’s unbearable, and the forty yards
around them is unbearable, and I wouldn’t marry him for anything under
the sun, no, not if he was the only man in the world except the
clergyman who would do it; and Papa, I’m so mortified and ashamed and
miserable that I don’t know what to do.  Didn’t you notice me to-night,
and how shy and crushed I was, sitting there like a little Judas, and
feeling, oh, horribly wicked and treacherous?  It was _all_ I could do
not to scream out that I hated him, just as loud as I could: I hate you!
I hate you!  I hate you!--I was trying to tell you that when we started,
but I didn’t have the courage.  I wanted you to see him for yourself; to
realize how unendurable he is; I--I--wanted you not to blame me too
much, Papa."

To Mr. Ladd it was like a reprieve at the gallows’ foot.  Blame her?
Why, elation ran to his head like wine; he caught her in his arms and
hugged her; had he saved her from drowning he could not have been more
passionately thankful.  His opinion of the young man came out in a
torrent of unvarnished Anglo-Saxon.  To every epithet he applied to him,
Phyllis added a worse.  In their wild humor, and bubbling over with a
laughter that verged on the hysterical, they vied with each other in
tearing J. Whitlock to pieces.

"But, Phyllis, Phyllis, how did you ever come to do it?"

"I don’t know, Papa."

"But you must have liked him?"

"I thought I did."

"Was it the attraction of his position--his name--and all that kind of
thing?"

"No, I thought I loved him."

"How _could_ you have thought such a thing?"

"It’s incredible, but I did, Papa.  I loved him right up to the moment
when he kissed me.  And how could I stop him after having looked down at
my toes, and said ’Yes.’  He’s been kissing me for five days--and, Papa,
I hate him."

The fierceness she put into these three words was vitriolic.  Disgust,
revulsion, outraged pride flooded her cheek with carmine.

"Papa, I can’t make any excuses for myself. It’s not prudery; it’s not
that; but somehow the real _me_ didn’t like the real _him_, and that’s
all I can say about it!"

"You’ll have to write to him, and break it off."

"But what am I to tell him, Papa?  It’s so awful and humiliating for
him.  I guess I’ll just put it down to insanity in my family."

"But, good Lord, we haven’t any--we’ve a very decent record."

"Oh, Papa, I simply must have been insane to have got engaged to
him.--I’ll write him a beautiful letter of regret, and inclose a
doctor’s certificate!"

Her incorrigible humor was again asserting itself. She outlined the
letter, her eyes dancing with merriment.  Mr. Ladd, in no mood to
criticize these swift transitions, joined in whole-heartedly.  They
laughed and laughed till the tears came, and arrived home like noisy
children from a party.

Mrs. Fensham, in a very décolleté gown, and looking like a sylph of
twenty-five, was waiting for the carriage to take her to a ball.  She
swam up in front of Bob, and raised her two little hands to his
shoulders--a graceful gesture, and one she was very fond of.

"And you found him a perfect dear, didn’t you?" she murmured
ecstatically.

"Well, I don’t know that I did," faltered Brother Bob, placing a kiss on
the top of her head.  "The fact is, Sally, we’ve decided to call it
off!"

"Bob, you haven’t broken the engagement!"

Her lisping voice turned suddenly metallic.  She stared from her brother
to her niece, a sylph no longer, but a woman of forty-five, pale with
apprehension and anger.

"Phyllis has made a mistake, that’s all," he said. "He looked very nice
in the show-window, but now we are going to take him back, and get a
credit-slip for something we want more."

"A new automobile coat for Papa," put in Phyllis mischievously.

"And you can both laugh about it!" exclaimed Aunt Sarah in appalled
accents.  "Laugh at throwing over J. Whitlock Pastor!  Oh, you little
Carthage nobodies--haven’t you any sense at all--don’t you know what you
are doing--isn’t he as much a duke with us as any Marlborough or
Newcastle in England?  He was too good; he was too nice; he wasn’t
enough of a snob to blow and brag--and that’s what he gets for it, the
’No’ of a silly girl, who’d prefer a barber’s block clerk to the
greatest gentleman in America!"

She tottered to the mantelpiece and burst into tears--the first tears
she had shed in twenty worldly and scheming years--and the only tears
that did attend the rupture of the Pastor-Ladd engagement.



                              *CHAPTER IV*


There was the usual chatter, the usual slanders, the usual innuendoes
that follow such an event.  Charming little assassins, in Paquin gowns
and picture hats flew about sticking pins into Phyllis’ reputation.
Those worse gossips, the clubs, were not behindhand either; and old
gentlemen, who ought to have known better, unctuously laid their heads
together and passed the lies along.  It is so much the custom to dwell
on the good side of human nature that we are apt to forget the existence
of another--that cruel malignancy, which, in embryo, may be seen any
time at the monkey-house in the Zoo.  In its more developed human form
it jostles at our elbows every day.

The American duke himself behaved with a beautiful propriety.  Publicly
he took all the blame on his own shoulders, and hied him to the western
wilds to scourge the campers and cigarette-smokers who infested his
beloved forests.  Thus congenially employed, he was quite willing to
wait for Time’s healing hand to do the rest.  In a year he was
completely reënameled, and took a finer polish than ever.

Mr. Ladd hoped that Phyllis would return to Carthage to hide her head
from the storm.  But she insisted on staying in Washington, and "seeing
it through," which she did with the prettiest defiance imaginable,
returning pin for pin with gay insouciance, and dancing the night out in
all manner of lions’ dens.  In her veins there ran the blood of that old
aristocratic South--of those fighting-cock Frenchmen, dark, lithe and
graceful, who had loved, gambled and gone the pace with headlong
recklessness and folly; of those fiery Spaniards, more grave and still
more dissolute, to whom pride was the very breath of life, and who could
call out a man and shoot him with the stateliest of courtesy.--What a
race it had been in the heyday of its wildness and youth, the torment of
women, the terror of men, alluring even now through the haze of by-gone
pistol-smoke!  And though it has been dead and gone these hundred and
fifty years, the strain yet persists in some Phyllis here, some
stripling there, attenuated perhaps, but far, far from lost.

Even to-day such intrepidity casts its spell.  The eyes that are
unafraid, the mouth that can smile in peril, do we not still admire
their possessor--and that most of all in a young, high-bred and
exceedingly attractive woman?  Washington certainly did in Phyllis
Ladd--young-man Washington, that is,--and they trooped after her in
cohorts, and would have drunk champagne from her little slipper had she
let them.


Months rolled by.  The tide of Phyllis’ letters rose in Mr. Ladd’s
drawer--countless pages in that fine girlish hand, full of zest, full of
the joy of living, revealing, intimate, and silent only in regard to the
most important matter of all--J. Whitlock’s successor.

Mr. Ladd knew what value to set on her assertion that she was "tired of
men."  He waited, not without jealousy, for preference to show itself;
reading and re-reading every allusion that might afford a clue.  If she
wrote that "the ambassador was a very kind old man, with aristocratic
legs, and a profile like a horse, who singled me out for much more than
my share of attention"--Mr. Ladd would forthwith look up that
ambassador; get his diplomatic rating; and worry about his being
sixty-six, and twice a widower.

One day, quite out of the sky, a card was brought him inscribed,
"Captain Baron Sempft von Piller, First Attaché, Imperial German
Embassy, Washington."  As a rule, applicants to see Mr. Ladd had first
to state their business, and undergo a certain amount of sifting before
they were admitted.  In this manner inventors were weeded out, cranks,
people with a grievance against the claims’ department, book-agents,
labor-leaders, charity-mongers, bogus clergymen who had been refused
half-rates--all that host who buzzed like mosquitoes outside Mr. Ladd’s
net.  But the First Attaché of the Imperial German Embassy was given an
open track, which he took with a military stride, and the clank of an
invisible sword.

Mr. Ladd turned in his chair, and beheld a florid, tall, fine-looking
young man of twenty-eight or so, with the stiff carriage of a Prussian
officer, and unshrinking blue eyes that had been trained not to droop in
the face of anything.

The captain wasted no time in preliminaries. In a carefully-rehearsed
sentence, innocent of all punctuation, and delivered in a breath, he
said: "It is not my intention to trespass overlong on the time of I know
a much-engrossed gentleman but if you will kindly grant me three minutes
I shall be happy to convince you of the integrity of my character and
the honor of my intentions Mr. Ladd Sir."

Taking another breath that swelled out his magnificent chest at least
four inches, he resumed: "This I now lay before you is my
birth-certificate these are the reports on my gymnasium courses at
Pootledam respectively marked good very good indifferent good very good
till inspired by the thought of a military career I entered on probation
subsequently made permanent by the vote of my fellow-officers the tenth
regiment of Uhlans which after six years of honorable commendation I
left regretted by every one to place myself in the diplomatic service
Mr. Ladd Sir."

Taking a third breath, he went on:

"By kindly glancing at this letter which I have the honor to bear from
my esteemed chief whom I am proud also to call my friend you will see to
your complete satisfaction that I am no needy adventurer trading on an
historic and greatly-renowned name but a man of substance promise and
ability with the assurance of reaching if I live the highest place it is
in the power of my country and my emperor to grant Mr. Ladd Sir."

He was inhaling his fourth breath when Mr. Ladd managed to interpose a
speech of his own.

"I am delighted to see you, captain," he said, "and I shall be happy to
oblige you in any way I can.  Perhaps you desire to inspect what is
really one of the most perfect double-track railroad systems in this
country, operated at the minimum of expense, and with an efficiency that
makes the K. B. and O. very favorably regarded by our public.  If it
falls below the high standard of your own government-owned lines, you
must credit us with a traffic at least sixteen-fold larger per mile than
that of yours.  I will ask you to bear this in mind before making too
critical a comparison."

A boyish and most engaging smile overspread the captain’s features, and
for the moment he almost forgot how to go on with the set speech he had
learned so carefully.  But he stiffened his shoulders, threw back his
head, and continued, like a student up for a difficult and trying
examination: "Before paying my addresses to one whose youth beauty and
charm has taken captive a heart hitherto untouched by the sentiment of
love I judged it only right as a gentleman and a former German officer
before seeking to compromise the lady’s inclination in any way whatever
to provide myself with the necessary proofs of my unassailable position
and honor and lay them with profound respect in the hands of her
highly-considered and greatly-esteemed father Mr. Ladd Sir."

Mr. Ladd nearly fell off his chair at this announcement; but controlling
himself, he bent hastily over the papers, and managed to hide his
stupefaction. He was very much bewildered, and though favorably
impressed by Von Piller, had the American’s distrust of all foreigners,
particularly if titled. The word "baron" conjured up horrible stories of
imposture and mortification; hungry fortune-hunters; shameless
masqueraders preying on credulity and snobbishness, always with debts at
home and often wives; old-world wolves ravening for the trusting lambs
of the new.

But the ambassador’s letter was most explicit, and its authenticity
could be tested in an hour.  The craftiest of wolves would not dare to
take such a risk.  Wonder of wonders, it seemed, too, that the baron was
rich--one of the Westphalian iron kings--with great landed estates
besides.  Yes, he was certainly a very eligible young man.  No harm
could be done by rising and shaking hands with him.  Mr. Ladd did so,
impressively.

"You are very punctilious," he said.  "I wish we had more of that
ourselves.  Your conduct is manly and straightforward, and I esteem it
highly. Frankly, I should prefer my daughter to marry an American--but
if a foreigner is to win her, I should be very happy to have that
foreigner you."

The baron, who was now quite out of set-speeches, and had to flounder in
English of his own making, murmured: "I lofe her--oh, how I lofe her!
My friends they say, ’crazy, crazy,’ but I say, ’no, this tells me I am
wise.’"

And with that he pressed his hand to his heart, with an air of such
simplicity and devotion that Mr. Ladd was touched.

"You’re a fine young man," he said, "and I wish you luck."

"You will speak well of me to her?--Manly, straightforward--you will say
those words?"

"With pleasure, Baron."

The florid face beamed; the blue eyes were shining; Mr. Ladd remembered
the tendency of foreigners to embrace, and hastened to put the desk
between them.

"I will go now," exclaimed Von Piller.  "I will what you call, get busy.
I will lay at her little feet the heart of a man that adores her!"

"Don’t be in too big a hurry," said the railroad president kindly.
"Take an old fellow’s advice; begin by trying to make a good
impression."

Von Piller smiled complacently.

"Already have I done it," he remarked.  "She likes me very mooch.  The
battle is half-won, and all I need is General Papa to reinforce."

It suddenly shot through General Papa’s mind that the baron was not so
simple as he appeared. Mr. Ladd’s first feeling of compassion for a
hopeless suit changed to a grinding jealousy.  It was intolerable to him
that anybody should carry off his precious daughter, and this amiable
young man at once took on the hue of an enemy.  Their farewell was stiff
and formal; and when, two hours later, the confirming telegram arrived
from the German embassy, Mr. Ladd hotly consigned Captain Baron Sempft
von Piller to the devil.



                              *CHAPTER V*


Von Piller had not under-estimated the "good impression."  It was
certainly good enough for him to become, two days later, the successful
suitor for Phyllis’ hand.  The engagement was in the papers, and
everybody was happy--save Mr. Ladd.  On top of his natural resentment at
any poor human biped in trousers daring to aspire to his daughter, there
were two letters from Washington that embittered him beyond measure.
The one was from Phyllis; the other from Sarah Fensham; and though very
different in expression their gist was the same.  He was besought _not_
to come to Washington.

"Dear, darling old daddy," wrote Phyllis, "The whole thing is such
gossamer, so faint and delicate and eider-downish, that one belittling
look of yours, one unguarded and critical word--would utterly destroy
it.  Of course, Sempft is not the Golden Young Man, and I know it very
well, but I really do like him lots, and if you will give it six weeks
to ’set,’ as masons say, I believe that it will turn very nicely into
love.  But just now--!  Oh, Papa, the poor little building would topple
so easily--and you know how hard I have found it already to stay too
close to those big, greedy, grasping creatures who want to race off with
one as a poodle does with a stick.  Not that Sempft isn’t awfully nice
and considerate, but I know there will be times when--!  Oh, Papa, be
patient, and give me a chance, for if you should hurry over and catch me
in the right humor, I would send him away so fast that he would think he
was fired out of a Zalinski cannon!"

Sarah’s letter was in a more wounding strain: "For Heaven’s sake, stay
away, my dearest brother, or you will ruin everything.  That girl of
yours is too fastidious and wilful for belief, and from the bottom of my
heart I am sorry for the poor dear baron, who is making such a goddess
out of an icicle.  She is possessed of the same insane pride that you
have, and is quite of your own opinion that nobody is good enough for
her.  After bringing her up all wrong, don’t add to your folly by
breaking off a second splendid match.  Stay in Carthage, and try to
acquiesce in the fact that sooner or later she is bound to marry
somebody; and thank your stars that it is somebody to be proud of.  I
know she is too good for any one but an archangel, but still, steel
yourself to accept a young, wealthy, handsome, brilliant, accomplished,
high-born and distinguished son-in-law, who has the world at his feet.
Naturally to you it is an intolerable prospect. I don’t ask you to say
that it is not.  But for Heaven’s sake, remain in Carthage, and keep
your sulks at a distance."

After his first anger had passed, Mr. Ladd took himself seriously to
task, and forced that other self of his to admit the undeniable justice
of both these letters.  He was a cantankerous, cross-grained old
curmudgeon, and the right place for a cantankerous, cross-grained old
curmudgeon was unquestionably--Carthage. If he were so utterly unable to
make allowances for youth and immaturity--and he had to assent to the
fact that he was unable--he ought, at any rate, to have the grace to
keep his fault-finding face turned to the wall.  Phyllis was right.
Sarah was right.  Everybody was right, except a hot-headed old fellow,
with a sick and jealous heart, who, if he did not restrain himself,
would end by marring his daughter’s future beyond recall.--Yes, he would
hold himself in; he would do nothing to incur reproach; he would let
things take their course, and pretend to be a sort of Sunny Jim,
smilingly regarding events from Carthage.

It was none too easy an undertaking, but he was sustained in some degree
by the hurried little scrawls that reached him, day by day, from
Phyllis.--It was all going splendidly.  She was so proud of Sempft.  He
was everywhere such a favorite. He was so high-spirited, and manly--and
so crazily in love with her.  It was nice to have him so crazily in love
with her.  It was nice to lead such a big, swaggering soldier by a pink
ribbon--to pin him with a little, girlish ticket marked "reserved"--to
see him jump at the mere raising of an eyebrow when some embezzling
young débutante had sneaked him away into a corner.--Then there was the
engagement ring she could not pull her glove over, with diamonds so
large and flashing that they’d light the gas; there was the gorgeous
pearl-necklace, which Aunt Sarah would not allow her to accept yet;
there was the emperor’s wonderful cablegram of congratulation, all about
Germany and America, as though the two countries were engaged, instead
of merely she and Sempft.  It made her feel so important, so
international--and horrid, shabby men snap-shotted her on the street
like a celebrity, walking backwards with cameras in their hands while
everybody fell over everybody to see what was going on!--Oh, yes, Papa,
she was saving it up to brag about to her grandchildren--when she was a
tiresome old lady in a castle corner, with nothing to do but bore chubby
little German aristocrats.

Her gaiety and sprightliness never wavered. Her content, her happiness
were transparent.  If her ardor for Baron von Piller seemed never to
pass the big-brother limits, it might be assumed she concealed her
feelings, and was either too shy or too modest to betray them.  Mr.
Ladd, who read her letters with a microscope, noticed the omission,
and--wondered.  His misgivings were not untinged with pleasure.  Did she
really love this man, he asked himself again and again?  It was
impossible to be certain.  Had it not been for the J. Whitlock Pastor
episode he would have been in less doubt.  But with this in mind, he
could not help wondering--wondering a great deal.

The answer to these conjectures came with a startling unexpectedness.
One afternoon, on his return home, he found the front door open, and an
expressman staggering up to it with a trunk. In the hall were five more
trunks, and Henry and Edwards, both in shirt-sleeves, were departing for
the upper regions with another.  Before Mr. Ladd could ask a question
there was a swift rush of skirts, an inroad of barking dogs, and a
radiant young person was hanging to his neck with round, bare arms.  It
was Phyllis, her eyes dancing, her face flushed with the romp she had
been having with the dogs, her hair in wild disorder, and half down her
back.

"I’m home, Papa," she cried, "home for good, and in such awful disgrace
you oughtn’t to take me in!  Yes, your wayward girl has crept back to
the dear old farm, and though the snow was deep, and all she had was a
crust from a crippled child--she’s here, Papa, at last, and, oh, oh, oh,
so glad!--Down, Watch, down!  Teddy, you’ll get one in the nose if you
don’t stop!--Oh, the little wretch has got my slipper off!"

Teddy scampered away with it, and there was a lively tussle before it
was recovered, with all manner of laughter and slaps and growls.

"But Captain von Piller?" demanded Mr. Ladd. "Is he coming?  Is he here,
too?"

"No, Papa," she returned, "he isn’t here, and he never will be here, and
I left him screaming till you could hear it all over Washington.  Just
howling, Papa, and calling for warships!  And Aunt Sarah was hollering,
too, till the only dignified thing left was to tie my sheets together
and let myself out, which I did before there was a riot!"

"Phyllis, you don’t mean that your engagement--"

"Hush, Papa, we can’t talk here.--Come upstairs to your den."

There she heaped up a dozen pillows on the divan; settled herself with
Watch’s head on her lap, and Wally and Teddy beside her; asked if there
were any chocolate creams, and resigned herself to there being none; and
then, pushing back the soft, thick hair from her eyes, told her father
to sit at her feet, and not to crowd a valuable dog.

"Yes, all that’s finished," she said.  "It was splendid and
international, and all that, but I could not stand it any more.  He was
just like poor Whitlock, only worse.  I don’t know how to describe it,
Papa, for he was awfully correct and all that--I wouldn’t for worlds
have you think he wasn’t--only he expected all the conventional things
that go with being engaged, and wanted me to nestle against his
waistcoat, and, and--pant with joy I suppose--and whisper what a
beautiful, wonderful, irresistible, bubble-bubble-bubble person he
was--and shyly kiss his hand, probably--Oh, well, Papa, I tried to, and
I didn’t like it, and in spite of myself it seemed wrong and
humiliating--and he was so large, and pink, and German, and so much of
him rolled over his collar, and everybody seemed in such a conspiracy to
poke us into dark corners and leave us there, and so finally I just
said, ’No, I’ve made a mistake, and here’s your ring, and here’s the
cablegram from the Kaiser, and here’s the photograph of your dead
mother--and would you mind getting out of my life, please?--and friends
are requested to accept this the only intimation.’"

"And how did he take it?"

"He wouldn’t take it--that was the trouble. He made a frightful fuss.
He couldn’t have made more if we had been really married, and I had
announced my intention of running away with the elevator-boy!  He
scrunched my hands till I thought the bones would break, and might have
thrown me out of the window if tea hadn’t come in the nick of time.
Then he went off to Aunt Sarah, with the German idea of stinging up the
family--as though twenty aunts could make me love a man I didn’t--and
succeeded so well that she practically drove me out.  Oh, her position!
I never heard the end of it--and of course she said I had ruined it, and
that she never could hold up her head again.  The only thing to do was
to run.  So I ran and ran and ran--to my old dad!"

She slipped her hand down, and held her father’s collar as though he,
too, were a dog, and gave it an affectionate little tug.

"My darling old dad," she murmured.

"It’s not so bad to have one, is it?" he said. "To know where there is a
snug harbor, and an old fellow who thinks you are perfect, and
everything you do is right.  You will get a lot of criticism for this,
and I suppose Washington will boil over--but to my thinking, you
couldn’t have done better, and I am thankful for your courage.  If you
don’t love a man, for God’s sake, don’t marry him, even if you’re both
walking up the aisle, and he’s twiddling the ring!--To tell the truth, I
wasn’t a bit partial to Von Piller, and found it pretty hard to sit
tight, and be told he was forty different kinds of a paragon."

"My darling Papa," she observed sweetly, "you’re never going to like
anybody who wants to marry me, and it’s sure to cost me some worry when
the right person does come.--Do you suppose he ever will?"

"Oh, I guess so."

"In spite of the awful record I have made? Aunt Sarah says I am branded
as a coquette, and no decent man will ever have anything more to do with
me."

"Rubbish."

Phyllis fondled Watch’s ears, which were long and silky, and tried the
effect on dog-beauty of overlapping them on his head.

"Papa, what’s the matter with me?  Why haven’t I any sense?  Why am I
not like other girls?"

"You are very fastidious."

"Yes, that’s true."

"And very proud."

"Yes, inherited."

"And demand a great deal."

"Yes--everything."

"You are in love with love--and are rather in a hurry."

"Oh, Papa--shut your eyes--I am love-hungry. I want to love--I’m crazy
to love.  Only--only--"

"The right man hasn’t arrived?"

"I hope it’s that.  If it isn’t, I’m going to have a bad time of it.  It
seems so useless; this getting engaged and then hating the poor
wretch.--It’s such a terrible waste of energy and heart-beats all
round."

"Dad included."

"What a nuisance I am, to be sure!  I’ve exhausted everybody’s patience
except yours, and that’s getting thin.  It will end in my living alone
in a shanty with nothing but dogs, and the faded photographs of the men
I’ve thrown over.  Aunt Sarah called me an awful name; called me an
engagement-buster; said that the habit would grow and grow till I was a
horrid old maid with nothing to tease but a parrot.--Though I’d love to
have a parrot--two of them--and raise little parrots! Little fluffy baby
parrots must be adorable.  Papa, let’s buy a pair to-morrow, and you’ll
teach the he-one to swear, and I’ll teach the she-one to be gentle and
submissive and always have her own way.  And Papa--?"

"Yes, dearest?"

"You aren’t cross with me, are you?"

"Not a bit."

"And I may live with you, and add up your bills, and bring you your
slippers, and dream all day of that Golden Young Man who doesn’t exist?"

"Oh, don’t say that--He does, Phyllis."

"Papa, he doesn’t, he doesn’t, he doesn’t!"



                              *CHAPTER VI*


Socially speaking Carthage was as distant from Washington as is
Timbuctoo.  While the Von Piller hurricane was raging in the nation’s
capital, the Carthage barometer showed "fair and rising."  To a
storm-tossed little mariner, it was like gaining the lee of some palmy
isle, and casting anchor in still water.  The islanders, too, if a
trifle homespun and provincial, were the most delightful people, and
unspoiled by any intrusion of a higher civilization.  Phyllis had not
realized how entirely her outlook had changed until she returned to her
own home.  She saw her former school fellows with new eyes, and while
she could not forbear smiling at some of their ways, she liked them
better than ever before.--They, on their side, regarded with awe this
fashionable young beauty, who had jilted a Pastor, and given the mitten
to a real, live, guaranteed baron, and who had descended in their midst,
like a racer in a paddock of donkeys.

Some of them felt very donkeyfied indeed.  Tom Fergus, a gelatinous
young man, somewhat forward and familiar, who was alluded to in the
local papers as "one of the leaders of the younger set" said she was
"raving pretty, but, my stars, what was a fellow to talk to her about?"
Billy Phillpots, who worked in his father’s store (many of the young
fellows "worked in his father’s store") vetoed her as "insufferably
stuck up," he having escorted her home one night, and failed to extort
the usual toll at the garden-gate.--The good night kiss at the
garden-gate was quite a Carthage institution, and as innocent as the
kiss of an early Christian.

Life in Carthage was altogether Early Christian--for the young people of
the better families. They met every night, and moved in flocks, like
sparrows, alighting first in one house and then another--taking up the
carpets for dancing, improvising suppers, crowding round the fireplaces
to sing, and tell stories.  Presumably there was some social line drawn
somewhere; but money at least counted for little, and anybody that was
"nice" was allowed in.  And it must be said, on the whole, that they
were remarkably "nice," and very much a credit to high-class democracy.
The boys were well-mannered, brotherly and respectful; the girls
charming in their blitheness and gaiety.  Occasionally there was a
match, and a couple disappeared as completely as though they had fallen
into the river and been swept away.  You couldn’t marry, and still be a
sparrow.  No, indeed!  You passed into another world, and six months
after the sparrows would hardly know you on the street.  One would not
venture to say this was cruel--though it always came as a shock to the
newly-wedded pair--it was just the sparrow way, that’s all.

Phyllis was soon flying with the rest of them, and her ready
adaptability caused her to be accepted in their midst without more than
a passing hesitation.  Hiding her riper and more womanly nature, and
absorbing herself in this animated triviality, she pretended to be as
much a sparrow as any of the flock, and no less lively and empty-headed.
She was lonely, heart-tired, and very much adrift on the sea of life;
and in the engaging childishness of these girls and boys, who, though of
her own age, were mentally only up to her elbow, she found a sort of
solace, a sort of peace.  They kept her from thinking; their chatter and
good spirits were exhilarating; the naïve admiration of the young men
warmed, and yet did not disturb her.--Before her long flight to other
skies, the little bird might well be thankful for the sparrows.

Spring came--summer.  Her twenty-first birthday passed in the
Adirondacks, where her father had a cottage in that wilderness of woods
and lakes. She was in her twenty-second year now, and knew what it was
to feel old--oh, so old!  That she was able, by the laws of the land, to
buy and hold real-estate seemed but a poor set-off to this encroachment
of time--though her father repeatedly pointed out this new privilege the
years had brought. She could marry, too, without his consent--another
empty concession to maturity, considering there was no one to marry with
or without it.  Of course, there were a few silly babies running after
her as though she were a woolly sheep--but no one that the wildest
stretch of imagination could consider a man.  Some of their fathers ran,
too--stout widowers panting with the unaccustomed exertion,--but that
was grotesque and disgusting.  Far or wide, high or low, there wasn’t a
pin feather of the Golden Young Man.  His noble race was extinct.  He
lived in books, but you never met him. Never, never.  He had died out a
million years ago, leaving nothing save a tradition for poets and
novelists to paw over.

Quite convinced that it was a wretched world, Phyllis danced and rode,
picnicked and camped out after deer in a bewitching Wild West costume,
and was always the first to a party, and the last to leave it--all very
much like one who found it tolerable enough.  Some would have called her
an insatiable little pleasure-seeker, and been wholly misled. "What are
any of us doing except waiting for a man?" she once announced with
shocking candor. "It’s the fashion to talk of ’other interests’ and we
girls are all graduating, and slumming, and teaching little foreign Jews
to sing ’_My Country ’Tis of Thee_, and _Columbia_, _Gem of the Ocean_,
and learning to be trained nurses and bacteriologists--just in the
effort to save our poor little self-respect.  We ruin our complexions,
dim our eyes, and spoil our nice hands--all the property of some future
lord and master, whom we really are pilfering--and who’s deceived?  Who
takes it seriously? We don’t, who do it.  Poof, what a pretense it
is!--If you have to wait, why not two-step through it as I do, and be as
happy as you can, like people snowed up in a train.  That’s what a young
girl is--snowed up--and I only wish some one would come with a spade and
dig me out!"

These racy confidences entertained and delighted her father, but on
other people they often had a contrary effect.  The truth from the lips
of babes and sucklings, however phenomenal, is also disconcerting.  Old
women, who in private taught their daughters a revolting cynicism, and
called it "putting them on their guard," were much overcome by Phyllis’
frankness.  It was "bold"; it was "unladylike"; it was "dreadful."  They
tore Phyllis to pieces, and prophesied the most awful things. It may be
that they were right.  Selfishness is a fine ballast, and an anxious
regard for number one keeps many a little ship on an undeviating course.
Phyllis was made to smart for her unconventional sayings, and they often
came back to her, so distorted and coarsened by their travels, that her
cheeks flushed with anger.

"There’s one thing I am learning fast," she said, "and that is, all my
friends seem to be men, and all my enemies, women--and I may as well get
used to it now.  I know there are a few exceptions either way, but it’s
substantially that, anyhow, and one might as well face up to it, and
save trouble."

"I’m afraid you are what they call a man’s woman, my dear," said Mr.
Ladd.

"I’m glad of it," exclaimed Phyllis saucily.  "I don’t want to be any
other kind of a woman, least of all one of those sneaking, cowardly,
backbiting, hypocritical things.  I don’t wonder they used to whip them
in the good old days.  If men hadn’t degenerated so terribly, they’d be
whipping them now!"


Autumn saw her back in Carthage again.  Aunt Sarah was begging to have
her for another Washington winter, and was in a beautifully forgiving
humor.  The breaches in her social position had been repaired, and the
Demon Want, confound him, was knocking loudly at the door of her elegant
establishment--so that the hope of another visit, with its accompanying
shower of Brother Bob’s gold, loomed very attractively before these
cold, blue eyes.  But Phyllis could not be beguiled; she had no wish to
repeat that mad winter; her mood was all the other way--for her big
tranquil house, her books, her dogs, her horses, and long dreaming hours
to herself, undisturbed.  She had loved Washington, and had exhausted
it.  The strain of its business-like gaiety was not to be endured again.
It was a factory of pleasure, and the hours over-long, the tasks
over-hard.  Aunt Sarah might ring the bell all she wished, but the
factory that winter would be one toiler short.  When a person has
entered her twenty-second year, that advanced age brings with it a
certain serenity unknown to wilder twenty.  You are glad to lie back
with a dog’s head in your lap, and lazily watch the procession. Silly
young men, choking in immense collars, no longer can keep you out of bed
till three A.M. Let the new débutantes have that doubtful joy.
Twenty-two preferred her book, and her silent rooms.--Not that Carthage
was without its simple relaxations, but they were well spaced out, with
long intervals between.


"Miss Daisy wants you on the ’phone, Miss."

"Oh, all right--I’m coming.--Hello, hello, hello--What a dear you are to
ask me--A--matinée Wednesday?  Love to!--What’s it to be?"

"Oh, Phyllis, you won’t be offended, will you, but I’m so poor, and
their boxes are only five dollars, and will hold six, and they’ve
promised to squeeze in three more chairs--and so I’ve invited nine--and
it’s in that cheap, horrid Thalia Theater, but nobody can hurt us in a
box, and everybody says the play’s wonderful, and you can eat peanuts,
which you can’t do in a real theater; and it’s _Moths_, by Ouida, and
Cyril Adair is the star, and he is so wonderfully handsome--oh, you must
have seen his pictures in the barber-shop windows--and anyway, even if
he isn’t, the play is delightfully wicked--because I had such a fight
with mama about it, and then Howard has been twice, which he wouldn’t
have done if it wasn’t; and even if it isn’t, how am I to give a
theater-party on no more than five dollars?  The Columbia boxes are
fifteen, and so are the Lyceum’s, and when they say six, it’s six, and
you simply couldn’t dare to ask nine girls because they wouldn’t let
them in. But the Thalia man was so pleased and impressed that I believe
he would have included ice-cream if I had asked him--and Phyllis?"

"Yes, darling."

"It would give such a lot of ginger to it, if you would lend me your
carriage and the dog-cart--!  Oh, I knew you would!  What a comfort you
are, Phyllis.  I don’t know how I’d get along without you, you are
always so generous and obliging.  Nettie Havens has volunteered tea at
her house--just insisted on it when I told her. I guess that poor little
five never went so far in all its little history!  I can’t think it ever
ran a whole theater-party before, with carriages and teas. It’s an awful
tacky way of doing things, I admit, but what does it matter if we have a
good time?--Yes, that’s the only way to look at it, and you’re a
darling.  Do you know I think Harry Thayre is sweet on--!  Oh, bother,
she says I’ve to ring off, or pay another nickel.  If it was a man she’d
let him have fifteen cents’ worth!  Well, good-by, good-by--!"


It was a pretty sight they presented in their box, a veritable
flower-bed of young American womanhood. The bright, girlish faces, the
laughter, the animation, the sparkling eyes, the ripples of merriment,
the air of innocent bravado--all were in such contrast to the usual
patrons of the Thalia that the house could not take its eyes off them.
It was essentially a shop-girl-and-best-young-man theater, with a
hoodlum gallery, and a general appearance of extreme youth.  Those who
did not chew gum were almost conspicuous, and a formidable young man
with a voice of brass, perambulated the aisles with a large tray, and
terrorized nickels and dimes from the pockets of swains.  He had a
humorous directness that made the price of immunity seem cheap at the
money.  It was worth a dime any time to escape him.

And the play?

It was a rousing love-story, crude, stilted, old-fashioned, but
developed with a force and earnestness that Ouida has always possessed.
The brutal Prince, the ill-used Princess, Corrèze, the idol of the
public, the tenor whose voice has taken the world by storm, heart-broken
and noble in his hopeless love--here were full-blooded situations to
make the heart beat.  And how nine of them _did_ beat in that crowded
box.  And what scalding tears rolled down those youthful cheeks!  And
what little fists clenched as the Prince, passing all bounds, and
incensed to frenzy, struck--positively struck--the adorable being who
was clinging so desperately to honor and duty!  Who could blame Corrèze
for what was to follow?  Assuredly not our nine rosebuds, who, if
anything, found the splendid creature almost too backward, too
self-sacrificing.  But--!

And Cyril Adair, who played Corrèze with a fervid pathos that tore the
heart out of your breast! Of course, you knew he had taken the world by
storm.  Of course you knew the public idolized him.  Wasn’t he the
handsomest, manliest, most chivalrous fellow alive?  Hadn’t he a voice
to melt a stone, or drive, as cutting as a rapier, through even a
Prince?  His firm chin, his faultless teeth, his strange, smoldering,
compelling eyes, his vigorous yet graceful frame--small wonder that the
Princess threw everything to the winds for such a man.  Under the
circumstances none of the nine would have waited half so long.  The
Princess’ devotion to honor and duty seemed hardly less than morbid.
Her patience under insults was positively exasperating.  She clung to
respectability with both hands--screamed, raged, but stuck to it as
tight as a limpet--until a blow in the face, and the vilest of epithets
from her brutal husband, toppled her finally to perdition--that is, if
it were perdition to link the remainder of her life with that glorious
being, and abandon everything for love.


The box applauded wildly, and led off the whole house.  The curtain was
made to rise again and again.  Corrèze, advancing to the footlights, was
left in no doubt as to where he had scored his heaviest hit, and
rewarded those eager, girlish faces with a glance of his fine eyes, and
a bow intended for them alone.  Phyllis was the least enthusiastic of
the party, and her silence during the first intermission was noisily
commented on.  She ate caramels slowly, and added nothing but
monosyllables and an enigmatic smile to the rapturous demonstrations of
her companions.  But had they noticed her during the further course of
the performance, they might have had something else to wonder at.  With
parted lips, and breath so faint that she seemed not to breathe at
all--with a face paling to marble, and poignant with a curious and
unreasoning distress, her eyes never quitted those of Cyril Adair, and
fixed themselves on his in a stare so troubled, so fascinated, that her
soul seemed to leave her body and to pass the footlights.



                             *CHAPTER VII*


The tea that followed was but a blurred memory, a confused recollection
of noise and chatter, with a stab at the heart every time the actor’s
name was mentioned.  She was thankful to get home, and lock herself in
her room. She was in a tumult of shame, agitation, and an exquisite
guilty joy.  She partly undressed, and threw herself on her bed,
shutting her eyes to win back the face and voice that had moved her to
the depths.  What had he done to her?  A few hours before she had never
known of his existence. The merest accident had revealed it to her, and
now he was causing the blood to surge through her veins, and mantle her
cheeks with dishonor.  For it was dishonor.  Everything in her revolted
at such a position.  His preposterous name struck fiercely on her pride
and her sense of the ridiculous--Cyril Adair!  How could any one,
masquerading under such an egregious alias, dare to give her a moment’s
concern.  She burst out laughing at herself, a contemptuous and bitter
laugh.  Cyril Adair!  No dazzled little housemaid could have been
sillier than she.

Yet his face haunted her, the tones of his voice, that strange,
smoldering look in his eyes.  How greedily that dreadful woman had
kissed him! Those were no stage kisses.  Before a thousand people she
had abandoned herself to his arms, and fastened that painted mouth to
his in an ecstasy. The audience thought it was acting.  Phyllis, with a
keener perception, saw the truth, and it made her savage with jealousy.
That dreadful woman was shameless, crazy, beside herself.  She had wooed
him with every fiber of her body, pressing his head to her bosom, using
every artifice to inflame him, and what had brought down the thunders of
the house had not been a delineation of passion, but the naked thing
itself.

It was horrible.  Actors and actresses were horrible.  No wonder they
were despised even while they were run after.  No wonder their lives
were notorious.  How could it be otherwise when--? But she envied that
woman.  Yes, she envied that woman, terrible as it was to admit it.
Hated her, and envied her.--No, she pitied her as one of her own silly,
headlong sex, cursed with this need to love.  She was no longer young;
she was thirty years old if a day; she was probably poor, disreputable,
with nothing in the world but a trunk full of trashy finery, and no home
but a cheap hotel. Love was the only thing she had, poor wretch, the
only thing.

And Cyril Adair?  It was hard to imagine him in private life except as
Corrèze.  But, of course, he wasn’t Corrèze--that was absurd.  Perhaps
he would be so changed that one would scarcely know him on the street.
She had heard of such disillusions--of tottering old men playing
boys--and wasn’t Bernhardt sixty?  But a woman can tell, a woman
who--who--cares.  That vigorous manhood was no made-up pretense; such
freshness, such warmth, such grace, could not be affected; he was
certainly not much more than thirty, on the border line of youth and
early-maturity when men, to her, possessed their greatest charm.

Lying there, in a swoon of shy delight, she allowed her fancy to fly
away in dreams.  Hand in hand, they trod a fairy-land of love and
rapture. She stole sentences from his part, and made him repeat them to
her alone--avowals, passionate and tender, in all the mellow sweetness
of the voice that still reëchoed in her heart.  He was Corrèze, and she,
in the madness of her infatuation, had forced her way to him and thrown
herself humbly at his feet.  His love was not for her; she aspired to no
such heights; but she had come to be his little slave; to follow him in
his wanderings; to sleep across his door, and guard him while he slept.
To be near him was all she asked.  His little slave, who, when he was
dejected and weary, would nestle beside him, and cover his hand with the
softest kisses.  She wanted no reward; she would try not to be jealous
of those great ladies, though there would be times when she could not
hold back her feelings, and his hand, as she drew it across her eyes,
would be all wet with tears.

With her maid’s knock at the door there came a sudden revulsion.
Phyllis called to her to go away, unwilling to be seen in her
defenselessness, and fearful of she knew not what.  But the spell was
broken.  The bubble of that pretty fantasy vanished at one touch of
fact.  Harsh reality obtruded itself, and with it a pitiless
self-arraignment.  She had been swept off her feet by a third-class
actor, in a third-class play, full of mawkish sentiment and unreality,
in a third-class theater where they chewed gum, and ate apples while
they wept over the hero’s woes!  A wave of self-disgust rose within her.
She felt soiled, humiliated.  How dared this cheap, showy creature reach
out to take such liberties with a woman a thousand times above him?  A
creature, who in all probability ate with his knife, carried on low love
affairs with admiring shop-girls, and practised his fascinations before
a mirror, like a trick-monkey!  Pah, the thought of her amorous
imaginings reddened her cheeks, and consumed her with bitterness and
shame.  Where was her self-respect, her modesty?  If wishes could have
killed, there would have been no performance of _Moths_ that night at
the Thalia Theater.

At dinner she convulsed her father with an account of the play, in which
neither Adair nor the audience were in any way spared.  In her zest and
mockery, it all took on a richly humorous aspect, and at times she was
interrupted by her own silvery peals of laughter.  To hear her, how
could any one have guessed that she had been stirred as she had never
been stirred before, and that the screaming farce she described had been
in reality the one drama that had ever touched her? Was it in revenge
for what she had suffered?  Was it perversity?  Or was it the attempt to
conquer a physical attraction so irresistible that it tormented and
terrified her even while she fought it with the best of all
weapons--derision?

She passed a wretched night, tossing and turning on her bed in a whirl
of emotions.  She was haunted by that face which appeared to regard her
with such reproach.  Why had she betrayed him, it seemed to ask?  The
smoldering eyes, compelling always, were questioning and melancholy.
That look, of such singular intensity, and with its strange and
mysterious appeal to some other self of hers, again asserted its
resistless power.  She felt herself slipping back, in a langour of
tenderness, to the mood that had shocked her so much before.  In vain
she repeated the saving words--threw out those little life-buoys to a
swimmer drowning in unworthy love--"third-class actor"--"matinée
hero"--"shop-girls’ idol."--The drowning swimmer continued to drown,
unhelped.  The life-buoys floated away, and disappeared.  Engulfing
love, worthy or unworthy, drew down her spent body to the blue and
coraled depths, and held her there, fainting with delight.

In our secret hearts, who has not, at some time or other, felt an
unreasoning desire for one all unknown.  Is love, indeed--true love,
anything else? Glamour and idealization--we would not go far without
either, and many, hand in hand, have trod the long path to the grave,
and died happy with their illusions.  Nature, to screen her coarser
intent, fools us, little children that we are, with these pretty and
poetic artifices.  May it always be so, for God knows, it is an ugly
world, and it does not do to peer too curiously behind the scenes.


There was a Mrs. Beekman that Phyllis knew, the widow of a distinguished
lawyer, left with nothing, who had bravely set herself to earn her
living as a milliner.  It was to the credit of Carthage that Mrs.
Beekman’s altered fortunes had not impaired its regard for her.  She
kept her friends in spite of the "Hortense" over her shop, and a window
full of home-made hats, which, of themselves, would have amply justified
ostracism.  It was no new thing for Mrs. Beekman to act as chaperon, and
repay, in this small measure, many kindnesses that verged on charity.
So she was not surprised, though much pleased and excited, when Phyllis
telephoned, and asked her to go with her to the theater. "I liked the
play so much I want to see it again," trickled that tiny voice into her
ear, "and though it’s at that awful Thalia Theater, we can sit in a box,
and be quite safe and comfortable.--May I call for you a little after
eight, dear?"

Mrs. Beekman, who was an indefatigable pleasure-seeker, consented with
effusiveness.  Phyllis was a darling to have thought of her.  One of her
girls had told her the play was splendid, and that the star--oh, what
didn’t she say about the star! Was Phyllis crazy about him, too?  Hee,
hee, all alike under their skins, as Kipling said!  Not that she liked
Kipling--he was so unrefined--but Miss Britt (you know Miss Britt, the
silly one, with poodle eyes, and a poodle-fool if ever there was one)
Miss Britt raved for hours about his "somber beauty."  Wasn’t it
killing!  If Adair wanted to, he could leave town with two box-cars of
conquests!  My, the milliners wouldn’t have a girl left, and the
ice-cream parlors would all have to shut.--At eight, dear?--And dress
quietly so as not to attract attention?  Hee, hee, it was quite a lark,
wasn’t it?


Sitting in the same box, on the same chair, but with a feeling as though
years had elapsed since she had last been there, Phyllis again saw the
curtain rise on _Moths_.  The impulse that had brought her, the mad
desire to see the man who had tortured her so cruelly, had changed to a
cold critical mood, to a disdain so comprehensive that it included
herself no less than Adair.  Dispassionate and contemptuous, it cost her
no effort to steel herself against his first appearance.  His mouth was
undeniably rather coarse; she detected a self-complacency beneath his
Corrèze that his acting failed to hide; she saw his glance seek the
back-benches with a satisfaction at finding them filled, that struck her
as somehow greedy and tradesmanlike.  What a disgusting business it was
to posture and rant, and choke back sham tears, and mimic the sacredest
things in life--and watch back-benches with an eye to the evening’s
profits!  The wretchedest laborer, with his pick and shovel, was more of
a man. At any rate he did something that was dignified, that was useful
and wanted.  He was not framed in cardboard; there was no row of lights
at his honest, muddy feet; his loving was a private matter, and when he
kissed he meant it.--How fortunate it was that she had come!  How
unerring the instinct that had brought her back to be cured!

But as the play proceeded such reflections were forgotten in the
intensity of her absorption.  Again she was leaning forward with parted
lips; rapt, over-borne, lost to everything, and pale with an
indescribable tumult of emotion.  She was conscious of no audience; of
naught save the man who held her captive with a power so absolute and
irresistible that birth, training, pride, weighed as nothing in the
balance.  His voice pierced her heart; his eyes seemed to draw the soul
from her body; she trembled at her own helplessness, though the
realization of it was also a strange and intoxicating pleasure.

But intermingled with that pleasure, darting through it like a tongue of
flame, was a jealousy of Miss de Vere that not even the bitterest of
contempt could allay.  Phyllis felt to the full the degradation of being
jealous of any one bearing so preposterous a name.  Lydia de Vere!  Her
lips curled at herself.  Oh, that shoddy affectation of aristocracy!
Lydia de Vere!  And that in a ten-twenty-thirty cent theater, and hardly
clothed above the waist; and yet, in spite of her painted face, her dyed
hair, and all of her thirty years, with shoulders and breast that a
duchess might have envied, she was handsome in her common, flamboyant,
chorus-girl way, with the meaningless good looks that one associates
with tights and gilt spears. Her acting was stilted and false; her fine
ladyism an impossible assumption; she railed at the Prince in the
accents of a cook giving notice.  But her love for Corrèze taxed no
histrionic powers.  It was vehement and real, as were the kisses she
bestowed so freely, and the caresses she lingered over with voluptuous
satisfaction.  Beneath the drama of fictitious personages was another of
flesh and blood, like a splash of scarlet on a printed page.

What fury and anguish lay pent up in one girlish bosom!  What a
suffocating sense of defeat, bitterness and shame!--  To burn with
jealousy of such a woman was more lowering than to--  No, she would not
admit that word to herself.  It was folly, infatuation, madness--but not
love.  It would pass with the swiftness it had come, leaving her in
wonder at herself, though the scar would remain for many a long day.
This man was robbing her of something that never perhaps could be
altogether replaced.  How wicked it was, how unjust--she who had done
nothing to tempt the lightning! She hated him for it; she clenched her
teeth and defied him; she understood now what she had read in books that
there are men the mind scorns even while the body surrenders.  But she
was made of stronger stuff; she had pride and courage; her pearls were
not for swine to trample on.  She would put him out of her head for
ever.

It was terrible how he always got back again. There were tones in his
voice that melted every resolution.  If ever laughter was music, it was
his, and the contagion of it swept the house; and his face, though not
handsome in the accepted sense, was striking in the effect it gave of an
untamed, extraordinary and powerful nature, only half revealed.  What
was pride or courage or anything? What availed the hatred of that
hotly-beating little heart?  Had he not but to look her way to make it
his own?  Had he crushed it in his hand, would it not have died of joy?
Hatred, resentment, outraged self-respect--words, nothing but words.

As the house streamed out she waited in dread for Mrs. Beekman’s
criticism.  However desperately she might belittle Adair to herself,
Phyllis shrank from hearing condemnation on other lips. The pride that
had failed so utterly to defend her, had taken sides with the enemy,
devotedly, passionately.  Judge of her surprise, then, her pleasure and
relief, when Mrs. Beekman said to her solemnly: "Phyllis, that man’s a
genius!  He’s perfectly splendid!"  Misunderstanding her companion’s
silence, and thinking it implied dissent, she went on with a note of
argument in her voice. "Of course one can feel somehow that he has had
no advantages--that he has probably never been within ten miles of the
people he is trying to represent--(do you remember his shaking hands
with his gloves on?)--but just the same he has a wonderful and
magnificent talent, and we’ll hear of him as surely as the world heard
of Henry Irving, or Booth, or Bernhardt.  Truly, Phyllis, I believe the
day will come when we’ll be bragging of having admired Adair before he
was famous; that is, if you feel like me about it," she added
doubtfully.

"I do, I do!" cried Phyllis.  "I’ve never seen anybody on the stage I’ve
liked as much."

"Well, I have," said Mrs. Beekman candidly. "He certainly suffered from
being with all those idiots, and I don’t like that fling-ding walk of
his.--I guess he’s about five years short of the winning-post, but we’ll
see him romp in as sure as my name’s Emma Beekman."

"Romping in" jarred somewhat on Phyllis’ ear, but all the same Mrs.
Beekman’s admiration was very sweet to her, and in a queer sort of way
was comforting and reassuring.  There was dignity in idolizing a genius;
it raised her in her own good opinion.

She forgot the apples and the chewing-gum; she forgot even Miss de Vere;
a mantle of unreasoning happiness enveloped her, and with it came a gush
of affection for Mrs. Beekman that quite astonished the latter.  She
held her hand in the dark, and tried, with many unseen blushes, to keep
the one subject uppermost.  To lie back in the carriage and hear Adair
praised, thrilled her with delicious sensations.  She was insatiable,
and kept the milliner repeating "genius, genius, genius," like a parrot.
It cost her an order for a twenty dollar hat, but what did she care?
She would have given the clothes off her back in the extravagance of her
desire.  Fortunately Mrs. Beekman was nothing loath, and would have
chattered for ever on this entrancing topic.  "I guess we’re as bad as
my girls," she said, with her good-natured laugh, "and he could put us
both in the box-car, too, if he had the mind."

"I shouldn’t care if I was the only one," returned Phyllis gaily, "and
anyway, I’ve always loved traveling!"

"It would be to the devil," said Mrs. Beekman half-seriously.  "That’s
where such men come from, and that’s where they go back--and if you
could follow round the circle, I guess you’d find it mile-stoned with
silly girls."

"Oh, if I went, I would stay to the end," cried Phyllis.  "No putting me
off at a way-station. I’d take a through ticket."

"And get there alone," put in Mrs. Beekman. "Men like that don’t go far
with any girl.  They are a power for mischief, and they weren’t much
wrong in the old days to run them out of town--vagabonds and strolling
players, you know.  I guess in those times they used to take chickens,
too, and anything portable.  A bad lot, my dear, and they aren’t any
better to-day."

This was a poor return for a twenty-dollar hat, and without knowing
exactly why, it made Phyllis exceedingly miserable.  She felt a
diminishing affection for Mrs. Beekman; and the world altogether
suddenly took on a cold and dismal aspect.  Her spirits were not revived
by finding her father sitting up for her.

"What was the play?" he asked, taking her wraps.

"_Moths_, Papa."

"What?  Twice?"

"Oh, I thought it would amuse me to see it again, and besides, Mrs.
Beekman preferred it to anything else in town, and I really went for her
sake, you know.  It’s a charity to take her out sometimes; her life is
so monotonous, and one feels so sorry for her."

Mr. Ladd waited, smiling in advance, for another humorous take-off of
the piece.  But there was no fun in Phyllis that night.  She drank a
glass of water, kissed him good night, and went silently up to bed.

"She doesn’t seem very well," he thought, with a shade of concern, and
remembered that she had been pale and tired for some days past.  "If she
doesn’t pick up in a day or two, I believe I’ll get the doctor."

Had he seen her an hour later, his misgivings would have increased.
Kneeling beside her bed, her face crushed in the coverlet, she was
weeping softly and heart-brokenly to herself.



                             *CHAPTER VIII*


Friday, the day that followed, was memorable to her for its decisiveness
and remorse. She took a long ride, and between canters, busied her head
with plans of escape.  Washington, Florida, Europe--it mattered little
where--so long as she got away at once.  She looked at herself
dispassionately, and the more she looked the more utterly despicable did
she seem.  She was undoubtedly in love with this cheap, showy
actor--(somehow in the sunshine his genius had withered, and he seemed
to share the general tawdriness of gum and apples and shop-boy
sentiment)--crazily in love, infatuated; and to refuse to admit it was
but to hide her head in the sand, like an ostrich.

The comparison was not a pretty one, but then she was not looking for
pretty comparisons.  In fact, as far as her feelings for Adair were
concerned, she was eager to find words that could make her wince.  She
said them out loud, exulting in their brutality; gross words, picked up
she hardly knew where, and put out of mind as unclean and horrible. To
use them now was a form of self-flagellation, and she laid on the whip
with a will.  It was good for a little fool, she said viciously.  Lash!
lash! It would keep her out of mischief.  Lash! lash! Let her understand
once for all what it really meant, even if the skin curled off her back.

On her return home she stopped at the telegraph-office to carry out her
intention of volunteering a visit to Aunt Sarah’s.  Night or day, in
season or out, there she always had a refuge.  If blood in Aunt Sarah’s
case, was not thicker than water, there was the more robust bond of hard
cash always to be relied upon.  A niece who descended in a shower of
gold could count with confidence on the bread and salt of hospitality,
and the sincerest of welcoming kisses.  There is something to be said
for people you can count on with confidence.  An affectionate,
love-you-like-a-daughter aunt might have made excuses.  A money-loving,
pleasure-loving, wholly selfish aunt, living very much above her income,
was one of the certainties of life.

But as she reined in her horse, and the groom ran to give her his hand
to dismount, she wondered, after all, whether she would telegraph.  The
flagellation had been very successful; the September sunshine had killed
the pitiful glimmer of the footlights; the crisp invigorating air had
brought sanity with every breath.  No, indeed, she would not telegraph,
she was not half the fool she had thought herself; it was a girlish
weakness to exaggerate everything--infatuation included.  She would
telephone to that nice New Yorker instead and invite him to tea.  That
oldish man with the charming distinction and courtesy, who had shown
symptoms of infatuation, too.--Yes, a good whipping to be followed by
two hours of an excessively devoted Mr. Van Suydam, and perhaps a
boy-and-girl-evening later with the carpet up--and why should anybody be
scared of anything?

So the telegram was not sent; and a young lady, very much restored, and
looking adorably fresh and pretty on her Kentucky mare, came galloping
up Chestnut Avenue in excellent spirits and appetite.

As for Mr. Van Suydam--he threw over a big reception to come, and was so
agreeable and eager, in such a sweet, restrained, smiling way, that he
was allowed to hold a little hand a long, long while, and murmur a whole
heartful of tender things that amounted virtually to a
declaration--which was cruel of Phyllis, not to say unladylike and
shocking; for with half-shut eyes she tried to imagine it was quite
another man who was wooing her, and abandoned herself to the fiction
with a waywardness that was inexcusable.  But however unjust it was
towards Mr. Van Suydam, who was an honorable man, and meant what he
said, and was naturally much elated--his suit did Phyllis good, and even
as dummy for another, an inevitable comparison would insist upon
obtruding itself.  Caste is very strong; it is difficult to associate
good-breeding, honor and distinction with a ten-twenty-thirty cent star;
and though Mr. Van Suydam, was nothing to Phyllis personally she could
not help realizing the high value she set on the qualities he
exemplified--so high, indeed, that it began to seem impossible for her
to care seriously for any man without them.

An evening with the sparrows rounded out that day of good resolves and
healthy common sense. She danced with a zest that no
genuinely-infatuated person could have felt, and told ghost stories
afterwards before the fire, and listened to others being told, with
shudders of unaffected enjoyment. "And my dear, when she looked at that
man again, _she saw that his throat was cut from ear to ear!_"--It was a
jolly evening, innocently hilarious, and as wholesome as an ocean
breeze.  Morbidity and introspection could not persist in an atmosphere
so genially youthful.  Phyllis never thought once of Cyril Adair, and
flirted outrageously with Sam Hargreaves, convulsing the sparrows by
sharing his ice-cream spoon.  Ordinarily quiet and backward, and even a
little disdainful, she showed herself in wild spirits that night, and
her audacity, humor and gaiety were irresistible.


It was very discouraging, after a night’s sleep, as untroubled as a
babe’s, to awaken again with a dull ache within her, and to discover,
with hopeless despondency, that she was not cured at all. Alas for the
girlish armor she had striven so hard to put about her--Mr. Van Suydam,
Sam Hargreaves, the bitter, ugly things she had said to herself, the
defiant resolutions.  Where was that pride she had stung to fury?  Where
was that sense of caste which yesterday had seemed so peremptory?

The morning found her bereft of everything, wretched, defenseless, with
no longer even the will to fly.  She was under the spell once more, and
powerless to throw it off.  Her whole prepossession was to see Adair
again, cost what it might. Nothing else mattered.  She was mad,
infatuated, contemptible to herself--but she could only be appeased by
the sight of him.  Yet how was it possible?  How could she contrive it?
She could not well ask Mrs. Beekman a second time.  That any one should
suspect her secret was intolerable--she would rather have died.  The
circle of her girl friends was too small to arrange another
theater-party without submitting herself to unbearable innuendoes and
home-thrusts.  Those young women had a preternatural instinct for
detecting the dawn of love.  In other things they might be stupid and
blind, but for this they were as watchful as hawks, and as merciless as
only twenty can be.  What of her admirers then--Mr. Van Suydam, say, or
good-natured, fat Sam?  But they could be very sharp, too--and besides,
she could not be so forward as to seek an invitation.  Young girls in
Carthage had a great deal of liberty--but it had its limits.  Perhaps
she could take one of the house-maids with her to the matinée--it was
Saturday and the piece was given twice.  But this would appear queer,
especially if it reached her father.

There seemed nothing for it but to dress very plainly and go by herself.
It was something to remember that matinées practically existed for women
only--though attending one alone was unheard of in Phyllis’ set.  It was
less a social law than a sort of fact.  Girls went to matinées in pairs
apparently--always had--and apparently always would.  "Who did you go
with, my dear?" was an inevitable question.  Well, if necessary, one
could meet that with a fib; and if one were found out, it was no great
crime after all--but rather a mild escapade that a blush could condone.
Of course a box was out of the question.  She could not sit solitary in
a box for the whole house to gape at.  But there was nothing to prevent
her buying two orchestra seats, so that any one recognizing her might
draw a natural deduction.  An adjoining empty seat was almost a
chaperon, besides permitting her to widen her distance from an
unpleasant neighbor.  If there should be two unpleasant neighbors, she
could always rise and walk out.

At two she was passing the Thalia Theater with an air of well-feigned
unconcern, though her steps grew slower, and she stole quick frightened
glances at the bustling entrance.  She felt the need of such a
preliminary survey before she could screw her courage up to the point of
joining the in-going throng, who by daylight looked so depressingly
dingy and common that she was fairly daunted by the sight of them.  Even
in the plainest clothes she possessed, she felt that she would be
noticeable among people like that, and this was brought home to her the
more by the impudent stare of several young men, who parted, none too
politely, for her to pass.  They knew she had no business there alone;
that she belonged to another world; and there was speculation, as well
as forward admiration, in the looks they cast at her. She felt they had
somehow divined her hesitating purpose, and were grinning at her
humiliation. She quickened her pace, and got by with fiercely flaming
cheeks, and a desolating sense of failure.

But the desire was so overmastering that after a few minutes she turned,
and again coerced her reluctant feet.  Impudent young men could do her
no harm.  What a coward she had been to let them disconcert her.  She
would put down her sixty cents, and enter boldly, telling herself she
was a factory girl, whose young man happened to be late. She might even
leave the second ticket at the box-office with the phantom’s name on
it--though no, that would mean too much talking, and she distrusted her
voice.  But, anyhow, nothing was going to keep her out of the theater.
Didn’t soldiers walk tip to breastworks, bristling with guns and
cannons--whole rows of them, with probably a very similar shakiness in
their legs?  She would advance on that box-office in the same
spirit--right, left, right, left--rubadub, rubadub--with sixty cents in
her hot little hand.

She had scarcely reached the outskirts of the crowd when she suddenly
heard her name called aloud.  It went through her like a knife, and she
hardly dared turn her guilty head.  There, beside the curb, in a big
automobile, was Mr. Van Suydam, with a party of women in veils and furs,
all signaling to her.  There ensued an animated conversation.  Where was
she going?  Why shouldn’t she jump in with them?  Mr. Van Suydam would
sit on the floor of the tonneau, and give her his place.  They were so
insistent that it was not easy to refuse.  She fibbed manfully, and
invented pressing engagements....  At last they rolled off, waving their
hands....

But this chance meeting cost her all the poor courage she possessed.
Why, she could not explain to herself--but it was gone, and there was
nothing for it but to hasten away.  She felt she had escaped detection
by a hair; the precious matinée was lost; her eyes smarted with
disappointment and chagrin. She rankled with the injustice of it,
too--the unmerited and unsought disaster that this infatuation really
was.  She was so wholly innocent of any blame.  She had done
nothing--absolutely nothing--to incur it.  If you caught measles or
smallpox every one was sorry for you; it was admittedly a misfortune for
which you were in no way responsible.  But if you caught love (she
smiled at her own phrase), it was an unspeakable disgrace! Yet what was
the difference?  Did it not lie outside one’s self?  How unjust it was,
then, to make a criminal of a woman for what was beyond her power to
control; and the exasperating part was that she felt a criminal to
herself!

Her heart was heavy with shame.  One instinct made her love
unreasonably; another instinct arrogated the right to criticize with
unsparing venom.  What a contradiction!  What a cruel heritage from all
those thousands of dead people who had gone to make her body and her
mind with odds and ends of themselves!  She had done no harm, yet some
blind, unknown, malignant force was grinding her under its heel.  She
understood now why old-fashioned people believed so implicitly in the
devil.  It was their crude explanation of the unexplainable.

She locked herself in her room, and impelled by a thought that had been
dancing dizzily in her head, opened her desk, and drew out a sheet of
note-paper.  She managed to write: "Dear Mr. Adair"; and then, blushing
crimson, covered her face with her hands, and began to tremble with an
uncontrollable emotion.  To continue that letter--to send it--was to
outrage every feeling of modesty within her.  Under the circumstances
any letter, however cold or conventional, was an avowal. She might
almost as well write "_je t’adore_" under her photograph, and leave it
at the stage-door. But that blind, unknown, malignant force, after a
moment of respite, again drove her on.  She might shiver and blush, but
the compulsion of it was like iron, and she had to obey.

"Dear Mr. Adair," she wrote, "I have seen _Moths_ twice, and may I, a
mere member of the public, and altogether unknown to you, take the great
liberty of expressing my admiration of your wonderful performance?"  She
stopped at the last word, and debated it over with herself--quite
coolly, considering the throes she had been in a minute before.  No,
"performance" would not do. Bears performed; so did acrobats; it was not
the right word at all.--She took another sheet of paper, and began
again: "Dear Mr. Adair: I have seen _Moths_ twice, and may I, a mere
member of the public, and altogether unknown to you, take the great
liberty of expressing my admiration of your powerful portrayal of a
noble nature struggling against an illicit passion?  Nothing I have ever
seen on the stage has moved me so deeply, and though praise from an
absolute stranger may seem little in your eyes, I can not resist the
impulse that makes me write.  Trusting you will receive this in the
spirit that prompts it, believe me, in sincere homage, Phyllis Ladd."

She read it, and re-read it till the words lost all meaning.  What would
he think of it?  What sort of person would it conjure up to him?  The
hand, and the paper, and the engraved address all denoted refinement and
good taste.  It would be quite evident to him that she was a lady, with
a social position of the best--that is, if he knew what Chestnut Avenue
meant in Carthage, and especially such a number as 214.  But there was
nothing to show that she was young, or unmarried--or--or--good-looking.
The letter might just as well have been written by a matron of fifty.
If only she could have added "aged twenty-one, and generally considered
a very pretty woman."  She would have liked him to know that, even if
she were never to see him again; would have liked to tantalize his
curiosity in regard to the unknown Phyllis Ladd whose name was signed at
the end.--Though he probably received bushels of notes.  All actors were
said to.  And being a man he would probably like some of the warmer ones
better--those from frankly adoring shop-girls, hampered neither by
social position nor backwardness.  Hers would be pushed to one side, and
never thought of again.  Oh, the little fool she was to send it! What
could come of it but shame, and good Heavens, hadn’t she had enough of
that already?

But undeterred, and wilful in spite of everything, she addressed an
envelope, folded her letter inside it, and went out to drop it herself
into the box.  As it slipped from her fingers she felt an intense
pleasure in her daring.  It was only a coward who took no risks.  There
was her letter in the box gone beyond retaking.  For better or worse,
for good or evil, it had started on its road, and let come what might.



                              *CHAPTER IX*


The next morning, towards noon, Cyril Adair was lounging over the bar of
the Good Fellows’ Grotto, with one well-shod foot perched on the metal
rest below.  Before him was a Martini cocktail, and the admiring,
deferential face of Larry, the bar-keeper.  Adair stood the scrutiny of
daylight better than most actors.  Late hours, dissipation and
grease-paint had not impaired a fine and ruddy skin that the morning
razor left as fresh as a boy’s.  His brown eyes were clear, and there
was about him an air of unassailable health that was enhanced by broad
shoulders, a neck as firm as any ever cut from Greek marble, and a
finely-swelling chest--the physique, in fact, of what he had some
pretensions to be--a good, welter-weight boxer.  His skill in this
direction was well known, and his readiness when tipsy to exercise it on
any one unfortunate enough to offend him, was one of the scandals of his
stormy and scandalous life.  His engagements, nine times out of ten, had
the knack of ending in the police court, with raw beefsteak for the
plaintiff’s eye, and the option of "seven day’s hard" for the uncontrite
defendant.  Even when stark sober--and to do him justice he drank only
in fits and starts, with long intermissions between--there was something
subtly formidable in the man, and people instinctively made way for him,
and treated him with a respect verging on fear.

He was over-dressed in what was the last accentuation of the prevailing
fashion--with far too much braided cuff, with far too startling a
waistcoat, with far too extravagant a tie and pin--and worse than
anything, wore them all with assertiveness and self-complacency.  Though
his manners were good (when he liked,) and his address agreeable, and
even ingratiating, he was too showy, too self-satisfied, too elaborately
at ease, and his assurance seemed to rest, not on the conventional
groundwork of birth and breeding, but rather on his power and will to
knock you through the door if he cared to take the trouble.

Of course, he was profoundly ignorant, knowing nothing, reading little,
his life bounded by the footlights on one side, and the stage-door on
the other--and like all such men perpetually nervous lest he should be
found out.  His inherent ability was enormous--as enormous as his
vanity.  He had fought his way up from nothing--from the muddy streets
in which he had sold papers, and begged, and starved, his whole boyhood
long.  He was full of instincts that had never had the chance of
becoming anything more--instincts, which, if cultivated, might have made
him a very different man.  He was passionately fond of bad music;
delighted in the only pictures he knew, those in hotels and saloons; he
had, stored away in a memory that never forgot anything, half the plays
of Shakespeare, and thousands of lines of trashy verse. A savage, in
fact, in the midst of our civilization, which, after trying to grind him
into powder, and denying him everything, was unjust enough to despise
him heartily for what he had made of himself unaided.  Could he have
refrained from taking offense at trifles, and from punching people’s
heads, he could easily have retained the high place he had once held on
the New York stage.  He had no one to thank but himself if he were now
touring the country in a fifty-class company, with an enemy in every
manager who had ever employed him.  He had a strong, unusual talent.  In
the delineation of somber and misunderstood natures, contradictory,
pent-up, heroic--the out and out bad man with a spark of good--he was
admitted by metropolitan critics to have no equal in America.  Others
copied him slavishly and made successes, while he, their inspiration and
their model, remained comparatively unknown.  There were times when he
felt very badly about it, but a pretty face and a provocative petticoat
could always divert his attention. Needless to say he had not to look
far to find either.

"Larry," he asked nonchalantly, "do you know any people in Carthage here
named Ladd?"

"I don’t believe I do, Mr. Adair," returned Larry, scratching his head.
"Leastways, none except Robert T. R. Ladd, the railroad president."
Larry was unable to conceive that this mighty name could possibly have
any bearing on Adair’s question.  "No, I don’t believe I do."

"Oh, the railroad president?  Any family?"

"Just one daughter."

"Well, go on--tell me about her."

"Why, there isn’t much to say, except people call her the prettiest girl
in Carthage--but then they always say that of a millionaire’s
daughter--Emma Satterlee would turn the milk sour, and yet in the
society notes--"

"Did you ever see her?--No, no, I don’t mean that one--the railroad
man’s--the Ladd girl?"

"Yes, I saw her onst in a church fair.  She hit _me_ all right.  Slender
brunette, very aristocracy, with the kind of eyes that if you’re _fond_
of brunettes--seem like--"

"How old is she?"

"Hell, how do I know!  Twenty--twenty-one--something around there.  Just
a girl."

"And the prettiest one in Carthage?" repeated Adair, sipping his
cocktail as though the description pleased him.

"Well, I would leave _my_ happy home for her," said Larry, with a grin.
"Pretty--I’d say she was pretty--pretty enough to eat."

"Lives out Chestnut Avenue way, doesn’t she?"

"Yes, in the stone house that’s set back in a kind of park, with a big
gate in front and a driveway.  The Ladds’ are at the top of the top, you
know.  My, I felt I was breaking into the swell bunch myself when she
told my fortune for a dollar. If I had had the nerve and the money I
guess she would be telling it yet!  And she smiled so sweet when she
took it, like I was as good as anybody.  God forgive me if I seem to
talk disrespectful of her, for she’s a lady through and through, and I
knew it even if I was only a bar-keeper."

"Toss you for the drinks," said Adair, draining his glass.  "Hand over
the box, Larry."

"Sure Mike," said the bar-keeper rattling the dice.


Adair encountered an acquaintance, a commercial traveler named Hellman,
on the sidewalk outside.

"Just the fellow I wanted to see," he cried. "Hellman, there is such a
word as temerity, isn’t there?"

"Bet your life," said Hellman.  "The temerity of my playing _Hamlet_,
you know--the temerity of you thinking yourself a better-looking man
than I am--the temerity of--"

"And you spell it t-e-m-e-r-i-t-y?" interrupted Adair.

"Yes, why?"

"Oh, I used it in a letter I was writing to a girl, and I didn’t want to
mail it till I was sure."  He showed the envelope in his hand, with his
thumb hiding the name.

"Always at it," said Hellman, with an unpleasant laugh.  "Who are you
throwing the handkerchief at now?"

"The prettiest girl in Carthage," returned Adair genially.  "There’s a
box over there--let’s drop it in."

And together they crossed the street, and sent the letter on its way.

It was to Phyllis, begging in warm but respectful language for the
privilege of calling on her.



                              *CHAPTER X*


"Dear Mr. Adair: I hardly expected you to reply to my note, nor could I
have thought it would please you so much as you say.  Indeed, I hope you
will not misjudge it--or me--for it was written on the same impulse that
makes one applaud in the theater itself, and with no ulterior idea.
Frankly, I do not think I ought to ask you to call--the circumstances
are so peculiar--and it is all so against the conventionalities.  In
Washington or New York it would be different, but this little
place--like all little places--is strait-laced beyond belief.  It will
be my loss more than yours, which perhaps will be some consolation to
you.  Yet it seems too stupid to say no--that is, if you really _do_
want to come--and I am going to ask you after all.  Surely a little talk
over a cup of tea to-morrow at five ought not to arrest the stars in
their courses, or bring down the pillars of the universe on our
unfortunate heads?  And if any one should come in, we might say that we
had met before in Washington? That would place our acquaintance on a
more correct footing, and save me, at least, the possibility of
embarrassment.  Is this asking too much of you?  Sincerely yours,
Phyllis Ladd."



                              *CHAPTER XI*


There are men who pursue women with a skill, zest and pertinacity that
others do bears or tigers, and with very much the same hardihood and
delight.  In the rich preserves of the world, so well stocked with youth
and beauty, they find an unending enjoyment, and an unending occupation.
No sooner have they brought down one, and beheld her bleeding and
stricken at their feet, than they are up and off, with another notch on
their gun, and fresh ardor in their hearts.  They are debarred from
taking the tangible trophies of skin and head; a slipper, a glove, a
bundle of letters are often all they have to show; but within them wells
the satisfaction of the hunter who has made a "kill."

Amongst this race of sportsmen there were few hardier or more daring
than Cyril Adair.  That the game was cruel or cowardly had never
occurred to him.  The women he knew--all of the lower class--frequently
played their side of it with eyes wide open, and ran--not to escape--but
with the full intention of being caught.  This is not urged in his
extenuation.  Often he was not aware of the subterfuge.  Women to him
were but prey, and in more venerable times he would have waylaid any
lady he favored, with a club.

Behold him in immaculate afternoon costume, striding along Chestnut
Avenue--boutonniere, silk-hat, cane, new suede gloves, etc.--a devil of
a fellow in his own estimation, with an air and a swagger that reflected
his profound contentment with himself.  He had never gone a-hunting
before in such a splendid wood.  The thought that he was actually going
to invade one of those imposing mansions made his pulses leap.  How big
they were, how aristocratic!  What incomes they represented!  What
mysteries of ease and luxury lay hidden behind those stately windows!
He was tremendously stirred; tremendously excited.  He swelled with
self-complacency.  He was hardly over thirty, he was handsome, he was a
genius--and the women loved him!

A man-servant admitted him.  Yes, Miss Ladd was expecting him.  His hat
and cane were taken, while he gazed, somewhat daunted, at the immense
hall in which he found himself.  He had a confused sense of tapestries;
of stone bas-reliefs very worn and old; of oriental rugs; of
strange-looking, moldy chairs, straight-backed and carved, with massive
arms, on which there was still the fading gilt of the fifteenth
century.--He was led through another room of a similar cold and spacious
magnificence, and then up-stairs to the drawing-room. Here he was left,
while the man departed to inform his mistress of the visitor’s arrival.

The elegance and beauty with which Adair found himself surrounded fairly
took his breath away. His only standard was that of fashionable hotels,
yet here was something that made the splendors of the Waldorf or the
Auditorium seem suddenly tawdry in comparison.  His instinctive good
taste was ravished by the old Venetian brocades, the rich dark pictures,
the Sheriton furniture, the harmonious blending of all these, and so
many other half-seen and half-comprehended things into a gracious and
exquisite whole.  Near him was the table set out for tea, with silver
that it was a joy to look at; and about the little island it made in the
vastness of the room was a wealth of red roses, marking as it were the
boundaries of coziness and intimacy.

Adair’s complacency was not proof against such aristocratic and
undreamed of surroundings.  His exultation fell, and pangs of self-pity
assailed him. What was he but a child of the gutter, an outcast--a man
full of yearning for the unattainable, who had been starved and kept
down by merciless circumstances?  Such swift transitions were not
unusual in his peculiar and contradictory nature. After all, he was an
artist, even if often a brute and a fool, and somewhere within him, very
much overlaid and shrouded, there was a spark of the divine fire.  Yes,
he said to himself, he was coarse and common, and ignorant and
unrefined.  He had done much with himself; he had achieved wonders,
considering the handicap he had always been under--but admitting all
that, what enormous deficiencies still remained!  How ill at ease he was
in such a room as this!  How hard he would have to strive to hide his
lack of knowledge and breeding!  He had almost wished he had never come.
In such a place he was an intruder--a boor--condemned to blunder through
a part with no author’s lines to help him.

As it turned out, nothing could have been more fortunate for him than
this dejected mood.  First appearances are everything, and he might
easily--so easily--have made an intolerable impression. Indeed, in the
cold fit, almost the terror, succeeding the impulse that had caused
Phyllis to invite him, she was prepared to find him forward, and perhaps
eager to take advantage of her recklessness, and misconstrue it.  At the
hint of such a thing she would have frozen; and the fact that she would
only have had herself to blame would have doubled her humiliation.  A
woman who makes the first advances to a man is more capable than any of
sudden revulsions.  Her pride is on edge, and morbidly apprehensive.

But the grave, quiet, handsome man awaiting her dispelled these fancies
as soon as their eyes had met.  He thanked her with an embarrassment not
unbecoming under the circumstances, for the unconventionality that had
given him the privilege of meeting her.  His smile as he said this was
charming; his respect and courtesy beyond reproach; that other nature of
his, the artist-nature, so quick and responsive in its intuitions warned
him to put a guard on himself.  Besides, if the room had over-awed him,
how much more overpowering was the apparition of this slim and radiant
woman, the mistress of all this splendor, whose pure dark face filled
him with an indefinable sense of another world in which he was but a
clod.  Though he was a connoisseur of pretty women, and had possessed in
his disreputable past many of greater physical beauty than Phyllis, not
one of them had had the least pretensions to what in her appealed to him
so strongly--distinction.  From her glossy hair to the tips of her
little feet, she was the embodiment of race, of high-breeding and high
spirit; it was as marked in her girlish beauty as in any thoroughbred.
She was the child of those who had admitted no superior save their God
and their King.

Adair found himself bereft of all his assurance. The professional
besieger, accustomed to advance with sureness and precision,
unaccountably held back, hardly knowing why his heart had turned to
water.  It seemed presumptuous enough that he should even talk on terms
of equality with one so immeasurably above him.  His humility was
painful.  He stammered.  He colored.  His hand trembled on his tea-cup
as he strove to keep alive a conversation of the usual commonplaces.

"Miss Ladd," he said suddenly, "you mustn’t think I am a
gentleman--because I am not.  I am not accustomed to this kind of thing;
you are the first lady I--I’ve ever met."  He arrested the expostulation
on her lips and went on hurriedly. "It’s much better to tell you that
right off.  I don’t know those books you speak of; I don’t know anything
very much; I am awfully uncultivated and ignorant.  There, I have said
it!  It will make me feel more comfortable, and it will be lots better
than pretending I am something I’m not."

"You are a great actor, Mr. Adair."

"My God," he returned with simplicity, "sometimes I’m not so sure that I
am."  Then he burst into laughter at his own artlessness--a delightful
laugh, contagious and musical, that no one could hear without liking him
the better.  Phyllis laughed, too, and somehow with it the ice seemed
broken, and constraint disappeared.  "Miss Ladd," he went on, "people
like you, and places like this, are the realities which we try so hard
to copy with our poor theatrical pasteboard and calico.  I used to hate
Mansfield for saying we ought to work as servants amongst--well, people
we couldn’t meet in any other way, and yet the ones we are audacious
enough to represent on the stage.  He meant it as an insult, of
course--but he was right in some ways.  Just seeing you pour tea makes
me feel how badly we do even that!"

Phyllis, naturally, was touched and flattered.

"Why, we just pour it anyhow," she said, smiling.

"Precisely," exclaimed Adair, "and now let me do it our way!"  He drew
nearer the table, put his hand to the tea-pot, and grimacing at an
imaginary company, proceeded to pour and pass several imaginary cups
with a grotesque affectation of grace and elegance.  "Two lumps, dear
Sir James?--Patricia, the Bishop is famishing for some almond cake.--Oh,
mercy me, and what’s become of the Dook?"  It was an admirable bit of
mimicry, and so gay and captivating in its satire that Phyllis thought
she had never seen anything so clever. She laughed with delight and
clapped her hands.

"Though you shock me, too," she protested. "Corrèze mustn’t do things
like that--it isn’t in keeping."

"Corrèze?"

"Yes, you are not Mr. Adair to me, though I know that’s your name, and I
have invited you.  I can only think of you as Corrèze."

"Was I as good as that in the part?"

"I told you what I thought of it in my note."

"And you really meant it?"

"Would I have written if I hadn’t?  It was an awful thing to do.  I
can’t think of it without burning with shame.--How can you say you are
not a gentleman, Mr. Adair?  Only a gentleman would have put the right
construction on it."

He was questioning her face with his fine eyes. His intuition again
stood him in good stead.  This was not provocation, it was innocence.
To himself he said: "No, it is impossible."

Then aloud: "It was the only construction--and I felt childishly
pleased.  We’re great children, you know, we actors; and after all, are
we to blame for liking approbation?  Just think a moment.  How close it
all is to the ridiculous, our standing up there and declaiming all sorts
of red-hot emotions, with painted paper on one side, and bald-headed
fiddlers on the other!  Doesn’t it sometimes come over a man--sort of
shoot through him--the feeling of what a monkey-spectacle he is making
of himself?  _You_ go ahead and play Lady Macbeth in a nightgown; rage
and strut before those cold, scornful faces.  Then let one amongst them
cry: ’Bravo, bravo,’ and give you a hand!--My Lord, you’d give him your
watch and chain, your diamond pin--don’t you see, he returns you your
self-respect, makes your work worth the doing?--and that’s what your
note did for me, Miss Ladd."

"Oh, Mr. Adair, don’t talk to me about the cold, scornful faces at your
performance.  I was there twice, and saw how they called you out!"

"Miss Ladd," he said, his strong, handsome, eager face whimsically
alight, "let me confess the honest truth--an actor simply can’t have
enough admiration!"

"You worry me for fear I didn’t make mine warm enough!  For really, Mr.
Adair, in all sincerity, I--"

"Well, go on."

"Bravo, bravo!"  Her lips parted mockingly over her white teeth as she
pretended to applaud madly.  It was the daintiest teasing, and more
charming in the intimacy it implied than any downright praise.  Adair
glowed with a pleasure so honest and boyish that Phyllis might be
forgiven for not suspecting the baser depths he hid so well.

"I’m a conceited ass," he admitted, "and after all, isn’t it enough to
turn a man’s head to be here with you, and feel I owe it to the ginger I
put into Corrèze?  Most people get their friends by introductions and
all that, but I just snatched you out of a whole theater full of
strangers.  For you are my friend, aren’t you, Miss Ladd?"

"Yes, Corrèze."

"You’ll be making me jealous of the chap," he cried running his hands
through his hair with make-believe exasperation.  "I think he is a good
deal of a whining humbug myself, and the sly way he throws bouquets at
himself is disgusting.  Miss Ladd, I am ever so much nicer than he
is--really I am--though I see I shall never be able to convince you."

"No reason why you shouldn’t try."

"Perhaps I am ashamed to," he returned, with an intensity of expression
that became him well. "You find me in a wretched little theater, the
cheapest of cheap stars--the hoodlum’s pet, the shop-girl’s dream--and
how can it help coloring your whole idea of me?  You admire my Corrèze,
but for me myself how can you have anything but contempt?  No,
no--listen--it’s true--and the more you knew of my history the more
contemptuous you’d be.  I’ve been rated very high; I’ve had every chance
in the world; I’ve played with the biggest kind of people,
and--succeeded.  Yet I have always been the dog who hanged himself. No,
there is no mystery about it--there never is with a man who is
sinking--a man of ability.  It’s his own fault every time--every, every
time."

His earnestness made Phyllis thrill.  Adair was playing his best
rôle--himself, and playing it with the fire and eloquence he could
always bring to it. His voice, incomparable in the beauty and range of
its tones, was never so effective as when tinged with emotion.  Nothing
was more manly, more sincere, more moving.  It rose and fell in cadences
that lingered in the ear after the words themselves were
spoken--veritable music, affecting not only the listener, but the
musician as well.  Under the spell of it he now found himself tempted
into strange confidences.  Never before had he spoken of his childhood
and early life except to lie, to brag, to romance.  Yet here, to his own
wonder, and impelled by he hardly knew what, he was unbosoming himself
of the whole ignoble truth. That instinct of his, so often wiser than
himself, so diabolically helpful, was showing him the right road.  Had
Phyllis been some little milliner this would have been no road at all;
such a one would have been too familiar with the seamy side of life to
find any glamour in the tale; such a one would have preferred the bogus
palaces and bogus splendors his instinct would then have indicated.
Phyllis’ intelligence was too keen thus to be deceived; even genuine
splendors would have interested her less than this pitiful story of the
slums; it not only touched her sensibility to the quick, but enhanced
Adair in her tender and sympathetic eyes.

His father had been an Englishman--a remittance man named Mayne--George
Cyril Augustus Fitzroy Mayne.  Whether his pretensions were justified or
not, and they were inordinate, including "Wales" and "Cambridge," he was
beyond all doubt a gentleman, with grand manners, a back like a ramrod,
and a curt, military directness in speaking.  He used to say "dammy";
was fond of alluding to himself as "an old Hussar"; was wont to remark
that a gentleman could always be told by his hat and his boots; and
once, when attacked on the street, had shown extraordinary courage and
adroitness in defending himself with a light cane.  This was about all
Adair remembered of him, except that he drank hard; had recurring fits
of delirium tremens in which he raged and fought like a wild beast; and
finally, dying in a hospital ward, was buried like a dog in the Potter’s
Field.

Adair’s mother had been an Irish peasant girl. She was kind and
warm-hearted, and spoke with a brogue; she was always laughing and
singing, even under circumstances when a right-minded person would have
thrown himself into the East River. She drank, too.  Everybody drank.
He used to be given sips from her glass, and knew what it was to be
tipsy before he was eight.  It was about that time he began to sell
papers on the streets, for his father was dead, and his mother--  Well,
he wouldn’t go into that.  But in her way she had always been good to
him.  She wouldn’t let the men beat him.  When she was sent to the
Island for the second time he thought his little heart would break.  She
didn’t last long after that.  How could she, gone as she was in
consumption, and drinking like a fish?  Oh, what a hell it was--what a
hell!  His pennies were all his own now, though he often had to fight to
keep them.  He was always fighting to keep them--first in desperation,
then by degrees with some coolness and science.  The bigger boys coached
him; egged him on; he became a regular little bantam.  They’d make up a
purse--a quarter or something--and set two little wretches to pounding
each other. Anything was allowed, you know--biting, kicking, scrooging,
hair pulling!  There was only one rule, and that was to win.

Well, so it went on, till he was sixteen or thereabouts, the toughest
young tough you could see on Avenue A.  He was nicknamed Fighting Joe,
and they used to get up cheap little matches for him in the back rooms
of saloons--real fighting, stripped to the waist, and four ounce gloves.
His only ambition was to get into the prize ring, and in his dreams at
night he would see his picture in the _Police Gazette_.  Then the
Settlement workers came--a pale-looking outfit, with Mission furniture
and leaflets.  They were regarded as a great infliction--as an insult to
an honest tough neighborhood. It was the correct thing to break their
windows, and lambast their followers.  Fighting Joe took a prominent
part in this righteous task.  What did it matter that several of them
were women?  What did such brutes care for that?  If ever there was a
young savage on earth it was he.

One of the women was tall and pretty--not very young--twenty-eight or
twenty-nine perhaps. Miss Cooke, she was--Miss Grace Cooke.  She would
never see him but what she would turn white with anger and fear.  You
see, everything was put down to him, all that he did do, and all that he
didn’t--and totaling up both sides of it, it ran to a lot.  He couldn’t
begin to remember the caddish things he was answerable for; he didn’t
care to try; my God, what a brute he was, what a brute! And yet he
admired this woman; guessed he was in love with her in a calfy way; took
every chance to see her--and insult her!  Of course, there wasn’t the
faintest reason why he shouldn’t have walked into the Settlement, said
he was sorry, and have been received with open arms.  But people like
that can’t say they are sorry--they don’t know how.  Besides, the social
disgrace of it would have been awful!  Joe Mayne running with that
gospel gang!  The thing was incredible.

Late one winter afternoon he saw her in the midst of a crowd of
hobbledehoys, hooting and jeering at her.  She was walking as fast as
she dared, looking straight ahead of her, and pretending not to notice.
It was dark; the street was empty; and if she was scared she had mighty
good reason for it.  One of the fellows lurched against her, and down
she went on the sidewalk; as she tried to rise another rolled her over,
and tore her hat off. Of course, it was a great joke, and they were all
roaring with laughter.  Then it was he came running up--Joe--and when
she saw him she gave him a look he would remember to the day he died.
Oh, the terror of it--the shrinking!  But he smashed one on the jaw,
caught another between the eyes, and lifted her up, half fainting as she
was, and tried with his dirty hands to smooth her hair, and put on her
hat again.--That’s how they came to be friends; that’s how he came to be
landed in the Settlement; everything real in his life dated from that
moment.

He was with them two years; with them as long as she lived.  There
wasn’t a good quality in him that she didn’t put there.  On census
forms, and such things, when asked his religion, he always felt inclined
to write: "Grace Cooke."  By God, it would have been the truth.  She was
his religion yet, far though he had fallen away from it--oh, so far--!
She stood for everything that was good and beautiful and noble.  It
wasn’t love. It was beyond all love.  She was a Madonna, a saint, and he
had had the privilege to kneel at her feet--a Caliban of the slums, a
tough, a hoodlum, unworthy to touch the hem of her garment. Then she
died, and that was the end of it.  He didn’t care for the Settlement
after she died.  He got a job as chucker-out in a low place called the
Crystal Palace.  There was a dais, and performers used to sing.  He
thought he would try it himself, and made quite a hit.  Then he began
giving recitations--_The Fi-erman’s Dream_, and that kind of thing, and
they caught on.  He owed it all to Grace Cooke, who had taught him to
read--(not ordinary reading, he had picked that up somehow for
himself)--but real reading, dramatic reading. From this it was a step to
monologues in costume, and from that to the vaudeville stage.

Sitting there in the growing dusk, and in an atmosphere so conducive to
confidence, Adair unfolded his early life with a tender, persuasive and
charming humor.  He often laughed; often he was silent; again and again
he would look up, and seek Phyllis’ eyes in a lingering glance as though
to assure himself of her interest.  For once in his life he was shy; the
slim, pretty hand he gazed at so covetously was safe from any touch of
his; something told him that the least familiarity would cost him all he
had gained.--It was not policy on his part.  He was too humble to think
of policy. To be with her alone seemed presumption enough--to feel her
sympathy, her friendship.  Not a word or act of his should mar that
wonderful day.

He rose, apologizing for having stayed so long.

"It is your own fault," he said, holding out his hand, "you’ve made me
forget everything."

"I’m afraid it was the other way round, Mr. Adair," she returned, trying
to smile, and thankful for the darkness that veiled her face.

"Am I ever to see you again?"

She shook her head.

"You mean it is good-by, Miss Ladd?"

"Yes, it’s good-by."

Her hand was in his, so soft, so motionless, yet somehow so reluctant to
leave his grasp.  His head was turning; he could not go like that.  No,
no, he could not.  He suddenly pulled her towards him, and caught her in
his arms, kissing her hair, her cheek, her mouth, with a passion that
cared little whether she was crushed or smothered in his embrace.  Good
God, what was he doing? After holding back so long, what diabolical
folly had tempted him to this?  Yet she had said it was good-by.  He had
nothing to lose.  Let her pant and struggle and tremble, he would take
tribute of her beauty nevertheless, however much she was insulted or
outraged.  His lips were wet with her tears.  He forced her to receive
his kisses on her mouth, exulting in the strength that allowed her no
escape.  But was she resisting him?  A tremor of maddening delight shot
through his frame.  Her mouth was seeking his, and he heard her
whispering breathlessly: "I love you, I love you, I love you!"

It was so unexpected, so surprising, that he let her free.  She sank
into a chair and covered her burning face, repelling him as he threw
himself on his knees beside her.

"If you don’t go, I shall never forgive you!" she exclaimed.  "Haven’t
you shamed me enough? Do you want me to die of humiliation?"  Then, from
the heart, came the woman’s cry: "What will you think of me?"

That instinct, which in Adair took the place of conscience, honor, all
the conventional virtues and restraints, again came steadfastly to his
help.  He bent down; kissed her on the brow; and getting his hat and
cane abruptly took his departure.



                             *CHAPTER XII*


The dictionary with unhesitating positiveness informs us that
infatuation is "unreasonable or extravagant passion."  But are there not
those who have stayed unreasonably impassioned to the end, those whose
earthly parting has been but at the grave?  And does not love of the
admitted, recognized, unextravagant, very much approved,
bless-you-my-children kind only too often ring out its knell in the
divorce court? That Phyllis was infatuated with this good-looking scamp
was beyond question, if by that one meant his physical attraction held
her as much a slave as any of our ravished ancestors in the Vikings’
boats.  Her will was gone; her judgment; all her nicely-balanced
highly-critical young-ladyism.  It was horrifying to her to realize it;
her powerlessness was at once an agony and a delight; it came over her,
with a frightening sense of injustice, that a woman’s happiness lies
beyond herself, and is for ever dependent on some man.

Naturally she sat down, and wrote him a sad little letter.  He was to
forget everything that had passed, and not misjudge her for an
uncontrollable impulse.  Were he to presume upon it, she would not only
die of shame, but would be forced to perceive that her trust had been
misplaced.  As a gentleman and a man of honor--and she knew him to be
both--he would understand that it was impossible for them ever to meet
again, and that her good-by was indeed irrevocable.  But her good wishes
would always attend him, and she would sign herself, in all sincerity,
his friend, Phyllis Ladd.  This done, she waited in a fever of
impatience for his answer, hoping, dreading, tumultuously inconsistent,
hot fits and cold succeeding each other in her troubled and anxious
heart.

It may be imagined how unkindly Adair took her commands.  In his large,
straggling hand, and over six sheets of hotel paper he expressed his
energetic dissent.  It was a trite letter--flowery and theatrical--her
haunting eyes, the memory of her adorable beauty, the despair of a man
who had found love only to lose it, etc.  Had Phyllis been herself it
would have made her smile. Nothing, indeed, could have shown how far she
had traveled on the road of illusion than her acceptance of these
well-worn phrases.  The tears sprang to her eyes at the smooth and
nicely-rounded description of his wretchedness; she glowed and thrilled
at the praise of herself, its boldness redeemed by what she ascribed to
a lover’s ardor; the pathetic plea for another meeting was irresistible.
It might be unwise; it was sure to be painful; but, after all, it was
his right.  He loved her; he bowed to her decision; his life was hard at
best, and now doubly so; what he asked was so little for her to give,
yet to him it was everything--to see her once more before they parted
for ever.


They met this time at the corner of a remote street.  He was very pale,
very quiet, and it was not a lie he told her that he had been unable to
sleep for thinking of her.  Had she known better what those thoughts
were she would have shrunk from him.  But, fortunately or not, she did
not know.  She, too, was quiet and pale, and it was with the sense of an
impending fate that she took his arm, and slowly walked with him along
the foot-path. Unconsciously he was more masterful with her, now that
she was away from that daunting house, and that awe-inspiring
drawing-room.  The sanctity that had enveloped her there had largely
disappeared.  Here was a situation he was used to--a distractingly
pretty girl, a sidewalk rendezvous, and an infatuation that needed but
the right handling to bring it to the proper conclusion.

Yet with everything so plain--and apparently so easy, Adair himself was
in a whirl of strange and new emotions.  Something had pierced his
colossal selfishness, and was disturbing him.  It was annoying at a time
when he needed all his wits about him, and he resented it as a symptom
of unmanly weakness.  One drop of real love in that ocean of sham was
threatening to poison the whole.  He did not put it thus concretely.  He
only knew that he was uncomfortable, and not rising as he should to the
occasion.  Except for that far-away Grace Cooke he had never known a
decent woman.  His counterfeit love had been lavished on counterfeit
innocence: and counterfeit purity. Fooling, he had always been fooled.

But this proud and melting young beauty lay outside of all his
experience.  Had she defended herself he would have known better how to
attack. But she made no demur when he took her hand and kissed it; she
did not resist, when, after looking up and down the street to see if
they had it to themselves, he caught her boldly in his arms, and crushed
her against himself, murmuring a torrent of words that came so readily
to his practised lips.  How radiantly she smiled when he tore off a tiny
corner of her letter, and told her she had to eat it as a punishment.
Her saucy obedience put him in a seventh heaven, and it was with a sort
of ecstasy that he snatched it from her, fearful lest it might do her
harm.  That letter, in one sense, had been disposed of almost as soon as
they had met.  She had tried, for a moment or two, to adhere to it, and
to make him see the necessity of that good-by.  But under the glamour of
his presence she faltered and broke down, and all that was left of the
matter was her incoherent plea for forgiveness.  What tenderness she put
into this request!  There never could be a good-by between them--never,
never--and her eyes swam with tears at her disloyalty to him.

Both felt an uplifting gaiety and light-heartedness, as she said, in
extenuation of her happy laughter, that they were like people who had
grown rich overnight, for had they not discovered an enormous nugget--a
nugget of love?  It had been lying there for any to find, but they had
been the lucky ones!  They had a right to be excited, hadn’t they?  The
only really serious thing was the fact that they might have missed it.
They might have stubbed against it, and passed on--like idiots. She
developed this fantasy with captivating grace and archness, Adair
meanwhile lost in admiration, not only of the delicate fancy that kept
him smiling, but of her varying expressions so revealing of unexpected
charm.  She grew prettier and prettier to him--more kissable, more
adorable.  He kept forgetting his ulterior purpose in the rapture of
being with her; he forgot his conceit, forgot his role; he was
perilously near being in love.  Perhaps he was in love.  At any rate,
when he recollected to take advantage of this unconcealed regard for
him--of all this young ardor and innocent passion--the words somehow
would not leave his tongue.

Her sensitive mouth, so responsive to every look of his, the sweet
candor of her eyes, her transparent belief in him--all forbade.  There
would be time enough for that; and having made this concession to his
manhood, he straightway put the idea by, dimly realizing to himself that
it was unpleasant to him.  It takes a bad man to appreciate and exalt
the best of women; he sees her in such a contrasting light; her baser
sisters give her by relief an angelic brightness.  It is not for nothing
that they say the reformed rake makes the best husband.  Not that Adair
had gone so far as this, however.  He was not reformed, and cold chills
would have run down his back at the horrid prospect; while his own brief
career as a husband had left him with a hatred for the word and the
institution.  It was merely a fleeting impulse, stronger for the moment
than he was, and induced by his artist love of beauty, which included
this time in its comprehension, a rare, gracious and exquisite nature.

They were together for nearly two hours, and when they were forced at
last to part it seemed as though only the half had been said.  Yet not
for an instant had they ever got near the realities. With Adair these
were consciously avoided.  It was one thing to say: "I love you," with
mellow vibrations, and impassioned eyes; quite another to descend to the
practical considerations that might reasonably be expected to follow.
He felt neither in the humor to lie, nor to palter with the ugly truth,
and in a sort of anger dismissed both alternatives.  He was intoxicated
with her; she mounted to his brain like wine; he only knew one thing,
that come what might, she should never get away from him.  This was all
his dizzy head could hold. The future could take care of itself.

As for Phyllis she was in that rapt state of happiness when a woman can
do nothing but glow and worship.  Had not the king descended from his
throne for her?  At last was not her long heart-hunger gloriously
appeased?  Was she not so possessed with this demigod that all other
sublunary concerns seemed to vanish into insignificance?  She walked on
air; she exulted in the memory of his caresses; she was the more
precious to herself now that she was his, now that she belonged to him
so utterly.  She hoarded every compliment he had paid her; and wondered,
in delicious doubt, though not altogether unconvinced, whether she could
be, indeed, all that she had seemed to him. As for the deeper questions,
she had the woman’s faculty of answering them in formless dreams.

They were settled in a vague, tender and altogether perfect manner.
He--and she--and a billowing bliss on which they floated evermore, hand
pressed in hand, mouth against mouth, in an ineffable and transcendant
content.

Adair, once beyond her influence, was aware of a certain sagging of that
higher nature she had conjured into being.  Not that he loved her any
less; he was on fire for her, and his coarse passion was inflamed a
thousandfold by their second meeting.  But, as he said to himself, he
had muffed it. He was not the first man to feel a twinge of guilt at
having been _good_.  He was a child of his world, of his conditions,
upbringing and environment, and ought not to be blamed over-much--rather
commended for the first faint stirrings of an embryo conscience, which,
if it had died all too soon, was still a spark of grace.

The performance tired him more than usual.  He was slack, and could not
get into his part.  As a consequence, to offset his disinclination, he
overplayed, and left the theater thoroughly exasperated, and out of
heart.  He took supper moodily by himself, and though ordinarily
abstemious--for no one with his complexion could be accused of habitual
excess--he drank high-ball after high-ball with a brutal satisfaction in
fuddling himself. He grew wickeder with every gulp, more cold-blooded
and determined.  He would see this thing through, by God.  He would take
her with him on the road.  She was ripe for it; she was crazy about
him--lady and all, there was the devil in her all right.  The nicest
women were the worst when they let themselves go.  What a fool he had
been ever to bother with the other kind.  He had always been a cheap
fellow, pleased with cheap things--with raddled actresses, and silly
tiresome shop-girls.  Here was a little piece that put them all in the
shade; prettier than the prettiest, dewy fresh, with a twist to
everything she said so that it was an endless pleasure to be with her.
She was so quick, so daintily impudent, so finely bred and educated.
God, what an armful!  God, what a little mistress for a tired and lonely
man, sick to death of common women!

He reeled up-stairs, half drunk, and sought his room, to sleep the sleep
of perfect health and perfect digestion.  Whatever else Adair was, he
was a sound and vigorous human animal, with a constitution of iron.  No
dreams disturbed his repose--no spectral finger of remorse pointed at
him.  A child could not have lain more peacefully on its cot than he.

It will be asked why he could not Have married Phyllis properly and
honestly?  Apart from other considerations was she not the only daughter
of a millionaire father?  How did Adair come to overlook this very
obvious advantage, and embark instead on all the troubles and vexations
attending an illicit connection?  To answer this question it is
necessary to go back four or five years, and rake up his marriage with
Ruby Raeburn, the dancer. She, too, had been the daughter of a rich
man--Laidlaw Wright, the Michigan lumber king.  Adair had thought he was
doing a very good thing for himself.  To have a father-in-law who is a
"lumber king" has a pleasant sound.  Without knowing exactly how it was
to happen, he looked forward confidently to a flow of dollars in his
direction, either in cash, or vicariously in royal "tips."  Surely a
lumber king would take care of his own--and of his own’s husband.  Ruby
herself had not been above reproach in holding out the bait, and
everybody had congratulated him, or sneered at him for "marrying money."
Alas, for the disillusion that followed.  Laidlaw Wright was the
hardest-fisted man on the Lakes, and no bulldog, guarding a lunch
basket, could have shown more formidable fangs than he at any hand
slipping towards his money-bags.  Adair learned the sad truth that when
you possess the millionaire’s daughter, it does not necessarily follow
that you possess the millionaire. His dead body must too often be
crossed first--and this event, however desirable, can not be unduly
hurried.

And meanness was not the only drawback to Laidlaw Wright’s character.
He could spend money as viciously as he withheld it, and make of it a
whip of scorpions for the scourging of sons-in-law.  When Adair’s
domestic unhappiness reached the acute stage, the cantankerous old
fellow jumped into the ring, snorting battle and destruction.  Money was
poured out like water; giants of the bar were retained at enormous fees;
detective bureaus’ worked night and day.  Adair was shadowed; his door
was burst open at a time of all others when he would have much preferred
to have it stay shut; statutes of which he had never dreamed, lying
hidden and unrepealed in the dark recesses of the law, were evoked
against him with startling effect.  He was sent to prison in default of
the bail he could not give.  Then after eighteen weary days, which the
giants of the bar would willingly have made eighteen months, he was
tried, and his case dismissed.  But as he left the court room he was
again arrested.  That implacable old man, with his cohorts of lawyers
and detectives, had furbished up fresh charges.  The indictment was a
mile long.  Again there was bail, default, and gnashing of teeth in a
stinking cell.  Of course, he had legal remedies, but these involved
legal tender.  He had spent his last dollar; legal remedies had to be
paid for, and he had nothing to pay with. A wealthy and vindictive man,
if he choose to do so, and does not grudge the outlay, can make our
judicial machinery into a most serviceable steam-roller.

After the divorce, when all seemed settled and done with, there were
alimony bomb-shells to be contended with.  This tribute on his
son-in-law’s freedom became the obsessing prepossession of Laidlaw
Wright’s life.  He subordinated the lumber business to collecting this
forty-five dollars a week, until it became Adair’s fixed and unalterable
purpose to escape payment by every means in his power.  North or South,
East or West, the battle went on.  Injunctions, contempt proceedings,
printed forms in immense envelopes, beginning with the familiar phrase:
"You are cited to appear before Judge So-and-So to show cause why that
you, etc., etc."--rained on Adair’s head wherever Saturday night might
find it.  Incidentally eyes were blackened; blood streamed on box-office
floors; bandaged functionaries and limping attorneys cried for vengeance
in shabby court rooms--and not only cried, but often got it, in a
heaping measure. And afar, the lumber king, like a horrible spider whose
net covered the country from sea to sea, kept the wires busy and hot
with hate.

When Ruby was killed in what was called "the hansom cab mystery"--an
ugly affair that was never really cleared up--the old man probably
mourned less for her than for the loss of his cheerless hobby--the
persecution of Cyril Adair. However wealthy you are, you can not move
the legal steam-roller without at least a pretense of justification; and
now the justification lay with Ruby Raeburn in the grave, as stilled as
her dancing feet, as finished and done with as the life that had gone
out so tragically.

It had all left Adair with a profound hatred of marriage, and a still
profounder hatred of rich fathers-in-law.  The one suggested jail,
mortification, alimony, raided box-offices, large and determined
individuals bursting in your doors; the other an unrelenting monster,
pitiless and crafty, trailing after you night and day, like a
bloodhound.  There was no glamour to Adair in Robert Ladd’s millions,
but rather a sinister and awful significance; and as for marrying
Phyllis, and putting his head again in that noose--who that had been in
hell ever willingly went back to it?  The very thought made him shudder.
He might be weak and impulsive, and easily swept off his feet by her
damned beauty--but he wasn’t as weak and impulsive as _that_!



                             *CHAPTER XIII*


As had been previously arranged he met her the next day at the same
place.  He had come in a closed cab, which he had left a couple of
blocks away, and he insisted on their returning to it, and having out
their talk in its shelter.  Phyllis demurred at first; it wore an
unpleasant look to her; it was not fear exactly--she trusted Adair too
absolutely for that--but rather a disinclination in which good taste
played the bigger part.  It seemed to her low, and discreditable, and
unworthy.  Her love was too fine a thing, and too dear to her, to have
it associated with dingy cushions, a dirty floor carpet, and the
vulgarizing secrecy of that shabby interior.  It took some persuasion to
get her to consent; and though she did so at last under the spell of
that irresistible voice, it was with a sudden quenching of the
brightness that had illumined her heart.

But it never occurred to her to think the worse of Adair.  A man could
not be expected to have the sensitiveness of a woman.  His love was like
himself, robust and masterful; he fastened a string to your little
collar, and dragged you after him with a splendid insouciance.  Every
one of your four little paws might be holding back; you might be
whimpering most pitifully, but if he wanted a closed cab, in you had to
go, whether you liked it or not.  Not that you would have had him
different; it was sweet to submit; and if he were big, and direct, and
unshakable--so, too, was his love.

They drove slowly through the suburban streets, locked in each other’s
arms.  He kissed her back to happiness, to rapture, the discreet
twilight screening them in its shadow.  Her qualms disappeared, her
reluctance, her shrinkings from the ugliness and commonness of that
horrid old box.  Nothing mattered so long as they could be together, and
in her exaltation she even suffered some pangs of remorse for having
resisted his pleadings at all.--She had never cared for children, but as
her arms were clasped about his neck, she felt a welling tenderness for
him that opened her understanding to the love of a mother for her
babe--the divine compassion, the exquisite desire to protect and shield,
the willingness, if need be, to die herself rather than to have it
suffer the least of harm.  She whispered this to him in words so sincere
and moving, with eyes so moist, and lips so quivering, and her whole
young face so glorified by the shining soul within, that Adair would
have been less than human had he not succumbed.

He was abashed; his carefully rehearsed plans were glad to creep out of
sight and hide; it would have needed very little for him to fall on his
knees, penitent and ashamed, and blurt out--not the truth; the truth
wasn’t tellable--but enough to make him seem less of a beast to himself,
less of a hypocrite and villain.  But he paused midway; and the impulse,
which, if he had allowed it to control him might have carried him into
unsuspected regions of honor and manliness, died still-born; and left
him--if not exactly what he had been--at least not so very much the
better.

With everything so favorable to his purpose, it continued to be a
mystery to him that he still held back.  This backwardness, this fear,
was a new sensation.  He had won prettier women in his day, and had won
them briskly and straightforwardly, move by move, with cool
premeditation.

Why should he falter at this one, like a ninny? What was it about her
that checked and daunted him?  She had flung herself at him; she had
neither the will nor the knowledge to protect herself; she was as
innocent as a child, and had delivered herself over to him as
guilelessly.  But it was not her innocence that stood in his way; he had
no such scruples about innocence; innocence, if anything, ought to have
whetted the pursuit.  It was something subtler than that--this
withholding force. It was more as though she were some proud young queen
who had been craftily made drunk with drugs, and then had been abandoned
in her helplessness to become the sport of a passing soldier.... How
surprised Adair would have been had he been told that the love always on
his lips, profaned with every breath he drew, a lie in every sense save
the very lowest, was, in all good earnest, stealthily making entry in
his heart!

Making?  Why, it had been there from the first, all unknown to him.  But
like many a man the devious road seemed to him the straighter; it was
the one he meant to follow, anyhow, lead where it might; he would
overcome this strange squeamishness that annoyed and bewildered him.
What an ass he was!  He remembered his first deer, and how the rifle had
shaken in his hands--how his teeth had chattered--how it had calmly
walked past him, not twelve yards away, and disappeared unscathed.  The
boys had called it "buck fever," and had guyed him.  Hell, this was a
kind of buck fever, too, though without the excuse of inexperience ...
but still there was no sense in hurrying matters.  There was plenty of
time, old fellow, plenty of time.

Thus the day lingered out in talk and vows and kisses, with nothing
achieved in any direction, and the situation apparently unchanged.  Love
has a wonderful power of floating on without ever touching the banks of
reality!  And when one of the lovers keeps the bark deliberately in
mid-stream, and the other poor lunatic is so lost in ecstasy that her
understanding is in the skies--hours can pass like minutes, and darkness
descend all unawares.

Again they kissed and parted, and Phyllis returned home in the sweet
weariness of one who has drunk deep of the cup of love.  No unanswered
questions fretted her, no disturbing thoughts of why he had been silent
on the most important thing of all.  She was young, fresh, pretty,
well-born and rich--why then should she doubt?  What, to a little
milliner, would have been the inevitable and all-engrossing conjecture,
troubled her not a bit. Men had been proposing to her for two years;
love out of wedlock, while it might be familiar in books, was
inconceivably remote to her; marriage was like breathing; it was one of
the great unconsidered facts of life; one loved--one married.

Her preoccupation was rather with closer and dearer things--the varying
expressions of that fine and intensely alive face; the mouth with its
ever changing charm; that, smiling, could lift one to paradise, that,
laughing, seemed to gladden the whole world; the eyes so lustrous, so
melting, and yet that at a word could turn so fierce; the wavy hair that
was such a joy to her to caress; the broad shoulders that had pillowed
her girlish head, and had given her such a comforting sense of vigor and
strength--all her own by the divinest of divine rights.  Womanlike, she
was trying to merge herself in the man she loved; to subordinate her own
individuality in his; to become, if she could, a slim, small, dainty
counterpart of this God-given creature who had stooped to her from high
Heaven itself.

She ate a good dinner and enjoyed it; drank a glass of claret with a
connoisseur-like satisfaction in its fine bouquet; for she came of a
stock with a royal taste for pleasure, in little things as well as big.
If her father appeared somewhat constrained, and more grave and silent
than was his wont, she ascribed it to nothing more than a hard day at
the office; and exerted herself with all her superabundant good humor to
amuse and distract him.  But for once she was unsuccessful, and as the
meal proceeded his brown study increased. After dinner, as usual when
they were alone, they went up to his "den," the custom being for him to
smoke a cigar while she glanced over the evening papers, and read to him
what seemed to be of interest.  As she stood leaning negligently against
the mantelpiece she was surprised to notice that he did not settle
himself in his usual chair. He came up to her instead, and she felt a
sudden knocking at the heart as her uplifted eyes met his.

"How long has this been going on?" he demanded in a low voice.

"What do you mean, Papa?"

He paused as though to control himself.--She knew very well what he
meant, and shivers ran down her back.

"Your carrying on with this actor fellow. This--this Adair."  He snapped
out the name as though it tasted bitter on his lips--spat it--his gray
mustache bristling.

She was panic-stricken; her knees weakened beneath her; she had only
presence of mind enough to tell herself that lies could not help her.
But lies or not, at that moment she could not have uttered a word.  It
was all she could do to hold to the mantel for support.

Mr. Ladd drew out his pocket-book, and from it a letter.

"A man like that always has some female consort," he went on brutally,
"some woman of his own class who follows his shabby fortunes, and
considers him for the time being as her especial property; and who
protects herself when that property is in danger by ways that suggest
themselves to vulgar and common minds.  At least, I do not consider it
an unjust inference that this anonymous letter--"

Phyllis uttered a little cry, and hid her face in her hands.--So that
was what it was?--She ought to have suspected it.  But even in her shame
a dart of jealousy passed through her heart.  Who was this woman who was
trying to rob her of Adair?

"It is a typical letter of the kind," continued Mr. Ladd, with grim
persistence, "and written in a hand supposed to be disguised, as though
anything could disguise the greater matter of the writer’s innate
vileness and swinishness.  It starts with the usual pretense of good
will, of friendly warning; and then passes, with hardly a transition, to
charges that in a police court would entail its being cleared of any
women amongst the spectators. Frankly, Phyllis, it is abominable--though
I am going to read it to you, not with the idea of causing you pain, of
punishing you, but to show you much better than any words of mine could
do, the sort of cattle you are getting mixed up with.  One judges men by
the company they keep; whoever this woman is, it may be presumed she
knows Adair well, and is a friend of his; otherwise what could prompt
all this venom?  The letter is a mass of lies, but it has a side-light
value on this man you’re letting fool you.  They are a squalid,
contemptible crew, and all tarred with the same stick."

He stopped to put his glasses on his nose; and smoothing out the letter,
began deliberately to read it: "’You ought to know the goings-on of that
girl of yours, and if nobody else is enough your friend to tell you,
I--’"

But Phyllis cried out before he could proceed further.

"Oh, Papa," she exclaimed in passionate entreaty, "don’t, don’t!  You
mustn’t!  You’re degrading me!  I--I can’t stand it!"

"You know my reasons for wanting you to hear it," he said coldly.

"And you are going to force me to?"

"Yes, I am--for your own good, Phyllis."

As their eyes met something within her seemed to break.  In all her life
her father had been everything that was kind and gentle and indulgent.
His arms had ever been her refuge; she had cried out her baby sorrows on
his shoulder; how often, in contrast to other girls, she had thought
herself the most fortunate of women to have such a father. Now, in her
direst need he was pitiless and inflexible.  He was determined to
humiliate her with that horrible letter--for his manner, everything,
said that it was horrible.  To gain his point he was willing to sweep
away the fabric of all these years. Oh, the stupidity of it, the
cruelty!  Nothing could ever be the same again between them after that.
He could degrade her, but it would cost him every iota of her love.

Her bosom swelled.  Her anger was at so white a heat that she no longer
felt the fears and shrinkings that had at first assailed her; her heart
beat high, but to another and a fiercer measure.

What a moment for him to begin again: "’You ought to know the goings-on
of that girl of yours, and if nobody else--’"

"Papa, _Papa_!"

"My dear, you must not interrupt me.  I insist on--"

"Then let me read it to myself."

He paused, looking at her in indecision; and from her to the coals in
the grate.  She perceived the meaning of his hesitation, and laughed
scornfully.

"Oh, you can trust me," she said, holding out her hand.  "Do you want my
word, or what? I won’t destroy it.  Rest assured I shall give you the
pleasure of knowing I am reading every word of it."

He resigned it to her, tugging at his mustache, and watching her
covertly as she moved nearer the light and began to read.  He marveled
at her composure, her decision.  She was not evading the ugly task--her
eyes moved too slowly for that, and her face reflected too clearly the
unsparing comments on her behavior.

It was coarse beyond belief.  Only a man half out of his wits could have
allowed any woman of his family to read such a thing.  Many of the
expressions she had never heard before, but it is a peculiarity of gross
Anglo-Saxon to be readily understood.  Nothing was lost on Phyllis,
either in the description of the man she loved, or the accusations of
the vilest kind leveled at herself. It was an infamous production,
soiling and disgusting, nakedly spiteful, and nakedly pornographic.

She perused it unflinchingly to the end; studied the signature, "One who
knows," and handed it back to her father.

"I thought people were put in prison for writing such letters," she said
in an even voice.

"So they are," he returned curtly, "though that isn’t quite the point."

"What is the point?"

"To know how much of it is true."

Again her composure startled him.  "Is it possible you believe any of
it?" she asked.

"Yes, I do," he said.--He was holding the letter in his hand, like a
lawyer in court, cross-examining a witness.  He was determined to get at
the bottom of all this.

"Is it true you went to the theater twice?"

"As a spectator--yes."

"Is it true that you wrote a letter to him?"

"Yes."

"Is it true you invited him here?"

"Yes, he came once."

"And it’s true you met him afterwards on one of the streets in the
Richmond district?"

"Yes."

"It’s true you let him kiss you there before everybody--embrace you--hug
you like a silly servant-girl?"

She ignored the insult, and answered imperturbably: "It was a deserted
place; I didn’t know any one was spying on us."

"And it’s true to-day you met him again?"

"Yes."

"And drove together in a closed cab?"

"Yes."

"Now, Phyllis, my girl, on your honor; I am asking you this as your
father; I have the right to ask it, and the right to a sacredly truthful
answer--the affair has gone no further than this?"

"No."

"On your honor?"

"On my honor."

"And all the rest of it?"--He touched the letter.

"Lies, Papa--revolting, hideous lies."

He stumbled towards his chair; seated himself in it; reached for the
cigar-box.  He had expected a scene; he had expected tears, pleading,
and repentance.  He had a penetrating sense of having mismanaged
everything.  Perhaps he ought not to have shown her that letter.  It had
shocked her through and through, but not in the way he had intended.  He
had meant it to be like a surgeon’s knife--one sure swift stroke, and
she was to rise cured, disillusioned.  The effect had been
disconcertingly different; he had affronted her to the quick, he had
roused a defiance all the more to be feared because it was cool,
subdued, controlled--the kind that is apt to last.--He lit his cigar,
and blew out breath after breath of smoke.  He must not make another
mistake.  He would think a little while before he began again.

She glided slowly towards the door, but with an air so unconcerned, so
free from any suggestion of flight, that he suspected nothing.  The fact
of her leaving the door ajar seemed to imply an immediate return.
Several minutes passed before he suddenly became uneasy.  So peremptory
was his conviction that she was near that he cried: "Phyllis, Phyllis,"
before rising to find out what had become of her.  But she was not in
the corridor outside.  He sought her boudoir--nor was she here either.
Her bedroom off it?  It was empty, too. Thoroughly alarmed, he descended
the stairs, softly calling out, "Phyllis, Phyllis!"  He was answered by
a servant’s voice below: "Is it you, Sir?"

"Yes, Henry, I am looking for Miss Phyllis?"

"She went out a minute ago, Sir."

"Went out?"

"Yes, Sir."

Good God, she was gone!



                             *CHAPTER XIV*


Once outside the door, she had raced downstairs like the wind, put on
her hat anyhow, and sped into the darkness, without waiting for wrap or
gloves.  Her first idea had been to reach the theater, but as she turned
down side streets in order to evade pursuit and get the Fairmount Avenue
car line, she realized that this involved too much time.  Her watch,
hastily looked at under a lamp, showed that it was after eight o’clock,
and that she could not hope to gain the theater before the first act
began.  She decided to telephone instead, and accordingly, walking very
fast, and sometimes running until a pain in her side forced her to
desist, she made her way to Fairmount Avenue, and to a drug-store she
knew to be there.  It was the matter of a moment to look up the number
of the Thalia Theater, unhook the receiver, and get central.

"Nick-el," murmured that impersonal arbiter of human destinies.

"I don’t understand--please give me my number, I’m in such a hurry."

"Nick-el!"

"Drop a nickel in the slot, Miss," said the clerk helpfully.

She had come away without her purse.  She hadn’t a penny!

As quick as thought she pulled off one of her rings, and laid it on the
counter.

"I have forgotten my purse," she said.  "Please let me have a quarter,
and I’ll redeem the ring to-morrow."

She had been resourceful enough to recollect she needed more than a
nickel--there was the trolley fare to the theater and back.

The clerk took the ring with no great willingness; examined it with
every apparent intention of denying her request; then examined her with
the same sharp look.  The horrid creature recognized her, and his manner
changed to a cringing deference.  "Oh, Miss Ladd, I beg your pardon, I
didn’t know it was you, Miss Ladd.  A quarter?  Why certainly, Miss
Ladd.  Only too happy to oblige you, Miss Ladd.  Take back your ring,
and pay any time at your convenience, Miss Ladd."  He rang open his cash
register, and passed her three nickels and a dime, together with the
ring.  "Put it back where it belongs," he said, smirking and rubbing his
hands.  "My, what would the boss say to me if I told him I had kept Miss
Phyllis Ladd’s ring!"

She thanked him, and again gave the number at the telephone, dropping in
the nickel that had cost her so much.  The clerk, though he had moved
away, was all eyes and ears, and she had an unpleasant sensation of
being watched.  But it was too late to draw back now.  Her need was too
urgent, too desperate for such irritating trifles to deter her from her
purpose.  The horrid creature would stare.  Well, let him stare!  He
would chatter about it, too, of course.  Well, let him chatter!

"Thalia Theater--box-office."

"I want to speak to Mr. Adair at once."

"It’s impossible--he’s in his dressing-room, and we ring up in eight
minutes."

"I simply have to speak to him."

"Can’t do it--it’s against the rules."

"Oh, you must, you simply must!"

"Who are you?"

"Miss Ladd!"

"Who did you say?"

"Miss Ladd--L-A-D-D."

"What is it, please, that you want to see Mr. Adair about?"

"Something very important."

"I’m sorry, but I can’t do it."

"No, no, please.  Mr. Adair will never forgive you if you don’t."  Then
she had an inspiration. Where or how she had learned the name she hardly
knew, but it flashed across her mind at this moment.  "Is Mr. Merguelis
there?"

"I am Mr. Merguelis."

"Mr. Tom Merguelis?"

"Yes."

"Then you might know who I am.  Mr. Adair--"

"Oh, say, yes--you’re not the little lady that he--"

"Yes, that’s me."

"But, my dear, he’s in his dressing-room, and that’s on the level."

"I simply must talk to him for a second, and you must go and get him."

"Hello, hello--is that you?  Hello--yes, my dear, I’m sending for him.
Please hold the line."

What an age it seemed, standing there with the receiver to her ear, and
her heart bursting with impatience.  Meaningless scraps of talk strained
her attention; when these stopped she was in terror lest she had been
cut off; at last there was the peculiar jarring and disturbance that
showed someone getting into touch at the other end, followed by Adair’s
strong clear challenge.

"Who wants Mr. Adair?"

"I do--it’s Phyllis."

"Oh, my little girl, I’m in a frightful rush. Hurry up, tell me what’s
the matter?"

"I want to see you as soon as I can--something awful has happened."

"What?"

"I can’t tell you here--but can’t you guess?"

"Trouble at home?"

"Yes."

"Found out?"

"Yes."

"Your father?"

"Yes."

Adair paused.  Events were moving faster than he had anticipated.  He
was both thrilled and bewildered at the suddenness of it all.

"It’s risky," he said, in a voice that shook a little, "but you’ll have
to come up and see me here--there’s nothing else for it."

"That’s what I want to do," she answered.

"I’ll fix it up with the door-keeper to take you to my dressing-room.
Just say you have an appointment with me, and he’ll understand.  Wait
there for me until the first act is over--will you?"

"Yes, Cyril."

"And you will excuse me if I run?  They’ll have to hold the curtain as
it is."

"Yes, yes--and I’ll be there."

"Au revoir, sweetheart!"

"Good-by--I won’t be long."


The stage-door, like most stage-doors, was to be found in a cut-throat
alley, so dark, dangerous, and forbidding in its aspect that it took all
of Phyllis’ courage to enter it.  A ratty-looking individual, so
compactly built into the entrance that he could open the door by a shove
of his boot, exerted this labor-saving device in answer to her knock,
and glowered at her from over the paper he was reading.

"What do you want?" demanded the ratty individual.

"I have an appointment with Mr. Adair."

He rose without a word; and leading her up some steps, guided her inside
the theater.  In the twilight of the wings were some stage-hands in
overalls; an actor whom she recognized as the wicked prince, sitting on
a soap-box, waiting listlessly for his cue; from the stage itself came
the sound of voices raised to an unreal pitch, and strangely exciting
and fantastic, in a cadence that was neither recitative nor speech.  She
could not help noticing, even in her agitation, the shabby, dilapidated,
disorderly appearance of everything--the ropes, the dusty props, the
frayed material of the scenes, the general air of
comfortlessness--receiving the shock that comes to every one on first
seeing the theater from the wrong side.  But the ratty individual gave
her no time to take more than a passing glance, leading the way with
whispered warnings through a gorge of canvas, and down a twisting iron
stair to the dressing-rooms below.  He stopped at one of the little
cabin-like doors, opened it, and ushered her in.  Then he left her, and
shuffled away with diminishing footfalls.

The dressing-room was bald, bare, uncarpeted, and painted a staring
white.  Below a mirror flanked by two flaring gas-jets there ran a sort
of shelf on which were grease-paints, crayons, brushes, a pot of
cold-cream, a pot of rouge, and other necessaries for "making up."  From
nails on the wall--common, every-day nails--there straggled an untidy
line of men’s clothes.  On a box in the corner was a wash-basin,
pitcher, soap, and a towel that was none too clean.  Three empty chairs,
and a wall decoration completed the picture.  The wall decoration was a
printed notice, in large and emphatic letters: "Smoking positively
prohibited in this theater.  Ladies must not use alcohol curling-irons."

Most young women, in a situation so equivocal and so unfamiliar, would
have been ill at ease, frightened, apprehensive of many vague and dimly
suspected dangers.  But Phyllis’ faith in Adair had none of this
faltering quality.  She loved, and loving she trusted.  Her tremors had
ended the moment the door had closed her in--the moment, in fact, when
the others would have trembled most. To her, on the contrary, the little
room breathed security for the very reason that it was Adair’s. With
adorable folly she pressed kisses on all his outstretched possessions;
nuzzled her cheek against his coat; put her little foot beside one of
his big man’s shoes, delighting in the contrast--and altogether felt
greatly comforted and refreshed.

After a while she heard a tremendous commotion overhead that swelled,
sank and swelled again as the house broke into applause at the end of
the act.  There was a lumbering, scratchy, pattering sound as of a dozen
pianos being moved at once by stalwart men in slippers--it was the new
scene being set.  The passageway outside, previously so still, resounded
with a rush of feet--with exclamations and laughter as the company
scudded to make their respective changes.  The door was flung open, and
there, brisk and smiling, on the threshold stood Corrèze!

Phyllis ran to his arms, and hiding her face against him began to cry.
She was so happy, so wretched; the misery of that last hour had tried
her more than she knew; her joy at seeing Adair seemed to exhaust the
little strength she had left, and her conflicting emotions could find
vent only in tears.  How sweet it was to be petted, to be soothed--to
feel so small, and weak, and helpless in that powerful clasp!  Her tears
flowed afresh. Flowed at the thought of her love for him, of his love
for her, at the beauty, wonder, and solace of it all.  Nothing could
ever harm them as long as they had each other, nothing, nothing.

She made him take a chair, and seating herself at his feet crossed her
arms on his knees and looked up at him.  In this position it seemed
easier to confide, easier to answer his persistent questions, easier at
the same time to satisfy her craving to nestle close.  As Adair heard of
the letter he turned as black as a thunder-cloud and his hands clenched.

"I know whom I’ve to thank for that!" he exclaimed furiously.  "The
damned little treacherous hound, I could choke her for it!  I’ve seen
something working in her eyes all along, but I never dreamed she could
be as low and contemptible as that!  And so she was keeping tab on us,
was she, with all her mean little eyes and ears, the dyed toad!"

"Cyril, you really know who it is?"

He made a hissing sound--a disgusted assent. "She isn’t twenty feet from
here," he exclaimed, "unless she is at the key-hole this moment."  He
rose; stepped to the door, and looked out.  "Not here," he said.

"But tell me, is she one of the actresses in the company?"

"Never you mind," he returned roughly; and then, with a quick remorse at
the look in Phyllis’ face, he apologized in a roundabout fashion by
denouncing the stage in general.  "It’s a low, dirty business," he
cried, "and the people in it are a low, dirty lot; and I guess I’m not
so damned much better myself; and if you had a spark of sense you’d
clear out, and never see me again!  Do you hear what I’m telling you,
little chap?  Do you hear, Phyllis girl?"  He put down his hand, and
caught her ear between his thumb and finger, giving it a shake.  "Skin
out, you darling baby.  Your father’s right.  Go back with my
compliments, and tell him I said so!"

His jeering tone hurt her; there was too much sincerity in his
self-contempt, too genuine a ring to his proposed dismissal.  The
contradictory creature, stung to the quick by that letter, and
indignantly conscious of much of its truth, was floundering towards
righteousness, like a walrus after a floe.  Hell, he didn’t mean her any
harm. Let her get out.

"You’d better hurry," he said, pinching her ear again.  "I’m just a
cheap actor, as common as the dirt in the road, and you’re a beautiful
young lady a million times too good for this kind of game. All that you
can get out of it is dishonor and disgrace.  Go away--let’s drop
it--love somebody who’s worth loving."

He tried to push her from him, but she clung only the tighter, her face
paling at his earnestness, and stubbornly looking up at his.

"You couldn’t say that if you were--what you say you are."

"How do you know it isn’t a trick!" he exclaimed, "just another move in
the game--just to get you a little further out of your depth, and then
drown you?"  His hands closed round her neck with brutal pleasure in her
youth, her softness, her delicacy, her powerlessness.

"It’s strange," he said wonderingly, "but at this moment when you have
never been more tempting to me, I am willing to let you go--want to let
you go.  It’s the first good resolution in my life, yet you stick here
like an infatuated little noodle, waiting for it to pass."

She snuggled closer against him.

"Am I tempting?"

"My God, yes."

"And you love me?"

"Oh, my darling, I do, I do!"

"And wouldn’t it be nice for a poor little lonesome cheap actor, who’s
really a great big splendid noble person of genius, if he only knew
it--to have me to pet him and love him and adore him, and kiss away his
morbid, silly moods, and make such a darling baby of him that he’d burst
out crying if I were out of his sight a minute?"

He looked at her sharply for an underlying meaning--a comprehension--an
assent.  But her candor and innocence were transparent; the purity
beneath those limpid depths shone like a diamond in a pool.  Her love
took no thought of anything base or wrong, either in him or in her; all
she sought was the assurance that he loved her, and wanted her; and this
achieved she was content to leave the rest to him with unquestioning
faith.  She did not come of the class to whom marriage is vividly seen
as a protection, a safe-guard, a coveted lien on a pocket-book and a
man, enforceable by the police; to her it was more one of those
inevitable formalities that attend all the big events of life, from
being born to being buried, and which one accepts as a matter of course.

Adair, in a gust of passion, caught her up on his knees, and crushed her
unresisting body in his arms.  Everything was forgotten in the maddening
rapture of the moment.  The fragrance of her young beauty over-mastered
him.  His head reeled in the greatest of all intoxications--the
woman-drunkenness that makes men crazy.  Between his clenched teeth he
whispered: "You are mine, and I am going to keep you--you shall never
get away now.  You had your chance, but it’s gone, fool that I was ever
to offer it.  But now I’ll kill you first; do you hear, Phyllis, I’ll
kill you first, for you’re mine, body and soul, and you’ve gone too far
ever to draw back."  His voice sank lower; he was beside himself; all he
knew was that she was shaking convulsively--that her face, her lips were
burning--that love, shame, devouring fever all flamed in the eyes she
tried to hide from him.

A knock at the door startled him to his feet. Rap, rap, rap!

"You’re called, Mr. Adair," said the voice from without.

"All right, Williams!"

His quick, matter-of-fact tone was as much a shock to Phyllis as the
interruption itself.  To fall from the clouds, and then land so squarely
and coolly on the earth below was a performance disturbing to witness.
It seemed to cast suspicion on his sincerity up above.  But the
misgiving was a fleeting one, for as he turned to her, she perceived in
his air of concern and resolution that she was still the dominant
thought in his mind.

"See here, Phyllis," he said, speaking fast, "this means only one thing.
The company leaves Saturday night after the show to jump to Ferrisburg.
You must come with me--that’s all there is to it.--Will you?"

She bowed her head, for somehow she could not answer in words.

"It won’t do for us to see each other till then; but you ring me up on
Saturday between twelve and one at the St. Charles Hotel, and we’ll fix
up the dates.  Have you got that straight?"

She bowed her head again, more overcome than ever.

"Don’t worry about a trunk, or any damned foolishness of that sort.
Trunks have busted more elopements than six-shooters--just a nightie and
a tooth-brush, and we’ll manage the rest at Ferrisburg!"  His glance
sought for some evasion, some backwardness, but there was neither.

"It’s the only thing to do," she said simply. "Only, only--"  She was
holding fast to his hand, swaying a little.

He waited for some objection; some silly, feminine obstacle--

"You do love me, don’t you?" she asked as pleadingly as a child.  "If
you love me I could do anything.  Tell me you love me, Cyril."

He kissed her hastily, saying "yes," and again "yes," and ran out of the
dressing-room.  A thin deferential man peeped in.  "I’m Mr. Adair’s
dresser, Miss," he said.  "He told me to show you the way out.  If you
would be so good as to follow me, Miss."

                     *      *      *      *      *

"Good-night, Miss!"



                              *CHAPTER XV*


In the meanwhile, Mr. Ladd, closely buttoned up and walking to keep
himself warm, restlessly paced the drive-way, awaiting Phyllis’ return.
At every nearing footfall he would stiffen and stop, and his throat
would contract with something very much like trepidation.  His anger was
all gone.  In its place was not only contrition and self-reproach for
having shown her that letter, but a very real alarm of the situation he
had precipitated. He had been inconceivably stupid--inconceivably unkind
and blundering.  He had driven the girl straight into the fellow’s arms,
and had now doubled what he had to undo.  Looking back on it he seemed
to have said everything he ought not to have said; done everything he
ought not to have done.  It was a case for frankness, tenderness, and
considerate understanding.  Hurry, too, in such matters, was the root of
all evil.  Romance, like faith, grew with persecution.  Gad, if she
really thought herself in love with this egregious actor, he would put
his pride in his pocket, invite him to the house, pretend to like him,
and thus earn the right to stipulate for conventions and a long
engagement.  No cruel father here, but a cool man of the world, craftily
leaving it to others to tittle-tattle, to disparage, and best of all to
deride with a laughter infinitely more effective than the sternest and
angriest of arguments.  Yes, that was the program and he must put an
iron hold upon himself to see that he did not swerve from it by a hair.

He ran forward in the dark as he heard some one coming, and recognized
Phyllis dimly against the lighted street behind.

"Phyllis!" he cried, "Phyllis!" and he caught her hand and held it.  Her
touch, even more than her silence, told him how estranged they were.
His agitation paralyzed his tongue; he hardly knew how to begin; he
murmured under his breath, "Forgive me, forgive me"; and then, louder,
with an uncontrollable resentment that flashed up in spite of all his
self-warnings: "Don’t deny it--you’ve been to him!"

"I wasn’t going to deny it, Papa."

"Where?  At the theater?"

"Yes."

"You went there alone--not even a maid with you?  Have you parted with
all sanity?"

His tone was overbearing, harsh, scornful. Alas, for his good and wise
intentions!  In the impact of two stubborn natures, each rousing in the
other an invincible antagonism, there could be no tenderness, no
consideration.  Each was fighting with the flag nailed to the mast; she
for Adair, he for his daughter.

"It was your doing, Papa.  I had no alternative."

"Oh, what a lie!  I’d sooner have gone with you myself, however bitter
or humiliating it might have been for me."

The picture of such an escort to such a rendezvous made her laugh in
spite of herself.  It was not the kind of laughter to soften or turn
away wrath.  To Ladd it seemed heartlessness itself.

"It’s unbelievable," he broke out, "my God, Phyllis, what am I to say to
you?  Isn’t the man self-condemned on the face of it--with his closed
cabs, and underhanded meetings, and now stripping you of every rag of
reputation by letting you come to him at his theater?  And what do you
mean by the theater, anyhow?--His dressing-room, of course?"

"Yes."

Her answer wrung a groan from him.

"Phyllis, Phyllis!" he exclaimed.  Then in an altered voice, full of
irritated reasonableness, he went on: "Do you realize that we could have
had the same--well, disagreement--over that Pastor fellow you were
engaged to?  Wouldn’t you have been just as wilful in his case--just as
sure? Wouldn’t it have been the same with Baron von Piller if I had
objected violently at the time you engaged yourself to him?  Look back
on both these affairs.  You aren’t altogether a fool.  Mayn’t this be a
third mistake?"

She seized his hand in both her own, and squeezed it with all her
strength.

"It’s because I love him _like that_!  Not the love that comes of
compliments, of attentions and flowers, but _that_!--But of course you
don’t understand--you can’t."

Mr. Ladd ignored this slight on his more limited knowledge, though his
lip curled sardonically under his mustache.

"I am more concerned in how he loves you," he said.  "He’s acting like a
cad, and you know it."

"Papa!"

His voice outrang hers.  "Love," he cried, with piercing contempt, "that
kind of love is the commonest thing there is.  There isn’t a drab on the
streets who hasn’t tasted it to the dregs.  God help you when you wake
up, and see this man as he is--schemer, scoundrel, blackguard.  Do you
think I don’t know?  Do you think I haven’t run across hundreds?  Do you
think I’m going to let an adventurer like that get his hooks into you,
and drag you down into his own filthy mire? You’re the only thing I have
in life; I live for you; there isn’t an hour of the day when you’re not
in my mind.  You can’t dismiss all this at the nod of a stranger.  It
carries its obligations--for you, too; the obligation of more than
twenty years; not for feeding and clothing you, I don’t mean anything so
banal--but the deeper one of a love that has kept you warm and
happy--that has grown without your knowing it to be a very part of you,
as it is all of me."

Had he stopped there the harm might still have been undone.  But with a
perversity inexplicable at that moment when the tide had turned, and
responsive tears were streaming down those girlish cheeks, he had a
sudden outburst of rancor that destroyed everything he had gained.

"To think that anybody named Cyril Adair--my God, _Cyril Adair_, with
its suggestion of sticky sweetness, and tinsel, and footlights, and mock
heroics--could come between two sane, grown-up people like you and
me!--Cyril Adair!" he repeated, and laughed mirthlessly.

There was nothing he could have urged against Adair that could have hurt
her more.  A young and devoted woman can always find excuses for her
lover’s past.  It belongs to a time before her little hand had been
stretched out to save him, before she had brought hope and light to one
who had never known either, and had consequently--and
naturally--abandoned himself to despair. With a feeling surely divine,
and often justified by results, she never doubts her ability to wash
that black sheep to the fleecy whiteness of her own dainty wool.  But
poor Cyril’s name was a very different matter; it was worse in its
pinchbeck and aristocratic pretensions, and school-girl-novel
picturesqueness than the most crimson of sins.  It would still be
stamped on the luckless sheep after he had been whitened as white as
snow--the Scarlet Letter of vulgarity, so to speak--affronting good
taste on every hill-side.  Nothing more showed the degree of Phyllis’
infatuation than that she had been able to tolerate this name; and now,
to have it flung in her face, with an emphasis so sneering--the one
taunt for which she had no answer--was more than she felt herself able
to bear.

She drooped beside her father, realizing the futility of any further
argument, and of a sudden so tired that the woes of the world seemed to
be on her shoulders.  Her voice, when at last she broke the silence, was
weary, though with none of the weariness of surrender, but rather that
of a settled and altogether sad determination.

"We seem to have said all there is to say--good night, Papa."

He would have detained her, but she moved away from him, and preceded
him into the house.  He followed, respecting her wish to terminate the
scene.  He was weary, too, and no less willing to be alone.  He had to
think and to act, and much had to be done that night.


They met at breakfast as usual.  She kissed him dutifully, and poured
out his coffee as though this Wednesday morning was no different from
any other Wednesday morning.  They talked on indifferent subjects until
the servants had left them. Then the suspended battle was renewed.

"My dear," said Mr. Ladd, with an uncertain smile, "I am thinking of
sending you on a visit to your Aunt Sarah’s.  It will be better for both
of us to stay apart for a time, and see matters with a little more
calmness and--consideration for each other.  There’s no sense in being
over-hasty, and making momentous resolutions in this twinkling-of-an-eye
sort of way.  There’s lots of time--oceans of time.  You may change, I
may change--for I don’t set up to be inflexible, and neither do you.
Yes, you’ll go to your Aunt Sarah’s, and then to Paris with her if you
like, or Monte Carlo.  I guess I can fix it up to the nines, even to a
look-in at Paquin’s, and one of those expensive strolls down the Rue de
La Paix.  Go ahead--why not?"

"I’d rather stay here, Papa."

"Phyllis, this is a request--a favor to me.  I want you to."

"When?"

"Why not the noon train?  I’ve taken a drawing-room for you, and a berth
for your maid--and Sarah’s expecting you."

"You told her?"

He made no attempt to avoid the implication of her eyes.

"No," he replied.  "No, I don’t believe in roaring out your troubles
over the long distance ’phone. It was enough to call it an impulse.
With you, my dear, that is always a sufficient reason."--They both
laughed, and Mr. Ladd’s anxious cordiality redoubled at so favorable a
symptom.  "If it’s the real thing, Phyllis, time won’t hurt it."

"It is the real thing, Papa."

"But you will go?"

"No."

"Phyllis, I insist."

"I’m sorry, but it’s impossible."

"You have to.  You must."

"I won’t!"

It is the terrible part of stereotyped situations that people will make
use of the stereotyped expressions that go with them.  Mr. Ladd was the
kindest and most devoted father on earth, yet the venerable formula rose
to his lips: "You defy me under my own roof?"

It of course forced out the stereotyped reply: "I can leave it."

Mr. Ladd, in silence, looked at her long and steadily; then he bent his
head.  She saw nothing but the iron-gray hair; the stooping, dejected
shoulders; the hand, lying as limp as dead, on the damask cloth.

"Papa?"

No answer.

"Papa?"

She ran to his side, all revolt gone, her only thought to comfort him.
Her bare arms entwined themselves about his neck in a paroxysm of
remorse; her bosom swelled; her voice was incoherent as she lavished her
young tenderness upon him.  It was a moment that would decide her life.
Had her father left the initiative to her, had he been content to accept
mutely these tokens of her surrender--he would have won, then and there,
and nothing again would ever have come between them. But with blind
stupidity he had to persevere with the intention their clash had
interrupted.

"I will tell you my real reason for wanting you to get away," he said.
"It wasn’t what you thought at all--it was to spare you unnecessary
pain.  Last night I sent Reynolds, our best secret-service man, to New
York with _carte blanche_ to confer with the Pinkertons and ransack this
fellow’s record from top to bottom.  From what Reynolds told me he
already knew--I mean what’s said down-town, I believe it will be a black
one, so black that there won’t be any question about your giving him
up--just on the facts brought out--facts that can not be disproved or
contested.  Reynolds--"

"But, Papa, I don’t understand.  You are setting detectives to go back
over his life, like a criminal?  _Detectives?_"

"Yes."

"But how dishonorable, how infamous!"

"Oh, it’s done every day; it’s common, my dear; if the man’s straight it
can’t hurt him--but if he has anything to hide, why, we turn on the
search-light, and find out what’s wrong.--It’s all done secretly; he
won’t know; don’t worry about that.--I expect a full report in a few
days, and would rather not have you here when I get it."

"And do you think that’s fair or right, or anything but--fiendish?"

"How do you know he isn’t married, Phyllis?"--he shot this at her
mercilessly.  "How do you know anything except what he’s told you?  You
may be willing to believe him, and all that--but I’m your father, and I
want to _know_, and by God, I’m going to know!"

"Papa, don’t!"

"Aha, you’re not very confident, are you?"

"He’s a man.  I don’t doubt he’s been foolish, and bad, and fast, but to
see it written down cold-bloodedly on sheets of paper is more than I can
bear.  I am willing to ignore that; I am willing to take him as he is
_now_.  Oh, Papa, a woman can forgive so much."

"Yes, my dear, and a great deal that a father never could."

"I beg you, Papa, I implore you to telegraph to them to stop."

"It’s too late--besides it has to be done; I insist on it; I’m going to
strip that man’s past to the bone."

"Even if it costs you me?  Even if this is the end of everything between
us?"

"Fiddle-de-dee, these theatrics are unworthy of you!  You’re going to
take the noon train to Sarah’s, and behave yourself; and this business,
however disagreeable to both of us, has got to go through."

Her lips tightened mutinously.  She was not a young woman who could be
driven.

"I’ll stay here, or walk right out of your house--and you know where."

"Then stay," he cried, rising wrathfully, "and may God forgive you for
the misery you are bringing down on me.  I’m only trying to do what’s
best, and you treat me as though I was one of that fellow’s cruel
parents on the stage!  It’s no time to mince matters, and I tell you
straight out, Phyllis, he’s a blackguard and a scoundrel, and when you
see the Pinkertons’ report, I guess you’ll go down on your knees and beg
my pardon for your heartlessness and obstinacy."

He glared at her, expecting a retort that would add fresh fuel to his
anger, but she was silent, downcast, trembling.  The answer she made was
to herself, inaudible save to her anguished soul: "Oh, that Saturday
night were here!"



                             *CHAPTER XVI*


The four days that followed were almost unendurable in the strain they
entailed. Phyllis was heavy with her secret; beset by emotions so
conflicting that they seemed to rend her to pieces; forlorn and desolate
under her father’s studied coldness.  The detectives’ report did not
come, or was withheld perhaps,--but the apprehension of it was always
hanging horribly above her head.  It was not the facts themselves she
feared most, though she dreaded them, too; it was to hear them
tauntingly on her father’s lips; to be forced to stand, and listen, and
cringe at what the human ferrets had unearthed.--Anxious days; leaden
days; sad, introspective, interminable days, never to be recalled in
after life without a peculiar depression.

On Saturday, at the stroke of noon, she was in a telephone booth, with
shivers cascading down her back, and the eagerest heart in Carthage
thumping under her breast.  In the time she took to get her number, she
had decided to go, not to go--then again to go, then again not to go.
It was awful, and she couldn’t; it was awful, and she would!


"Hello, is that the St. Charles Hotel?"

"Yes, Chincholchell, whodyerwant?"

"Mr. Cyril Adair?"

"Hold the line."

He must have been waiting there for his voice answered immediately,
abrupt and deep: "Hello, is that you?"

"Yes,--you know who."

"Is it all right--you are coming?"

"If you want me to."

His only answer to that was a laugh that shook the wire.  How manly and
confident it sounded in contrast to her own quavering whisper!

"Now, listen, you darling baby, and get this right.  We’re to pick up
the Alleghany local at ten minutes past midnight, and at half-past
eleven I’ll have Tom Merguelis waiting for you in a cab, across the
Avenue on the southeastern corner.  Can you manage to get out of the
house, do you think?"

"Oh, yes."

"No trunk, you know--just the few things you need, and the fewer the
better."

"I understand."

"Find Tom--that’s all you have to do--and the rest is for him."

"Yes, Cyril."

"Say it as though you meant it!  I’d rather have you back out now than
fail me at the last moment.  That’s an awful faint ’yes.’"

"Don’t blame me if I’m scared--you’d be scared too, in my place."

"Well, how scared are you going to be at half-past eleven--that’s the
real point of it?"

"Cyril, dearest?"

"Yes, my darling."

"I’m coming, I want to come, I’m crazy to come--and you mustn’t think
for a single moment that I won’t."

"That’s the way to talk!"

"And you’ll be good to me, won’t you?"

"My precious!"

"And love me, oh, so well?"

"Yes, yes!"

"And I’ll try to be the best little wife that ever made a man warm, and
comfortable, and happy--and I’m going to keep your heart-buttons sewed
on as well as the others--and darn your beautiful big soul with
girl-silk--and dress you every day in a lovely new suit of kisses, so
that people will turn round on the street, and ask who’s your tailor!
And Cyril?"

"Yes, sweetheart?".

"I’m the happiest girl in the world, and the luckiest!  And I’m not
scared a bit, and I’ll be there at half-past eleven, and I love you, and
I’m going to run away with you; and I’m glad I’m going to run away with
you, and I’m twenty-one, and my own mistress, and as bold as brass, and
six policemen couldn’t stop me, and I’m just a little slave panting for
her master, and I’ve gnawed the ropes through with my teeth, and no one
shall ever tie me up again, or keep me away from you, Amen!"

Again there was that manly, confident laugh.

"I think that little slave had better run home again and pretend to tie
up," he said.  "It would spoil everything if your father got wind of
this--I know those rich old fellows--they can be a power for mischief
whether the law is on their side or not.  Good-by, my darling, take care
of yourself, and look out for Tommy at eleven thirty. Good-by!"

"I hope we will never say that word to each other again," exclaimed
Phyllis.  "It’s a horrid word and I hate it.  Good-by, Cyril, and don’t
forget your little slave, counting the minutes at home!"

"Ta, ta, my lamb, I won’t forget her.  Couldn’t if I would, ta, ta!"

There is no harder task than to fold one’s hands and wait.  Adair had
his matinée and his evening performance to engross his thoughts, and
allay to some degree his fever of anticipation.  But Phyllis had no such
resource.  Restless, nervous, on edge with suspense--fits of joy
alternating with craven terror--she wore out the longest afternoon of
her life, and an evening that was more trying still. Her father, to make
matters worse, attempted some advances; spoke to her with unexpected
kindness; hovered on the brink of another appeal.  What a little Judas
she felt, sitting opposite him for perhaps the last time, and
maintaining a constraint that was, indeed, her armor, for if she
responded at all she knew she would never go that night. So she parried
and fenced, and kept the conversation impersonal at any hazard, while
his face grew steadily more overcast, and the lines of his forehead
deepened.  She excused herself early, pleading fatigue, and relaxed her
attitude to kiss him tenderly good night.

"It’ll all come right before long," she murmured softly.  "Good night,
my darling daddy, and remember I love you whatever happens."

She was off before he could take advantage of a mood so melting.  But he
felt much consoled, nevertheless.

"She’s coming round," he said to himself.  "I might have known she
would.  That’s the comfort of her being such a good girl, and so
intelligent!"

Up-stairs, the young lady thus complacently described was stripping off
her dinner gown, and wondering what dress she would replace it with.
She was the daintiest of soubrettes in her long dark-red silk stockings,
and Watch, her Russian poodle, gazed at her with an approving,
first-row-of-the-orchestra expression that made him look too wicked and
dissipated for anything.  She gave him a gentle kick on the nose to
remind him that staring wasn’t gentlemanly, and finally chose a blue
tailor-made by Redfern.  When this was on, the rest of her preparations
were easy.  She could not well take Watch, so she took his collar, and
this was the first to go into the little hand-bag.  A nightgown
followed, a pair of stockings, tooth-brush, comb and brush,
tooth-powder, some handkerchiefs, the photographs of her father and
mother, still in their frames, and a pair of patent leather slippers
with gilt buckles.  Surely no little bride of her importance and social
position had ever set forth with so slender a trousseau.  There it all
was, dog-collar below, slippers on top, in a bag no bigger than an
exaggerated purse.  She smiled a little tremulously as she looked at it,
touched as only a woman could be by the magnitude of her sacrifice. Her
clothes and her father--tears for both, thus equally abandoned, suffused
her eyes.

The next thing was a note of farewell, to be found the following morning
on her unused pillow.  "I am going away with Mr. Adair," she wrote,
"taking my own life in my own hands for better or worse.  Whether we are
to be friends--you and I--depends entirely upon yourself, although
alienation from you will be very hard for me to bear.  Forgive me if you
can, and do not let your disappointment and chagrin embitter you against
me; or what would hurt me almost as much--against him.  To-night when I
kissed you it was good-by, and if it is for ever it will be your own
fault, and very, very cruel, for I love you, dearest father, I love you.
Ever your devoted Phyllis."

By half-past nine everything was ready; and it was with a consuming
impatience that she went into her boudoir with Watch, and ensconsed
herself on the sofa to wait.  A confidential Russian poodle can be of
great help to a young lady in distress. Watch’s sympathy; Watch’s
certainty of everything coming out right; Watch’s implied determination
to soften the blow to Mr. Ladd; Watch’s willingness to whine over the
general tragedy of things--all were whimsically comforting.  Best of
all, he could listen for ever and ever with one ear cocked up, and never
lose for an instant his air of highly gratified interest.  And what
didn’t he hear during that hour and three quarters on the sofa!  What
secrets of longing and tenderness, of girlish hopes, of girlish dreams,
of delicious falterings and trepidations--all breathed into that woolly
ear!

Then came the suffocating moment of departure--the quieting of an unruly
friend--the peeping from the door; the tip-toeing down the stairs; the
panicky stops to cower and listen; the stealthy passage of the great dim
hall; the groping for bolts and chains; the heavy door swinging heavily
back; the cold, dark, starry night beyond; the egress into it; the wild
sense of escape and freedom; the sound of gravel under the eager little
feet; the gate-way; the wide silent Avenue; the glimmering lights of the
cab at the farther corner; and--

"Yes, I’m Tom Merguelis, Miss.  Jump in--everything is ready."

She discovered herself sitting beside a very tall, very thin young man,
who smiled down at her in a quizzical, friendly manner not unsuggestive
of the Cheshire Cat.  That vague, deprecatory grin was as much a part of
Mr. Merguelis as his sandy hair, his retreating chin, and the whole
amiable vacancy of his expression.  His youth had been passed before the
public as "assistant" to Professor Theophilus Blitz, the exhibiting
hypnotist, who was accustomed nightly to run pins into him; make him
drink kerosene under the impression it was beer; smack his lips over
furniture-polish; eat potato peelings for sausages; bark like a dog,
meow like a cat, make love to a bolster, and generally disport himself
to the astonishment and horror of clodhopper audiences.  Six years of
this had left Tommy without a digestion, and that fixed and bewildered
grin, which to Phyllis, under the unusual circumstances of their
meeting, seemed to her not without a satiric quality.

But as they drove through the deserted streets she realized her mistake,
and corrected so unjust a first impression.  The artless, gawky creature
idolized Adair, and was proud beyond measure to be serving him so
romantically.  It gave him an extraordinary fellow-feeling for Phyllis
to have her also on her knees at the shrine of the demigod; and he
overflowed with a hero-worship so naïve and sincere that she could not
help liking him--grin and all.  Indeed, it seemed a happy augury for her
own future that Adair could excite so profound an admiration in those
about him.  Mr. Merguelis seemed as infatuated as she, and saw nothing
strange in these midnight proceedings.  There was approval in that
everlasting grin.  Would she please call him Tommy?  Mr. Adair called
him Tommy. They shook hands on it in the semi-darkness, and she knew she
had found a friend.

Phyllis expected that Cyril would be waiting for her at the station, and
was much cast down to learn that she was to remain alone with Tommy
until the train arrived.  "Then we’ll all bustle on board together, and
nobody will notice you," explained Tommy.  The good sense of this was
apparent, yet at the same time she could not help feeling a little
forlorn and slighted.  "Nobody will notice you," said Young Lochinvar’s
Tommy.--Now that the die was cast, why should she not be noticed? She
was ready to avow herself Adair’s before all the world, and why not on
that dark, ill-lighted platform, when her courage was nearly spent and
her slim young body drooping?

They sat on a bench, and waited in a corner of the vast cavern, she with
her bag in her lap, Tommy with his unrelaxing grin fixed on space.
Waited and waited, while stragglers passed, immigrants with babies and
bundles, hurrying couples returning to the suburbs from a night in town.
Above the noise there suddenly rose a louder thunder.  It was the train
bursting in with a roar, hissing steam and grinding its brakes as it
slowed down, throbbing majestically.  Tommy seized her by the arm and
ran along the platform.

"Day car reserved for Steinberger’s theatrical company?"

"Third car back."

"Day car reserved for Steinberger’s theatrical company?"

"Jump in!"

Others were scrambling in, too.  Phyllis had a fleeting glimpse of Miss
de Vere, still with dabs of make-up on her sulky, handsome face; of the
wicked Prince, loaded down with baggage, and excitedly taking the
direction of everything on his shoulders; of a stout, authoritative Jew
with a diamond pin, who was staring at her with a greedy curiosity, and
that cattleman’s look, as of one who could tell the shape, age,
attractiveness, and market value of a human heifer at a single glance.
They jostled into the empty car, a dozen or more, settling themselves
anywhere, anyhow, like a big boisterous family.  Tommy and Phyllis
slipped into a seat at the farther end, and they had hardly done so
before the latter felt a hand reach over and touch her cheek; and
turning, saw Adair!  Tommy sprang up, and made way for him, Adair taking
the vacated place as though by right.

Whatever pique she might have held against him vanished in the magic of
his presence.  His hand, closing on hers, communicated peace and
resolution. No longer was she afraid, or lonely, or sad, or uneasily
conscious of those other prying and speculating occupants of the car.
The goal was attained; stronger shoulders than her own now lifted her
burden; she had run her race, and could now lie, all spent and weary, in
that haven of heart’s content.  His musical voice flowed on in caressing
cadences.  Had Tommy carried out his instructions? Had Tommy explained
the need of an unobtrusive departure, so that any chance reporter or
busybody might be put off the scent?--Oh, the poor baby, how neglected
she must have felt, on this the night of nights; how utterly ignored and
forgotten!

He drew her head against his cheap fur coat, and stroked her cheek and
tresses--his sweetheart, his darling, his little bride!  It was sweet to
be petted; sweeter still to enjoy the luxury of self-pity as he
expatiated with smiling exaggeration on her sad, miserable, wretched
waiting with Tommy, in the sad, miserable, wretched station!  She closed
her sleepy eyes, and nestled closer, awake only to catch every soft word
of endearment.  Of these she could not have enough.  It was heavenly to
doze away with: "I love you, I love you, I love you," falling in that
insatiable little ear; heavenly to feel that big hand playing with her
hair, and tempting kisses as it lingered against her mouth; heavenly to
feel so weak, and small, and helpless, and tired against that muscular
arm.  Divine mystery of love! Divine the dependence of woman on man, of
man on woman, neither complete without the other, and each so
different...  "My little bride" ... "I love you, ... I love you, ... I
love you..."

The train rumbled through the darkness.  The seats held the huddled
figures of the company, all as limp as sacks, as oblivion stole upon
them.  Feet were cocked up; hats were pulled over brows; haggard women,
pale men, sprawling in disorder, and through long familiarity as
unrestrained as some low, coarse family--sloppy slippers and frank
stockings to the garter; unbuttoned collars, unbuttoned vests; dirty
cuffs on racks--the squalid evidences of a squalid intimacy.

Looking down at that pure profile, and inhaling with every breath the
fragrance of an exquisite young womanhood which would be his so soon to
take, and, if he wished, to fling away, shattered and destroyed beyond
all mending, Adair felt, with dawning comprehension, and mingled elation
and pain, all that had gone to put this creature so infinitely above
him.

What care, what money, what anxious thought had been lavished to make
her what she was. How incessant the effort; how jealous the guarding
through all these years; how elaborate and costly the training to fit
her for the proud, high position to which she had been born.  It came
over him with a strange new perception that the very innocence of her
surrender was but another proof of that queenly rearing.  She was not of
a world where women suspected or bargained.  They lived their gracious
lives within triple walls, unaware of the sentinels and outposts for
ever watching over them.  And what were the sensations of the lucky
thief, who had closed his fingers on the prize, and run?  They were not
altogether as joyful as one might have thought.  The thief was very much
bemused.  That trusting head, snuggled against his breast, was causing a
curious commotion in the heart beneath.

But he overcame the unmanly weakness.  Hell, he would take what the gods
had sent him.  He hadn’t raised a hand to get her; she had thrown
herself at him; oh, she knew what she was doing, well enough, though she
probably expected him to marry her.  Perhaps he would, later on.  He
wasn’t prepared right there to say he wouldn’t. But there was plenty of
time for that.  He hoped she wouldn’t turn out to be one of the crying,
troublesome kind.  Add a Laidlaw Wright father-in-law to that, and one
might as well shoot oneself--what with writs, attachments, box-office
seizures, injunctions, citations "to show cause," detectives going
through your pockets, black eyes, fines, contempt-proceedings--all
raining on a fellow in buckets!  He smiled grimly at the recollection.
No more of that for him.--Well, if she didn’t like the other way, she
would just have to make the best of it.  Her innocence here again would
be a great help.  The poor little lamb believed every word he said.
Besides, with women, kisses could always atone for everything.

The train rumbled on and on.  Adair succumbed to a fitful and uneasy
slumber, through which there ran a thread of tormenting dreams.  He had
lost her; they had become separated, and over the heads of a crowd he
saw her disappearing in a vortex of hurrying people; he struggled
unavailingly to follow, swearing, hitting out, shouldering and elbowing
like a madman; the cruel reality of it awakened him to find her sleeping
in his arms.  He awakened her, too,--roughly,--to share his relief, his
joy.  He made her hold him round the neck; made her kiss him, all sleepy
as she was; crushed and cuddled her in a transport of sudden passion.
Then he nodded off again, his lips resting on her silken hair,
blissfully content, and no longer afraid to close his heavy lids.

They were bundled off at Ferrisburg at three in the morning, all of them
so sodden with sleep that they could scarcely keep their eyes open.  A
dilapidated bus, and a freckled boy received them, the former
representing the Clarendon Hotel, the latter, Miss MacGlidden’s
theatrical boarding-house.  The company divided accordingly, with some
grumpy facetiousness, the lesser members trailing away on foot after the
boy, the principals climbing into the bus,--the trunks of both stacked
high on the platform to await the morning.

The hotel, in spite of its fine name, was a bare, dismal, ramshackle
place; and the lowered lights, and uncarpeted floors gave it a
peculiarly forbidding air as the doors were unlocked to admit them.
Phyllis, clinging to her lover’s arm, and overcome with weariness, took
little heed of the arrangements being made for their accommodation.  She
had no idea of the _Cyril Adair and wife_ that was being written almost
under her nose.  Even when she accompanied Cyril up-stairs at the heels
of a yawning darky, she was equally unaware that her room was also to be
his.  No sleepy child at her father’s side could have been more
trusting.

The darky shuffled off, leaving them alone together in the big, cold
bedroom.  Adair took her in his arms, and kissed her, murmuring
something that she only half heard and altogether failed to understand.
All that she grasped was that he would return in a little while--that
she was to undress, and go to bed, while he went down to get his
dress-suit case.  He opened her own little bag, and laughed as he
arranged the contents on the chiffonier, she with blushes, struggling to
restrain him.  Then he was gone, and when she went to lock the door, she
found that the key was gone, also.

She took off her hat, her cloak, her bodice, and with no light save a
pair of wretched candles began to brush her unloosened hair.  A terrible
misgiving was stealing over her which she tried to allay by prolonging
this familiar task.  The missing key, the talk of coming back--what was
she to think?  A deadly fear struck at her heart.  It was not all for
her honor.  There was more at stake than even that--the greater disaster
of Adair’s unworthiness.  Could this be the love for which she had
abandoned everything?  Was it all a lie, a fraud, a trick?  She suddenly
seemed to lose the strength to stand, sinking into the nearest, chair,
huddled and trembling.

No, no, he could not be so inconceivably base. She was wrong.  His love
was as real as hers.  He was incapable of such coldblooded
premeditation. Everything she had was his.  It was not that.  The
thought of giving herself to him had filled her with an unreasoning joy.
But to be cheated, to barter her life, her soul in exchange for his
pretense--oh, she would have rather died!  She would have starved for
him, would have sold the clothes off her back for him, would have borne
unflinchingly odium, contempt, disgrace, asking only that he love her
well.  But without that--!  It was for him to choose; she had no
resistance left; but if it were, indeed, all a lie she would kill
herself the next day. One could outlive many things, but not _that_.
There are some cheats that leave one with no redress save death.

She heard his step in the corridor; heard the door softly open; looked
up with dilating eyes to learn her fate.  The words Adair meant to say
never were said.  He stopped, staring down at her with a gaze as
questioning as her own.  It was one of those instants that decide
eternities.  All that she had thought, all that she had dreaded were
articulate in the piteous face she raised to his.  It was a look, which,
mysteriously, for that perceptive instant was open for him to read.

"They have got me a room on the other side of the house," he said, "but
I had to come back first to say good night."  He ran over to her, kissed
her lightly on her bared shoulder, pressed a great handful of her hair
across his lips, and hurried away before temptation could overmaster
him.

There was no one to be found anywhere, but he remembered the stove still
burning in the bar-room, and the empty chairs gathered socially about
it. Thither he made his way through the silent office and corridors, and
drawing his cheap fur coat close about him, settled himself to pass what
little remained of the night.  There was sawdust on the floor,
spittoons, scraps of sausage-rind; the air stank stalely of beer and
spirits; the single gas-jet, turned very low, flickered over the nude
women that decorated the mean, fly-blown walls, and flickered, too, over
a man, half-slumbering in a chair, who, but glimmeringly to himself, had
taken the turning road of his life.



                             *CHAPTER XVII*


The sensation of most runaway couples, after filling up a blank form,
and having a marriage service gabbled over them by a shabby stranger in
a frock-coat, is one of unmixed astonishment at the facility of the
whole proceeding. A dog-license is no harder to obtain, and the
formalities attending vaccination are even greater.

Phyllis emerged from the Reverend Josiah Lyell’s with a ring on her
finger, and a cardboard certificate on which the Almighty, angels, and
forked lightning were depicted above her name and Adair’s.  The first
discussion of their married life was what to do with this monstrosity.
Phyllis was for tearing it up, but Adair, superstitiously afraid of bad
luck, insisted stoutly on its being retained.

"I’ll hide it at the bottom of my trunk," he said.

They returned to the carriage, which was awaiting them as composedly as
though nothing in particular had happened in the ten-minute interval.
Adair wished to take a drive before going back to the hotel, thinking
that the air and repose would be soothing for their nerves,--but to his
surprise Phyllis demurred.

"I’ve been married your way," she said, "now you must come and be
married mine."

"Yours, Phyllis?"

"Yes, tell him to drive to a Catholic church."

He gave the order good-humoredly.  "Aren’t you satisfied?" he asked.
"Do you want more angels and forked lightning?"

"You see, I’ve always been a sort of Catholic," she explained.  "Not a
good Catholic, but a poor little straggler, galloping on half a mile
behind, like a baby sheep that’s got left.  I’ve never liked the
confession part of it, but really, Cyril, there’s a sort of whiff of
Heaven about a Catholic church that I need occasionally.  It’s just as
though you were awfully hungry, and went in to smell a beautiful dinner
a long way off!"

"All right, Phyllis, if we are going to get married we might as well do
it thoroughly," assented Adair.  "If you think that beautiful dinner
will help us any, let’s go and smell it by all means."

As kind fate would have it, it was rather an attractive church, and
better still it was altogether deserted.  The autumn sunshine was
streaming through stained-glass windows; a faint perfume of incense
lingered in the air; the peace and solitude gave an added dignity to the
altar, with its suffering pale Christ, its tall candles, its effulgent
brasses gleaming in the rosy light.  Phyllis made Adair kneel at her
side, and holding his hand tightly in hers, prayed silently with
downcast eyes, and the least quiver of a smile at the corner of her
lips.

On their way out they stopped at the font.  She crossed herself, touched
her fingers to the water, and scattered some drops on Adair’s face.
"That’s that you will always love me," she said, with captivating
solemnity, "that’s that you will always be true to me; and that’s
that--I may die first!"

Adair dabbled his own hand in the holy water, as though the act had a
religious significance, "Oh, God," he said, looking up in all
seriousness, "if there is a God--take care of this sweet wife of mine,
and guard her from every harm; and if there isn’t, I swear by this I am
going to do it myself just as well as I know how!"

They kissed each other, and were about to go, when Phyllis noticed the
poor-box.  She slipped off her best ring, a little diamond such as girls
are permitted to wear, and unhesitatingly dropped it in. Adair, caught
by the picturesqueness of the offering, would have sacrificed his
horseshoe pin had he not been prevented.

"No, that’s too pretty," she cried jealously. "Haven’t you something you
don’t like that God _would_?"

A little rummaging discovered a gold pencil-case which seemed to fulfill
this demand--at least on Adair’s side--and it forthwith followed the
ring. Then they sought the open air.

"Now, at last I feel really married," said Phyllis gaily, as they
climbed back into the carriage. "What a strange, dizzy, _safe_ sort of
feeling it gives one.  And just think I could hug you right now before
the driver, and that old lady with the basket, and that little boy
blowing his baby brother’s nose--and nobody could say Boo!"

[Illustration: She waited for him at the stage-door.--_Page_ 284]

She alarmed Adair by pretending to carry the hugging into effect until
he tried to push her away, and told her to behave.  She replied with a
delighted, bubbling outcry over her new freedom: "Oh, but I’m married
now, and can do just what I like, and can have breakfast in bed with you
every morning, and put my shoes out with yours to be blacked, and I’m
Mrs. Adair, and have a wedding-ring, and a certificate with forked
lightning on it!"  She exultantly popped up her feet on the seat in
front, showing a shocking amount of black silk stocking with a bravado
that made him grab at her skirt to pull it down; and in the ensuing romp
there was more silk stocking still, and so much happy laughter on her
part, and scandalized protestation on his that the driver turned round,
and they were all but disgraced.

The narrowness of the escape sobered her, and for the rest of the drive
she was demureness itself. What a joy it was to recline with half-shut
eyes, and let the air fan away all the troubled memories of the night
before!  Mind and body craved repose, and mind and body found it in the
cradle-like movement of the carriage.  Adair was very tired, too, and
willing enough to share his pretty companion’s mood.  Deliciously
conscious of each other, though more asleep than awake, they abandoned
themselves to the fresh bright morning, and breathed in deep drafts of
contentment.

On their return to the hotel, the carriage stopped and Tommy Merguelis
jumped up on the step.  His perennial grin, and withered, foolish face
was not unclouded by a certain anxiety.  He dropped a bunch of roses
into Phyllis’ lap, with an awkward compliment which got as far as she
was a rose herself, and then ended midway with a terrified giggle.

"I’m awful sorry," he said, addressing Adair, "but you’re wanted at the
theater, Mr. Adair, and I’ve been chasing around after you for the last
half-hour.  They want you to rehearse right off with Miss Clarke, and
coach her a bit in the business."

"Why, what’s the matter with De Vere?" asked Adair, surprised.

A slight glaze seemed to spread itself over the grin.

"She won’t be in the bill for a day or two," said Tommy.  "She’s been
suddenly taken awful bad."  He paused, seeking a decorous name for the
attack in question, and finally veiled it in the obscurity of a foreign
language: "A crisis de nerves," he added.

"Oh, tantrums?" said Adair in a plainer tongue. "What a confounded
nuisance!"

"She kept yelling and yelling until we got the doctor," went on Tommy;
"and then on top of that Miss Clarke had to get into a hair-pulling
match with Miss Larkins--and so I think you had better hurry, Mr. Adair,
if there’s to be anything doing to-night."

"Great Lord, I think so, too!" cried the latter, to whom, like all
stars, the evening performance was next to a religion.  "You go on to
the hotel," he went on, turning to Phyllis, "and make yourself as
comfortable as you can."  The vexation in his voice was even a better
apology than the one in words.  "I’m damned sorry," he said.  "It’s the
most infernal shame.  Forgive me, Phyllis, please do, and try not to
mind."

Thus it was that she drove to the hotel alone, while Adair and Tommy
strode off to quiet the tempest in the theater, and start a tedious and
prolonged rehearsal with Miss de Vere’s understudy.

Phyllis went to her room, and found one alleviation of its loneliness in
examining that mysterious object, her wedding-ring.  It was so strange,
so unfamiliar, so charged with significance and finality. Just a
trifling hoop of gold, and yet with what myriad meanings.  Probably in
days gone by, when of brass or iron it was riveted on the neck, little
brides mirrored themselves in pools with a similar awe at their altered
state, and a similar questioning of the unknown future.

For better or worse, for good or evil, her life was linked to Adair’s
beyond all recalling, and the emblem of their compact glittered on the
hand she gazed at so long and earnestly.

But you can not hypnotize yourself for ever with a wedding-ring--even
one not two hours old. There was another matter that called more
insistently for her attention.  Cyril had promised her two hundred and
fifty dollars for her clothes, and it behooved her to get pen and ink,
and begin making her calculations.  This she did with much erasing, much
crinkling of girlish brows--with a profound, wise-baby expression as
though all the world were at stake.  There was a delicious immodesty in
spending Adair’s money for such laced and ribboned
femininities--nightgowns, stockings, chemises, and what she wrote down
ambiguously as "those things," and colored as she wrote it.  How
thrilling it was, and how exquisitely shocking!  Oh, dear, what nice
ones they would have to be,--twenty-five dollars gone for six in the
twinkling of an eye, for surely economy here would be a crime, men being
notoriously fond of--

"Mrs. Adair?"

Her new name was so unfamiliar that she hesitated before answering:
"Come in."

"A gentleman to see you, Mrs. Adair."

The door opened, and there on the threshold stood her father!  His face
was white, his eyes morose and sunken, his whole air so formidable that
in the first shock of recognition Phyllis could do no more than stare at
him in terror.

"May I enter?" he asked, in that deeper intonation of his which he never
used except under some special stress.  As he spoke he looked about
sharply, and with a bristling hostility as though expecting to discover
a second occupant of the room.

"Mr. Adair isn’t here," she said, answering the silent question.  "I am
all alone, Papa."

She would have kissed him, but he brushed past her to a chair, and
seated himself heavily, laying his silk hat and his gloves on the floor
beside him. Thus stalwartly in possession of the chamber, he appeared
more formidable than ever, and the deliberate gaze he bent on Phyllis
was masterful and menacing.

"So you’ve gone and thrown away your life," he said at last.  "Forgive
me, my dear, if I am not able to congratulate you upon it."

"I married Mr. Adair this morning, if that’s what you mean."  She hardly
knew how to say more without adding to her offense.  Her father was
bound to put her in the wrong whatever reply she made.  A terrible
hopelessness weighed her down, and crushed the unspoken appeal on her
lips.

"Thrown away like that," he repeated, with a gesture.  "You, who had
everything; you, with beauty, position, money, brains--my God, the folly
of it--the cruel, wicked, heartless folly of it!"

"Don’t, Papa!" she pleaded.  "It’s done, and so what’s the good of
wounding me now?"

"Done!" he cried out bitterly.  "That depends on what you mean by the
word.  I will call it done in six months when you will leave him for
good, and he will name his price for a divorce.  That’s the way
adventurers marry money nowadays.  They enjoy the girl till they are
tired of her, and then sell!"

Phyllis struggled to keep her composure under the affront.  "You are
very unjust," she returned in a low voice that trembled in spite of
herself. "You are determined to think the worst of him, and make it
impossible for us ever to be friends. But you are wrong, Papa.  He’s not
an adventurer, nor anything like it.  Surely I ought to know better than
you, and if I have been willing to love him, and marry him--"

"Oh, I’m not going to argue with you about him," interrupted Mr. Ladd
harshly.  "You believe in him now, of course.  One can’t reason with
lunatics, and I shan’t try.  I’ll give you six months--perhaps even
less--and then I want you to remember what I am saying to you now."

"That you were right?"--Her voice was scornful.--"Oh, Papa, this is
unworthy of you."

"Phyllis," he retorted, "that’s the last thing on earth I would ever say
to you.  If you should come back to me disillusioned, broken, utterly
weary of the muddle you have made of it all, you will find everything
unchanged between us and the whole matter as ignored as though it had
never been. That’s what you are to remember--that my heart and my purse
will never be closed against you."

"Though both are dependent on my giving up my husband?"

"He will give you up, my dear, fast enough."

"How dare you say that, Papa--how dare you!"  A mist of anger was in her
eyes, and two spots of crimson glowed dangerously on her cheeks. Never
in her life had she been more roused; up to that moment she had still
hoped to save the day and win her father over, but now she perceived the
irrevocable nature of what was being said.  Yet outwardly, at least, she
restrained herself, and hid within her quivering breast a tumult that
seemed to rend her to pieces.

"If I seem to be misjudging Mr. Adair it is only because I know more
about him that you do," continued Mr. Ladd in a tone not untinged with a
grim satisfaction.  Even as he spoke he drew out a thick packet, and
unfolded it on his knee.  It was a mass of typewriting, with here and
there a notorial seal on paper of a different color, and an occasional
newspaper cutting neatly pasted in the center of a little sea of
comment.  "Here we have him in black and white," he went on, "and
frankly, Phyllis, he offers you a very poor promise of a happy married
life."

"And you expect me on my wedding morning to sit down and read these
things--these abominable slanders your detectives have scraped
together?"

"Oh, no.  But I demand to have Mr. Adair sit down and answer them."

"Would you believe him if he did?"

"Facts are facts.  He can’t deny them."

"And you called _me_ unreasonable?  Oh, Papa!"

Mr. Ladd ignored the taunt.

"When he appreciates that his whole disreputable past is known to me,"
he went on, with the same inflexible composure, "he may condescend to
consider--an arrangement."

"An arrangement?--What do you mean?"

"I have brought a blank check with me," he explained.  "He can name
anything--and get it. I’d rather pay more now than less later."

His brutality overwhelmed her.  It took her a few seconds to understand
the incredible baseness he imputed to Adair.  In the light of this her
father’s previous insults paled to insignificance. She was too stunned
to make any reply, and for a while could do nothing but look at him in
speechless wonder.  Then she rose, and rang the bell.

"The marriage could be annulled," said Mr. Ladd, oblivious of everything
except his one preoccupation.  "The next thing is to keep the newspapers
quiet, and that I can do.  We’ll go abroad--"

The darky came running up with a pitcher of ice water.  No one ever rang
for anything else in the Clarendon Hotel.  He entered, jingling the ice.

"Show this gentleman out," said Phyllis, "and I want you to remember I
shall not be home to him again."

"Phyllis!"

The entreaty in his voice moved her not a bit, nor the outstretched
hand, veined, wrinkled and shaking.

"It’s conceivable I may forgive you for this, Papa," she exclaimed,
"though God knows it will be hard.  But if you offer that check to Cyril
I shall hate you till the day I die!"

"Have it your own way then," he returned dully, and with a curious break
in his voice.  "Take your own wilful road, and come back to me when your
heart’s broken.  I’ll be waiting for you, Phyllis, and ready to forget
and forgive."

She disdained to make any reply.  The darky officiously gathered up the
silk hat and gloves from the floor, and presented them to Mr. Ladd.  The
latter, with a last look at his daughter’s unrelenting face, turned in
silence, and passed out.

"The stairs are to the left, sah," said the darky.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII*


Whether disillusion was finally destined to arrive or not, there was
certainly not a hint of it during those succeeding weeks.  There was no
happier little bride in America, than Phyllis Adair, and intimate
acquaintance with that extraordinary creature, man, only redoubled her
delight in him.  The bigness, directness, simplicity, intolerance, and
dog-like devotion of her husband were an unfailing joy to her.  No
little girl who had been given a coveted St. Bernard could have taken
more anxious, eager, excited care of him.  She would feed Adair with the
daintiest morsels from her own plate; she would exert every faculty she
possessed to amuse and distract him when he fell into one of his
despondent moods; she would mock him with such pretty archness when he
grew irritable over trifles.  "Damn it all, where did that fool Williams
put my patent leather shoes?"--"Damn it all, you will find them in the
bottom of the wardrobe neatly ranged with the others," she would answer.
No matter how ill his humor she always found the means to make him
smile; her quick wit, or her slim, audacious body each exultantly
willing to tease and bewitch him.

Of all human gifts surely that of loving has received the least general
recognition.  A genius for music, a genius for mathematics or natural
history, or sculpture, or mechanics, is at once admitted and acclaimed.
But what of a genius for loving, which of all is infinitely the rarest?
The trouble is that every one is conceited enough to think that he (or
she) is a wonder at it.  But frankly, do we really indeed see so many
love-geniuses about us?  Are we not rather struck instead by an almost
universal love-poverty?  If the husband stays drearily at home every
night of his life, and if the wife is entirely absorbed in the baby, are
we not asked enthusiastically to applaud a happy home? This is the
national ideal, and tens of thousands are yawning heroically through it.
But where’s love in any but half-pint sizes?  Everybody insists it is
there in barrelfuls, much as they insisted in the fairy tale in the case
of the man with the invisible clothes.--We are not defending hubby when
he gets tangled up with the blonde lady, but emotionally speaking (only
_emotionally_, be it understood), it may be an upward step.  If you have
a ten per cent. capacity to love, it is hard to be fobbed off with a
four per cent. partner.

Phyllis was one of the chosen few in whom the capacity to love was
inordinate.  Her one thought was to make herself indispensable to the
man to whom she had given herself.  Adair was the last thing in her head
at night, the first at dawn.  Hardly was there an act of hers in which
his personality was not a contributing factor.  Her insatiable ambition
was to please and delight him, and her brain was ever busy to find fresh
ways, and improve on the old.  Her finesse, her humor, her ardent and
tender imagination--all were enlisted to a single end.  Passion she had
in plenty, for she was of a voluptuous nature, and the blood coursed
hotly in her veins--but she had more than that to give him, and was
possessed of a thousand captivating arts to ensnare this love that was
said to be so elusive, and bind it tight with a myriad silken threads.

It will be asked was Adair worthy of so supreme a devotion?  Is it not
enough to answer that he was not altogether unworthy?  There was a lot
of human clay in the creature, and while Phyllis was exerting all her
blithe young ardor to keep the altar-fires aflame, he was content to
look on lazily, and man-like, take many things for granted.  Had she
been no better, their love would have run the ordinary course, and
perished fast enough on the rocks of habit and satiety.  Adair’s
spiritual side was all but dormant.  He was encased in materialism as
stoutly as some of us in fat; whatever gropings he had toward higher
things were all in the direction of the stage.  Feelings he could not
initiate himself he took here ready made, and showed almost a genius in
their comprehension.  He presented a paradox of one who could admirably
"get into" any written character, and yet who was wholly unable to "get
into" his own.

Phyllis knew much more what laid beneath than he.  To her the yearning,
troubled, inarticulate soul of the man appealed as pathetically as the
sight of some great, ashamed, bearded fellow who had never been taught
to read.  In the finer sense Adair had never been taught anything.  His
instincts alone had saved him from being a clod.  In his fight up from
the bottom he had arrived a good deal splashed with mud; and Phyllis,
figuratively speaking, rolled back her sleeves, and set herself to
tubbing him.

He was extraordinarily submissive in this respect, extraordinarily
grateful and responsive.  He made no pretense of hiding his ignorance,
but questioned her like a child, and often as artlessly.  At thirty-four
he was having the universe reconstructed for him, and the process filled
him with astonishment. Phyllis read aloud to him from such unheard-of
authors as Thackeray, Carlyle, Hardy, Stevenson, and Meredith until
these strange names became quite familiar.  She could read French, too,
translating as she went, while he sat back, profoundly respectful and
impressed, his humility tinged with the zest of ownership.  Yes, her
youth, her beauty, her intelligence, her love, all were his; and as he
gazed at her through the haze of his cigar, the words often fell
heedlessly on his ear as he felt the mantling of a divine contentment.

Yet he could be very masterful on some matters. Phyllis was not allowed
to receive the advances of the company, or to associate with any of its
members, a prohibition not a little difficult to obey in the course of
their constant traveling together.  But if Phyllis shrank from being
rude, Adair suffered from no similar delicacy, and was brutally direct
in making his wishes plain to his stage companions.  It was not only
that he feared Lydia de Vere, whose yellowish eyes were full of enmity,
and whose powers for mischief he well knew; but in contrast to his
dainty wife these theater-people somehow began to strike him as
tarnished and common, and he was jealously reluctant to expose her to
their familiarities.  Intercourse with Phyllis was sharpening his
critical faculty; his view-point was insensibly changing; there were
even times when he realized his own deficiencies.--Tommy Merguelis was
the one exception he made.  The lanky young man, when weighed in the new
scales, was found to be less wanting than the others.  There was
something sensitive and refined about Tommy. Ill-health, pins, and years
of furniture-polish had been as cleansing fires.  He was a humble person
who would accept his humble inch and grin gratefully, and not reach out
for an ell.  Yes, Phyllis might be friends with Tommy.

With them on their travels from town to town went a punching-bag, which
Adair inflated and set up as soon as their trunks were unpacked. Every
morning, stripped to the waist, Phyllis had to double up her little
fists, and start a-pummelling for ten furious minutes.  There could be
no begging off from this daily rite; it was one of the iron rules of
married life; pleadings, caresses, protests all were in vain.  An icy
bath had to follow, and if she hesitated too long on the brink, or
showed too mutinous a row of toes, Adair would jump up, and tumble her
in as mercilessly as a boy with a puppy.  At night, too, he was no less
rigid in regard to her prayers.  His own religion was very nebulous.  He
never prayed himself nor went to church; but apparently that was no
reason why Phyllis should be similarly backward.  It gave him a peculiar
pleasure to see her kneeling beside the bed, her night dress flowing
about her slender, girlish body, and her hair drawn back, and held by a
circlet of red ribbon.  He knew no prettier picture, nor was it without
a tender and uplifting value.  For it was his name that moved on her
lips, and who would not have been proud to send so enchanting a little
deputy to plead for one before the Throne of Grace?  Then it was that he
seemed to love her best; and though all unaware of it, he, too, was
praying in the deeper, unspoken language of the heart.

"You’ve forgotten your prayers!"

"Oh, it was so cold--I thought I wouldn’t to-night."

"Jump up!"

"It’s so cosy here with you--and you ought to have said it sooner--and
anyhow, I won’t."

"Jump up!"

"Oh, Cyril, that hurts!"

"Of course, it hurts."

"It’s wicked to pinch as hard as that."

"It’s wickeder not to say your prayers."

"Oh, Cyril, don’t, _don’t_!"

"Jump up, then."

"I’m not in the right frame of mind now--you have pinched it all
away.--All right, all right, don’t--I’ll do it!  Though I don’t think a
pinch-prayer would be as good as a real one.  Do you?"

"This is the prayer-rush time--God won’t notice it."

"Not even if I am black and blue?  Why, the angels will be shocked."

"They are that already with the fuss you have made.  Roll out, you bad
little chap,--out with you!"

Sometimes Adair was sharp with her--impatient and fretful.  He made very
little effort to control his moods, which, as with most artists, were as
changeable and capricious as those of a child.  Nine women out of ten
would have retorted in kind, and the honeymoon period would have
insensibly passed, and with it much of the charm and rapture of their
union.  It was due to no help of Adair’s that they did not descend to
the ordinary plane of married life, with its deliquescence of nearly
everything beautiful and romantic--occasional harshness on one side,
tears and pin-prickings on the other, and departing illusions on both.
People can still get along very tolerably in this manner, and remain
fairly fond and faithful, but no one can contend it is the poet’s ideal.
It was certainly not Phyllis’, and she was determined to avoid such a
catastrophe.

In her ambitious little head the honeymoon was to be only the beginning
of a sweeter intimacy beyond.  She saw, lying latent in Adair, a
capacity to love as great as her own (she was presumptuous enough to
think that no one could love any better), and her one consuming endeavor
was to draw it forth.  Whether or not the prize was worth the winning
never occurred to her.  This big, splendid, untamed man-animal was hers,
with all his weaknesses and defects, with all his fine qualities and
bad, and she had accepted the responsibility of him with naïve
self-confidence.  To love was her vocation, and she set herself to it
with delight.

Her unfailing gaiety, her pretty artifices to amuse and cajole him, her
constant study of means to give him pleasure--all were as the drops that
wear away the stone.  High-spirited, quick-tempered, and with a
sensitiveness that a glance could wound, she yet put such a rein upon
herself that no provocation could draw from her an unkind word.  She
might grow suddenly silent, her mouth might quiver, her eyes glisten,
but no sharp retort ever passed her lips.  There are many men with whom
this would not have answered.  To some, indeed, an exquisite gentleness
and forbearance almost tempts their harshness.  Feeling themselves in
the wrong their vanity is insulted, and with morbid perversity they go
from bad to worse.  But Adair was not of this sort.  With all his faults
he was a man of generous instincts, and capable of quick and headlong
repentances.  He could come in like a thunder-cloud, on edge with
nerves, snappish, morose, ready to fly off the tangent at a trifle--and
five minutes later would be sitting at Phyllis’ feet, his face in her
lap, conquered, contrite, declaiming hotly against himself, his
ill-temper all striking inward.

These lapses of his helped his love much more than they hurt it, and
through them he began to acquire some self-control, some degree of
consideration--some shame.  In him devotion brought out devotion.
Instead of resenting Phyllis’ strategems to keep him good-humored and
happy, he was touched to the quick.  It was a new idea, this of keeping
love alight; of consecrating thought and care to it and guarding the
precious flame from extinction.  It dawned upon him as something
entirely novel and unheard-of.  Yet it was beautiful; he approved of it
heartily.  He innocently ascribed the invention to Phyllis, and as usual
was tremendously impressed.  It made him wonder whether she ever thought
of anything else but love.  As he grew to know her better he saw that it
inspired all she did--that every impulse and every action sprang from
it.

Had he been a king, and she the transient, pretty butterfly of the
moment, she could not have striven harder to fascinate and hold him.
Her saucy tongue, her fancifulness, her audacity, her often-declared
determination to be as much sweetheart as wife--all were as spice to a
love that might otherwise have cloyed.  To adore a man is not
enough--there is nothing the poor darling silly animal gets tired of so
soon as being adored.--One had to keep him interested, captivated,
filling in one’s own little person all his complicated needs of passion,
comradeship, entertainment, variety, and mental recreation.  But how
well one was repaid!  If one gave a whole harem’s worth of love, one
received a whole harem’s worth back, and sweetest of all one could watch
the unfolding and ripening of a really fine nature.  She was sure her
infatuation had guided her truly in that respect; that her choice had
fallen on a man with heart and soul big enough to repay her devotion.
He might be rough, but she had never a moment’s doubt as to the diamond,
nor as to her ability to shape and polish it.

It was a process, unfortunately, that could not be hurried.  Against her
in the endeavor were the ingrained habits and wilfulness of twenty
years. From his boyhood up Adair had lived in an atmosphere of
unrestraint, a Bohemian of Bohemians, without ties, care-free, the whim
of the moment his only guide.  Some backslidings on his part were
inevitable and Phyllis, with all her illusions, was sane and cool enough
to foresee them.  It was hardly a surprise to her, therefore, though
frightening and dismaying, when late one night, after awaiting him in
vain, Tommy Merguelis appeared unexpectedly in his stead.  Any stranger
to the young man would have judged him to be in high spirits; his
shrill, nervous laugh was louder than usual; and he stammered and
giggled as though bubbling over with an unextinguishable good nature.
To Phyllis’ practised eyes, however, these were ominous signs, and her
breath came a little quickly, as she asked news of her husband.

"Oh, he’s all right," said Tommy, standing with one hand on the
door-knob, and showing no inclination to enter the room.  "Oh, Mr. Adair
is all right--and hee, hee, don’t you worry about him. He’s detained,
that’s all, and he sent me to say he might be late, and, and--"

"And what?"

"They’ve got him into a game down at Mr. Feld’s--the owner of the
theater, hee, hee--and he couldn’t well refuse, or at least--"

"Oh, Tommy, please--I don’t understand."

"Just a little game of draw."

"Cards?"

"Yes--poker."

This did not strike Phyllis as anything very terrible.

"And he sent you to tell me he would be late?" she inquired, much
reassured.

Tommy lied manfully.  As a matter of fact he had invented the
message--and the errand--to shield Adair, who had forgotten everything
in the absorption of the game.  "Yes," he said, "he can’t manage to be
back to supper with you, and is awful sorry about it, and hopes you
won’t mind."  Though Tommy could lie, he could not act.  His anxiety was
obvious; he wriggled uncomfortably; and his silly, convulsive smile
presaged some disagreeable revelation.  Phyllis, now thoroughly alarmed,
and with characteristic directness went straight for the truth.

"Tommy, has he been drinking?"

"Oh, ah, well, hee, hee--yes, he has."

"And they are playing high?"

"A dollar limit."

"And you came here to warn me?  Don’t deny it,"

"Oh, ah, well, hee, hee--yes, I did, Mrs. Adair."--As Phyllis paused,
troubled, uncertain, full of distress, Tommy added: "I don’t know as it
wouldn’t be a good plan for you to come along with me and get him."

"Would he come?"

"Anybody would come for you, Mrs. Adair."

"Surely he doesn’t often gamble, Tommy.  He has never spoken to me of
it?"

"Oh, there’s nothing he don’t do when the fit takes him.  Hee, hee, he’s
that kind, you know--temperamental."

The word, and the woebegone indulgence with which it was uttered made
Phyllis smile.  Her humor was always close to the surface, even when
there were tears between.

"You are a dear, good fellow," she said, "and I’ll never forget your
kindness to-night, though as for doing anything, I am going to stay
here."

He was amazed at the gentleness of her tone.

"I am never going to be his taskmaster," she went on, as much to herself
as to Tommy.  "As far as I am concerned he shall always be as free as
air.  If I went after him at all, it would be to sit on his knee, and
drink with him."

Tommy’s scandalized face again made her laugh.

"Don’t be afraid," she said with tremulous gaiety, "I won’t do it this
evening, anyhow.  Now run away, Tommy, and tell them down-stairs we
shan’t need any supper after all."

She shut the door after him, and stood with her back to it, forlornly
regarding the empty room. She was more than hurt, more than mortified.
She had to ask herself if she had failed.



                             *CHAPTER XIX*


It was dawn when Adair staggered in, undressed and rolled in beside her.
Her long vigil had been succeeded by an overpowering slumber, and she
was not aware of his return until the streaming sunshine awakened her
toward nine o’clock.  She wondered at first why her heart was so heavy,
and then, with reviving recollection, sat up, and gazed at her sleeping
husband.  Even a debauch could not impair his fine complexion, and the
thick, black hair clustered against the ruddy skin softened Phyllis’
expression as she studied his face long and earnestly.  The charm of
that vigorous manhood was irresistible, and whatever lurking grudge she
still had against Adair was lost in a fresh access of tenderness.  His
uneasy breathing, his hot dry forehead, his parched and parted lips, all
appealed as well to the woman in her--the mother, the nurse.

For once the routine of punching-bag and bath was forgone, and her first
task on rising was to set about preparing breakfast.  This, with the
pair, was a trifling matter, consisting of rolls, cream and butter
ordered over night and set outside their door on a tray every morning,
and the coffee Phyllis made herself over a spirit lamp.  She was thus
busily engaged when she was conscious of a movement on the bed, and
turned to see her husband lowering at her with bloodshot eyes.  Awake,
he looked disheveled, surly, ill and exasperated.  His head was
splitting, and he was in one of those vile humors when a man avenges his
physical distress on those about him.  He pushed Phyllis away as she ran
over to him, and told her roughly to leave him alone.  The offer of a
cup of coffee outraged him.  Groaning and swearing, he pulled himself
into a sitting posture, and in a voice as intentionally disagreeable as
he could make it demanded some hot water.

Holding the cup in both hands, he began to drink it in angry little
sips, finding a malign satisfaction in the change that had come over
Phyllis.  Pale, silent, wounded and frightened, she was utterly at loss
to know what to do.  Every word was a stab, and she had a stupefying
feeling that the end had come.  Her only coherent thought, the only
manifestation of resentment within her, was to contribute nothing to
bring about the catastrophe.  If Adair were determined to pull down
their little paradise about their ears, and destroy for ever the filmy
and poetic fabric of a perfect love, she, at least, would hold herself
innocent of the sacrilege. But, oh, the pang of it, the heartrending
misery, the disillusion!

"Now, go ahead," he said sullenly.  "I’m ready--go ahead!"

She faltered and trembled in asking him what he meant.

He burst out with a scornful laugh.

"I was drunk last night," he said, "you know that as well as I do, and
here I am ready to take my medicine--can’t avoid it, I know that--and
want to get it over with.  You wouldn’t be a woman if you didn’t pay me
out."

The vulgarity of the conception stung her.

"I--I don’t pay people out," she said simply.

"Oh, no, you’re the quiet kind," he went on with an ugly jeer, intent
somehow on putting her in the wrong.  "You don’t say anything, but you
sit there and freeze a fellow--and oh, my God, yes, cry!  There you go,
cry, cry, cry!"

She did break down for a moment under his deliberate cruelty, but
quickly rallying, came over, and sat beside him on the bed.

"Don’t, don’t quarrel with me," she said pitifully, and then added with
a gleam of humor, "after all, it wasn’t I that was drunk, you know."

She put out her hand, and for a while he permitted it to lie against his
aching forehead.  All would have been well had he not unfortunately
spilled his cup.  At this his latent fury broke out anew.

"For God’s sake, don’t crowd all over me!" he cried.  "Sit over there,
where we can talk like sensible people.  You have made me all wet with
the damned stuff."

The fault was his own, and due to his unsteady hands, but he was
wilfully pleased to put her in the wrong.  He glowered at her with
savage reproach as she moved a little farther away in obedience to his
command.  She was disconcertingly quiet, and it seemed to him an added
injustice to be cheated of a scene.  There was nothing but her anguished
eyes, and her drooping and utterly dispiriting attitude to tell him how
well he was succeeding.

"You’re a little fool," he announced inconsequently.

He waited for her to answer, but she made no sign of having heard him,
sitting there stricken, numb.

"To have tied up with such a damned goat," he added, with immense
conviction.

Still no answer.

"The best thing you can do is to pack up and go," he went on.

At this she did find her voice, ghost of a one that it was.

"Is that what you really want me to do, Cyril?"

"It’s what you ought to do," he returned, with a sternly paternal air.

"It’s for you to decide."

His mumbling reply turned into a groan.

"I lost nearly four hundred dollars last night," he said, after a deadly
pause.  "Then I had to get into a scrap with Jake Steinberger, and
Willie Latimer, and George Wright, and there was a hell of a shindy till
somebody turned in a police-alarm, and I only dodged arrest by the skin
of my teeth--not but what I’ll be summonsed to-day, sure as sure.  On
top of that my engagement is gone, for I lammed Jake half to death, and
I guess he had rather break up the tour all-standing than keep me in the
bill another night.  And--and--"

"You thought you’d make a clean sweep of everything, once you were at
it, and alienate me, too?"

"Yes, like a damned goat," he repeated dully.

"Well, you have succeeded," she said in the same low, even tone, "I dare
say you’ll be sorry some day at having broken your toys.  There isn’t
anything more to be said, is there, except good-by?"

She was about to rise when Adair flung himself out of the bed, and
kneeling before her, pulled off her little slippers and began kissing
her naked feet. His repentance was so sudden, so abject that it was
almost as though he had gone crazy.  It was indeed an hysterical
revulsion, and his frame shook, and his hands clenched themselves on her
flesh as he abased himself before her.  He begged incoherently for
forgiveness, for mercy; he would kill himself if she were to leave him;
he loved her; he could die for her; the disgrace and despair of it all
had driven him mad.  At first she resisted, struggling to free herself,
and too deeply affronted for any atoning words to touch her; but her
powerlessness in his grasp, the warmth of his quick, tumultuous breath
against her, even the physical pain he was unconsciously inflicting--all
at last took her womanhood by storm, and she drew up his head, and
allowed him to sob his heart out in her lap.

How little did either of them know, she sitting on the bed in her
night-dress, he nestling close against her in an agony of shame and
contrition, that a battle of the soul had been fought and won; that the
finer nature had triumphed over the coarser; that an insensible but a
most real step had been taken upward.  Phyllis extorted no promises;
Adair made no vows; rather they clung to each other like little children
who had safely passed the edge of a precipice, and in security beyond
were trembling at what they had risked.

The woman, always the more practical partner, was the first to descend
from the clouds to mundane considerations.

"And what’s the poor little damned goat going to do?" she asked, the
quoted profanity on her pretty lips as piquant and tender as a lullaby;
and accompanying it with a smile so arch that Adair’s face, too, could
not but light with it.

"Face the music and then get out," returned the D. G.

"Out where, dearest?"

Adair grew overcast.

"Mortimer Clark’s on the road somewhere," he said reflectively, "and I’m
sure he’d make room for me if he had to fire a whole company.  Then
there’s Nan O’Farrell in the _Diamond Diadem_ and Leo Foster in the
_Slaves of Circumstance_. They are all on the cheap, and would jump at
the chance of getting me at their prices.  As soon as I get round to it,
I’ll telegraph."

Phyllis hesitated, but at last the words came.

"On the cheap," she repeated.  "Why don’t you aim higher, Cyril?  Why
don’t you try the real people--those who are worth while, especially
now, when you’re going to break away from Steinberger?"

His only reply was a shake of the head.

"You know you’re too good for this sort of thing," she went on.  "It
isn’t flattery to tell you that--you see it yourself every night--I saw
it, and that’s why I--  Oh, Cyril, let’s try to get where you belong."

"You don’t understand," he said moodily. "You don’t understand a bit.  I
had all that once, and I kicked it over.  The stage is an awfully small
place--for anybody that amounts to anything, you know--though as big as
an ocean for the others.  There isn’t anybody of importance--manager or
star--who doesn’t _hate_ me."  He perceived the doubt in her glance, and
continued swiftly: "Oh, it’s no conspiracy, or jealousy, or anything of
that kind--a tip-top man can override all that if there’s money in him
for the box-office--but I’ve set them all against me.  There isn’t one I
haven’t punched or insulted somehow. I hold the record for being the
best-detested man on Broadway.  Why, Alfred Fielman once--that was six
years ago, when I was by way of being a metropolitan favorite, and all
that, ha, ha--he had me on a forty weeks’ contract, and at the end of
three he gave me a check for the rest and told me he had no more use for
my services.  Thirty-seven weeks’ full salary--think of it--and the
door!"

"But isn’t it different now?" asked Phyllis, enfolding him with a pair
of the whitest, softest, shapeliest arms in the world, and pressing her
cheek against his face.  "You’ve got good since then, and are now mama’s
little man!"

"Look at last night," protested mama’s little man dismally.  "Drinking,
fighting, gambling, and my job out of the window!  That’s been me right
along--two weeks’ notice, and for God’s sake, never come back!"

"Just a damned goat," rippled Phyllis, her teeth shining like pearls,
and her cheeks dimpling mischievously.

"A silly ass," ejaculated Adair with much self-contempt.

"Now, I want to tell you my idea," cried Phyllis. "We’re going to pack
up, poor booful disgraced genius--and wife (as they add on hotel
registers); and we’re going to count our poor little pennies, and take a
tourist sleeper to New York, and get a little flat of the sort they rent
to dormice in reduced circumstances, and live on air and kisses and
hope--while poor Booful will go round telling everybody he’s a reformed
character, and looking for an engagement.  And if the top all hates him,
and if the middle is all full, why Booful will begin at the bottom,
while Mrs. Booful will wash, and cook, and darn his socks--oh, no,
listen,--yes, and darn his socks, and pet him when he is discouraged and
cross, and keep everything scrupulously clean (in books if you’re
awfully poor, you’re always scrupulously clean, haven’t you noticed it)?
Yes, scrupulously clean, and oh, so economical of every nickel till
everybody begins to see that Booful isn’t a damned goat, but a man of
splendid talent, and up, up, up he’ll go like a balloon, till there
won’t be a garbage-can without his name on it, or a bill-board without
somebody "presenting" him in letters six feet high, and fame and money
will pour in like a Niagara, and, and--Cyril, why shouldn’t we?"

His look of indulgence and amusement had gradually changed to downright
eagerness.

"If you can stand it, I can," he said.

"Oh, Cyril, I’m not afraid--let’s do it!"

"We’ll be starvation poor."

"But in a home of our own--no more of these horrid hotels, no more
traveling, and something big to live and hope for."

"Those dormice flats are awfully squeezy--and dark."

"So’s a robin’s nest, for that matter."

"And those pretty hands--it would be wicked to spoil them."

"Oh, I won’t spoil them--besides, what would be the good of them if they
couldn’t work for the man I love."

"Scrubbing floors, and cleaning kettles and polishing the stove?"

"You can help a little."

"And suppose, instead of being easy, it’s very hard?  It takes courage
to start again.  You’ll have to be brave enough for two, for I’ve none
of that kind of grit or perseverance.  Do you think you can bolster up a
great big fellow like me, who’ll come home like a baby and cry?"

"We’ll bolster up each other."

"I--I wish I was more worthy of you, Phyllis."

"Stop kissing my toes--it tickles--and oh, Cyril, don’t bite them!"

"I’m ashamed--you are so sweet and good and clever and brave--and the
whole of me isn’t worth that little pink one, and I don’t think I’ve
ever loved you so much as I do this minute, or _respected_ you more.  If
you were married to a street-car conductor I believe you’d make him
president of the United States--and if your husband mayn’t bite you, who
can?"

"You darling!"

"And I swear by that one that I love you better than anything in the
world; and by that one I’ll be true to you all my life; and by that one
I’ll cut my tongue out before I’ll ever say an unkind word to you again;
and by that one I’m going to do everything you say, just as though you
were an angel from Heaven, which you are if ever there was one; and by
that fat little big toe that I’m going to try to copy the tenderest,
gentlest, most exquisite nature that God ever breathed into a human
being; and by the whole chubby little white satin foot--"

"Do sit up--it’s important."

"I thought it was all settled.  We’ll start for New York as soon as I am
fired--officially."

"Cyril?"

"Yes, sweetheart?"

"I’m so infatuated with you that perhaps I don’t see things as they are.
It is not a dream, is it, that you really could get on in New York--I
mean if you lived down all the ill will against you there? I try to
detach myself, and criticize you dispassionately--but you always seem to
me so tremendously good."

"I am good--in my own kind of work."

"You’ve no dread of failure?"

"In handing out the goods--?  Not a particle, Phyllis.  Why should I?
Haven’t I done it?"

"In your New York days?"

"Why, Phyllis, this isn’t brag.  I’ve got notices to show for it,
corking notices.  What you have seen me do is not my best.  No one could
do that with the support I get, and I have to carry the whole outfit
single handed.  A company ought to be a string orchestra--and they give
me a brass band!"

"Have you got the notices?--I’d love to see them!"

"They’re at the bottom of the trunk somewhere--three books of them."

"Do get them out, and let me read some."

After long rummaging the books were produced. Phyllis, who in the
interval had put on a peignoir, and begun to comb her hair, seized on
one of them enthusiastically.  It was an unwieldy, shabby old volume,
and so heavy it was hard to hold.  The exertion, and perhaps the
excitement had caused Adair’s head to throb again, and he was glad to
stretch his length on the bed while Phyllis, drawing up a rocking chair,
seated herself as close as she could beside him.

The actor had not exaggerated his past successes. For three seasons he
had been a notable figure on Broadway, and if his reputation had been
more one of promise than achievement it was in dazzling contrast to what
he had since become.  He had himself almost forgotten the stir he had
made--not the deafening curtain calls, the brimming box-offices, the
deferential managers,--none could forget that--but the soberer, yet more
valuable evidence of the critics.  It was electrifying to listen to them
again; to see across the mean, intervening years that other self of his
lording it so high; to realize, with mingled bitterness, wonder and hope
that he was still the same man, with the same if not richer powers, and
a new-born resolution to regain what he had so lightly valued and so
unconcernedly thrown away.

Phyllis, pink with excitement, and tripping occasionally over the longer
words, read notice after notice with indefatigable zest, constantly
substituting Booful and other endearing epithets for the more formal
name in print, while her husband lay back, listening delightedly, and
contributing exclamations, "By George, and it was William Winter who
said that!"--"Say, that’s Huneker, isn’t it?" "A column in _The World_
isn’t handed out to everybody, not by a long sight."


                       BOOFUL OPENS AT WALLACK’S
                 THE HONOR OF THE REGIMENT PLEASES, BUT
                             NEEDS CUTTING.
               THE STAR SCORES AS MOODY HERO, AND EXCELS
                  HIMSELF IN MAGNIFICENT PORTRAYAL OF
                                EBHARDT.


"Those who went last night to see _Booful_ were not disappointed,
however they may have disagreed about the play itself.  For that
brilliant young _darling_ it was hardly less than a personal triumph,
and from the rise of the curtain--"

It was a very inconsiderate moment for a heavy rap at the door.

"Come in," cried Adair.

In the shadow stood a bulky figure--a blue figure--a figure with
something shining on its swelling chest.  Phyllis looked and quailed as
the bravest of us do at the sight of the Law, intruding its hob-nailed
boot into what is metaphorically termed our castle.  In this case the
castle was so small, and the Law so large and red and impressive that
the former seemed but a trifling refuge against oppression.  In the
accents of a green and troubled island the new-comer asked: "Are you
Misther Adair--Misther Surul Adair?"

"That’s me, all right," said the actor.

"You’re summonsed for assault and battery, and here’s the payper, and
it’s before Judge Dunn ye’re to come at two o’clock."

"Where do I go, officer?"

"The city hall, police court number one."

"Two o’clock, you say?  Very good.  Tell Judge Dunn I have much pleasure
in accepting his kind invitation."

The functionary unbent genially.

"Tay will be served on the lawn," he said, "and the Marine Band will be
in attendance, and some of our younger set will be there--in blue."

It seemed incredible to poor, trembling Phyllis that Adair could burst
out laughing.  But he did, and that with every indication of
undiminished spirits.

"All right, officer, I’ll be there."

"Good morning, sorr."

"Good morning, officer."

The tears were streaming down Phyllis’ face as she ran to Adair, and
threw her arms around his neck; but he caressed and comforted her, and
gradually got her to smile again.

"I feel better," he said.  "Be a dear, and make me some fresh
coffee.--Oh, Phyllis, isn’t it jolly!"

"Jolly?  Oh, how can you--"

"Oh, I mean about going back to New York! A fellow who’s hit them once
can hit them again, and by George, with you to help me, I just know I’m
bound to land!"

"But this awful police court!"

"Don’t worry about that--they’ve never hanged a Free Mason yet.--Easy
with the cream, sweetheart.--Where was it we left off?  Oh, yes, here it
is: ’Adair opens at Wallack’s.  Those who went last night to see Cyril
Adair--’"

[Illustration: _From the Leamington Courier of November 28th, 190--_
AMUSING SCENE IN JUDGE DUNN’S COURT]


         _From the Leamington Courier of November 28th, 190--._

                 *AMUSING SCENE IN JUDGE DUNN’S COURT*

Yesterday the proceedings in Judge Dunn’s court were enlivened by the
presence of Cyril Adair the actor, who, on the complaint of Jacob
Steinberger, his manager, and Messrs. Willard Latimer and George
Augustus Wright, brother players, was haled before the bar of justice
for assault and battery.  The three complainants showed unmistakable
traces of a fistic encounter, and there was a subdued ripple of
merriment at their bandaged appearance. The encounter was the outcome of
a midnight game of poker, and there was a direct conflict of evidence as
to who began the fray.

Judge Dunn finally summed up against the defendant, and in default of a
fine, ordered him to find personal security to be of good behavior for
three months.  Much amusement was then caused by Mrs. Adair unexpectedly
stepping forward, and pleading most charmingly with the judge to permit
her to assume the obligation.  The court was unable to resist so
attractive a bit of femininity, and though remarking it was somewhat
irregular, consented, amid general laughter, to grant her request.

The judge made up for it, however, by giving the defendant a stiff
little lecture before dismissing the case, expressing his surprise that
the husband of so young and pretty a wife should care to pass the early
morning hours at poker and fisticuffs.  Adair accepted the rebuke with
great good nature and prompted by his wife thanked his honor for his
forbearance, adding to the general hilarity by repeating aloud some of
the advice that was being whispered in his ear. Apologies followed
outside, and the whole party returned to their hotel in the same hack.
All’s well that ends well!



                              *CHAPTER XX*


Adair waited until Christmas before severing his connection with
Steinberger.  The holidays were bad for theatrical business, and the
prospect of a temporarily reduced salary and several extra matinées
seemed to make this period an auspicious one for departure.  With two
hundred and eighty dollars, their trunks, the clothes they stood in, and
hearts beating high with eagerness and hope, the pair took the train for
the City of Success.

Even on their way to it their respective positions began to change.  The
actor, for all his broad shoulders and big voice and commanding
presence, betrayed from the first a helplessness and dependence that
both pleased and surprised his little wife. He anxiously deferred to her
in everything; fell in readily with every suggestion; listened with
profound respect to her plans.  He knew New York inside out; poverty was
no stranger to him, nor the makeshifts and struggles of the poor; yet in
the crisis of their fortunes it was the girl that took the lead--the
girl who had never suffered a single privation in her life, who had been
reared in luxury, to whom money and ease were as the air she breathed.

Left to his own unguided will Adair would have gravitated to a dingy
bedroom in a dingy boarding-house. It was Phyllis who perceived the
greater freedom, and the unspeakably greater comfort and charm of a tiny
apartment.  The nest-making instinct was strong in her, and also the
bred-in-the-bone belief that it was the woman’s place to guard her man’s
well-being, and to send him forth to work in the best of trim.  She did
not know how to cook; she had never swept out a room in her life, she
had never even folded a table-cloth, yet her self-assurance and
determination never wavered. All this could be learned--pooh, it only
needed hard work and intelligence,--she would answer for its being the
nicest little flat in New York, and would dismiss Adair every morning in
his best clothes, smiling, well-fed, and happy, to look for an
engagement.

Brave, confident little heart!  Intent little head absorbed in
calculations; magic the love that could cast effulgence over those
soiled green notes, and the phantom gray city, and the man, none too
good, or wise on whom such a treasure of devotion was lavished!  But
some conception of it pierced his thick skin, and what there was in him
that was unselfish and noble felt disquieted at the contrast, and
strangely stirred and humbled.

"Phyllis," he said huskily, "I--I didn’t know what love meant until I
met you.  I guess lots of men go all their lives and never know.  I’ve
been sitting back here, thinking how nearly I might have missed it."

"And getting quite scared and worried?--The poor precious!  If it wasn’t
for the conductor and that bald-headed man who’s sure we’re not married,
because I put my feet on the seat, and wear red stockings--I’d kiss you
right now, and give you a gurgle hug!"

"There are lots like me," Adair went on with unaffected seriousness,
"but, Phyllis, there is only one of you.  I suppose people are born like
that sometimes--just one of them--and there aren’t any more.--When we
get round to it, we must have children; you mustn’t be allowed to die
and disappear; it wouldn’t be right by the world."

Phyllis wrote down: "Pair tea-cups and saucers, thirty cents," and
announced that in the meanwhile the world would have to wait, as one
couldn’t do everything at once.  She added a duster to the list and a
pie-pan, while a smile hovered at the corners of her lips.  It impelled
her to press her knee against Adair’s, and whisper something so
sparklingly improper that he blushed.  Then she returned to housekeeping
considerations with a pleased and saucy air, never so happy as when she
had embarrassed him.


Accommodation for dormice, although plentiful, left much to be desired,
except for dormice fond of grubbiness, gloom, and ill-smelling passages
and halls.  For dormice willing to live on
One-hundred-and-jump-off-the-earth Street there was light and air, and
reasonably sized rooms, and even skimpy glimpses of the Hudson.  But
Cyril wished to be near the theater district and the Thespian Club of
which he was a member, and this restricted their choice to below
Fifty-ninth Street.  Heavens, what innumerable janitors they raised from
the depths, what miles and miles of stairs they climbed, what desperate
moments of indecision they endured, as, utterly spent, the precious
deposit was nearly tempted from their pockets!

At last, however, at the tail of the most offensive little man in New
York, whose questions included the likelihood or not of an increase in
the family, and who had to be specifically assured that his new tenants
meditated starting neither a bagnio nor a sweatshop, nor were going to
teach music, or keep naphtha on the premises--at the tail of this
personage, who at every step remembered some fresh prohibition, and some
fresh possibility, the ideal was reached on the seventh floor of a house
between Second and Third Avenue.  It was a box of a place--sitting-room,
bedroom, kitchen and bath--but shiny new, and with every window open to
the sun, and Fifty-eighth Street to look out on instead of some dismal
rear.  It was taken at twenty-one dollars a month; their trunks followed
them in; and they camped out their second night in New York on the bare
boards of their new home.

With all our talk of the value of money very few of us have any
conception of it.  How many at least could believe that a small
apartment in New York could be furnished, and prettily furnished, for a
hundred and fifty dollars?  On a doll-baby scale, of course, with
pictures taken from the ten cent weeklies, and framed in blue creton and
the same invaluable material accomplishing wonders over packing cases,
improvised into wash-stands, bureaus and seats.  Phyllis sent Adair off
to the club, and set to work alone.  She did not want him to see her
dirty, tousled, and wearing an old dressing-gown of his in that chaos of
disorder; though she presented a sweeter figure than she knew on her
knees beside the pail, and scrubbing the floor like a little stage
soubrette, or hammering creton with her mouth full of tacks and an
inspired expression that would have befitted a Madonna.  She was too
girlish, too young, for anything to harm her beauty, and so gay and
charming that all who came fell under her spell.  Gawky messengers
helped to move boxes, nail down matting, and elucidate the mysteries of
setting up a bed.  The janitor’s wife, a faded German woman with gentle
eyes and a soft voice, and all the European’s respect for caste,
insisted on joining in; and when, Phyllis, with difficulty and some
shame, managed to explain she was unable to pay for such services, the
creature kissed her hand, and redoubled her exertions.  Beauty is a
power everywhere, and if the poor can not pay its toll in compliments,
they can wash windows, clean up litter, and carry an offering of
frankfurters and sauerkraut up six flights of stairs; and with many an
"_Ach_" and "_lieber Gott_" urge the little "high-born" to rest and eat.

And so amid kindliness and good will, the tiny apartment was got into
shape, while the dark wild days without turned to snow, and the frosted
panes showed nothing through but white and desolation. The dormice lay
snug in their nest, and though their money ebbed, and the cupboard was
next to bare, and the household work at times weighed hardly on
unaccustomed, slender shoulders, perhaps they were too near Heaven to
complain.

Adair had never been a very respectable nor popular member of the
Thespian Club, that influential organization from which the New York
stage is so largely recruited; and the return of the lost sheep was not
accompanied by any particular enthusiasm. But Adair was too noticeable a
man, and his talent too well remembered for his presence not to cause
some stir, and soon there was comment on his extraordinary change for
the better.  He was certainly no longer the loud, swaggering,
over-dressed Adair of the old days, with the dubious geniality, and the
restless eyes.  He did not drink; he seemed to have lost his surly
streak; in many other ways more indefinite he had softened and improved.
The Thespians, who were nothing if not good-natured and generous, very
willingly let bygones be bygones, and some of the more important began
to suggest his name to managers.

But the managers were made of sterner stuff than the actors and
playwrights; they had longer memories, and skins that still smarted.
They brightened at the name of Adair for the unexpected pleasure it gave
them to say "No."  Each had his special wrong to avenge, each his
emphatic and passionate denunciation of a man they abominated.  "I’ve
only two rules in running my theaters," said Mr. Fielman.  "The first is
to give the public the best that money can buy; the second, never to
engage Mr. Cyril Adair!"--Mr. Paw went further: "My poy, they say in our
peeziness that the box-office talks, but if it said Adair all day and
all night, I’d sooner get out and sell shoe-laces on the street than see
his damn sneering face in any broduction of mine!"  Niedringer was no
more encouraging, and the Fordingham Brothers were curt and profane.

But the New York theatrical world is a big one; and these giants, while
of enormous importance, do not rule all the roost.  There are always new
producers bobbing up; stars themselves make ventures into management and
branch out; many others, independent on a smaller scale, choose the
companies that support them.  Then there are the second class houses,
the vaudeville houses, the stock companies--all requiring an army of
professional people.  Then, too, hardly a season passes without several
incoming actors from some woolly, wild, unheard-of region, arriving,
full of eagerness to add Broadway laurels to brows already crowned in
Teepee City or Nuggetville, Nevada.  Add to these, imported English
companies with the lesser parts often unfilled, and "angels," both male
and female, with barrels of money for some stagestruck pet, who,
desirous of a short cut to greatness, insists on beginning (and usually
ending) at the top;--and you will have some small conception of what New
York is--theatrically.

Adair did not despair.  Not only was the atmosphere of the Thespian Club
too redolent of success for that, but he was sustained besides by a
couple of small offers which he received for the "road."  Determined
though he was to appear on Broadway, it was good for his courage and
perseverence to have these engagements to refuse. They served to take
the edge off the rebuffs he constantly experienced, and gave him
something not altogether mournful to reflect on as he waited
interminable hours in agents’ and managers’ anterooms.  Not but what
there were times when it was almost unendurable.  Rejection, with an
actor, carries with it a personal mortification; and his air of fashion,
his nosegay, his smartly folded overcoat, his affected jauntiness--all
intensify by their contrast the bitterness of his lot.  He slinks off
with pitiful bravado, and eyes suspiciously bright, to pull himself
together for another attempt at another place, as dispirited a figure as
any to be seen under heaven.

While Adair, with an effort as clumsy as it was touching, strove to hide
his disappointment from his wife, and put by in their little home a
steadily deepening sense of failure--she, on her side, was keeping him
in ignorance of a matter that troubled her exceedingly.  Her father had
begun to write to her, but in such a way that a reconciliation, instead
of becoming nearer, seemed more remote and impossible than ever.  With
all his tenderness and longing, and almost pathetic appeal "to be
friends again," he was unable to resist taking flings at Adair.  His
hatred for the man came out in implications and covert allusions Phyllis
could not forgive.  Ostensibly holding out the olive branch, his letters
served instead to heighten the estrangement, for behind everything was
his conviction it was simply her pride that kept them apart; that having
made a mess of her life, and committed an irreparable folly, she was
defiantly accepting the misery she had brought down upon herself.  That
she was insanely happy--that she adored her husband--that neither
poverty nor hardship counted a jot in her decision--all these to Mr.
Ladd were incredibilities.--Yet the same story dressed up for him on the
stage or in a book, would have won his sympathy, and reached his
heart.--Of such inconsistencies are we made, and the poor puppets are
cried over when flesh and blood is denied.

Of course, Phyllis was abnormally sensitive. Had her husband secured a
good engagement, and some recognition she would have been in a more
receptive mind to receive her father’s advances. But Adair’s unspoken
anxiety, their diminishing money, their meager meals and the need that
they had to take account of every penny--here were so many reasons to
accentuate her critical faculties.--And this to be held as a proof that
she had been "dragged down" was altogether too much.  At first, full of
eagerness and over many a closely-written page she had tried to explain
matters to her father; but his disbelief was chilling, and from
hopelessness her feelings gradually changed to anger.  For a couple of
weeks she had kept the thousand-dollar check he had sent her, hoping
that he would so far relent toward Adair that she might accept it
without disloyalty.  Then, chagrined, she had returned it, though her
extremity was bitter, and the tears dripped over the letter that bore it
back. No reconciliation was possible that did not include her husband,
or that was offered to him contemptuously and grudgingly.  If this were
impossible she begged her father to write no more, and spare her further
suffering.  His answer was as unreasonable as the others, and he
contrived to wound even while he thought he was conceding everything.

His next letter she sent back unopened, and also the one after that.
Then there were no more, and the postman’s whistle presaged nothing
after that but a post card from Tommy.  These, with pictures of a local
court house, or a new Masonic building, or some bald park, were almost
daily visitors.  But they spoke of affection and remembrance, and to a
sad heart were not without their comfort.


Early one afternoon the sound of the key in the lock warned her that
Adair had unexpectedly returned.  His face announced his good news
before he could so much as utter a word, and then the facts came out in
a panting, breathless torrent. Shamus O’Dowd--she knew Shamus O’Dowd,
the Irish comedian?--No?--What, never heard of Shamus O’Dowd?--Well,
anyway, O’Dowd was at the Herald Square--big business--seats selling
three weeks in advance--_A Broth of a Boy_, you know--and the fellow who
was playing Captain Carleton had dropped out, and the understudy wasn’t
satisfactory--and--and--it was seventy-five dollars a week--and here
were the lines--and you could have knocked him over with a feather when
O’Dowd came right up to him at the club, and fixed it up in five
minutes, and they had run through a rehearsal to give him a notion of
the business, and it was a damned good character part, and--then, I
wonder if that twenty-one dollar apartment had ever seen the like--with
Phyllis sitting in Booful’s lap, and her arms tight around his neck, and
talking two to his one, all rapture and exclamations as though he had
done something extraordinary instead of merely getting a job; and
Booful, no less proud and foolish and excited felt, too, he had done
something extraordinary, holding to the lines as though they were a
patent of nobility, and crazy to begin the study of them; and describing
the play with such humor and absurdity that his little wife thought she
had never heard anything so funny in her life, her teeth shining as she
laughed and laughed--especially at O’Dowd, who was described as fifty,
with a bull-neck, and ever too much of him in front and behind, with a
very short coat, and bounding fat legs, and such a Broth of a Boy that
he was ready to fight or dance or sing or make love at the drop of a
hat, and generally to caper from sheer exuberance of Irish youth.--Then
Booful turned suddenly serious, and got up, and said that on no, no
account was he to be disturbed, and began to pace like a lion up and
down the doll-baby sitting-room, mumbling his part to himself with a
far-away expression, and an occasional frown and swear as he missed a
word; while Phyllis, pretending to sew, squeezed herself into a corner,
and made as though she was not watching him, which she did in timid
little peeps, thinking how handsome he was and noble and manly and
splendid, with such returning recollections of his devotion, and
gentleness, and simple, unrepining courage in the hard days now fast
finishing, that she could have swooned from very tenderness.

_A Broth of a Boy_ was a typical Irish drama. The central figure was a
rollicking imbecile, with a tuneful voice and the customary shillelah,
who foils the wicked mortgager, chucks colleens under the chin, does a
hair-raising leap over a waterfall, and is altogether so Brothy and gay
that no one can resist him.  The usual British officer, condemned to
carry out an unpalatable order, and falling under the spell of a pair of
saucy Irish eyes, is found not to be half so bad a fellow as we had
anticipated; and though a good deal of a booby, and the target for
sarcasms that he is too obtusely English to perceive, gradually wins the
toleration and even the affection of the gallery.  In real life he would
probably have been court-martialed for his arrant disregard of
instructions, nor would a bare-legged milk-maid have been considered
quite the prize the dramatist deemed her.--But one mustn’t criticize
this dreamy region too harshly.  That great baby, the public, loves
it,--and in the theater-world there is plenty of room for this grotesque
Ireland, and always will be; and baby’s patronage feeds many worthy and
deserving people, who otherwise might have not a little trouble of it to
live.

Yes, let us be lenient toward the Irish drama. It brought seventy-five
dollars a week to that little apartment high up in East Fifty-eighth
Street, and hope and courage to hearts that were beginning to falter.



                             *CHAPTER XXI*


In the whole house that night of Adair’s return to Broadway there was
probably but one person in front who was even aware that the bill had
been changed.  That rapt little spectator waited with her heart in her
mouth for the actor’s appearance, and thrilled herself with fairy tales
while the play ponderously opened, and took its course.  Adair would be
recognized; there would be a wild demonstration of welcome; cheers,
applause, yes, an ovation, with people standing up, and the gallery in
an uproar!--It was a dream, of course, a phantasy, for her head was too
squarely set on her shoulders to count on anything of the sort, but
nevertheless it exhilarated her enough to make the reality doubly,
trebly disappointing.

His entrance was unheralded by a single handclap, O’Dowd having just
retired amid thunders, with part of the audience still insistently
humming the refrain of _Sweet Kitty O’Rourke_, (words by Stevowsky;
music by Cohen).  Adair’s first few lines were altogether lost in
consequence, the scene beginning in vehement pantomime, and the house
only gradually, and with extreme unwillingness, resigning itself to the
exit of the star.  It must be said they had some right to regret him.
Adair was anxious and forced, and so desperately in earnest to be funny
that he suggested a marionette.  Phyllis’ surprise turned to dismay, and
dismay to an inexpressible pain.  That he won many a boorish laugh only
heightened her misery.  It was worse than bad, it was common, and she
could have bent down and cried in very shame.  But in the throes of her
despair she was watchful, and her pretty brows corrugated with the
intensity of her attention.  Poor though the part was, surely it could
be done better, oh, so much better; and if only she dared--!  An
infinite compassion dimmed her eyes, an infinite pity, for was it not
for her he had stooped to this vile clowning, debasing himself, blowing
out his cheeks like a turkey-gobbler, feverishly catching at every trick
to get a grin or a titter? All this sacrifice of dignity, manhood and
self-respect to keep the poor little pot boiling on Fifty-eighth Street?

It was terrible to sit through the play, and to realize with more and
more conviction that this sacrifice was unnecessary--that the rôle,
straightforwardly acted, and the comic-policeman side of it ignored,
might be made into something worth doing--not very much worth doing of
course--but still redeemed from utter banality.  But Phyllis knew how
her husband bristled at the least touch of criticism.  Ordinarily so
loving and indulgent, a single word of disapprobation could set him off
like an hysterical woman; before now she had inadvertently raised such
storms, and looked back on them with terror.  She asked herself what she
was to do, and could find no answer.  Everything in her revolted from
lying to him, and yet she would be forced to.  It was not cowardice, but
the disinclination of seeing him suffer, and the dread of incurring the
harshness and anger of the man she idolized.  Enmity in his eyes seemed
to strike her to the ground; her heart stopped beating; something seemed
to die within her.--No, at any cost, she must lie, lie, lie.

She waited for him at the stage-door, a slight dejected figure under the
gaslights, and conscious for the first time that her clothes were
shabby, and that her gloves were old and worn.  O’Dowd’s carriage stood
by, and she envied the coachman his warm fur collar, and with it came
the thought of all she had given up to marry Adair.  This put her in
better spirits, for she was pleased with everything that enhanced her
love, and gave it an unusual and romantic quality--so that for a moment
she seemed less cold, less sad, and a delicious heroine-feeling
enshrouded her.  Had it not been for the fear of what was to come she
would have been altogether happy.  But a pang of apprehension shot
through her, and all the pretty fancies engendered by the fur collar of
a sudden disappeared.--She was again standing on the wintry street,
tired, frightened, and disheartened.

Adair emerged in a jubilant humor, and squeezed her arm as he passed his
own through hers, and moved in the direction of the cars.  Boisterous
and gay, he was in no mood to notice Phyllis’ constraint, and took her
approval for granted as he overflowed with talk.  It was a great relief
to her to remain silent, and nestle close to all that bigness and
confidence, and be borne along by that strong arm.  All her doubts and
fears were lost in an unreasoning gladness, and what did anything matter
but love?

Meanwhile the genial tide of Adair’s discourse continued without
intermission.--O’Dowd, who was a prince of good fellows, had patted him
on the back.  Eddie Phelps was up in the air, too, and said he had
simply walked away from the other man--and oh, how good it was to be in
a theater again!  It was a piffling part, but after all it was something
to have made the best of it, to have shown them what could be done in it
by a first class man.  That was the beauty of the stage--a real actor
could take a janitor or an organ-grinder and create a lot out of
nothing.  Did she know that all that business in the second act was
his?--Yes, positively--every bit of it his, and no wonder O’Dowd hugged
him at the wings, and said it was great--yes, just like that--before
everybody! You see, it had pulled up the whole thing where it had used
to drag, giving it zip and go.  Eddie Phelps said that the other fellow
had never got a hand there.  He had done better than that, hadn’t he?
And if it hadn’t been such a damned feeder for the star--oh, well,
success was success, if it were only an inch high!

In this strain of self-laudation, Adair boarded a car, and praised
himself all the way home. Throughout he took Phyllis’ concurrence for
granted, and his exuberance was unclouded by the least suspicion of the
truth.  He had half finished his supper when with that instinct which
was one of the most unexpected endowments of his character, he all at
once perceived something to be amiss.  It wasn’t Phyllis’ fault; she had
given not a hint of dissatisfaction; nothing was further from her
thoughts than to mar that night.

But when he laid down his knife and fork, and stared at her across the
table she knew in an instant what was coming.

"My God, Phyllis," he exclaimed, "it is not possible you--you didn’t
like it?"

[Illustration: It is not possible you--you didn’t like it?--Page 287]

She would have given worlds for the lie that would not come; her eyes
shrank from his; the sincerity and conviction of his tone made deceit
impossible.  It was almost in a whisper that she answered: "Oh, Cyril,
Cyril,--I’m afraid I didn’t."

He pushed away his plate and got up; he could not suffer such a
mortification sitting; the flat itself seemed too small to hold his
sudden shame, his agitation, the staggering shock of what seemed to him
his wife’s disloyalty.

"What was the matter with it?" he demanded passionately.  "What was it
you did not like?--No, no, you needn’t try to wriggle out of it; you’ve
said too much to stop now; you’ve as good as told me it was damned bad,
and I want to know why.--The words don’t matter; it isn’t a question of
how you put it, nor how much I mind being knocked by the one person on
earth--!  My God, Phyllis, what do you mean by saying I was bad?"

She was terrified.  No culprit in the dock ever trembled more guiltily,
or faced a brow-beating prosecutor with so stricken a look.  Her
husband’s bitter and contemptuous tone cut her like a lash. But it was
too late now to make excuses, to palliate the offense.  There was
nothing for it but to go on--to justify herself--and the better she
could do it the more she would wound him!  And all this on a night that
surely ought to have been their happiest.

"You made the captain too--too common," she stammered.  "He is supposed
to be a high-bred, aristocratic man--stupid, of course--but a gentleman
through and through.  In real life--"

"Oh, real life!" he interrupted roughly, "that’s where all you ignorant,
criticizing people go wrong. He has nothing to do with real life--he’s a
preposterous stage figure, a convention.  I have to take what I’m given;
I’m not the dramatist; I can’t write new lines for him, can I?  My
business is to hide the strings that pull his arms and legs, and make
him possible--and by George, I did it!"

"But Cyril, dearest, listen--even when you first come on you’re not
polite enough, not chivalrous enough.  You almost burst out laughing
at--"

"That’s to give contrast to him afterwards."

"But you can do that, and still keep him a gen--I mean nice, and--"

This was all she was allowed to say.  Adair towered over her, convulsed,
shaking, his voice hardly governable as he stormed and raged.  It was
the best thing he had ever done; it was perfect; there was fifteen years
of stage experience in that one creation.  It was awful that it should
all go for nothing; it shook his nerve; it shook his confidence in
himself; he hardly knew how he could go on playing the part.  He
wouldn’t, he’d throw it up; he warned her to be more careful next time,
or as an actor he would be done for.  It wasn’t that he was afraid of
criticism--intelligent criticism--he welcomed intelligent criticism--the
criticism of those who knew the stage--helpful criticism. But to club a
man in this ignorant, crass way was simply to murder him.  How could he
ever bear to let her see him again in anything?  He was sensitive; he
was cruelly sensitive; it was because he had temperament; and if he
couldn’t please the person he liked he had no courage or heart left,
even if he set the whole house crazy.  Here was one of the best things
he had ever done, killed for ever--and it was she who had killed it!  It
was the penalty of loving her that he could not go on without her
approval; he knew she was wrong; in any one else he would have dismissed
it with a shrug, and forgotten it the next minute; yet with her--!
Perhaps this sounds more ignominious than it was.  To Phyllis at least
there was a great pathos in the exasperated outburst that was very far
from being due to vanity alone.  The revelation of her husband’s
weakness, of his utter dependence on her good opinion, atoned not a
little for the violent things he said.  It enlarged her understanding of
the childishness that lies so close beneath the artist-nature--of its
swift extremes of feeling--and showed her, too, the amazing intensity
that Adair put even into a small rôle, and taught her afresh what a life
and death matter the stage was to him. His frenzy, therefore, instead of
rousing her resentment, and worse still her scorn and anger, rather
quickened within her a tragic pity.  His burning face, his dilating
eyes, his quivering twitching mouth--all the evidences of an
uncontrollable mortification--brought forth instead that womanly
feeling, so rich in generosity and indulgence, that would sacrifice
everything for the one it loved.

To prove that she was right seemed to her of much less importance just
then than to smooth down that wild, distraught man-creature who belonged
to her.  With love in peril all other considerations were swept away.
No pride stood between, no sense of injustice; love was too precious for
such pettinesses to interfere.--Then with what piteous artifices she
began to eat her words!  How adroitly did she argue so that her
surrender should not be too apparent, giving way by such fine gradations
that Adair hardly suspected the imposture. How contritely she confessed
herself in the wrong, her cringing little heart all submission, her
whole young body eager to atone her fault.--The wild, distraught
man-creature was by degrees coaxed back to tameness and sanity; the
thunders subsided; with kisses and caresses he was even prevailed upon
to resume his place at table, where, lecturing her masterfully as he
ate, though with a steadily lessening severity, dormice peace was at
length restored. By the time Phyllis had brought him his slippers, lit
his cigar, and snuggled herself against his knees, like a sweet little
Circassian who had disturbed her Bashaw, and had been graciously
forgiven by that dearest and best of men, Adair mellowed sufficiently to
feel some slight self-reproach.  He apologized for having got so worked
up; fondled her glossy hair; called her his darling little stupid whom
he loved so well he couldn’t endure her to find fault with him.  Between
whiffs, mellowing even more, he admitted that he might have been
slightly unreasonable, even unkind, but put it all down to his
disappointment at failing to please her.  "I worked so hard," he said.
"I just fell over myself to make them laugh.  I--I had to think of the
seventy-five, you know, and holding down the job; and as the others
liked it, I--I thought you would.  My sweetheart girl must try and make
some allowances. I couldn’t help feeling cross and nervous and all
worked up--and, and, it’s awful to fail, Phyllis."

She, at this, the naughty little hypocrite, would have eaten more humble
pie; would have protested afresh that it was only one tiny-winy thing
she had objected to--though even on that she wasn’t half as sure as she
had been.  But Adair cut her short. In his softened humor he was
prepared to concede something to her criticism; there was a speck of
truth in what she had said, however much it had upset him; he was going
to pull up the part a bit; he was--

Phyllis had sprung up, and darted into the bedroom, with so sparkling a
smile, and with such an air of animation and mystery that Adair hardly
knew what to make of it all.  But he was accustomed to her girlish
escapades, and lay back with his cigar, listening to bureau-drawers
being hastily opened and shut, and awaiting developments with amused
anticipation.  She could be such a little devil when the fancy seized
her, and rejoiced in the most shocking exhibitions for his private
delectation.  He was unprepared, however, for her to bound out in a suit
of his own, the sleeves and trousers rolled up, and her hair half-hidden
beneath a jaunty cap.  She had made herself up for Captain Carleton, and
the moment she opened her mouth Adair recognized the fine parody of
himself in the rôle.  The words she had pat, her retentive memory having
caught and retained them during his laborious "study"; and while she was
less sure of the imaginary milk-maid, she paraphrased the latter’s lines
with sufficient accuracy to keep her cues straight.  She knew she was
playing with fire; her face was a picture of mingled roguishness and
terror, yet she was impelled by a headlong daring that was irresistible.

She flung herself into the scene with mad abandonment, mimicking his
voice, his gestures, his laugh, the very way he leaned against the
pasteboard gate--a whirlwind little figure, dancing crazily on the
egg-shells of his vanity.  It was the cleverest, wickedest, most
unsparing travesty of his whole performance, carried through with
inordinate zest and mischief, and heightened by a slim young beauty that
had never seemed to him more alluring.  Her little feet had never looked
so small as with the coarse trousers flapping about her ankles; the
audacious curves above intensified her sex; while the partly opened coat
displayed the ribbons and lace of her night-dress beneath--the whole a
vision of captivating girlhood.

Adair at first made no sign at all except to stare at her in a sort of
stupefaction.  His face grew so dark that she felt shivers running down
her back, and for a moment she wondered if she had not mortally offended
him.  The first smile she wooed from him set her pulses dancing with
relief.  Yes, he was smiling, he was laughing, he was clapping his
hands; and then, oh, the joy of it, he was bursting out with great, deep
"Ha, ha’s" of delight!  Thus encouraged, she redoubled her exertions;
she outdid herself; she was in the second scene now, and was tearing it
to pieces like a puppy with a rag-doll, panting with excitement and
success, and rapturous with victory.  Adair jumped up, and in a paroxysm
of admiration, passion, exultation and self-reproach, ran and crushed
her in his arms.  Phyllis felt the filmy lace-stuff rip asunder, and his
lips seeking her flesh, while all incoherent he breathed out that he
loved her, loved her, loved her, and that she was right; yes, he had
been playing it all wrong; never would he go against her judgment again,
and then and there took back every word he had said!  He was just a
vain, silly, conceited, swollen-up jackass, not even worth her
finger-tip; and he couldn’t forgive himself for the way he had treated
her; and the only thing he could think of doing to show how badly he
felt was to plump down and kiss her little slippers, which he forthwith
did with a humility that would have been more impressive had there been
a less frantic flurry of kicks and protests.

Thus the evening that had begun so ill ended in tenderness and profound
accord.  The very last thing Mr. Dormouse murmured as he lay locked in
his wife’s arms was that she was the cleverest little actress in the
world, and pretty enough to eat, and a million times too good for
him--which on the whole was the truest thing Dormouse had said for a
long while, and showed that his ideas were improving.  Little though he
knew it he was improving in every way, and could he have set himself
back six months he would have been astounded at the contrast.  Women
make men in other senses than the physical, and this robust lump of
egoism, selfishness, ignorance and conceit was being slowly and
unconsciously transformed. Something of Phyllis was passing into him,
and in the magic of that soul-infiltration the grosser side of him had
begun to crumble.



                             *CHAPTER XXII*


It is disappointing to chronicle that the altered and improved rendering
of the English captain passed almost unnoticed.  Mr. Kemmel, O’Dowd’s
right-hand man, indeed had objected to the change; and failing to bully
Adair into submission had carried the affair up to the star.  But that
comedian, with a kindness that bordered on a sublime indifference,
refused to interfere.  "Hell, it don’t matter how he plays it as long as
he gets the words over," was his sage comment; and a wave of a large,
fat hand dismissed the subject for ever. O’Dowd had his own private
reasons for wishing to stay on good terms with Adair, which he was too
regal, if not too cautious, to pass on at that moment to Mr. Kemmel.
O’Dowd, being star, manager, and half-author of the piece was minting
money under all three heads, and his concern for the box-office was
proportionately great--so great that he could consider the choice of an
understudy without irritation, and even accept a man who might "draw."

On first being commanded to understudy his principal, Adair had accepted
the task much in the spirit of Mary Ann, when she is told: "Oh, I forgot
to say you must do the washing, too!"  It was a drudgery and a bore that
he would have been well content to avoid, for one look at O’Dowd’s red
face and vigorous frame convinced him of the remoteness of the
contingency for which he was to fit himself.  He set no hopes in that
direction, and it came to him as a real surprise, a couple of weeks
after he was engaged, to be asked into the office and told of a new
contract he was to sign.

"’The Guv’nor ain’t satisfied with that fourth clause," said Mr. Kemmel.
"He says it ain’t plain--hey, there, don’t let Phelps go, I want him and
Klein for witnesses."

"Where isn’t it plain?" demanded Adair, who remembered the document as
one of unusual rigor, without even the usual two weeks’ notice.  "Do you
wish to add penal servitude to my other fifty-seven penalties?"

Mr. Kemmel did not deign to smile.  He was a pale, bald Jew of about
thirty-six, with a peculiarly bleak way of addressing actors.

"No," he answered, "we want to clear up the understudy part of it."

"Understudy part of it?  What do you mean?"

"Well, if you went on for five or six weeks, taking the Guv’nor’s place
every night and matinée--you might make out like it was a new
engagement--and try to stick us."

Adair was too mystified to take offense.

"Stick you?" he repeated.

"Yes, sue us afterwards for three or four times the salary."--Mr. Kemmel
sighed, and looked upward, as though reflecting on man’s inhumanity to
man.  "In this business one has to be so careful," he added, as
impersonally as though he were speaking to a stone pillar, "so
careful--well, as I was saying, here we have iron-claded it, and you are
to sign where it is penciled, and return the old contract to-morrow."

The typewritten words swam a little as Adair gazed at them; he was
afraid of being tricked; he wanted to make sure that the precious
seventy-five a week had not been tampered with.  But there it was, all
right, along with the new proviso.  It was difficult to believe that
this last amounted to anything, for O’Dowd’s appearance precluded the
least idea of illness.  The man was as strong as a bull, with a voice
that shook your ear-drums, and the shoulders of a negro coal-heaver.  He
was offensively healthy, and so limited in any interest but the theater
that he moped visibly of a Sunday. One might as well understudy the
Metropolitan Museum on the chance of its taking a night off. Adair
laughed as he signed the new contract, and hardly thought of the matter
for a day or two afterwards.

It was Kemmel who again brought it home to him.

"I’m keeping the orchestra for you to run over the Guv’nor’s songs again
with them," he said. "You sing them good enough, but the leader says you
crowd the overture, and sometimes get ahead of him."

There are no people in the world so unmurmuring as actors; they will
rehearse till their voices crack and their legs drop off, and all this,
too often, under volleys of insults and reproaches.  Adair had played
two performances that day, and was worn out and hungry; yet it never
occurred to him to make any objection to such an unexpected order. The
poor, weary orchestra was there, as hungry and worn out as he, but as
willing as every one connected with the stage seems always to be; they
scraped and tootled and drummed and bassooned for two mortal hours, from
a quarter past eleven till after one A.M., while Adair sang Irish
melodies to the darkened house.  O’Dowd himself, in a stage-box, was the
solitary though far from silent spectator.  Cigar in mouth, profane,
morose and savagely critical, he bellowed furiously from his dark
crimson cave.

"No, no, no, _no_!  Hell’s bells, do that again! At the second verse
there now!  For God’s sake, Mr. Glauber, emphasize the key-note, boom it
out on that first cornet so he can’t miss it, and lam it in again on the
minor.  The minor!  _The minor_, damn it!  And, oh Lord, Adair, call
that a brogue? Hell’s bells, it’s because you’re in such a
hurry--Glauber will wait for you--damn it, give it again, let it stick
to your teeth--like this: ’Of owl the ma-a-a-a-ids of swate
Kilda-a-a-a-rrr--’"

Adair had an unusually tuneful voice, and the middle register of his
rather high baritone was full of warmth and charm.  These catchy
melodies appealed to him, and the sentiment was of a downright, popular
kind.  One rollicked the humor and quavered the pathos, and either put
in brogue or didn’t as one remembered or forgot it.  As a matter of
fact--except for the brogue--he did the songs more justice than the
great O’Dowd himself, and sang them more sweetly and appealingly.  He
had no conception of it that night, however, as he was hectored and
bullied without cessation until his eyes smarted, and his bewildered
head was whirling. He had a whipped feeling as he went off, and a
corroding sense of defeat and failure.  It was idiotic to expect him to
sing, and now that he had been tested and found wanting he hoped the
silly goats would leave him alone.

He turned as he was putting on his overcoat in the wings, and saw that
one of the silly goats had followed him.  It was Mr. Kemmel, more
bleared and bleak than ever, and evidently with something disagreeable
to say.

"Oh, Adair," he exclaimed in a low voice, "hold on a minute, I want to
talk to you.  I’ve called a full rehearsal for to-morrow at nine
o’clock, orchestra and all--for you’ll have to go on in the Guv’nor’s
place to-morrow night!"

"I go on?--_I_?"  Adair was thunderstruck. "What do you mean, Kemmel?"

"Just that."

"But he’s as well as I am."

"The climate ain’t agreeing with him, hee, hee!"--Kemmel’s cackle was as
cold as the draft off an iceberg.

"The climate?"

"New York state.  He’s got to get right out to-night, and that with us
playing a run, and with eight weeks of our lease unexpired.  If it
weren’t for the lease, and my Lord, the forfeit to Boaz and Gotlieb,
he’d jump us out with him, run or no run. Ain’t it awful, Mabel!"

"But Kemmel, what’s the matter?"

"Well, it’s like this, Adair.  He and Julia Garrett were divorced here
two years ago, and the dime museum freaks who tried it allowed her to
marry again, and forbade him.  They do things like that in New York, and
if you kick it’s contempt of court!  The next day he married our Mrs.
O----, Claudia Kirkwood at Chicago.  See? There’s nothing they can’t
forget here in two years, and so we came back, feeling pretty safe--and
would have been, too, if number one hadn’t got tired of the man who was
keeping her in London, and rushed over here with her little hatchet.
We’ve been trying to buy it, but it wasn’t for sale--at least not at any
figure we could pay--so we made a bluff offer of eight thousand, and
reserved our Pullman!"

"Are you going to try to keep the run here?"

"_You_ are!"

"And if I can’t--if I don’t draw?"

"Then we’ll close."

"I wonder you didn’t get Anderson Bailey or Henry Millard, or that man
who has just left Blanche Mortimer--what’s his name?"

"Costs too much--you’re cheap."

Then to take the edge off this remark, he added:

"Say, that’s not a knock; we wouldn’t take them, anyway; I’m not
throwing any bouquets, Adair, but you are damned good in it, really
damned good--and are exactly what we want.  And don’t you feel sore
about the money, either.  We are paying you seventy-five salary, and
four hundred and twenty-five worth of chance to make a big hit.  You
wish to get on, don’t you?  Well, you may be a made man in eight weeks.
We’re taking a gamble, and so must you.  What if you are a holy frost?
Don’t go around belly-aching for money, but see if you can’t win out.
We believe you can; we are sure you can; go ahead!"

Praise, opportunity, the belief of others in you--how softening they
are!  Kemmel, the niggardly, the fault-finding, the lean, mean jackal of
the Irish lion, suddenly took on a new hue.  Adair found himself shaking
his hand.  What a good chap Kemmel was, after all!  He shook his hand
cordially, effusively, all former bitterness forgotten in an
intoxication of joy.  Kemmel melted too, under that irresistible spell;
had a spasm of expansiveness and indiscretion; went so far as to say, in
a darkling, confidential manner, that Adair had sung "all round" the
boss.

"That’s why I went for you like I did and balled you up now and then,"
he confided.  "It wouldn’t do to have him think _that_, you know.  He’s
funny, like all of them, and while two-thirds of him is box-office, the
other third is temperament--and my, it don’t do to jar it!"

Phyllis had been sent home alone long before this, and Adair found her
sound asleep in bed.  A considerate husband would have let her lie
undisturbed, and would have kept his great news till the morning.  But
Adair had no more compunction in waking her up than if she had been a
pet puppy; and rolled her over, and tumbled her about almost as roughly,
and with the same clenched-teeth zest in her drowsiness, beauty and
helplessness.  And she, woman-like, loved it, roughness and all--which
goes to show how stupid consideration is at times, and how misplaced.
Adair never gave it a thought, and his selfishness was rewarded by two
bare, satiny arms reaching for his neck, and the eagerest little mouth
in the world begging kisses and taking them.

And the news?

Don’t blame him if it had grown a little.  It was so truly-truly big
that there could be no harm in making it a trifle bigger.  Is it not
permissible, with your adoring little wife nestling beside you in her
nightie, and holding you fast lest you might suddenly be snatched away
by some envious and ruthless agency--is it not permissible, I say, to
add a stick and a cocked hat to some ordinary, very plainly-dressed
facts?  The whole rehearsal, thus gloriously reviewed in the retrospect,
was brought up to the key of Kemmel’s appreciation.  The unexpired lease
of the theater was seen to be a subterfuge, and no doubt O’Dowd had gone
away to organize a number two company--the shrewd fellow; he and Kemmel
mighty well knew they had made a "find"--they weren’t in that business
for nothing--and both were up in the air about it. The next thing would
be a two years’ contract, with a real salary and percentages!  Cyril
Adair, the Irish comedian, ha, ha!  Well, why not?  It would bring him
back to Broadway in the right way, the big way!  Bring him back to stay,
by George, for with this as a stepping-stone they’d never get him off
the grand old street again. And once solid--

With unloosened imagination they soared the sky, vying ecstatically with
each other in that ethereal azure where everything is possible, two
little children before the opening doors of paradise, and hardly less
simple and naïve--big hand on little, voice outstripping voice,
girl-heart and man-heart blended in an idyllic love.  But alas, closer
than paradise, oh, so much closer--on the next floor, in fact--was an
honest motorman of the Metropolitan Street Railway, who lumbered out of
bed, and hammered loudly on the floor for silence.  On East Fifty-eighth
Street this was a hint not to disturb a sleeping toiler.  Bang, bang,
bang, and the creaking springs and bedposts as the stalwart Brother of
the Ox again sought repose.  He got it all right; he often had to
hammer, but never had to hammer twice; Phyllis had a great deal of
humorous tenderness for her working-men neighbors--those decent, silent
men who used to pass her so respectfully on the stairs; who played cheap
phonographs on Sunday nights, raised families and canaries, owned dogs
and took in boarders, till one wondered their apartments didn’t bulge
out and burst!--So McCarthy returned to the Land of Nod, and the
dormice, reduced to whispers, soon kissed each other sleepily, and took
their own road thither.



                            *CHAPTER XXIII*


One wonders sometimes why almost anybody can not be a successful Irish
comedian?  Given a good figure, a pleasing, sympathetic voice, and a
face naturally inclined to smile--and the rest seems as easy as taking
pennies from a blind man.  Certainly Adair caught his house as surely as
ever did O’Dowd, and moved through the piece amid the same thunders of
applause.  Younger, handsomer, and an incomparably better actor, and
with that charm, so baffling to describe, which yet was ever-present and
ever-compelling, he measured himself against his predecessor, and never
for a moment had the least doubt of the outcome.  It is not often that
fairy tale came as bravely true; that the dream of overnight turned as
quickly into the fact of to-day.  Small wonder that Adair, standing
there on the stage when all was done, his ears still ringing with the
applause of that departing audience, was too exalted, and much too
self-sure to fret at Kemmel’s misgivings.

"Oh, you did fine," cried Kemmel.  "You were splendid, splendid!  But
will they ever come back?" He jerked his head in the direction of the
curtain.--"It was O’Dowd that brought them--not you; they already had
their tickets; the pinch comes to-morrow, day after to-morrow.  Can you
draw them then, ah, that’s the point?--No, no, don’t misunderstand me,
Adair.  I’m all up in the air about you; you justified all we hoped;
more than we hoped; you don’t need to be told how you hit them to-night.
But I’m scared--scared of your success--and I’m that nervous that I--!"
Again he turned towards the curtain, and his voice was almost a wail.
"Oh, my God, Adair, will they ever come back?"


The astonishing thing was that they did--crowded back, swarmed back,
breaking all the records of the piece.  Business rose by leaps and
bounds till they were playing to capacity; till the thrilling words
"sold out" were posted almost nightly on the box-office window; till a
ravening horde of speculators took possession of the sidewalk in front,
alternately delighting Kemmel with their advertising value, and wringing
his soul with anguish at the money he saw going astray.  Not that these
were his only preoccupations; he was too loyal to his employer’s
interest, and too expert a theatrical man to let a success run along
without a guiding hand.  Adair’s name went up in electric letters;
pictures and paragraphs were scattered broadcast; an option was secured
on another theater to continue the run, and, what seemed to him the best
of all, he had Adair securely tied up by a new contract.  Kemmel, in his
own words, was "on to his job," and in his letters to O’Dowd he was
already urging a number two company, and submitting estimates and names.

The new contract, of course, was a marvel of one-sidedness;
on-to-his-job Kemmel naturally saw to that, and paid a legal iron-worker
twenty-five dollars to make it of seamless steel.  But on the running
out of the existing contract at seventy-five dollars a week, it assured
Adair two hundred and fifty as long as it pleased O’Dowd to employ him.
Seamless steel could not accomplish everything, and a substantial
increase of salary had to be accorded.  Adair would have stood out for
more; but Phyllis, with feminine caution, prevailed on him, to make no
demur.  Booful’s day would come; stick to her and he would wear
diamonds--not to speak of bells on his darling fingers and toes; but
just now money was secondary to cementing his position till he was stuck
up so high on Broadway that they’d have to feed him with a
ladder.--Besides, two hundred and fifty dollars a week was an _awful_
lot of money.  Forty weeks at two hundred and--

"Forty weeks, you goose!" expostulated Adair. "I’d be the last person to
object if it were forty weeks.  But down there, on that smudgy blue
place, they can cancel everything in forty seconds."

"People aren’t cancelled who are playing to capacity."

"I know, but the utter damned meanness that--"

"Poor little Booful mustn’t worry, and if he’ll stop damning and
rampaging, I’ll take him down to his Uncle Macy’s, and show him that
lovely fur coat I want him to buy as soon as we have some money."

"I suppose you are right, Phyllis, but it galls me to--"

"My darling, sweetheart love," she broke in with pretty seriousness,
"nothing is so important as your success, and once make that secure,
money follows as a matter of course.  Let Booful keep shinning up the
pole, even if they do pick his pockets, and never think of anything but
the gilt ball at the top, and--and _me_."

This was good advice and Booful acted on it. The two hundred and fifty,
too, looked less despicable as every day drew it nearer; and as it
became, not an abstraction to be argued over and theoretically scorned,
but a tidy little bundle of greenbacks that would go far to ease life,
both on the spending side of it and the saving.  Oh, yes, half of it was
to be laid by in the bank for a rainy day. Meanwhile, they lived up to
the last cent of the seventy-five, which once so much, now suddenly grew
meager by contrast, and by the greater inroads made upon it.  Booful
rolled home in cabs; there were little restaurant suppers with a
fizzling pint of wine; Phyllis bought a coveted peignoir, made out of
pale blue fluffy-nothingness, and with a hand-embroidered collar
delicately touched with gold.--Well, why not?  The nearing future was
too bright not to discount it a little in the present.

We have said that Kemmel kept his press agent busy; and in the same
thoroughgoing spirit that placarded every garbage-can from Twenty-sixth
Street to Harlem, strove by a thousand means to get Adair’s name
prominently into the papers.  If he succeeded beyond all expectations he
ascribed it to his own astuteness, instead of to the fact that Adair,
for the moment, was an extremely spectacular figure in the theatrical
world.  It was one of the remarkable things about this man that he
impressed himself so indelibly in the recollection of every one who had
ever known him.  It was too often a disagreeable recollection; he had
sown hatred with a royal hand; yet, in a queer, negative, altogether
unprofitable way he had fascinated everybody.  Others might make a
disagreeable impression and be forgotten.  But no one ever forgot Adair.
Magnetism, personality, genius--whatever word one chose to call it--he
had the peculiar faculty of arresting attention, of exciting interest,
of making people talk and speculate about him.

It was indubitably at times a most unlucky gift. With his reappearance
and success the flood-gates of his past were opened, and there gushed
forth a Niagara of malignant chatter.  His amours, his fights, his
disreputable escapades, his divorce--all were revived.  Every one seemed
to have a story to his discredit, and to be in haste to get it into
print.  Nor was his marriage to Phyllis allowed to escape the same
soiling publicity, and the tale was embellished with slanders and
innuendoes that would have goaded a much more patient man to fury.
Adair was with difficulty restrained from knocking editorial teeth down
editorial throats; and it showed Phyllis’ power over him, and the change
generally in his disposition that the police courts were untroubled by
his presence.

Lies about herself Phyllis could bear with some fortitude, but Adair’s
earlier life, as thus revealed by the sensation-mongers, cost her many a
bitter pang.--The woman who had tried to shoot him at the Café Martin,
and the whole revelation of that horrid affair--the Burt-Wauchope
scandal, where rather than save himself by compromising an unknown girl,
he had gone to prison for contempt; and that, not quietly and nobly, but
with a vain-glorious satisfaction in his martyrdom--the discreditable
spree on Tim Bartlett’s yacht--how horrible, how unendurable it
was--this graveyard resurrection of bygone years!

Adair never justified himself to her, never tried to palliate or explain
away the incidents of his outrageous past.  That instinct, which in all
his relations with her invariably guided him aright, served him as well
now as it had always before.  He was more gentle, more tender, trusting
to kisses rather than words.  "Don’t let this hurt you," he once said to
her, the only time he had ever ventured to speak to her, "that wasn’t
me, Phyllis.  There wasn’t any me until you came.  You know that, don’t
you?  No me at all, but just a big brute, and if he didn’t have a soul
it was because it was in your bureau drawer along with your stockings
and handkerchiefs, and I guess you thought it was a sachet bag or
something, and never looked at it twice."

The most jealous, dismayed and heart-sick of women could not have
resisted such pleading; not if she were in love, that is, and her
lover’s voice was as appealing, and his eyes as convincing and
sincere.--In a divine commingling of wife-love and mother-love, so pure,
so uplifting that it transcended all physical expression, save alone
what the breast could give, she drew his head to her bosom, comforting
him, comforting herself in an act emblematic of all that is most
beautiful in humanity.


The more one studies the stage the more one is surprised by its
disregard of principles that govern every-day, ordinary affairs.
Perhaps it is because actors are all children, who have clung
tenaciously to playing Indian in the hall, and shooting tigers under the
parlor sofa long after the rest of us have grown up.  It is a good thing
for the world that "temperament" is so largely confined to the
paste-board walls of the theater; or we might see our grocer sulking
over his butter, or railway presidents impetuously ordering off trains
because they had taken a sudden distaste to the landscape of some state.
Self-interest, that sheet anchor of society, is but a kedge to the
theatrical ship, and many plow the main without even that.  Caprice
often outweighs all money-making considerations; and though we are far
from decrying those who sacrifice dollars to art (and there are many),
may one not be a little peevish with the others, whose vanity and
wilfulness often take such spiteful forms?

It certainly cost Shamus O’Dowd all of twelve thousand dollars, if not
double or treble that amount to close the run at the Herald Square
Theater and bring it to a peremptory conclusion.  From his Rocky
Mountain ranch he had watched, with a grinding and increasing anger, the
success of the man to whom he had left his rôle.  The swelling royalty
returns exasperated him; the laudatory notices, sent in such profusion
by Kemmel (who was innocent enough to think they would please)--were as
tongues of flame leaping up the legs of a captive at the stake (such fat
legs as they were, and with such an ample scorching surface), and all
the talk of another theater and a second company clogged his eyes with
blood, and seared his low, coarse face with the furrows of an
intolerable indignation.

Nightly for twenty-five years he had been taking others’ crimes on his
brawny shoulders--murder, arson, embezzlement, forgery--he grabbed for
them all, never so happy as when misjudged, with only the audience in
the secret of his sacrifice; nobody on the stage could do anything wrong
without his making a rush to take the blame--and the oaths he kept with
an incredible fidelity; the superb impulses that started from him as
freely as perspiration; his goodness, chivalry, and almost insensate
honor--!  Oh, the irony of reality as contrasted with those affecting
fictions!

"Dear Kemmel," he wrote, in his ugly, sprawling, impatient hand.  "Take
the bloody show right off, and fire Adair, and keep the others on
half-salary till you can fix me up a route outside of New York.  In
God’s name, what do you think I’m made of, that I’m to play a number two
company all around the clock while he’s starring my hit on Broadway?
And don’t you put up any back-talk about it, either, for I mean every
word of it if it takes my last red--though you must see that it don’t.
If we have to go forfeit on the theater, hell’s bells, pay the bloody
cormorants, and do you hear, Get Out!!!  For I’m sick of the whole
business.  Fix it up with Mallory to send out something like this, even
if you have to pay space rates for it, and I want it featured:--’The
substitution of Mr. Cyril Adair for Mr. Shamus O’Dowd in the star-rôle
of _A Broth of a Boy_ has resulted so disastrously to the management
that the Herald Square Theater will be dark on Monday night, and all
outstanding tickets refunded at the box-office.  The experiment was an
unfortunate one for all parties, for Mr. O’Dowd, previous to his
departure from New York, owing to his doctor’s orders, was playing to
enormous business, and bade fair to remain all the season.  In Mr.
O’Dowd’s hands _A Broth of a Boy_ has been a record money-maker, and
friends of the genial star will be enthusiastic to learn of his early
return to harness.  The old adage of the lion’s skin is thus verified
again, and we are not disparaging Mr. Cyril Adair when we say he was
unlucky to be cast for the Donkey.’

"I hope this is all clear, and that I have not overlooked anything.
Perhaps when you are about it you had better fire Grace Farquar, too.
Pretty girls are cheap, and I should like another more come-on,
preferably a blonde this time.  Received your check for $1,182.40.  No
more for the present.  Cordially yours, Shamus O’Dowd."



                             *CHAPTER XXIV*


The right girl’s cheek against his own is usually worth more to a man
than all the philosophy to be found in books.  Adair was stunned; he was
too helpless, too hurt even to murmur.  When one is struck by a
thunderbolt, one lies where one falls.  He expected Phyllis to fall
also, and in a dull, heart-broken way was surprised by her intrepidity.
She picked up the great, despairing creature; kissed him, petted him,
crooned over him like a baby, smiling through her tears, and exerting
all her pretty fancifulness to make him smile, too.  Men may excel in
marching up to cannon and saving people from burning buildings, and
descending to the bottom of the sea in submarines; but in the forlorn
hopes of life it is most often the women who lead.

After a while Adair was revived; on examination it seemed that he wasn’t
seriously damaged at all, only scared--oh, yes--just scared all out of
his poor Booful wits; and a fairy potion called: "What does anything
matter as long as we have each other?" was extraordinarily effective in
pulling him together again.  Then Phyllis jumbled up all the swear-words
she had ever heard, and hurled them indiscriminately at Shamus O’Dowd,
with such piquancy and humor, coming as they did from that sweet mouth,
and with such a delicious lady-intonation that Adair was convulsed, and
a tiny bit shocked--which was precisely what she had schemed for, the
daring little wretch.

Thus began a new era of looking for an engagement; and it must be said
it was a very sad, anxious, bitter era, for they were dreadfully
poor--hungry-poor--and every time there was a knock at the door it was a
dun who had to be coaxed and persuaded into going away.  Adair’s recent
prominence had done little to incline managers towards him, and though
they were more civil, and he generally got greater consideration at
their hands, it was evident that their former hostility still persisted.
But his professional reputation now stood pretty high; and occasionally
one, bolder than the rest, would coquette with him, keeping him on
tenter-hooks while a frantic search was made "for somebody that would do
as well."  This somebody was always found, and Adair would be told
politely that "the vacancy had been filled."

Incidentally he learned that his parting from O’Dowd had been grossly
misrepresented by that "genial star," who had spread it about broadcast
that Adair was as impossible as ever, and so inflated and top-lofty that
it had been cheaper to break the run of the piece than to stand his
vagaries any longer.  This was in such accord with Adair’s former
character that it found ready credence up and down Broadway; and the
great Mr. Fielman himself enunciated the general sentiment when he said
to Rolls Reece, the dramatist: "If that fellow Adair only had the
manners and decency of a common hod-carrier, I’d give him a five years’
contract, and make a fortune out of him; but the stage is on too high a
level nowadays for men like that to get a second chance to disgrace
it--at least from me!"


No one appreciates more than an actor the need for being well-dressed
when seeking an engagement. His appearance is a considerable part of his
capital, both on the boards and off; he may have had little breakfast,
and less lunch, but his clothes must be good, and his linen immaculate,
and in a "profession" judged so largely by superficialities, it behooves
him, poor dog, to affect at any cost an air of fashion that but too
often is the most pathetic of masquerades.

It was now that Phyllis rose to the occasion with an unexpected capacity
that showed she was, indeed, her father’s daughter.  She got the
janitress to teach her how to wash and iron white shirts; and in a short
time could glaze a bosom better than her instructress, and almost as
well as a French laundry-man.  She learned how to press Adair’s coats
and trousers; she turned his ties; she ironed his collars; she cleaned
his gloves with gasolene.  No man was ever valeted with more assiduous
care, or sent out every morning looking sprucer or better-groomed. When
she kissed him good-by for the day it was always with a playful
admonition, for Adair bore adversity none too well, and though he tried
to hide his despondency he was beginning to break down under the long
continued strain.


"And he knows he’s a great, big, handsome, splendid Booful?"

"Oh, he’s sure of it!"

"And he’s going to step out like a Crown Prince going down to see his
Emperor-Papa at the club?"

"You bet he is."

"And swing his cane as though he owned all Broadway--and throw back his
head like a Greek statue, and swagger into their horrid old offices like
a millionaire?  For he _is_ a millionaire, you know--not a money-one,
but a Love-Millionaire--for don’t I love him millions and millions?"

It took a kiss to answer that; and then the Love-Millionaire, laughing a
little tremulously, would hurry away, whistling with much bravado as he
went down the stairs, two at a time, as suited a great, big, handsome,
splendid Booful; who, whatever his demerits in the past, was fast
retrieving himself before the Great Judge.--And if, on his departure,
Phyllis would lay her head on her arm and give way to uncontrollable
tears, you would be wrong to feel too sorry for her.  For the misfortune
that draws a man and woman together, and extorts from each their noblest
qualities is not really a misfortune at all, but a precious and
beautiful thing that it would become us more to envy.

Thus the days passed in a deadening, cowing, unutterably depressing
search for work.  Adair was rebuffed, put off, told to call again; he
abased himself to men he despised; he forced his presence with hungry
persistence on dramatists and stars who were putting on new plays,
affecting a good fellowship that was a transparent, dismal lie.  He
tried to buy them wine, cigars--inveigle them into promises, and his
lunch often went in a tip to some greedy understrapper who guarded their
portals.

It is strange the mile-wide demarcation that divides the real stage--the
stage of Sothern, John Drew, Faversham, Maude Adams, etc., from that
other to which Adair had so long associated himself. This other had no
representative save Adair in the whole Thespian Club.  It was a region
apart, and a region that Adair was determined never to return to.  It
would have called him back willingly enough, and in his desperation he
might have returned to it had it not been for Phyllis.  It was she who
kept his resolution alive; she was too confident of his talent to let
him throw it back into that Dead Sea; it meant the abandonment of every
serious ambition;--artistically speaking, suicide, death.--Booful
belonged to the top, and it was his business and hers to get him there.

Brave words, but how about fulfilment?  The end of the month would find
them turned out of doors.  Phyllis dreaded to see herself in the glass,
she was becoming so pale and wan; in the unequal battle everything was
going except her courage; sometimes, alone in the silent apartment, even
that seemed to droop, and a daunting terror would overwhelm her--less
for herself than for Adair.  He was drinking again, and justified
himself with a bitter vehemence.  "They all say, ’Have a drink’!" he
exclaimed.  "Nobody ever says ’Have an eat’!"--His harsh, despairing
humor recurred to her, as well as his sudden resentment at her pity. He
had made atonement, but the sting remained--or rather a foreboding of
something somber and evil that in spite of herself she could not shake
off.


One day at the club a card was brought Adair, inscribed Mr. John H.
Campbell; and the boy told him the gentleman was waiting to see him in
the visitors’ room.  Adair knew no such person, but he went out to greet
him with mingled curiosity and hope, for here perhaps was the
long-sought engagement.  An imposing, distinguished looking, very
well-dressed man of fifty rose from the sofa, and asked him, with much
suavity, whether he had the pleasure of addressing Mr. Cyril Adair.
This question being quickly and politely settled, the imposing gentleman
begged for a few words of conversation; and indicating a place for Adair
beside him, he reseated himself with a bland, kind air which yet was not
without an underlying seriousness, not to say solemnity.

"I have come on a very confidential matter," he said, fixing Adair with
his shrewd, keen, heavy-lidded eyes.  "A matter, Mr. Adair, so delicate
that it is not easy to convey it except in a round-about form.  May I
explain I have sought you out at the request of--Mr. Ladd?"

There was a pause; the shrewd, heavy-lidded eyes slowly inventoried
Adair and read beneath the tarnished air of fashion.  Failure, need,
hunger sap a man, and can not be hid, least of all from a professional
observer.  John Hampden Campbell was one of the leaders of the New York
bar and was what they call a "court room lawyer" of high rank; which
means that others hand up the guns, while he shoots them off.  His
knowledge of human nature was profound, and being profound was neither
unsympathetic nor unkind.  But he could shoot straight, nevertheless,
and it was hardly a satisfaction to the victim to hear that murmur of
"poor devil!" as the eminent counsel laid aside the smoking weapon.

"My father-in-law!" exclaimed Adair in amazement.

"He would be happier if he could cease to bear that name," said Mr.
Campbell.

"He can hardly very well help himself," retorted Adair bluntly.

"No, but you could," put in the lawyer, with a vagueness that was
intentional.  "By this time you must realize that it is a union that is
scarcely to your own best interests nor the young lady’s."

"Haven’t noticed it," said Adair, staring at him queerly.

"Mr. Ladd would be prepared to make very heavy sacrifices to put back
things as they were before."

"What sort of sacrifices?"--Adair’s tone was not unfriendly; it was
rather questioning and perplexed.

"We would rather leave it to you to suggest them, though we are counting
more on your concern for her welfare.  Frankly, Mr. Adair, without
meaning the least disrespect, and with a thorough knowledge of your
honorable and straightforward conduct--do you consider you’re acting
rightly in holding this young lady to what most people would call a very
bad bargain?"

"Being married to a starving actor?"

"Oh, that is putting it too--too--"

"Of course, she has thrown herself away--I know that."

There was a gleam in the heavy-lidded eyes.

"It could all be rectified," said Mr. Campbell soothingly.  "Very
easily, and very quickly rectified.  It is just a question, it seems to
me, of our getting together, and talking it over reasonably. In fact,
some of the details might be omitted entirely.  Mr. Ladd is a man of
very large means, and is the soul of honor.  He would see to it that
your future was made easy."

"How easy?" asked Adair.

"I mean," returned Mr. Campbell, "that he would substantially recognize
your honest desire to be guided by his wishes--wishes that you admit are
just, and so much to the young lady’s advantage that you are willing to
withdraw entirely."

"Those are all words," exclaimed Adair; "let’s get to figures."

Mr. Campbell looked pained.  After having confined the interview so
skilfully within the limits of irreproachable good taste, this brutality
outraged his ear.  He had not been unprepossessed by Adair, and felt
sorry for him.--But here was the cloven hoof.--The fellow was just a
low, mercenary adventurer after all.

"The figures are ten thousand dollars," he answered coldly.

"Why, I don’t call that anything!"

"Cash," added Campbell, with a pursing of his lips.

"Of course, it’s cash," cried Adair, "it’s going to be that, whatever it
is.  Only it isn’t enough. She’s worth more than ten thousand dollars."

Campbell saw that his personal bias had made him err.  Adair’s vibrating
tone had caught the note of his own; suavity and good humor were
all-important, and he scurried back to them, like an incautious general
flying for the batteries he has left behind.  When he spoke again it was
in his best lullaby manner.

"My dear fellow," he said, "the real point is that you concede the
principle.  That is so, is it not?"

"Hell, yes," returned Adair.  "I’d concede a lot for fifty thousand
dollars."

"But that is a very, very large sum of money."

Adair, with one hand in his trousers pocket, was restlessly turning over
the two nickels that were there--all he had.

"I don’t think so," he said.  "Anyway, she’s worth that, and more."

"I was hardly authorized to commit Mr. Ladd to such an amount," objected
Mr. Campbell, "though I will not say right off that I might not
entertain it.  But you understand, Mr. Adair, that it implies you will
not resist an action for divorce, and--  Well, you know we’d like to
have the matter absolutely settled and done with."

"For fifty thousand dollars?"

The heavy-lidded eyes were obscured by a momentary glaze.

"We will meet you," said Mr. Campbell.

Adair rubbed the nickels together, and asked, with a slight catch of his
breath, if he could have something on account.

"Certainly," assented the lawyer, producing his pocket-book.  He removed
a sheaf of bills, and Adair perceived that they were in denominations of
a thousand dollars each.  He had never seen a thousand-dollar bill
before in his whole life, and here was a thick packet of twenty or more.
No wonder that he was overawed.  Campbell noticed his fascinated stare,
and dilly-dallying with the notes, spread them out with an elaborate
carelessness. To Adair, it was all a blur of $1,000, $1,000, $1,000,
$1,000, a green mist of money, a crisp, crinkling, dizzying
affluence.--Campbell was saying something to him.  There was a paper to
be signed. It was a temporary memorandum to be replaced later by a more
formal document.  Buzz, buzz, buzz! The paper was handed to him.  Buzz,
buzz, buzz, and the room going round and round.  He was standing on his
feet, shaking with the pent-up passion that he had been so long holding
back.  The actor in him had been waiting for that, but the actor was
lost in the man.

"You’re a damned hound!" he cried hoarsely, "And the man who sent you is
a damned hound, and here is your damned paper, and may it choke you
both!  My wife isn’t for sale, do you hear that!  My wife isn’t for
sale, whether it’s for fifty thousand or fifty million!  Is that plain?
Do you concede the principle, or shall I boot it into you? I thought I’d
lead you on; I thought I’d just see how far you’d go--you with your
sable overcoat, and fat pocket-book, and your stinking respectability. I
had you sized up all right, and was only giving you rope to hang
yourself.  Get out of here, and get out quick, or I’ll kick you from
here to your cab.  Get out!"

It was needless to say that John Hampden Campbell did not need to be
pressed.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace could have
scarcely been in a bigger hurry.  Cramming the notes and papers in his
pockets, he sped from the visitors’ room like a large, imposing
projectile which had been fired from some monster cannon.  A second
later his flying coat-tails were deposited in his cab, and he was
speeding away, considerably shaken in spirit and body, for the mountain
quiet of his twenty-eight story office.


Lying on Phyllis’ table, all ready for mailing, was a long letter to her
father.  Pride had crumbled and she had determined to seek his help.
She had begun it with constraint, attempting, none too effectually, to
conceal her sense of injury and injustice; but as page followed page the
old tenderness returned with an irresistible force.  That gray, handsome
head was before her, that mellow voice was in her ears, and the
wretchedness and folly of alienation came home to her with a new and
piercing significance.  The request for money; the cold, exact
exposition of her need--was passed and forgotten in the impetuous rush
of her pen.  She loved her husband, she loved her father, and this
estrangement was unbearable.  Like many women under the stress of a deep
emotion she wrote with a singular eloquence.  She wept as she described
Cyril--his unceasing goodness, his loyalty, his fortitude, his good
humor and devotion.  He was everything a woman loved best in a man; and
instead of her marriage having been a mistake, a failure, it was more
than she thought life could ever give her.  Would not her father forget
all that had passed, as she, too, would forget?  Their love was too
deep, too dear, to make reconciliation impossible.  She would climb into
his lap again, and put her arms about him--his sad, worn, desolate
little girl--and they would whisper to each other what fools they had
been, and kiss away the last shadow of misunderstanding.

So it ran, page after page, in her fine, delicate hand, an appeal that
no father could have resisted. A beautiful letter, touched with the
quality of tears; full of womanly longing; heart crying to heart, across
an aching void.  Alas, that it never went. It was torn to pieces, and
thrown passionately on the floor.  Campbell had intervened, and the news
of his offer was thus received in the little flat on East Fifty-eighth
Street.  "That’s the end of it," cried Phyllis, regarding the scraps of
paper. "That’s the end of everything between Papa and me!"



                             *CHAPTER XXV*


It is one of the peculiarities of looking for a theatrical engagement
that hope is never quite extinguished.  There is always some one who
wants you to call next week; there is always a company just short of a
part they are considering you for; there is always some friendly member
of the Thespians who has "mentioned your name," and gives you a
scribbled address or a telephone number.  This is stated to explain the
fact why Adair, instead of surrendering to circumstances, as any other
man would have done in any other walk of life, still snatched at straw
after straw with egregious determination.  His circumstances were
becoming absolutely desperate.  Suspension from the club was staring him
in the face; in eight days his sticks of furniture and his trunks would
be dumped out on the street; it was only by the most rigid parsimony
that body and soul could be kept together.  Phyllis said the dormice
were floating on a shingle, and with tearful laughter would expatiate on
the pitiful, half-drowned things, so scared and hungry on a bobbing sea.
What was to happen when they slid off?--Oh, but Booful wasn’t to mind.
She’d hold his poor, pretty, dormouse head up, and swim him off to a
lovely island where there were peanuts on peanuts, and an alabaster
mousery with all modern improvements.

That lovely island seemed a terribly long way off.  As the emblem of an
engagement it lay so far over the horizon that Adair began to doubt its
very existence.  His eyes grew lack-luster; he lost his confident
bearing; poverty and failure stamped him, as they stamp every man with
an unmistakable mark.  We instinctively move away from the unsuccessful.
We see that mark, and widen our distance.  Success likes success.  It
isn’t decent to be very, very poor.  Fingers tighten on pocketbooks, and
respectable, prosperous legs quicken their steps.--Adair was sinking,
though the dismal masquerade still went on--the immaculate cuffs, the
once smart tie, the pressed clothes, shiny with constant ironing.  There
is many such a figure on Broadway--and in some mean room there is
usually a woman who believes in him, stinting herself and starving for
his sake.

One dark, wintry Sunday afternoon in early spring, as Phyllis was
sitting near the frosted window, sewing and thinking and dreaming by the
scanty light, she was roused by the tramp of many footsteps on the stair
outside, and a confused bumping, scuffling sound, accompanied by a
hoarse murmur of voices.  With a horrible premonition she ran to the
door and opened it, giving a cry as she recognized Adair being supported
in by two companions.  His face was swollen and discolored; one eye was
closed in a rim of crimson; his mouth was dribbling blood; sawdust and
filth befouled his clothes, and a stench of vile whisky exhaled from him
like a nauseating steam.  He was helped over to a sofa, and allowed to
collapse, while the men hurried away as though ashamed of their task,
and thankful to have done with it.

It was the first time he had ever appeared repugnant to Phyllis; he was
drunk, and she knew it, and the fumes of the disgusting stuff stifled
her with loathing.  But she unloosened his collar, laid a couple of
pillows under his head, unlaced his shoes; and bringing a basin, rinsed
the oozing blood from his lip.  With pity, yes, but with the raging,
furious pity that goes with lost illusions, and the falling of one’s
little world; a pity less for him than for herself that this should be
the end of a love that to her had been the very breath of life.

He regarded her stupidly with his one open eye, moaning faintly, and
drawing himself laboriously near the basin, spat into it.  Then he put
out his hand, and tried to touch her, but she shrank from him.

"Phyllis," he said, in a raucous whisper, "Phyllis"; and then, as though
overcome by the exertion, closed that single bleary eye, and dozed off.
But it was not for very long.  He awakened again. "They loaded me up
with that cursed whisky," he whispered.  "I was all in, and needed it.
God, if they didn’t pour a bottle of it down my throat!"--For a while he
rambled on brokenly, spluttering with laughter as he held up his
clenched fist as though he found a strange, childish entertainment in
the action.--Little by little he pulled himself together.  He was a
powerful man, sound to the core, and though he was badly spent, health
and nature were rallying to his side.

"Come here," he said, in the same husky whisper, but with a noticeable
increase of vigor and self-command.  "Come here, I wanter
tellyerboutit."

Phyllis crouched by his side, so dejected and heartsick that it was well
for him she hid her face.

"I was with Morty Stokes and a whole lot of them," he went on, his words
running together tipsily.  "Tagging on, too, you know--royal,
open-handed fellow, Morty, good fren’ of mine, always something to
eat--gives bell-boy tip that would keep us for a week.  And it was down
at the Queensbury Club, pay ten dollars, and, member--one-day member,
you know--though the fight we went to see was tipped off--wasn’t any,
you know--but we stayed on, Morty opening champagne, and Kid Kelly was
there who beat Cyclone Crandall last month; and somehow Morty and the
Kid got into a row about Tammany corruption, and both so blind that
neither of them could have spelled Tammany for a million, and everybody
had to pull them apart.  Then Morty, just blazing said: ’I can’t lick
you, but here’s a fellow that can,’ and he pointed at me, and says,
’Cyril, I’ll give you five hundred dollars to wipe this dirty loafer off
the map!’  And I took it as a joke, and said yes I would, and before I
knew it they were appointing a referee, and Kid Kelly was stripping down
to the skin."

Adair stopped and laughed--a groaning kind of laugh, as mirthless as the
wind that rattled the window-panes.  "He had only been out of training
ten days, and as for my standing up against him he might have been
Battling Nelson.  But it suddenly came into my head, why here’s a chance
to make something--not Morty’s five hundred dollars for licking him--I’d
only drunk half a glass of wine, and knew better--but a bit at the other
end of it; and so I said, yes, four hundred for the winner, and a
hundred for the man out, and all as insultingly as I could make it, as
though that hundred was for the Kid instead of me.  And finally, when it
was all settled, it all wasn’t--Morty standing out for two ounce gloves,
and the others for sixes, he saying he wanted to mark the dirty mutt
with something to stay; and that it was to be two ounces or nothing,
though what was to happen to me in the mix-up wasn’t mentioned, the fact
being he didn’t care as long as he could see the Kid pounded; and it was
two shakes the Kid didn’t pound _him_, it all worked up to such a
hullabaloo, with some of them holding him, and others the Kid, and all
of them yelling at once till at last they shoved us into the ring, with
Tom Hallahan for referee, and Billy Sands holding the stakes and keeping
time, and then we shook hands and squared off.

"The Kid wasn’t so soused but what he had an inkling of the truth, and
at the first go-off he meant to let me down easy, like the good-hearted
Irish boy he was, and I could see it in his eye--(half of fighting is in
the eyes, Phyllis)--and it was just a pat here, and a wallop there, and
a lot of quick-stepping and stage-play, all feints and parries and
pretending.  But I wasn’t for selling the fight, thinking Morty might
sour on it, and call the whole thing off--so I walked right into the
Kid, hammer and tongs; and by the time I had barked my knuckles on his
teeth, and landed him a lefter on the jaw for all I was worth, he was as
savage as hell, and ready to kill me; and by George, it was only
bull-headed luck that he didn’t--that, and the wine he had drunk, and I
stood up to him for five rounds; and first it was for the hundred
dollars, and then for my very life.  I managed to get on my legs before
I was counted out on the fifth, though the floor was heaving like a ship
at sea, and I saw about eight of him, shooting out sixteen arms, and
eighty-four fists; and down I went for keeps.--But I got it!"

He opened his hand, and showed two fifty dollar bills.

"They won’t put us out on the street for yet a while," he said
gloatingly.  "We’re a hundred dollars ahead, not to speak of about nine
quarts of whisky!  Take it, sweetheart, and, and--"

Her arms were about him, and she was sobbing, her lips seeking his,
unmindful of the blood, the swollen, discolored flesh, the stale reek of
whisky, every fiber in her agonizing with tenderness and remorse.  Those
things that but a minute before had filled her with an unutterable
revulsion, that had shocked and dismayed her beyond expression were of a
sudden transformed into the evidences of a tragic devotion.  It was for
her that he came to be lying there, disheveled, bleeding and dirty;
covered with livid bruises; smashed, disfigured, and cruelest of
all--misjudged.  No wonder that the scorching tears fell; that the
girlish arms could not hold him tight enough; that the little head
snuggled down so pitifully, so guiltily, to atone for the cruel wrong.

"I guess the dormice are still on their shingle," said Adair, "though a
lot of skin and fur has been rubbed off one of them.  Make him a cup of
tea, dearest--his little nose is hot, and I’m sure it would do him
good!"



                             *CHAPTER XXVI*


It was a week before Adair ventured to go out except at night, and it
was longer still before he outgrew the stiffness following the lost
battle.  He congratulated himself on having come so well out of it, for
an ordinary man, however good an amateur boxer, runs a serious chance of
harm in a fight with a champion pugilist.  The doctor passed his ribs,
passed his jaw, deliberated over his collarbone, and finally reduced the
damages to a pair of broken knuckle-bones and a badly-sprained wrist.
Privately he warned Phyllis that her husband had had a narrow escape,
and told her to keep him out of mischief for the future.  "He’s the
worst-mauled man I have examined for a long while," he said, "and that
blow over the heart might have killed him.  Next time let him agree with
his adversary quickly according to the Gospel--or use a club, and use it
first."

But the knuckles and the wrist were not all the damage.  With lessened
strength there was lessened will, lessened courage; and acquiescence in
defeat succeeded the long spun-out endeavor to turn the tide of fortune.
Soon it was tacitly understood between them that they could strive no
longer; and when Adair, with something of a catch in his voice, said he
would go round and see Heney, Phyllis made no demur.  Heney represented
that other stage of nonentities and fourth-raters; that maelstrom of
hopelessness, cheapness and shoddy; that vast theatrical system which
cadges for the public’s small change, and seeks to please the
factory-girl and the artisan.  To go back to it was to abandon
everything--ambition, reputation, future.

Yet it was pleasant to be warmly received. Heney was overjoyed, gave him
a good cigar, patted him on the knee, and said he was just the chap he
had been looking for to take out _The Danites_.  He had been working
over the piece himself to introduce Portolini’s trained dogs, and
incidentally to "jack it up."  Heney was common and underbred and talked
with a toothpick in his mouth--but he was a man not without a certain
feeling.  He made no allusions that might embarrass Adair, and ignored
recent events.  His consideration was increased perhaps by the
opportunity thus given him of getting Adair for _The Danites_. He had
been hoping to revivify it with the trained dogs, but here was a man who
could command success, for Adair was a money-maker and the surest "draw"
in the business.  Terms were quickly settled.  A hundred a week, and a
forty weeks’ contract, with the usual notice on both sides.  It could be
typed and signed later on; meanwhile here was a spare carbon of the play
to look over; and rehearsals would begin as soon as the dogs had
finished their vaudeville dates at One Hundred Twenty-fifth Street and
Brooklyn.

Adair left the office feeling as though he had sold himself to the
devil.  An old nickname of his recurred to him as he walked slowly
homeward: "The Four-bit Mansfield."  He kept repeating it on the way,
"The Four-bit Mansfield, The Four-bit Mansfield!"  Yes, that was what he
was; that was as near as he would ever get to the real thing; before he
hadn’t cared, but now it was gall and wormwood to him.  Yet it was as
"The Four-bit Mansfield" that he had won Phyllis.  It would not do to
forget that.  Winning Phyllis had been the most wonderful event in his
life, little though he had appreciated it at the time.  Looking back at
it all he was astounded at his own blindness; astounded and frightened,
too, to recall how easily the affair might have had a different ending.
Love was a queer business; he hadn’t really cared very much for her at
first; he had simply taken her because she was so bewitchingly
pretty--and with such innocence had offered herself; and yet, bit by
bit, it had grown to this, grown into something that was the only thing
in life.  He could readily conceive himself dying for Phyllis if it
meant saving her or protecting her, and that with no tom-fool fuss
either, or theatrics.

A fellow couldn’t hope to carry away all the prizes, and he’d rather be
a "Four-bit Mansfield" with Phyllis than the biggest kind of a star
without her.  What a gay, gentle, insinuating, clever little wretch she
was!  He could come home in the damnedest humor--it hurt him to think
how often he had--so cranky and impatient and cross that any other woman
in the world would have flounced into a fury--and little by little she
would coax him and pet him and smooth him down till instead of flinging
plates at each other, as most people would have done, by George, she’d
be sitting on his knee, and he’d be smiling down at her, a thousand
times more in love than ever, with such a pang of self-reproach, and
such a new understanding of her sweetness and tenderness that his heart
would swell till he could hardly speak.


When Adair left his house that afternoon to call on Heney, he noticed a
large, luxurious limousine snailing along Fifty-eighth Street as though
the chauffeur was searching for a number; and he wondered what so fine a
car could be doing in such a mean neighborhood.  Had he seen it stop in
front of his own door he would have been more surprised still, for that
was what it did, to the extreme gratification of the youngsters playing
about the sidewalk.  A gentleman alighted, rang the bell marked "Adair,"
pushed open the door when it began to emit mysterious clicks of welcome,
and toiled up those interminable stairs till he found Phyllis awaiting
him at the entrance of her little apartment.

"I beg your pardon," he said, "I’m looking for Mr. Adair?"

Phyllis saw before her a thin, dark, exceedingly well-dressed man of
about forty, with an aquiline nose, a pale handsome face, and an air of
noticeable distinction and importance.

"I’m sorry, but he has just gone out," she answered.  "I am Mrs.
Adair--will you not come in?"

He followed her into the sitting-room with a manner of such ease and
good-breeding that Phyllis was suddenly transported back to her former
existence, and tingled with a pleasurable curiosity.

"Perhaps I can do instead," she said, smiling, and offering the stranger
a chair.

"Not only as well--but better," he returned. "If I had not heard about
you I should not be here at all."  He kept staring at her in a keen,
questioning way with something of the penetration, and the appearance of
inner mental working of some great specialist studying a patient.
Though continuing to look at her, Phyllis could feel that those
brilliant eyes had left nothing in the room unnoticed, and she realized
with a twinge how pinched and shabby it all must seem to him.

"I am Rolls Reece, the dramatist," he observed at last.  "It may be that
you’ve never heard of me, though I hope you have--for it will facilitate
matters."

Of course that name was familiar to Phyllis. Rolls Reece was the author
of more successful plays than any man in America.  He was the founder of
a school--his own school--and to take a foreign word for which we have,
no equivalent he was essentially a _féministe_.  In representing nice
women on the stage, women of refinement and position, he had a field in
which he stood paramount.  Not that he confined himself wholly to plays
of this type, however.  He was an indefatigable worker; with an ambition
that balked at nothing; he was always reaching out, always trying
experiments; a piece of his, _Money, the King_, had been strength and
brutality personified.--That it was Rolls Reece who was before her
filled Phyllis with a sudden and gratified astonishment.

"Certainly I know your name," she said. "Who is there that doesn’t!"

He waved the compliment from him with a gesture of his hand--a hand as
fine and small as a woman’s.  One invariably associated Rolls Reece with
those fine, small hands, which, when he grew excited, gripped themselves
on his chair with the tenacity of a sailor’s in the rigging of a ship.
It showed the importance he attached to this interview that he was
already beginning to clench the furniture.

"My dear lady," he went on, "I have to be frank with you--and being
frank, especially in regard to an absent husband, is neither easy nor
agreeable.  Perhaps I had better give you the sugar on the pill first;
and that is I have outlined a play that I should like to write with the
idea of Mr. Adair creating the central figure.  If I could write it with
him in mind, I am presumptuous enough to think I could make a big thing
of it.--He could do it, of course--do it magnificently. This talk does
not turn on his talent, his ability, which is immense.  No, no, these
are not compliments.  Years ago when I was a nobody on the _Advertiser_,
doing theatrical criticism with a recklessness and off-handedness that
now makes my gooseflesh quiver to look back on--just a know-it-all young
ass--I remember the profound impression Mr. Adair’s work used to make
upon me. I have often seen him since, going out of my way to do so--one
has had to, you know--and that original conviction of his power has
steadily grown with me."

He stopped, giving her that curious look of his, so grave, and yet with
what might be called a smile in suspension.

It swiftly lit up his face as Phyllis remarked: "Now for the pill?"

"Yes, the pill," faltered Rolls Reece, gripping the arms of his chair,
and appearing acutely uncomfortable.  "Ahem, the pill is--I suppose it
isn’t grammatical to say are--well, in fact, some of Mr. Adair’s
characteristics that those who admire him most, must deprecate and
deplore--characteristics that have unhappily hampered, or rather so far
have ruined his career.  Please, please, Mrs. Adair, do not stop me!
This is not a question of personalities at all.  Regard me simply as a
contractor, looking for a first-class workman--Bill, we’ll call him; and
it having reached me in a round-about way that Bill has married and
pulled up, I’ve dropped in on Mrs. Bill to make sure."

"Are you not afraid Mrs. Bill may be prejudiced in her husband’s favor?"

"My dear lady, it is remarkable to find any one prejudiced in Bill’s
favor!  That it should be his wife is all the better."

"Better for what?"

"I’ve told you I want to write that play for him."

At this Phyllis’ rising ill-will died away.  There was too much of the
little Frenchwoman in her for her not to become diplomatic and cool when
her husband’s interests were at stake.  Instead of making a hot
rejoinder, she replied, with a frankness not at all easy under the
circumstances: "I understand perfectly what you mean, Mr. Reece. It is
true he has spoiled everything, and has an awful lot to live down.  I
ought to be grateful to you as the first person--the first important
person--who has realized that he has changed. But how am I to convince
you of it?"

"By speaking just as you do."

"Oh, I can hardly hope that a wife’s word will count for much.  Yet, Mr.
Reece, it is absolutely true."

"It is not his past that bothers me," went on Rolls Reece.  "Everybody
has a past, and I was a theatrical critic once myself--but what I want
to be assured of is that he won’t begin a new one.  Really, Mrs. Adair,
if I put him in a big Broadway production can I be guaranteed that he
will--behave?"

"Yes."

"And neither drink, nor quarrel with anybody, nor punch anybody’s
head--(including mine)--or calmly leave us in the lurch because he
doesn’t like the pattern, say, of the dressing-room carpet?"

"Wait and talk with him yourself.--All that folly is over and done
with."

"The longer I live," observed Rolls Reece, "the more I appreciate that
women are the power behind the throne.  Every man, in a queer, subtle
sort of way, reflects some woman.  I came here to see whom Adair was
reflecting, and if I hadn’t been satisfied I shouldn’t have stayed.  My
interest is selfish, of course.  My unwritten play to me is much more
important than Mr. Adair; otherwise--to me, I mean--his peculiarities of
character would be of supreme unimportance.--May I say he reflects an
unusually charming and delightful one?"

Phyllis smiled.

"I hope that means it is all settled?" she asked.

"If you’ll go bond for him--yes."

She clapped her hands.  "Oh, I’m so glad," she cried.  "Oh, Mr. Reece, I
can not tell you how poor we are, how desperate.  It has been such a
heart-breaking struggle, and we had almost reached the giving-up
place.--But tell me, you say the play is not written yet?"

"Oh, no, we’re talking of an October opening."

October!  They were then in early April.  The joy, the elation died
under that crushing blow. What was to become of them during the
intervening months?  Phyllis could scarcely speak, the disappointment
was so keen.  "It will be very hard for us to wait," she said at last.
"Mr. Adair has to go back to the cheap theaters, and from what he said I
am afraid he will have to sign a long contract."

Under any other circumstances Rolls Reece would have laughed.  Adair,
that disreputable genius, as a scrupulous respecter of contracts,
foregoing the star part in a New York production at the dictates of
honor and conscience was sublimely incredible.  But nevertheless
Phyllis’ own sincerity impressed him.  Her beauty was of a fine,
sensitive, aristocratic type, the kind that the dramatist, of all men,
would recognize and appreciate the most.  The proud yet touching air,
the exquisite girlishness, the arch, appealing, pretty manners--all
disturbed him with a feeling that verged on jealousy.  No doubt Adair
had altered.  To be believed in by such a woman surely counted for
something; to be put on a pedestal by her was to stay there, of course;
it was impossible to conceive anything low or underhanded being confided
to one who struck him as the embodiment of candor. The surprise was how
Adair had ever got her.

"I have thought of all that," he said, referring to her last remark.
"If Mr. Adair will be satisfied with modest rôles, and will consent to
go on the road, I can contrive to keep him busy the whole summer."  In
the mouth of any other man, what he added would have sounded intolerably
conceited; but he had been successful too long, and had grown too used
to it, for the sentence to be anything but matter-of-fact.  "I have
eight companies out, you know, and whether my managers like it or not,
they’ll have to find room for your husband."

His tone was so considerate, so kind, and his eyes gave such a sense of
dawning friendship that Phyllis’ reserve melted.  She spoke eagerly,
with a little tremor of emotion, and a delicious consciousness of
sympathy and responsiveness.  "I want to tell you about him," she said.
"I couldn’t do it before when it seemed in doubt whether you’d risk your
play with him or not.  It would have seemed, oh, as though I were trying
to plead with you, and debasing myself and him to win you over. But now
that it is settled I am not ashamed--no, Mr. Reece, I am proud to make
you realize how you have misjudged him."

With this as a beginning she told him of their coming to New York; of
their struggles and privations; of Adair’s unshaken, unwavering devotion
during those bitter days.  With poverty love had not flown out of the
window; no, it had drawn them closer together than ever before.  She
might never have known otherwise the depth of the noblest and tenderest
heart that ever beat; he had never complained, never railed--had borne
himself throughout with a sort of silent fortitude, and oh, all this
with such an effort to be cheerful, to make light of things that were
grinding them to pieces.  She told him of her father’s offer, of Adair’s
passionate rejection of it at a moment when he was next to starving; of
the fight with Kid Kelly, and the hundred dollars he had earned at such
a cost.  Through her mist of tears she saw that Rolls Reece was not
unmoved; his eyes, too, were moist; once he took her hand, and pressed
it to his lips, with something about their being friends--always
friends.  Throughout he had perceived the other side of the story, the
side she had not dwelt on, and indeed was scarcely aware of--her own
intrepid part in that comradeship, her own sustaining courage and love.
The picture she drew of Adair conjured up for the dramatist another even
more touching; and old bachelor that he was, and pessimist of pessimists
on the marriage question he momentarily turned traitor to all his
convictions.

When she stopped, with a sudden shame at having unbosomed herself to a
stranger, and in a confusion that was all the prettier for the blush
that accompanied it, and the air at once so deprecating and scared as
though she were disgraced for ever--Rolls Reece hastened to save her
from the ensuing embarrassment.

"You mustn’t regret having taken me into your confidence," he said.
"I’m just an old sentimentalist, and belong more than anybody to that
world that loves a lover.  It is worth all those stairs to hear anything
so really affecting and beautiful, and when I said I wanted to be
friends, I meant it."

"I’m afraid you’re almost as impulsive as I am, and as indiscreet."

"Oh, my dear lady, if it wasn’t for indiscretion what a dreary planet
this would be to live in.--Imagine the heartrending effect if everybody
thought before they spoke, and men were all wise, and women were all
prudent!  Why, what would happen to dramatists?"

"You are nice," she said, giving him a candid, smiling look in which
there was a lurking roguishness; "and I’m glad we’re going to be
friends; and I’m not a bit sorry I gave you a peep into an awfully
hidden place--a girl’s heart, you know--though, of course, you mustn’t
expect to make a habit of it; and I’m glad you’re the great, famous,
splendid Rolls Reece, and are going to like me, and write Cyril a
wonderful play, and be our fairy uncle for ever and ever; and some day,
when you are accused of plagiarism or something, and they put you in
jail, I’ll come down to the prison and bring you a loaf of bread with a
file in it, or change clothes with you in your cell, and then it will
come home to you how very lucky you were ever to know me, and you will
skip off to South America bursting with gratitude."

"In the meanwhile I’m afraid the fairy uncle had better bring his call
to an end," remarked Rolls Reece.  "It’s less spectacular--though I can
still be grateful, mayn’t I?  Indeed, I am so happy, Mrs. Adair, for you
have convinced me in more ways than you are aware of that we have been
unjust to your husband, and that I may safely trust the play to him."

"I can’t help doubting whether you’ll ever come back?" she said, as they
stood confronting each other.  "It’s a dream, and you are a
dream-dramatist, and I’ll wake up from a nap, and will find everything
more miserable than before because of it.--Some day you will know what
this means to us," she added poignantly.  "Some day when--when it’s
long, long passed, and we can talk about it like ordinary people.--You
have to get a little way off to be sorry for yourself, don’t you?  I am
just beginning to see how unspeakably wretched and forlorn we were, that
poor boy and I, though I should probably have never found it out if it
hadn’t been for you."

"Well, that’s over," said Rolls Reece comfortingly. "If he’ll work hard,
and do his best, I’ll back Mr. Adair through thick and thin.  He has an
unquestionable talent; it will be a pleasure, an inspiration to write
for him; if he’ll do his share, I’ll engage to do mine, and between us
we’ll keep at it, play on play, till we land a winner.  Only--" and here
he paused, and raised a warning finger.

"He’ll be as good as gold," said Phyllis, filling in the interval.
"Don’t let the fairy uncle worry about that."

"And when may I see him?"

An appointment was forthwith made for the same evening; and the
dramatist shook hands, and was about to go when Phyllis exclaimed again
that it was a dream, and that it simply couldn’t, couldn’t, couldn’t be
true, and asked him laughingly to leave his umbrella as something
tangible to show Adair. Rolls Reece caught at the notion, but instead of
anything as prosaic as an umbrella, slipped off a superb ruby ring
instead, and laid it on the table.

"There’s the pledge of the fairy uncle’s return," he said gaily, and
hurried away before it could be restored to him.


"Good Heavens, Phyllis," cried Adair, "what’s that thing?"

"A ring."

"But it’s a ruby--why, it’s valuable--where on earth did it come from?"

"A fairy uncle left it."

"Left it?"--Adair stared at her astounded.

"Yes, I was afraid he wouldn’t keep his promise to come back, so he said
I could hold it by way of a pledge."

"But who is He?"

"Rolls Reece, I think his name is."

In an instant he was by her side, clutching at her arm.

"Phyllis--my God--it wasn’t really Rolls Reece?"

"Yes, Booful-love-darling, it just was, and I’ve adopted him as our
fairy uncle, and he has adopted us, and he’s coming back at nine this
evening to talk things over, and he wants to star you in a new play of
his, and listen, listen, Cyril, he believes in you, and says you have an
immense talent, and says he is going to write you play after play, and,
oh, my darling, my darling, my darling--!"



                            *CHAPTER XXVII*


Rolls Reece returned and redeemed his ring, and attested his sincerity
in manifold and delightful ways.  He did not mince matters with Adair,
however, and put it to him straight, in a man-to-man talk that lasted
but twenty minutes yet in which everything was said, accepted, and
agreed on.  The actor, dosed alternately with home-truths and praise,
emerged triumphantly from the ordeal.

He was told he had missed a magnificent career; that it was only his own
unmitigated folly he had to thank for it; that the number of successful
dramatists who were willing to write plays for him was reduced to
precisely one--and that one was none too sure of his, Adair’s,
reformation--though as confident as ever, more than ever, of his genius.
That word, like charity, covered a multitude of sins, if Rolls Reece
could say that nothing else mattered. Adair, in fact, let the whole case
against him go by default.

"I’m changed," he said simply.  "That’s all behind me, Reece.  The
reason for it is in the other room there--and I should think the sight
of her is worth all the denials and protestations I could make."

"Yes, indeed, it is, Adair," said Rolls Reece.

"I suppose there are men who can get along by themselves, and be
decent," remarked Adair.  "But I need girl-ballast in my little ship,
and if I had had it earlier I shouldn’t have made such a confounded ass
of myself."

"Then we can count it as all arranged--and I’m going to start at work on
the play to-morrow."

"It may sound commonplace," said Adair, "but apart from your play, and
success, and all that--I’d like to make her, well, you know--feel that
she hadn’t drawn such an awful blank in the husband-raffle. Oh, God,
Reece, I’ve pulled her down to this--look at this place I’ve made her
live in, will you?--And I shan’t breathe a free breath till I get her
out of it."

"It is in your own hands, Adair."

"Perhaps you overestimate my--well, what I can do?"

"No, I don’t, and I’m not alone in that either. Fielman, Fordingham,
Taylor, Niedringer--it’s common talk with all of them.  You can pull it
off if you want to."

"Oh, Lord, don’t say that again, Reece.  If anybody on this mortal earth
ever wanted to, it’s me."

"Not another word then.  You’re satisfied and so am I; and if you should
ever feel discouraged, remember there are only about thirteen men in
America who can act, and you are one of them, and not the last, either.
Let’s call in that charming wife of yours, and see if she doesn’t agree
with me."


Rolls Reece secured a six weeks’ engagement for Adair in a play of his
called _The Upstarts_, that was touring Washington, Baltimore, Syracuse,
Cincinnati, and what are called the near-by cities.  The hundred and
fifty dollars a week seemed a veritable fortune, though it was judged
wiser to husband it by letting Phyllis remain in New York, and thus save
the heavy traveling expenses that would otherwise have been incurred for
her.  The dormice had learned the value of money with a vengeance. Adair
himself, once the most careless of spenders, now showed an economy that
was laughable and pathetic.  He foreswore cigars; lived in the cheapest
of cheap boarding-houses; grudged every penny that could be saved.
There was to be no more shingle for dormice, but a warm little nest
lined with green bills, from which, in hard times, they could put out
their little noses unafraid.

Rolls Reece expected to secure him another engagement with a western
company to fill in the summer months; and with such an agent enlisted in
his service the most spendthrift of actors needed to have taken no
thought for the future.  But Adair, who never did anything by halves,
was cautious to the point of penury.  He was determined Phyllis should
never suffer such privations again, and those who called him miserly and
mean little suspected the reasons that made him appear so. Phyllis
herself was kept in the dark lest she should emulate his example; and
the savings-bank account rose and rose without her having the least
knowledge of it.  The equivalent of cabs, good dinners, cigars, wine,
expensive rooms, and Pullman berths stacked themselves in that yellow
pass-book, and bore witness to a stoical self-denial.  No more shingles
for dormice, thank you!


In spite of the separation Phyllis was not unhappy during those long,
silent days.  Spring was in the air, and her heart, too, basked in that
inner sunshine of contentment and hope.  Like a weary little soldier she
was glad to rest on the battlefield beside the parked cannon, and enjoy
the contemplation of victory.  Body and soul had been sorely tried; the
reaction left both in a sweet languor; it was pleasant to do nothing; to
lie back dreaming.

Rolls Reece came often to see her, and many a day they spent in his big
motor racing over the snowy landscape of Long Island or Westchester
County.  He sent her flowers; he was assiduous in the little attentions
women like; he was always so cheerful, so helpful, so kind.  For him it
was an intimacy that might have had a dangerous ending. He was
perilously near falling desperately in love with Phyllis, and the latter
never showed more address than in the way she guided him past the rock
on which their friendship might have foundered. She was quite frank
about it--disarmingly frank. She liked him too well to lose him, and
told him so, and was prettily imperious with him, and yet never
provocative nor coquettish.  A man and woman friendship is nothing
without sentiment, but it has to be a loyal, tender sentiment, that can
cause neither the least self-reproach.  Rolls Reece slipped by the rock
unhurt, admiring as he did so the adroitness of the young beauty whom he
knew had grown so fond of him.  As to that there was never any
question--it was self-confessed--and being a man he was naturally
flattered and pleased.

But he was high-bred, sensitive, clever, and innately a gentleman, with
an unusual perception, and a taste for the rarer and finer qualities of
women. Others in his place might have persevered harder, and then turned
sullen.  He did neither.  Indeed, Phyllis’ whole love-story, as it came
out by degrees, touched him profoundly.  Her audacity, her daring, her
blind reckless headlong surrender to the man that had captivated
her--all these to him were more than moving.  A woman that could stake
everything for love was altogether to Rolls Reece’s taste.  And Phyllis
had not only staked everything, but had succeeded in the more difficult
task of making love endure and grow.  There were many subjects on which
she knew nothing; she could not have told the name of the
vice-president, and she thought the Balkans were in South America, but
when it came to love the dramatist was amazed at her profundity.  On
this topic, however, the one topic that seriously interested her, she
had an insight and a knowledge, not to speak of a whole whimsical
vocabulary that made Reece appreciate his own shortcomings.  Love,
passion, sex--these were the real things of life and that demure brown
head was insatiably concerned with them.

Of course, the new play, too, came in for an endless amount of talk and
discussion.  It was to be called _The Firebrand_, and every few days
Rolls Reece had a little sheaf of manuscript to read to her. It dealt
with a young man, who, in the whirl of politics, had secured the place
of a police-court magistrate in a low quarter of Chicago.  The
suffering, misery and injustice thus passing in review before him, first
startles and then rouses a nature passionately sympathetic and humane.
His decisions are original, picturesque, and conventions are torn to
pieces.  He clashes with the boss who has put him into office, and
defies him.  The young judge makes enemies right and left; alienates the
family of the girl he is engaged to; is sold up at auction through
liabilities assumed on behalf of a children’s society he has started.

The boss leads in the machinations to ruin him, which is made the easier
by the firebrand’s own hot-headedness and indiscretion; the third act is
in an assignation house where the judge is trapped.  He explains his
innocence to his triumphant tormentors; he tells of the half-grown girl
he has trailed there, and appeals, with a fine outburst, to their
humanity to help him save her; the boss refuses, and taunts him with the
scandal that next day will shake Chicago.  Then the judge plays his
trump card, and tells them what he had been trying to hold back, that
the girl is no other than the boss’ own daughter; and smashing open a
door discloses her and the satyr, who has brought her there.  This, in
brief, was the play, shorn of all its externals--an intense, powerful,
essentially modern play, brutally real, and yet animated by a burning
purpose, and a resentment no less fiery against the diabolical
misgovernment of our large cities.

Rolls Reece labeled it "dangerous goods," which in truth it was, and was
correspondingly uplifted. He said he was tired of writing sugar-candy
plays, and wished to show his detractors that he could grapple with big
emotions as well as the lesser, pink-tea femininities with which his
name was always associated.  "And remember, Mrs. Adair," he explained,
"I don’t want a goody-goody young man with a benevolent forehead and a
spotless past, and a Y.M.C.A. accent--but an impatient,
chip-on-his-shoulder, impulsive fellow, who would like to get off the
bench and fight somebody.  It’s a Cyril Adair play, and I am going to
fit him as carefully as a Fifth Avenue tailor.  And on the police-court
judge side of it, I am going to show the public the colossal power those
men have for good or evil. They can blight more human lives in one
morning than the whole Supreme Court could do in ten years. In their
dingy little field they are absolute monarchs, from which there is no
appeal.  We owe thousands of criminals to their crass stupidity, and
when they work in collusion with corrupt politicians they are a scourge
and a terror to every decent man or woman in their midst."


The dramatist had referred several times to a friend of his, Andrew
Hexham, whom he particularly wished Phyllis and Adair to meet.
Ordinarily so frank he was somewhat hazy and mysterious in his
references to this personage, who apparently was a man of large fortune,
and of considerable importance in theatrical affairs.  Once Reece
dropped his play, and went off for three days--an extraordinary lapse
from his habit of persistent industry--and on his return mentioned he
had been, staying with Hexham, smiling in a queer, guilty kind of way
that tantalized Phyllis’ curiosity. But nothing could be got out of
him--at least nothing that could explain his singular entertainment
whenever Hexham’s name came up.  It seemed, however, that this man had
to be won over; that _The Firebrand_ was in some dim manner dependent on
his good will; that he was a fussy, troublesome, dictatorial person, not
a little prejudiced against Adair.  This had to be overcome at a
meeting; and Phyllis, especially, was commanded to go out of her way to
be "nice to him"--"You’re such an irresistible little baggage when you
choose," said Rolls Reece.  "I want you to tie him up in bow-knots, just
as you tied me, to dazzle him, and then we’ll sign the contract right
there before he can undazzle himself."

"I’m not much good at fascinating people unless I like them," returned
Phyllis ingenuously and doubtfully.

"Oh, you’ll like him," protested Reece.  "I’ll answer for that, you
know."

"Well, I’ll do my best," said Phyllis, wondering to herself what it all
meant.  "I’ll sit very close, and make dachshund eyes at him, and
encourage him to talk about himself.  That’s the secret of woman’s charm
when you analyze it.  See how it caught you!"


It was too bad, though, that Rolls Reece should have chosen the Sunday
that Adair ran over from Philadelphia, where _The Upstarts_ was booked
for a week.  The pair had been separated for nearly four weeks, and
Phyllis wanted her husband all to herself.  Rolls Reece, Andrew Hexham,
even _The Firebrand_ itself, were very secondary things when weighed
against the rapture of Adair’s return. She pleaded with Rolls Reece to
postpone the meeting until Monday afternoon, but the dramatist with
unexpected obstinacy stood out for Sunday evening.  Hints were lost on
him, and even some pink-cheeked, shy, half-murmured things merely made
him laugh instead of relenting.--Sunday night it had to be.

But to do him justice, the dramatist tempered severity with his usual
generosity.  He sent a prodigal amount of flowers, as well as a case of
champagne, and would have contributed his colored butler had he been
allowed--which he wasn’t.  Phyllis said that the Pest Person (as all
that day she hotly called Mr. Hexham)--the Pest Person had to take them
as they were, and if there was one thing worse than a hired butler, it
was a borrowed one.  If the Pest Person didn’t like the way he was
treated--if he were the sort of Pest Person who judged people by striped
nigger-trousers and gilt chandeliers, why, he could just go to the
devil.--Which went to show, incidentally, how good that four weeks’ rest
had been for Phyllis, and how fast she was getting back her former
spirit.


At nine that evening Adair and Phyllis were both waiting for their
visitors.  True to her promise to Rolls Reece the latter had dressed
herself with unusual care; and Adair, who was allowed to see but not
touch, swore she had never looked more ravishing.  Her fresh young
womanhood entranced him; she was so slender, so graceful, so girlish,
and the red rose in her hair was not more exquisite.  What a beauty she
was!  How altogether perfect from the top of her dark head to her trim
little feet!--And the saucy mouth that was always ready to part on the
dazzling teeth; the low, sweet, eager voice; the bubbling, caressing
laugh--after four weeks of loneliness, of dismal, dreary separation, it
was as though he had never really appreciated them before; and it was
intolerable to be stuck to a chair and forbidden to move when everything
in him bade him seize her in his arms, and assert his master’s right.

Worst still, Rolls Reece and the Pest Person were late.  The minutes
ticked away--five past, ten past, a quarter past, twenty past--and yet
there was neither dramatist nor Pest.--Ah, there they were at last!
Phyllis ran to admit them, fumbling at the latch of the door in her
excitement.  She opened it on the dimly-lighted landing, and held out
both hands in welcome to Rolls Reece, who stood before her.  His friend
was hidden in the shadow, but as she glanced towards him recognition
suddenly pierced her heart.  It was her father!

All he said was her name, and that so humbly, and with an intonation so
affecting that she flung her arms about him in a paroxysm of tenderness,
unmindful of everything save the love that suddenly flooded her whole
being.  Misunderstanding, self-justification, the rights or wrongs of
their unhappy estrangement--all were forgotten, all were swept away.
Clinging to him she guided him along the passageway and into the
sitting-room, where Adair, bewildered and astonished, was waiting to
receive them.  Even in the throes of that tumultuous moment Phyllis,
trying to see with her father’s eyes, took in Adair with a welling
pride.  Never had he appeared to her more manly, more distinguished or
noble; and when she said: "My husband, Daddy," it was with a little air
that told of her own content with the man of her choice.

"I am here in the character of a repentant father, with ashes on his
head," said Mr. Ladd; and going up to Adair, held out his hand.  "Will
you not forgive me?" he asked, "and may we not be friends?"

Rolls Reece had looked forward to being present at this evening of
reconciliation; of being patted on the back for the big part he had
taken in it; of drinking his own champagne amid the ensuing festivity
and joy.  But as he saw the two men’s hands meet and grasp; as he saw
Phyllis press between them, her eyes suffusing, and sobs choking her
utterance, he realized that he was gazing at a scene too sacred for him
to share.  He silently effaced himself, shut the door without noise, and
tiptoed down the stairs.

"It’s a good world," he murmured to himself, "yes, a damned good world;
and in spite of what people say, things often work out right."



                                THE END





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